It's strange, but recently, whenever I've been feeling unsettled, frustrated, or miserable, a song or a book has appeared which helps me make sense of things.
Today was a perfect example. I had a long conversation with my sister on skype, telling her about my frustration with my current placement (2 of 3). The many obstacles I'm meeting. The feelings of ineffectiveness and professional impotency. Basically having a moan, feeling sorry for myself, and feeling a waste of VSO's precious and limited funds.
Anyway, once she'd had enough of me (!!) I took my grumpy butt to a coffee shop around the corner, where extremely strong Vietnamese coffee and Barack Obama's book 'Dreams from my Father' made me re-evaluate. The bit I happened to be reading describes how, in his late 20's, Mister Obama moved to Chicago to make big waves as a community organiser. He talks about how he went with big ambitions, full of enthusiasm, wanting to work hard and bring about dramatic changes. He goes on to describe more than a year of bitter weather, empty meeting halls, un-returned calls, futile knocking on doors, weekends alone in an apartment with his books..... frustrations, set-backs, dashed hopes, let-downs. But we all know where he's at now. That someone who has achieved so much and has so much confidence, had times when he achieved very little, and felt very useless, was exactly what I needed to read at that moment. Thank you Mr O.
Of course us volunteers are going to feel demotivated at times. Of course there'll be times we can't see a way to move things forward. But looking at the big picture; I've only been in this (literally) sleepy little town two weeks. I'm doing the best I can, with the skills I've got and the things I can make. I'm not going to change the world (and I'm pretty sure the US is better off without me as President, haha), but, whilst in the short term I need to give everything I've got to fulfilling my job description with VSO and my local partner (essentially to improve the quality of life and life chances for these children with disabilities and their families), I also need to acknowledge that part of the value of doing this is actually for me. For me to develop skills in listening, communication, problem-solving, understanding, patience, resiliance.... in other words, to prepare and practice positive action for the long term. For a lifetime.
As well as fundraising and personal donations, VSO receives some money from DFID, the UK Department for International Development. So all you tax-payers - after a few minutes considering (and if you're inclined, getting active about) your hard earned pennies being used to prop up unethical banks (RBS? Goldman Sachs?), subsidise airlines and re-build Trident... you can smile and remember that some of your money is going to help the most disadvantaged people in the poorest countries of the world, and some to funding my personal development. You should feel good about that :o)