Month: May 2014

Small Stones

In our placement preparatory course last week we were asked why we pursued International Development. There are many things I would seriously enjoy pursuing. I have considered being an interior decorator, culinary artist, stay-at-home…woman (that still sounds alright), but as my blog name states I am part of the 100%.


It is difficult for me to dedicate my life to deciding whether the wall should be periwinkle or lavender when a fellow globe mate doesn’t even have clean drinking water. I believe pursuits such as interior decorating and culinary art definitely have their place; we are all called to play a different role within the 100%. Mine, I believe is a development worker …who rolls sushi and restores antique dressers on weekends.

This may seem hypocritical since in my last two posts I talked about remaining hopeful in the field of development, but I don’t think poverty will ever cease to exist. Inequality has been felt from the dawn of humanity and likely every moment in between until now but I will still pursue development work. Even if I don’t cure the world of poverty…

“The [hu]man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” -Confucius

…I can do that. I can carry away small stones. And this is why I am in International Development.



A good friend of mine is currently living in Uganda. She recently went to Gulu, a city that Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) used to occupy for their inhumane (to put it mildly) endeavors. In her blog she shares some of her witness to the healing that has taken place by past victims of the LRA, including one of Kony’s wives and children.

As many of you remember, in 2012, the organization Invisible Children released a video about Joseph Kony. Its intentions were to inform the world – make Kony famous – and essentially, help bring an end to the rebel group. There has been much criticism over the video since then:

  • Invisible Children is highly biased; the film does not give the whole story
  • This video was a money grab
  • They do not use their funding efficiently or ethically
  • Filmmaker Jason Russell shows inappropriate behaviour after the video’s release, questioning the legitimacy of the organization


Picture from the first Invisible Children Stop Kony video.

Invisible Children released a second, much less publicized, video in response to some criticisms.

Because information is so accessible and social media gives many more people a voice, it is difficult to make truth of situations like this. One critic highlights the notion that the LRA was initially formed in resistance to Uganda’s National Resistance Army, which was exploiting children. Whether that is true or not, the LRA’s current mandate is no more justifiable.

The video was evidently unsuccessful in bringing down Kony. What the video did succeed in, however, is getting people to act. I am not saying the awareness raising events – Cover the Night – posters, t-shirts and bracelets were effective. But, they got people moving towards something likely more productive than what participants would have been doing otherwise.

I am hesitant to say that at least the video raised awareness because

a) just raising awareness is not always enough and

b) it was highly one-sided.

But, again, it got the attention of millions about a topic that does require attention to be solved.

While Invisible Children may not be seeing the success they intended, my friend’s blog is proof that issues are being addressed. If you can’t stop Kony, you can at least stop what he has done by addressing the needs of the people that used to be a part of his agenda. At Laminadera Village in Gulu, Uganda, that is precisely what is happening.

In the words of my friend “Gulu is a place resurrected. Redeemed. A place of peace. The peace that comes only from knowing a time of great pain.” Encouragement for any development worker.

It’s Not What You Do…

This past Wednesday was the annual Shape the World Conference. A day when the INDEVOURS who just returned from their overseas placements are able to share with faculty, family and future placement volunteers (me!) what they learned during their journeys.

Some people shared the technical aspects of their job roles, some people told stories of the people they met and of themselves, and some brought a convicting call to action upon their audience. A theme that kept on coming up was that development work is not easy. You will struggle with language barriers (which you should do your best to minimize), you will fail to understand certain cultural practices, your role will at times seems meaningless, and you may possibly step in dog poo.

To that, Simon Sinek will say it is not what you do but why you do it.

It sounds cliché, but he raises a good point. There are three questions (the golden circle): why, how, and what, that every organized pursuit – whether it be a company in the corporate world or a non-governmental organization fighting for peace – looks to answer. Most companies start from the outside, in – at what. Sinek argues that the ones that see the greatest success are not the companies that have something different to “sell” but the ones that sell something differently. They start from the inside, out – at why?

Looking at the human brain from the top it is divided into sections comparable to Sinek’s chart. The outer layer, the neo-cortex is the part responsible for rational and analytical thought – language, asking “what?” Within that is the limbic brain, it is responsible for feelings and controls behaviour – asking “why?”

Sinek’s theory is a beneficial reminder to us future placement volunteers as well. Sure we may be doing just data entry some days, or playing a role that surely a local could fill. I’m not justifying non-productivity, or saying that we can do whatever we want as long as we have good intentions; rather I am trying to spread some hope in the realm of development work.


I believe it will be hard; emotionally, physically and mentally. Some days will probably suck…a lot. But is there any line of work that does not have off days? It is inevitable. Learning and growing from such experiences, however, is also inevitable. For future reference, for myself maybe more than anyone – the work you do is not as significant as the reason for which you do it.

So, why are you (metaphorically and literally) embarking on X journey?