Archive for the ‘nonprofits’ Tag

Learn to just say no

Tonight I opened Google Reader for the first time in over a month. I hoped that the feed reader had not exploded with the over 100 feeds I subscribe to. The sight of the 1000+ articles sitting there awaiting my perusal inspired me to do something that I don’t do often enough: say no. I have now dumped half of these feeds. It simply was too overwhelming and frankly ridiculous of me to think that I could consume that much information on a daily basis. It is an ongoing negative habit of mine: take on more and more responsibility until I drive myself crazy.

I miss reading and talking about public health now that my brain is constantly occupied with nonprofit management and education due to AmeriCorps. I love what I do everyday but I know that the issues that I really want to explore are in public health and not education. I did not realize how difficult it would be to devote myself to both disciplines this year.

After reading on about the amazing strides that Frontline: SMS has made in advancing mobile health in Malawi, I knew that I wanted to jump back in. Reading and writing about public health will bring back some of the excitement I felt about going to grad school. I have gotten in to Emory and Johns Hopkins so I definitely need to step up my game so that I will be ready next fall.


Wading out of my comfort zone

I have a confession to make to those of you who have not met me personally. I have a competitive streak in me that runs a mile wide. I love playing board games and card games.  If being an overachiever were a crime, I would be a convicted felon. Forgive me; it is probably one of the most stereotypical traits of Millennials. Considering the alternative, I think that it my drive to succeed has been a real asset.

Returning this work has knocked a little wind out of my sails because everything that I am doing to prepare for this semester’s activities for PAIR is new to me. I am drafting a volunteer training and writing a curriculum. It has made me rethink my typical full speed ahead approach. I spend more time explaining my thought process to my supervisor on an unfinished product rather than a complete one. My goal is completing a phase rather than finishing which requires me to concretely develop a plan of action. My thinking tends to be a little on the scattered side so thinking linearly has been difficult.

The biggest change has been the level of collaboration. During my work at AED, each project had a team but the tasks were assigned and completed as though each one was an independent project. My work responsibilities typically did not require the input or insight of others until they were complete. Even then, my draft was returned to me in the same way that a teacher returns a graded paper. You make all the corrections they tell you and then return the paper. Really working collaboratively is something that I have not done in a professional setting before.

I never thought that I would admit it, but I really like working this way. Coming from a former lab nerd, I think that should count for something…an achievement of sorts?

Are we in a post-racial age?

I ask this question because of a conversation that I had this past week. I went to observe my organization’s after school mentoring program last week for the first time. The program takes place in the rec room of an apartment complex in southwest Houston where many refugees and immigrants live. Most of the kids there were from Spanish-speaking countries, Turkey and a few African countries. The kids all knew each other fairly well and speak English pretty well. When I arrived, they were at the table talking about how much they disliked school.

After reading and an arts and crafts activity, I sat down with the kids while they were playing with blocks with a high school volunteer. As the kids started fighting over the blocks, one of the Turkish boys said that he did not like black kids and that he only liked white people. The other volunteer and I were literally speechless because the child was six. The other volunteer pointed out to him that he was playing with a Congolese boy at the moment and he also played with another black student at school. I asked him why he said that and he told me that one of the black students was mean to them so he did not like black people.

After Senator Obama began President-Elect Obama, there has been a lot of writing and talking about the post-racial age that we are in. But as the passage of anti-gay marriage bans in three states and my conversation with a six-year old about race shows, people are still supporting and at least implicitly teaching intolerance. This experience made me wonder which adults in his life taught him the stereotypes that he now believes.

Striving for a post-racial age seems to miss the mark. Ignoring our cultural backgrounds is impractical. Our cultural differences exist and impact our lives, so why should we ignore them? Shouldn’t we be striving for an age of tolerance?

What are we fighting for?

This post’s title is not meant to be absurdly philosophical. I asked myself this question today as I mired through hundreds of foundation profiles to find grant opportunities for PAIR. I do love my job. But working on a Sunday is less than ideal, and working with the fundraising part of my job is not my favorite part. It was moments like today that I wonder why all of us working in social change do what we do and what gets us through the less glamorous and enjoyable parts of our work.

I have been trying to follow some of the news coverage of the backlash to the gay marriage bans passed in three states. I think the measures’ success in California, Arizona, and Florida took everyone by surprise for how much progress still needs to be made. The use of democracy as a tool to curtail rights only makes it more pernicious. Blaming minorities for passage of these ballot measures only obscures the real problems of ignorance and discrimination. Using the best charm offensive may help reduce ignorance on an interpersonal level, but changes on an institutional level will require a different strategy.

So I was really inspired to read Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish as he captured photos and readers’ account of the protests this Saturday through The View From Your Protest. Here in Houston, about 600 people gathered together in support. It’s incredible to hear about so many people fighting for something because it is the right thing to do; it makes all the frustrating moments worth the struggle.

Interesting Links of the Week – August 15, 2008

This week for me has been about returning to normalcy. The political crisis has ended and I have started a new project. These links below were great for re-inspiring me.

Social Change Links of the Week

Collective Lens stimulates social change through visual means by aggregating powerful photographs. In additional to the inspirational photos, the site also features a blog and information on related organizations.

Carnival for Change is hosted by So What Can I Do?, a blog featuring easy ways to make a positive difference in the world. I would highly recommend adding it to your feed reader. This week’s carnival focus on the numerous resources available for social entrepreneurship.

Nonprofit Link of the Week

Rosetta Thurman in Career Empowerment as Co-Creation reminds us that it takes two to make a career. We are responsible for seeking challenges and professional development as much as it is our employer’s responsible to provide both. It’s a great reminder of how much power we have to shape our careers.

Public Health Link of the Week

The Washington Post published an in-depth feature of Helene Gayle, the president of CARE. CARE is one of my most favorite organizations that work in international development. They have a wonderful campaign called I Am Powerful that focuses on empowering women in poverty-stricken regions.

Video of the Week

I know having ExxonMobil and the word responsibility in the same sentence might seem a bit strange. However, ExxonMobil debuted an advocacy commercial at the Olympics describing their corporate social responsibility initiative to raise awareness about fighting malaria. Unfortunately, I can’t embed the ad here, but you can view it on ExxonMobil’s site.

Update: I just found a YouTube link for the ExxonMobil malaria ad via Technology, Health and Development.