How can we affect change?

About a year ago my manager at the time asked our office staff during a meeting what it was that made us decide to go into the field of education. More specifically she wanted to know why we had decided to pursue our respective degree programs. At the time I was working at The Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD) at The George Washington University and most of the staff members were either current students or graduates of GSEHD. I had already earned my Master’s in the field of International Education. We were brainstorming on branding and marketing and she was trying to get inside the heads of perspective students. My answer was that I wanted to make a difference and work toward making the world a better place. I admitted then that it sounded cliché, but it was true then and I still feel that way. My manager scoffed at my answer and dismissed it, and me, as trivial

I left that job a few months later and now, as I wrote about in my last post, I’m a Program Coordinator for the Community College Initiative. As a Department of State sponsored program, we work to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.” (CCI Coordinator Handbook) One of the ways that we accomplish this, or at least try to, is by engaging in volunteer work and community service. CCI participants are required to do 125 hours of volunteer work during the 10-month program. Volunteerism is a new concept to many of the participants and most of them, although perhaps reluctant at first, come to embrace the idea and start thinking about how they can introduce volunteer work to their communities back home. It is also a great way for the CCI participants to meet people in the local communities and they can share something about themselves and their countries.

Another way that we foster mutual understanding is through workshops on topics like conflict management, LGBTQ & Human Rights, leadership development, and global peacebuilding. We bring in guest speakers, who are experienced in these fields to facilitate the workshops, which is great for me as well. I have learned a lot from these speakers. During the Global Peacebuilding Workshop with David Smith, we talked about ways in which we can all be involved in peacebuilding. I think that the most significant thing that we learned was that you don’t have to have a degree in conflict resolution or work for the U.S. Institute of Peace in order to help build peace. We can all do that in our own ways, regardless of our profession or station in life. It’s how we treat each other, speak to each other, help each other, attempt to understand each other, and work together. We can all affect change within our families and our local communities. We can start there and broaden our reach. And then, little by little, we can make the world a better place.

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