Every single person has needs – basic needs for survival along with great desires for specific outlets that help one cope with various life challenges. As we become more self-aware throughout our lives, we hopefully learn to identify what our individual needs are (personally and professionally), as well as healthy ways of meeting those needs. Ideally, we then are able to recognize and help meet the needs of others. Bonus once you’ve mastered the art of both: self-discovery while helping others.
Life in a third-world country, which also happens to be on an island, forces you to only be able to concentrate on the basic needs of life. Just meeting this vital foundational level has been a real test of patience, character and at times, sanity, as every little thing is quite a process. One thing we can count on: not being able to rely on anything. Nothing in Chuuk is simple; nothing about this project is clear, which adds up to be a major undesirable combination. Each day offers ample opportunities for us to give up on the idea of change, hope, trust, and at times humanity altogether; we try to find a way each day to not go insane. Some days we’re more successful than others. While nearly every factor of this undesired combination is out of our control, the true test is in learning to control our emotions, which is way easier said than done in Chuuk.
There are many things I can put up with, let go of, and not even dwell on anymore, but there are a few aspects of life that completely irritate my soul. One big one: a major lack of respect from others by not being listened to, or straight up ignored. I have experienced this both personally and professionally on many occasions, and have faced some major disrespect in the professional world over the last eight years. It’s a life pattern I’m really looking to move away from.
Let’s just talk about respect in regards to the courtesy one deserves with a reply to some form of correspondence that has been sent.
In the social/dating world, why is a “no reply” an answer? It’s not – I call that ignoring. One who reaches out deserves a response. In the professional world, I am quite blown away at the lack of professionalism that exists. To not reply to an email, follow up emails, and even an urgent email for days, weeks and months is a major problem in my mind. Have some forgotten they’re dealing with real people, emotions and situations? I believe some have!
The last few days in Chuuk have been a time of major testing for a few of us. It’s nothing new for us. At times the frustration levels seems to come from all angles and are a bit much.
I give my all to the things I invest in, even when it turns out to not be ideal. Over the last eight years of major career frustration, I have learned when to walk away, re-shift my energy, and spare my sanity. I do not back down from a challenge, but I have sure learned (and continue to learn) personal boundaries, how to hold people accountable, when to speak up, and when to let go.
We have a few words of wisdom from a handful of program participants who are learning some life-lessons in a very difficult way. Dear leaders of any program anywhere.
Know your people. We strongly recommend knowing whom you have on the ground working on an initiative you oversee. Get to know them – more than just their names would be really great. Realize the stability and comforts of life they just may have sacrificed to participate in this program. Listen to them. They are actual people with real desires and drive. Where they live may possibly be short on certain resources that are readily available to you. Ask what questions, concerns, and insights they have, and then, it’s suggested that you respond to them. If you end up trying this, it’s recommended you do it more than once. Communicate with them. When they reach out to you with valuable information, it is strongly recommend that you reply to them within the month. If you would really like to go above and beyond, you could even reply within the week. Saintly status would be within 24 hours. Bonus points if you take the initiative to reach out to the group first, rather than them reaching out to you each time. When you do ask them questions, make sure to read through your emails just in case they may have already answered your questions previously. If your group is on top of it, they just may have actually answered your questions on a few separate occasions already. If they have quit their lives to make this project their focus for nearly a year, there’s a good chance this group has some pretty responsible individuals – trust them. If the group informs you of some vital factors that would drastically change the effectiveness and legitimacy of the program, it’s advised to acknowledge their findings and act on them. The group members who have been on the ground are intimately familiar with the realities of the situation. If there are any group members that show interest in being involved with the program after their contact time, you would be a fantastic human being if you not only took their interest into consideration, but also helped them have trust in you by not steering them into a dead end, or even the same dead end multiple times. If you’re going to say you’ll do something, the optimal next steps would be to follow through.
Know your program. Make sure to have a plan before it’s presented. If some, most, or even all factors are unknown, it would be wise to do some additional research to see if the program and the desired location are even a good fit. If a more defined vision is outlined along the way, it would be optimal for you to share that with the group. There is a chance, especially if your program happens to be in an underdeveloped country, that there might be little to no infrastructure to sustain such a program. Most individuals would prefer to not feel deceived and abandoned upon arrival and throughout the following months. If you tell them they are a priority to you and their well being is a concern of yours, it would be really great for you to show them that, ideally before six months in. Don’t worry, this game plan can even work internationally – there are some really neat ways of communicating, even across multiple time zones. It is strongly recommended that you spend some valuable time on the ground, before and even during the group’s in-country adventure. If the group recommends you make some changes to the program, some even being time sensitive, it would be very wise to take those into consideration, and in a timely manner. If the group has made some major discoveries where they strongly advise the program to not move forward because there are some missing key pieces, it is strongly advised that you not disrespect them by asking them if they could be tempted to repeat the same experience for another year. If the group members express how uncomfortable they feel in recruiting to anyone they know personally, knowing the situation will not improve during a second year, and have given you some pretty substantial documentation, it would be wise to listen. Above and beyond if you listened and then acted. It’s suggested you know the key players in the mix, as it could turn out some major leaders are actively fighting against any positive change the program may be trying to promote. Major in-country corruption tends to really halt things. It would be smart to understand the factors you could be dealing with – what works well in one country may not even be a possibility in another. If you decide to go visit your group on the ground, it would be a good idea to not get your hopes up of all your questions being answered over a weekend stay, especially when the group has battled valiantly to do the same for themselves over the last six months, with little success.
Once again, dear leaders of any program, these are just suggestions. Do with them what you will – we’ve got a backyard waf game we need to get to, and yes, it’s a need.