Mozambique Monday – Getting to Zen
It has been a full two months since my last PULSE entry so I have quite a bit of catch-up. In thinking about what to write I immediately thought of some of the major activities and events that I have been busily working on and I will take the time to chronicle these and post, however as my assignment is over the halfway point it was important for me to look back over these past four months and try to gain perspective. My assignment with Save the Children in Mozambique has been in a word utterly chaotic. Wonderfully chaotic and exhaustively chaotic, but chaotic nonetheless. The main focus of my assignment was to provide communications, popular mobilization and advocacy planning, resources and tools for the country office as they do not have a regular communications officer. Within the first week I found the focus of my assignment shifting to be “an extra pair of hands” on a field visit which was great learning and introduction to the country for me but not much direct communication, advocacy or pop mob focus. For the next three plus months I have been given or inherited projects that had links to communication, advocacy and popular mobilization and some quite direct but not what the team had discussed with me in those first few weeks of building my PULSE plan. Now that work life is a bit calmer and I have begun working on the SOPs, templates and communication process documents that were highlighted over three months ago I have found myself feeling somewhat anxious. Like all PULSE volunteers I want to be able to leave the program with sustainable resources and processes that can be successfully implemented and used once I have left. And of course I want to learn and grow from my assignment. With months two, three and four an all out mad dash to complete training’s interviews, major donor visits and advocacy events I did not have the time to think about issues such as sustainability or personal growth. I was in “get the job done mode” and not having the time to reflect or think two steps ahead. But in the few weeks since things have calmed down I have thought about this from time to time on my daily walks to and from work.
There is no doubt that the materials and processes I am currently working on will be used on a regular basis with both the home and provincial offices, and will have that sustainable factor that we all strive for in our assignments. However I realized that even the chaos is part of the process and part of the learning. In thinking about this posting I went back and re-read some of the PULSE manual, my notes and responses to the exercises. I even went back and re-read my responses to the original PULSE intake questionnaire. The first item that resonated was my note on learning to manage expectations. The second item I noted was to enjoy the process, third to become a part of the team and the fourth from a PULSE alum was about being curious and the power of being a neutral observer. The list goes on but as I read through my answers, the feedback from PULSE colleagues, trainers and alumni I realized I was experiencing all these things, just in a different way than I had anticipated. I also realized that even among the crazy schedule I did manage to pull off some tasks and events that had never taken place here in Mozambique and was leaving the group feeling more confident about taking on big challenges. From an NGO perspective I now see that many of these tasks and events have led to the “it” factor of sustainability. I also realize that I have had good personal growth, different from what I had anticipated more organic than planned.
I have done quite a bit of ‘field work’ in managing my expectations. The culture here, actions by staff, by partners, by everyday people on the street has forced me to manage appropriately. Not in the negative sense, just alerting me to be more culturally sensitive and culturally alert. Since one of my primary expectations was to learn about the culture, the history and the people of Mozambique these experiences have supplied rich learning. One of my goals was to be considered a member of the team. I can say with confidence that this has transpired. I am an active member of Save the Children in Mozambique Program Development & Quality team, I am also an active member of the global Save the Children EveryOne campaign. My fourth wish was to be curious and serve as a neutral observer. It has been a gift to be the neutral observer and to be curious as to “why things are done that way”, and now that I am working on new communication and collaboration processes for the country office I am able to put my neutral observer hat into action and incorporate my observations and learnings in this work. And lastly I have enjoyed the process. Yes very crazy at times, steep learning curve and exhausting but I have gained much. My energy bucket is brimming, part of this is the fact that life has slowed down somewhat and I am able to look back and capture the events from these past four months and part was my learning how to let go and go with the flow. For the control freak that I am this has been one of the most difficult challenges but most rewarding in learning how to trust the process. I didn’t see it at the time but my energy bucket was filling throughout these months I just didn’t have time to realize it was full.