This week’s post comes from Barbara O’Connor. Barbara is a Community Youth Work graduate and has been involved in Development Perspectives since 2014. This year she took part as a leader on our Insight 2015 programme.
As Saint Augustine put it: ‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page’. It reminds me of a TED talk by an inspiring woman by the name of Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian novelist who spoke about ‘the danger of a single story’. It describes how our perspectives are influenced by our environment, and how this can cause us to look at others with a narrow mind, a so called ‘single story’. This idea was introduced to me by a facilitator on the Insight Programme during my first year on board and although I believed that I have always had an open mind, it was only at this stage that I truly began to explore my understanding of the world around. The programme investigates issues relating to development; such as poverty and inequality, and from my experience it has been an excellent platform from which these topics can be understood. It is here where like- minded people from all walks of life come together and participates in workshops, debates and various other forms of groupwork. It enables them to be active citizens in their community by carrying the message of development to those they come into contact with.
I believe that in order to work in the development field, you must firstly develop from within and by travelling to Tanzania two years running, I have grown in so many ways. The first year I went as a participant and the experience was an integral factor in how I began to shift my perception. Although I spent 3 weeks in Tanzania, the whole process consisted of three phases over an 8 months period. I was present for each phase and I feel that because of this I could appreciate the value of development education.
I went back to college and although I had had an amazing experience, it did not enter my mind that I would be taking part the following year….until I got ‘that’ email. DP had offered me the chance to return to the programme as a leader this time. All the memories and feelings came flooding back and before I could even think, I was accepting the offer. This time things were different for me, I began to think about my role as a leader and how I could facilitate new participants with their understanding of poverty and inequality. I had to design and deliver workshops, guide and support, work with other leaders, which included compromising and debating each of our visions. On reflection I realised that this is what development is about. It’s about working together with others, from different backgrounds, with different outlooks and beliefs, and coming to some form of agreement which is beneficial for all. It sounds much easier than it is but it’s not supposed to be easy, if it was we would not have any issues in the first place.
I found the experience of being a leader completely fulfilling, albeit challenging and I have learned that by being faced with challenges it has given me the opportunity to grow and learn. I have gained so much from this experience and have learned through activities such as ‘theatre of the oppressed’, how to break down barriers and perceptions and how to rebuild them. I have also been blown away by the level of experience and participation from others in the group and they have made my role as a leader very enjoyable. I have experienced that, by working together as one unit, there can be amazing outcomes and we all have the potential to be agents of change. What better place to create these communities, than with Development Perspectives on the Insight Programme.