Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1 day down, wow!


So, seeing as everyone who has ever held this position says that free time is a highly coveted asset while on the road, I've decided that instead of blogging and then doing an individual journal, I'm going to put them together. With that being said, this blog A.) does not reflect the opinions of IC, and B.) is going to be very very raw. I can't promise everything will be concise or to the point, but i can promise my inchoate ideas or thoughts will be a true reflection on what I am actually feeling at this time.

It blows my mind to think I've only been here for about 36 hours. The Target trip I went on yesterday, and watching the national championship game feels like it happened weeks ago, but really, it was only a mere 24 hours prior to now. Between getting off a plane, relocating into a house with 50 some other kids (no exaggeration), picking the lower bunk in a room that houses 10 guys total, and ditching 3 degree weather for a balmy 65, my head is spinning. And all this happened before I got to the Invisible Children offices.

Today was a crazy mixture of feeling excitement, fatigue, and encountering an overwhelming load of information. We got to the office at 8:30, went through a whirlwind of different introductions and trainings, some of which were definitely better than others (the sexual harassment training was literally one of the worst hours of my life) then ended the night by seeing a sneak peak of the video we will be showing on our tour. It was crazy to see so many faces which I have seen in videos over the last 5 years actually come and speak to me in person. I saw where the graphics were designed, where pictures of merch were taken, where the tours were booked, and actually sat down and chatted with a roadie (who is still roadieing) that came and spoke at CU when I booked the tour for our campus in 2007.

There were a few things that definitely popped out at me today that I think will be a reoccurring themes over the next 5 weeks. First, there were 327 applicants that applied for the 50 some roadie positions that IC had for this semester. Granted that this is a higher percent of applicants that are accepted than in TFA, when I hear Jason and Laren speak about our importance, compared to what I heard and saw in STL, it seems much more authentic. Having seen how dispensable we were, or seemed to be, in STL, I just feel better out here. From this idea, I realize the comparisons between IC and TFA is something I will be struggling with along the way. I also saw a great speech about cultural competency that was so down to earth,and so real, that it made the diversity sessions at TFA institute seem ridiculous. But more comparisons are to come later.

Second, and I think this is the most important theme, is the idea of humility and learning from mistakes within the NGO. Since I began working with NGOs in college, the question of whether or not relief and aid work does more hurt than help has always haunted me. There are many scholars, critics, and educated people who have a lot of valid arguments denouncing western humanitarianism, and there are a lot of days that pass when I don't think they are wrong. I've looked at my own progression, and seeing how so often I was wrong about opinions or initiatives I backed, I wonder how many NGOs or relief workers are doing harm abroad. It makes me scared for development, aid, or relief work, and the mistakes that, if I continue on this path, will inevitably make. But that is the beauty of what I saw today. The creators of IC, Laren, Bobby, and Jason, admit to their mistakes. In fact, they have documented them, made them public, and have completely shaped their NGO around what was learned during these mishaps. They have made sure that they learn from each mistake, and actually serve the populations with which they are trying to provide aid for with more efficacy. This site really made me reflect on my own qualms with humanitarianism, and their humility and ability to critically think about what their work actually does within Uganda and Congo opened my eyes. I think for me I am just scared to make the mistakes. I'm pretty hard on myself sometimes, and mistakes I make that negatively affect other people are not easily forgotten. But, seeing what I saw tonight, and hearing how mistakes can be turned into something positive, I'm feeling re-energized, and ready to keep pushing in a good direction.

It's been a crazy few hours already. I'm overwhelmed, I'm flustered, I have no idea what to think, but what I do know is I'm excited. I feel like I'm in the right place, and I can't wait to see how this experience unfolds.

sorry for the word vomit, hopefully next post will be more directed!
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