Today marks the 4 months I have spent as a Program Director in Guatemala. I waiver daily whether it feels much longer than four months or much less. Regardless, it's hard to imagine how different my perspective would be, without being a part of this experience.
On the ground. Making relationships with the community. Collaborating input on projects and programs. Working together to make these inputs come to life. These are things that one can read about in a classroom or in an news article all they want, but only actually being here can take you through the many challenges and rewards of working for a community development organization.
I didn't come into this experience blind. I have had the opportunity to view their sites as a summer intern and as a spring break volunteer. During those times, I really came to admire the work that they carry out at their sites. Most of all, the relationships they foster with the community and the resulting informal/formal conversations that come out about what is necessary for the community, in a sustainable way -- that was the unique aspect of this organization that reeled me in. I think that is so vital in any organization that works abroad - getting the voice of the people there and utilizing that to shift the way the programs and projects are geared towards.
We run into challenges sometimes. You're not dealt the easiest cards. You'll hear tough stories. You'll learn to leave your comfort zone behind. You'll learn a whole, new definition of what grassroots international development really can be. But you also learn to relish in the small victories. Those moments of dialogue where potential new programs are thought of during informal conversations in the community. Moments where you hear our English Program helped someone obtain a job. Moments where people go out of their way to get to know you and hear what you have to say. Therefore, the rewards that come in our work are simply amazing to experience. Sure, it takes awhile to keep the dialogue going and to see the outcomes. It's a slow process, but most definitely, a worthwhile one.
And here at the Guate site, we're constantly brainstorming and talking with the members of the community to see where we can take our programs next quarter. Some of these possible programs may include sexual education/reproductive health classes, a community English class, a collaboration with a community microfinance organization ADESAG, and so many more.
Why talk at this length about Manna? Because if you are graduating this year, I seriously want you to give a thought to being a Program Director (especially for the Guatemala site!) :) During orientation back in July, I noticed just how diverse of a background we all each have as Program Directors. Majors all across the board. Career goals, again - every imaginable one. And that goes such a long way in our capability as a team to serve these communities.
Come learn about a new culture and the community of Chaquijyá. Not only will you learn about service, you'll also learn a couple of things about yourself as well.
Go to www.mannaproject.org/long-term to apply! Deadlines for Program Directors are December 1st. For Summer Interns, it's January 25th.