10 March 2011

30-minute Haiti...

Yesterday, I went back to uni to visit my old professors for a catch-up. It was lovely. While I was there, though, I agreed to come back today and talk to this year's MA students about my experiences, how I got my job, and how what I learned in the MA in Human Rights contributes to my work. 

Well, that got me thinking, of course. How can I sum up 3 months into 30min with time for questions?

well, for starters - I started with WV when I was 20 years old...a few weeks before I turned 21. I started as an intern in their humanitarian department. I worked with them for about 3 months before heading back for my final year of undergrad. I came back post-graduation, as an intern again. And then have never left. Even as I moved to London to pursue a Master's degree, even as I actually tried to end my job, it didn't. I wanted to have a clean cut with WV to pursue a different path, but God had something different for me. So I worked with WV remotely and part-time. To be honest, one of the reasons I pursued it was because I hoped it would lead to a field-based job.

When the Haiti earthquake hit last January, I was broken. I wanted to be there. Something in my heart left me and flew to Haiti and it stayed. I was so upset that I could not go then, because of my commitments to school. I never expected that I would end up there almost 1 year later.

But that is what happened. Because of the job I was so eager to cut, I was able to move to Haiti. God knows better right? And I have never looked back.

Haiti is...different. It is complex. We always say that Haiti is different everyday, and it is. I love it. Something is always happening - from Duvalier coming back to political election violence to parties and parades in the street on a Sunday evening in the month leading up to Carnival. Haiti always throws something different your way.

My work with them has not been easy by any means. It was a level of difficulty I was unprepared for though. There are so many changes within WV and things going on internally so it is difficult to be prepared for something you are completely unaware of. But I tried to rise to the challenge. I hope I succeeded. Only time will tell for that one.

I think I have changed throughout this as well. I have become more self-reliant (if that was even possible - I was already VERY self-reliant before I left). Strength and resilience, while I always knew I had these traits, I never knew how deep they were. I truly discovered where my professional strengths lie. I love analysis, holding people accountable, improving programmes to be the best they can be, building the capacity of others - particularly national staff - and working with the communities to, as Clinton says, "Build Haiti Back Better." I only see the point of a project if it is sustainable - or a means to an end while the sustainable option is being developed. When I leave, I want to leave systems and things in place that are not going to die without my involvement. I want Haitians to be the proud owners of a better Haiti, not the receivers. Of course this is VERY difficult. And involves a lot more people than just myself. 

My MA in Human Rights helped me more than I realised in the last 3 months. Not just by getting me out of the US, but by being a massive stepping stone to getting to the field and by also showing me how essential human rights principles, such as equality, participation and inclusion, accountability, and increasing the capacities of rights-holders to hold duty-bearers responsible for their actions, are in programming. 

I also came to realise that the faults I have - I need to listen more, be less opinionated, and be more patient - need to drastically be improved upon. And I am working on it. I ate many pieces of humble pie while I was in my last role. 

When I left for Haiti, I knew it was the place I was supposed to be at. And I still stand by that comment. I know I am not done with Haiti yet - and I know Haiti is not done with me. There is still lots left for me to learn (and not just learning French - although that is a BIG priority too). Even though it has only been a few days since I left, and I am loving being back in the UK, I cannot wait to get back into action. Watch out Haiti, I won't know what hit me by the time we are done.

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