One thing for certain, I was not aware what business I was getting myself into. What was clear though - to some sort is that I needed a change_ in my environment, the people around me, the finances and more importantly I felt I needed to put my knowledge into practice. I did not have any experience working for a development entity, still I needed to rise up and start somewhere.
2007 - Working for a Dutch NGO, (which I had no clue what was its mission - just as nervous as I am writing my first blog) I found myself on an initial assignment very close to my home village - in a Catholic mission where my brother did his secondary education. I was rehabilitating water supply infrastructure for the church hospital and fun enough few people were privy that I was a local girl, they saw me as a heroin especially during the times I climbed up water towers doing inspections etc.
During the rain season that year the local dam that served the community was destroyed and suddenly I found myself in a meeting being chaired by the local MP, who was also a controversial medical doctor. I must admit I felt nervous, but his message to me was "please fundraise" (I never shared this with my employer, I guess inside of me it was a big joke) and continue to help the community, this is an emergency! I must admit that I was at that time not paying attention to a lot more apart from the small project I was implementing which I wanted to complete successfully.
To some extend I felt like a child, very obedient I did not visit my parents during my working time, in fact they were the ones proudly visiting me. There were no cellphones or at least I did not have one at the time, so I had scheduled calls with my boss (or should I call him my friend now) in Holland, describing progress, challenges and finding solutions till the project end. I really wish I had at least a camera , like this I would go back to my initially managed projects and share a photo.
In the end there was a great feeling of importance which I walked away with, often I would get rides from the catholic priests, sisters and brothers, I would get special meals prepared, once a mass was organized just for me and a lot more. I made a friend in an old brother with whom we hiked together, always after an afternoon nap. This man also introduced me to "swiss chocolates" and he explained to me his life as a missionary, away from family and how Zimbabwe had become for him a home.
At the end of 1year, having been to 7 different mission hospitals providing WASH services for the rural population I must admit my confidence and empathy was growing. I realized as well the importance of a lot of concepts that the WASH sector expand on these days, i.e. collaboration with other partners, community engagement, the neglect of the sector, the political powers and their role. *At some point I shall dive into politics and how it is important and what I feel should be done to influence better the sector*
I spent about 16 months with this Dutch NGO/Consulting firm working within the boundaries of my own country but can count the number of days I was able to go back home, luckily I had no children until very recently. I was to an extent an expatriate, roaming from one province to the other, making a home and leaving it for a new one, like that.
At some point I was no longer satisfied to be in the same place with the same people for long.
Long story short , the experiences, successes and failures of this assignment provoked an ongoing journey full of adventure, pain, love and more importantly hope for the poor woman and girl deep in the village.
I will at some point go back to my work with government (7 years prior)as it just dawned on me that it will be important as we move forward.
Thank you so much for the time you have taken to read this and I look forward to hear your thoughts on this!
One love - Plac!