So it’s been three weeks of classes so far. That means 33 hours of lectures and class discussions all in Spanish. Plus, I don’t even know how many reams of paper of class readings -also all in Spanish. Still struggling. I bought myself a voice recorder so that I can tape the lectures with the idea of listening to them again later. Still, during the lively discussions that take place each class, despite that during my studies back home I was always the type to be a really active participant, I’ve sat there silently; wanting to contribute, but not feeling confident enough in my Spanish, or that I’ve followed the flow of the discussion, or of what the original question was in the first place!
But today, I spoke! We had done a class exercise in which 5 people sat in the front of class and debated the definition of the word ‘sustainability’ and then the conversation was opened up to the rest of the class. The focus had been on sustaining and organization financially or providing for content sustainability through education. Building off that and based off my experience in Honduras, I stressed the need for not only education (meaning a couple classes or whatnot), but putting in place actual structures and systems to sustain the changes that you are trying implement. Then I gave the example of how in Microfinance Brigades, Merrilee and team do not just provide training to the communities about giving micro-loans , almost more importantly set up and support ‘Caja Rurales’ or community lending associations. That way, the community members themselves become the ones who are running and maintaining the program. For me that is true sustainability. And, so that was the thought that I finally built up the courage to share with the class!
Overall, I’ve been sort of surprised to discover that I don’t feel like I’m out of my league in this program, like I’m the little kid with professionals with years of experience. Yes, there are some people who have been in the field for years, but there are also multiple people who really haven’t been the non-profit field at all, are just sort of exploring the idea. And, I also realized that I’ve been doing non-profit work a lot longer than I had thought, if you figure in all those internships back in college-where I was still learning, even if I didn’t know it at the time! Plus my position in Honduras, founding and running a program gave me a wide taste for almost every aspect of NGO work. So, I actually have quite a bit of experience and can definitely see how the material is more than just theoretical, but how I can apply it. Really hoping to get a lot out of this year.