I hope the first time you stumble across this blog you take a moment. I hope you don’t skim through the words and pictures and move on to the next flashy thing that catches your eye.
My goal, both as a human and a communicator, is to understand what drives us under the surface. To reach deeper than conflict, famine, greed, disaster… words that often seem so abstract and hold little weight inside us. My search is to dive in to the big things to show you (and me) the small things. To learn that famine is often political and conflict is often shrouded in a love for one’s own family. To show you the faces, to share the stories, to let you listen to the words that represent the big things.
As someone who has been on and off the African continent for most of my life, I’ve seen a lot of things and met a lot of people over the years. I have tried to educate myself on the impact that aid agencies can have on a local economy and what mindsets they leave behind. In the last four years I have worked as a photojournalist documenting the work of organizations mostly in East Africa.
One thing, one prominent thing I have learned is that hand outs don’t work. Not just here, but anywhere. I used to hear the phrase “It’s not a hand out, but a hand up!” and while a nice gesture, it still puts one person above the other. One organization above a community. (This in terms to development work, as opposed to disaster relief work, in which a hand up is exactly what’s needed!)
One thing, one prominent thing you will notice about the work World Concern does, is that it’s focused more on the internal than external. Yes, physical needs must be met, but they can be met in a way that keeps us from being the savior. We are not in the business of saving; rather in sharing of the knowledge that we all need to be transformed.
Take a community in South Sudan who is re-learning farming practices after years on the run from war. People who grew up in refugee camps. The first year, they will need seeds and potentially help with tools and some training. But as time goes on, efforts can be placed on how to plant more efficiently, how to waste less seeds, and even how to preserve seeds so the next year they can plant from their own stock.
The question is, how can we come alongside our brothers and sisters, our friends, who have experienced so much tragedy and yet have so much to offer; how can we enter in with them in these broken places and love them well?
We do this by walking in to their living rooms, resting on their couches, and opening ourselves up to what truths they offer. We do this by sitting on the cool ground with them. We do this by crying when they cry. We do this by hearing their stories and sharing them. We do this by standing up together, as we both knock the sleeplessness from our toes. We do this by believing in them, and asking them to believe in themselves. To find their own creative solutions, the ones that are locked deep inside their minds.
And so this is what I hope to do as the communications liaison for World Concern in Africa. To walk with our friends, to encourage them, and to share their stories with you.
“Stories require voices to speak them and ears to hear them. Stories only foster connection when there is both someone to speak and someone to listen.” -Brené Brown
For more “technical” information about me, check our About the Authors section or feel free to drop me a line anytime. I’m excited to start sharing more of these stories soon and I hope you will stay connected with me as we dive into meeting new friends!