Formative and Memorable Events

Unlike the other participants in SPP, I took the course for credit at MIIS, and the credits were added to my Fall semester workload. It is now December 14th, and the end of the semester is just around the corner, BUT I have not finished all of the supplementary work I need to in order to receive academic credit for SPP. I could easily beat myself up for not being more proactive and instead waiting until the last minute to write blog posts, but, in all honesty, I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to go back over the readings and my notes and reflections from SPP…even though it is now four months after the program ended. I feel like this is giving me an opportunity to revisit three of the richest and most challenging/inspiring weeks I’ve ever lived through. I also appreciate how this is forcing me to refresh my knowledge on the topics we covered because it is apparent that I didn’t retain as much as I could have (or wish I had!). Fortunately for me, I still have all of the course materials and I am just as interested in peace building as I ever was before. This is also a good reminder that I will be a lifelong student of peace building and I should always be revisiting what I learned in the past.

With that said, instead of continuing to analyze some of the themes/topics and lessons learned from SPP, in this blog post I want to write about two formative events that took place at MIIS this semester. I think they directly relate to what I studied in SPP and they keep popping up in my head as I revisit the SPP curriculum.

peggy-mcintosh-290_opt

The first event was having Dr. Peggy McIntosh as the keynote speaker at the annual conference put on by the Center for Conflict Studies (the center is directed by Dr. Pushpa Iyer and organizes SPP every year. I also had the opportunity to work for CCS during my first semester at MIIS). This year’s conference was titled: Breaking Through Shades of Color: Transforming Race Relations and Conflict.

This was the fifth annual conference put on by CCS, and they now have quite a reputation for brining together inspiring activists, artists, academics, practitioners, among others, for three days of storytelling, panel presentations, discussions, films, theatrical performances, community building, and so much more than I can ever express. The point I’m trying to make is that these conferences are special. It is not your traditional academic setting where experts talk about what they’ve accomplished/what they know and open it up for questions. Instead, the CCS conferences encourage a much more interactive experience where thought leaders and newbies come together and learn in a dynamic space that is conducive to sharing, reflection, and analysis through deep/crucial conversations and activities. I really love these conferences and hope to attend many more in the future.

Before I revisit her keynote address, I want to say that Peggy McIntosh was one of the most influential scholars on my late teenage/early twenty years). I still remember reading her famous article, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” when I was 17 years old and the speechless awe I felt afterwards. How had I lived on this earth for almost two decades and was completely oblivious to how much unearned privileged I carried with me everywhere I went simply because of the color of my skin? Sure, I had explored issues around racial injustice and knew there were systems in place that disadvantaged people of color, but I was overwhelmingly oblivious to how deep this issue permeated into the very structure of U.S. society, and also the extent of advantage and privilege it gave me. Fortunately, Peggy McIntosh (and the help of several other inspiring and patient mentors) woke me up!

Remembering how Dr. McIntosh had shaped my teenage years and played a pivotal role in inspiring me/helping me to become an advocate for racial equity and social justice throughout my time as an undergraduate, I felt very fortunate to get the chance meet her this past November at the conference. And, just as my expectations alluded to her being great, she was truly magnificent. 🙂

Dr. McIntosh spent a good amount of time sharing her story of how she came to realize both her white privilege and internalized racism. She humbly spoke about how she would often feel noble for working with people of color during a time when few others would. Yet, she recalled that she was still looking at her coworkers of color as if they were lesser or different than her and her white counterparts. She was tolerating them, but she was not accepting them. Dr. McIntosh then compared this to the way she felt when her male coworkers would allow her to work with them, but they usually failed to acknowledge her abilities, intelligence, and potential. Something clicked for her back then, and we have all reaped the benefits. Since beginning to understand the way in which her behaviors and attitude were not supportive or accepting of people of color, her journey as a feminist and anti-racism activist took off.

In addition to sharing her personal journey, Dr. McIntosh asked the audience to participate in a reflective exercise. We divided ourselves into pairs and were given two minutes to share openly about advantages and disadvantages that we’ve all faced in our lives. Whoever wasn’t speaking would listen actively, but without showing any emotion whatsoever, or responding to the person talking in any way. After two minutes the speaker and listener would switch. We also did a second round where we talked about things we have done to weaken systems of oppression around us, and things we wish we had done. Rereading this on the screen, my words don’t exhibit the powerful experience that this activity created. Although my partner was a good friend of mine, I learned things about his identity and past that I would never have learned otherwise. I also discovered aspects of my own privilege, as well as deep regrets around specific events, that I hadn’t given myself the opportunity to explore. In less than ten minutes, the entire audience had been transformed and the energy in that auditorium seemed completely different.

However, this activity is just one example of how her keynote address was able to challenge the audience to think in new ways. When I think back on the other parts of her talk, one phrase that has consistently stood out to me is “I am a body in the body of the world.” I won’t retell the story of how this phrase came about, but I think the point Dr. McIntosh was making is that that we are all connected through our humanity – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful that lives in each of us – but, at the same time, each one of us is also unique and moves through the world in their own beautiful way. As I continue to reflect on what she shared, and also what I experienced in SPP, my goal is to learn to embrace this way of viewing humanity so that I may do a better job at dismantling my own biases and assumptions about what is appropriate, right, normal etc…After all, I am only one body in the body of the world, but I can make that one body stronger and wiser if I am intentional and committed. Perhaps I’ll start by reading every paper by Dr. McIntosh that I can get my hands on. 🙂

 

Musings on Culture

As I reflect on SPP, I find myself thinking a lot about culture. It seems like the more I study or use culture, the more aware I become of it’s complexity.

ice_berg

I’ve always appreciated the iceberg model and the idea that culture is divided between observable and unobservable characteristics. What we often see immediately when we meet someone new is obvious cultural characteristics like attire and language, but it takes much more time and dedication to decipher what lies beneath the surface –e.g. core values and learned behaviors.  Things like “concept of justice” and “attitude toward the environment” are certainly not visible to someone who merely observes or engages in light interaction with someone of another culture.

toolkit

I also like the idea of culture as a toolkit. I’ve never thought of culture as a set of assets that you can utilize as you need – but it is exactly that! Culture is a toolkit of learned values and behaviors, and that toolkit is unique to each person, even though there are commonalities among members of a specific community, geographic area, ethnic group etc… For me, this metaphor helps me better understand how our own cultural identity is a combination of multiple components, and that certain aspects are useful/helpful in certain situations, perhaps while being a hindrance or barrier in others.

The above metaphor also tells me that I will not always have the right tool for every situation. Really, I could look at part of my life’s work as expanding this cultural toolkit so that I am better prepared for challenges in multicultural or foreign/unfamiliar setting, but I know that there will always be more tools to acquire and old tools to be sharpened.

Going back to SPP now, I appreciate how Dr. Pushpa Iyer talked about cultural analysis as an essential component of peace building. How can one ever understand a conflict without examining the cultural landscape of the parties involved? This is similarly expressed by Dr. Kevin Avruch, who wrote about the necessity of cultural analysis in “Conflict Resolution in Intercultural Settings; Problems and Prospects.” In this chapter (and also when I saw him present in my intro to conflict resolution course at MIIS last year), he explained that that we must perform cultural analysis on ourselves. When analyzing a conflict, we are, in a way, bringing ourself into that conflict and therefore must understand where we are coming from. For example one must be hyper aware of when and how we confront moments of “non comprehension and unintelligibility.” Instead of dismissing these, or glossing over them with value judgments, we must try to understand why we don’t understand, and then take it a step further – attempt to learn how to view what was previously unintelligible  to us as normal/regular/essential etc… In this way we are building upon our ability to empathize, and also strengthening our understanding of cultural norms and identities that are very different than our own.

I now find myself reflecting on all the times I thought something was strange or crazy when I lived in Laos or Tanzania, and even how I made fun of certain norms or traditions. While I was certainly not right to do that, and sincerely hope I will be more open minded in the future, I appreciate the memories for showing me how I could have done a cultural analysis on myself at the time. 

An Abundance of Privilege

I wrote this post in August, but for some reason never actually published it. I guess now is as good a time as ever!

It’s hard to believe this three week course has come to an end. What an incredible journey it has been: inspiring students from all over the world who have influenced me to challenge my assumptions and opinions; practitioners, academics, and activists who have made me revisit my personal code of ethics and make sure I know what my values are and why they are so important to me.

I feel truly honored to have participated in this program, however, I am currently so overwhelmed by all that we have learned and experienced that it’s hard for me to pick something specific to write about here. Instead, I think I’ll return to the two things that have helped ground me throughout this entire course: yoga and singing.

While at Mt. Madonna, I snuck away from the group several times to pass quiet moments in the yoga shala. On one such outings, I began to sing some of my favorite songs. One that seemed appropriate at the time is a song called “Beautiful Day,” by India Arie. I made a recording of the song on my phone while in this peaceful place and you can click the link below if you would like to listen to it.

This is a song that I often sing when I’m stressed out, but in this particular instance, I began to reflect on my most common theme this class: my abundant privilege. One: I’m sitting alone in a peaceful yoga studio at a retreat center in one of the most stunning parts of California. Two: I happen to be at this retreat center as part of a course for my master’s degree in development practice and policy. Three: I’m singing a song about how I can make any day beautiful simply by choosing to open my heart and mind to the lovely things in and around me (a choice that is perhaps/probably not available to people who are constantly bombarded with violence or oppression). Four: I could go on and on and on and the point remains the same. Most people do not have the opportunity or time to improve their surroundings by positive thought. I believe we must already be in a zone of heightened privilege in order to do that. I know that this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t continue to embrace my optimistic nature and attempt to see things in a positive light, but I do need to better understand why/how I am able to do this.

We Can Never Have Enough Emotional Intelligence

girl saying words

Today we explored emotional and cultural intelligence and its importance in the field of peacebuilding. Looking at these two things from an international development lens, I am surprised at how many people engage in this field without being very self-aware or culturally sensitive. I’m not sure if this particular work draws individuals that are somewhat self-righteous and/or over-believers in their own capabilities to create and implement “solutions to problems” (I don’t even want to go into why I find that problematic because it would turn this blog into a short book), but it seems that this is a major issue and impediment for people attempting to work international development.

Although I would argue that strong emotional and cultural intelligence are necessary in all types of work, I think they are especially pertinent in international development. This field requires us to work on multi-cultural teams all over the world, and requires a long-term commitment that often comes with long hours, little sleep, and many disappointments and frustrating experiences. Development practitioners need to hone their flexibility, humility, empathy, and compassion (among other traits) in order to be successful. These traits not only help people work on sustainable development projects, but also help them develop the self-care techniques that will protect them from burnout. In my opinion, self-care can sometimes be equally important as the development work I engage in.

Because I have not always been the best at taking care of myself, I have begun to practice a variety of techniques in order to find ones that work for me. The most consistent practices in my life have been running and singing, but I have also been dabbling in meditation, yoga, rock climbing, time alone in natural spaces, and eating a more wholesome and balanced diet. Aside from improving my self-care, emotional intelligence is something I have become hyper-interested in, and I have now utilized many tools and strategies to better understand what aspects are underdeveloped and which parts are particularly strong. I think one reason I find this topic so fascinating (aside from the fact that I think emotional intelligence is ABSOLUTELY necessary for the work I want to do), is that I have always grappled with the line between the selfless and selfish reasons that international development appeals to me.

There is no doubt in my mind that for me, international development presents a juxtaposition of selfish and selfless tendencies. For instance, I love to travel more than almost anything else in the world, and this work allows me to continuously see new places. I also love the reputation that comes with the adventurous and courageous lifestyle that my work in international development has provided so far. I can’t pretend I don’t enjoy that my friends back home think I am brave, independent, strong, etc… (even if I don’t really believe those characteristics are necessarily true or a result of my work and travels). In fact, there’s a whole list of selfish reasons why I have done this work and why I want to dedicate my life to it. But, at the same time, there are also selfless reasons. I wholeheartedly believe that one of the primary forces that draws me to this field is the desire to see an increase in access and equity (especially in the areas of education and public health) for the world’s marginalized and oppressed populations. This is something I am unceasingly passionate about, and know that I will not be satisfied doing work that doesn’t seem to be contributing to this goal. Irrespective of whether the selfish outweighs the selfless, I am 100% certain that this is the field for me. Since I know this, I better keep working on increasing my social intelligence!

The Impacts on Women In War and Peace

inspiring_woman

The argument of whether or not women are intrinsically more peaceful than men has been thrown around for decades. Without giving either side much thought, I simply took it for granted that women, as the primary nurturing and compassionate forces in my own life, must be better at peacebuilding than men. However, now that I’ve finally begun to investigate this assumption (and I admit that I am ashamed it has taken me so long to really examine it), I realize that I do not necessarily believe this at all. The socialization of women and the role they traditionally play as caretakers are huge factors, among others, that lead to this belief. But, I’m not convinced that women possess a certain quality or characteristic that makes them more inclined to build peace than men.

Now, regardless of this argument, one thing we cannot disagree upon is the fact that women’s voices have not been present at the decision making table when it comes to the peacebuilding process. I don’t care whether or not they are more inclined toward peace, I care about the fact that they have been absent from the peacemaking process in 99.9% of cases worldwide (yes, I made that statistic up). Women are often affected more so than any other population during war because they typically receive the brunt of it, instead of perpetrating it. This is not to say there are not female combatants, because there are many examples, but warfare and the decisions involved in it is certainly male dominated. Women are the ones that most often have to witness their children being abducted or killed, are raped themselves, are responsible for moving their families from one safe haven to the next with the constant fear that no place is safe, and the list goes on and on. If they are the ones living these experiences, I strongly believe their stories must be heard in order for community healing to take place once a conflict has died down.

Another debate that is being tossed around the public sphere is the idea that women are more empathetic than men. We briefly explored this in class and discussed strategies for how to train political leaders worldwide to be more empathetic. I am again struck with the same response that, again, we should not be discussing the level or capacity of empathy of women, or even if it is indeed a feminine characteristic, but instead we should be focusing on the fact that women are not represented in the majority of the world’s political systems.  This is the conversation I want to be having. Unfortunately I don’t have the answers around how to increase the numbers of women represented in the government or present in peacebuilding processes, but I do think momentum around these movements is building. We are seeing mandatory gender quotas in many political systems (I do not think this the answer, but perhaps it is the start), UN resolutions like 1325, and more women speaking out against violence, oppression, war, and many other causes. This is only the beginning of what I sincerely hope is a more inclusive world where women and other oppressed and suppressed populations are given the opportunity to tell their stories and represent their countries.

I’m Not Different?

It’s always an interesting feeling when you sympathize with people who have committed heinous crimes. Whether it’s an actor in a film, a story you read and empathized with, or someone you’ve personally met, we tend to experience cognitive dissonance when we wholeheartedly disagree with an action, but have love and compassion for the doer of that action. Unsurprisingly, this is a common theme in the field of peacebuilding, and the past couple weeks have been no exception as we’ve seen it demonstrated in our interactions with law enforcement, military personnel, and, most recently in a film about the two girls pictured below. We hear phrases like, “yes, structural violence exists, but there’s no overt racism here,” or “our leader would never commit such a violent or terrible act.” Whatever the scenario, cognitive dissonance is something that we all deal with on a regular basis.

For me, watching the film, “My Daughter the Terrorist” was a very interesting experience because I could so easily identify with the anger, frustration, sadness, despair, and desire to act that was demonstrated by the two main girls. The film made me realize that I would probably also join the LTTE and commit my life to serving as a Black Tiger, if my family had been fragmented by violent acts committed by Sinhalese forces – what happened to Dharsika and Puhalchudar’s (two main characters in the film).  With that said, I of course also know that many suicide bombings orchestrated by the Black Tigers have killed innocent civilians. Yet, I still feel I understand why these two women, or any others for that matter, would be moved to participate in violent acts, and could see myself doing the same thing. Talk about some cognitive dissonance…

It also didn’t hurt that this story is told from the female perspective and was directed/produced by a female film crew – perhaps this is more proof to add to the list of reasons why women’s stories around war need to be in the spotlight. Regardless of why or how I connected to Dharsika and Puhalchudar’s narrative, the film further demonstrated how violent conflict becomes inevitable in certain scenarios. In one of her sessions, Dr. Iyer talked about how the LTTE tried a multitude of non-violent approaches to further their cause before resorting to the violent acts we hear about today. However, it’s rare to hear about the peaceful initiatives or the lengths the Tamil people went through to build safe and secure communities for their families outside of the violent actions reported in the media.

Regardless of what you think about the Tamil cause, I highly recommend watching this film.

 

My Daughter the Terrorist

Why Do We Build the Wall?

This song resonated with me the first time I heard it. I don’t want to say much about its messaging because I think you should listen to it. Now is as good a time as any other. 🙂

Since hearing this song I have visited the 20+ foot wall that separates Southern Arizona and Mexico, and am terrified by the idea that there are political leaders in this country who want to build more walls. I can’t justly express the strangeness of seeing that giant blockade that is meant to keep people out – especially in the unforgiving terrain that lies south of Arizona. The massive structure coupled with dozens of border patrol officials and armored vehicles was enough to turn my stomach. Aside from the fact that it felt dehumanizing and barbaric, it is baffling from an economic standpoint as well.  Spending millions of dollars on a wall and seeing no decline in the numbers of people migrating from south to north simply doesn’t make sense. And I struggle to see how it could make sense to anyone.

Now with the looming election and our current exploration of the root causes of conflict, prejudice, discrimination in the SPP, I think my sensitivity around the way we treat the “other” is heightened. Everywhere we look we see instances of individuals or collectives dehumanizing the “other” or “out group.” As I mentioned in a previous blog, my own tendencies to do this have come to the forefront as we have explored uncomfortable spaces such as the prisons and the Salinas police department. It was impossible for me not to recognize the way in which I pass judgments on individuals just because of their social status or appearance. However, in the prisons, and in the police department as well (I also very easily judge police officers apparently), it was very obvious that I was passing these judgments. I fear that it is not so easy in our every day life. Take the video below, for example. How would I treat this little girl if I saw her on the street? How would my actions change based on her appearance? After watching it, I didn’t think it would be possible that I could ignore a child standing alone in a busy place. However, it’s certainly a possibility.

I know I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but I must develop strategies and tools to be more mindful in how I perceive my surroundings. What things am I missing or ignoring when I look around? What makes me especially uncomfortable? What are the reasons for these uncomfortable feelings? How has my privilege, past experiences, and current state affected the way I see what is around me? I don’t have an answer to all these questions, and of course my capacity for love and judgment changes on a daily basis. However, I do believe that I will never be of any use as a peacebuilder if I don’t keep striving to answer them.

 

 

Letting Go, Yet Again

It’s been a long time since I have felt so challenged, overwhelmed, excited, and emotional. Each day this week we have had the opportunity to build upon what have been learning by meeting accomplished practitioners and academics and participating in two field visits. After exploring the building blocks of peacebuilding last week, we began to focus more on conflict in a much more local context: gang violence in Salinas.

This is an issue that continuously baffles me as I live a mere 17 miles from an environment with an astonishingly high homicide and crime rate. Being a graduate student in a relatively affluent area, I feel like I am living in a bubble and have very little connection or awareness to what is going on in the area I now call home. How can two extremely different contexts exist in such a small geographical area, and very few people even know about it? And, now that I am better informed, what can I do as a white woman of considerable privilege that lives an almost ridiculously peaceful and safe lifestyle?  Do I have a role to play in combatting the violence, oppression, and marginalization that is taking place in Salinas? Regardless of whether there are specific things I can do to tackle this vast problem, I know that I can become more informed. Fortunately, this week helped lay the foundation for how I can better educate myself.

To start, I yet again need to check my own biases and prejudices. On Tuesday, we visited the Salinas Valley State Prison, as well as the Correctional Training Facility (CTF). Practically immediately upon entering the prisons, I realized the internal prejudices I have against incarcerated men, law enforcement, correctional officers, and the many other players in the prison system in this country. I’ve always been appalled by the fact that too many young men of color are being disproportionately imprisoned and have never really believed that locking anyone up is a sustainable or reasonable solution to crime in the U.S.A. However, when I walked through the gate and made eye contact with an inmate, I had no issue assuming that this man was dangerous. Fortunately, the assumption was challenged within a few hours when we had the opportunity to actually sit and talk with prisoners at the CTF. Once there was the possibility of human connection and an open space to communicate freely, I was able to let go of more of my prejudices and tendencies to categorize the people I saw there.

The trick is figuring out how to let go more consistently. If I ever hope to work with communities affected by structural violence, I must be able to exercise empathy, compassion, and perhaps most importantly, an open mind. It’s so easy for me to sit in my liberal grad school bubble and talk about how accepting and loving my community is, but it’s another thing entirely to actually leave that bubble and start getting comfortable with some uncomfortable situations. It looks like I have my work cut out for me. I’ll start by applying for a part-time job working with youth in Salinas who want a life outside of the gangs, and will also begin networking with the hopes of finding an organization that is doing similar work with which I can do my final practicum for grad school. It is my hope that these types of experience, in addition to the self-work I must continually engage in, will prepare me to be a more active participant in peacebuilding efforts wherever I find myself in the future.

Lost in Interpretation

Microsoft-Silverlight-9182014-102606-AM.bmp

Aside from learning about cross cultural competency and the importance of understanding the historical and contemporary context of wherever one is working, we must also think about how to communicate with people who do not share the same language with us. This is certainly a very challenging, but necessary, thing to do.

On Thursday night we had a session with two accomplished interpreters who shared their insights on how/when to work as or with an interpreter in peacebuilding efforts. Many of us in SPP want to work with refugees in the US or other parts of the world, or engage in international development and/or peacebuilding activities. It is practically guaranteed that in this line of work we will engage with interpreters frequently, and may have to be one ourselves.

Towards the end of the session we participated in a simulation where two aid workers in a refugee camp were competing over how funds from a donor institution should be spent. The aid workers were appealing to a representative from the donor agency in order to convince the donor of the best use of the funds. All of the communication between the aid workers and the donor agency had to pass through an interpreter. This may not seem like a difficult task, but it proved very challenging. For the exercise, I took on the role of one of the aid workers, and almost immediately forgot who I was talking to. I started explaining everything to the interpreter instead of appealing to the representative from the donor agency. Additionally, the student who was playing the role of interpreter had a very difficult time switching between the two languages being spoken. Although the simulation only took place over the course of a few minutes, we were able to understand the challenges that interpreters, and the people working with them, must face all the time.

Not only did this simulation increase my respect for interpreters, it also made me realize that I must continuously work on being very present in the way I communicate. While participating in the exercise, I focused almost exclusively on what I was going to say next, and didn’t think about who I was presenting to. In a real life scenario it would probably come across as extremely rude for me to ignore the person I was hoping to persuade, and instead only connect with the interpreter. I’m sure this behavior would also drive the interpreter crazy, as our teachers on Thursday explained that their primary role is for all parties to carry on a conversation as if the interpreters were not present. Although this may seem like a small or trivial thing to work on, the session showed me how much more I have to learn about communication if I want to be successful  in an international development or peacebuilding context.

It’s Only Day 3???

What a fascinating and overwhelming start to our summer program on peacebuilding. Since beginning the program we have studied the origins of peacebuilding and how the field has evolved. We have learned about the conflicts in India’s state of Gujarat and talked with two practitioners who have worked there. One who is a Jesuit priest and is now working on the Syrian refugee crisis.
We also spoke with representatives from three different organizations who work on peacebuilding in a variety of ways around the world. The students in this course will actually work directly with these organizations on a project for the rest of the course, but I will write more details about that one we have picked our teams – something that will happen later today!

In addition to all that I wrote above, we also spent several hours with the dean of the Graduate School of International Policy and Management at MIIS and explored the role of official development assistance in Rwanda and how it played a role in the 1994 genocide. I found this seminar to be especially relevant because I have studied Rwanda extensively, and actually traveled there last January through another MIIS program to study the culture and history and work on a social marketing campaign for Partners in Health.  However, our discussion with Dean Kent Glenzer shed light on some facts that I had previously never considered. We looked at the political structures in the country after the Belgian colonial powers withdrew and how they were attractive to aid donors. We also talked in depth about the aid industry and the fact that Rwandan aid workers made, on average, 400 times more than the salary of non-aid workers.

As I reflect on my limited knowledge on Rwanda (which again I have to admit I thought was more extensive than it really is going into this session) and the aid industry in general, I’m confronted again by my complicated and confused feelings about international assistance in the form of humanitarian aid or development. While working in Tanzania in 2012, I became very frustrated with the USAID project I was working on and could not understand how so much money was being wasted on technology initiatives in primary schools. Schools that have limited electricity and whose teachers, for the most part, did not know how to use computers nor ask for donations in the form of portable computer labs and smart screens. I remember thinking USAID was the problem, and that the big donors all around the world must be disconnected from the real needs and desires of communities on the ground. I have since learned that USAID Is not the problem, but that there were many other factors that led to the rocky start of the 21st Century Schools Project in Tanzania. I don’t want to go on and on about this, but our discussion with the dean yesterday did raise old doubts and concerns that I have since pushed aside. However, even with those doubts, I am still determined to finish my degree and return to the field of international development — because I know that international assistance isn’t going to stop, and shouldn’t stop. I can criticize it all I want, but at the end of the day, I want to be involved in that field. This is the path I have been on for over a decade and I feel like I need to give it my best shot.

 

In Rinkwavu, Rwanda
Sites DOT MIISThe Middlebury Institute site network.