Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Last week, I attended an AIDS symposium in Boston exploring how to best care for kids that are left in the wake of HIV/AIDS. As over 200 individuals gathered from around the world, I listened to people talk about policies that have worked and exploring gaps in policies that haven't. The presentations were given by academics from places like Harvard and some of the best universities in Europe. Experts from UNICEF, USAID, World Bank, etc were all there to share their thoughts.
It was really informative and I definitely recommend you all checking out the initiative called the Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS.
This analysis went on like this for over 4 hrs.
Then, something happened that I didn't expect. A woman from Malawi approached the podium to share and SHE SHARED AND SHARED...not like everyone else. She shared her heart, not her research. She came with slides that didn't really work because she was told she should have slides.. She said that she traveled all the way from Africa and expected some major new ideas. She talked about the long journey and her optimism about joining some of the great minds in international development. Then, she spoke of her disappointment. As she talked, a passion was growing within her. A passion to share the story of her people, the communities where she worked, and what people without an education were doing to transform their own futures with little resources...just because it is the right thing to do.
At Forgotten Voices, we deeply believe that the best policies only take you so far. We study them and learn them, like everyone else. We come prepared to help, using all our time and talent that we can muster. But we do something that this woman wanted everyone to acknowledge: we listen to the voices of local people who are doing most of the real work without much of a formal education and with very little resources.
Then she said something that I'll never forget: "We must build our boat, while we sail." She probably didn't coin the phrase, but it will stay with me. Her point was that we need to not over-plan and beat problems to death with policy analysis. We need to get out among the people and get to work... the people need us and the people know what is best. Sure, data is good and evaluation is good. But people need us NOW.
At Forgotten Voices, I'm always facing the urgency of the now with the threat of unintentional consequences. But we are working hand in hand with local leaders in Zimbabwe & Zambia to try and come up with the things we need to help make their boats sail better and better. We'll build it while we sail.
You can help! To find out what projects we are working with, visit us online and check out About Us!
I leave for Africa in 15 days. Get ready for another adventure.
Written by Ryan - ForgottenVoices.org at 10/03/2007 09:08:00 PM