21 September 2006

Musings of success

Lately I've been sitting at home saying, I need to write a blog... but all I want to do is sleep! This craziness of this last month has caused me to reflect on the meanings of success, and what it means to us Volunteers in the DR and other developing nations.

Success... the word calls up images of high-powered business suits, of private offices, of money. Refocusing, I see crowds and praise and thank-yous. Acknowledgement that the job done was worthy of recognition. Most work in development goes unnoticed, un-praised. Many people in developing places know they are poor, and begin to expect "help" - handouts, support, etc. I am not saying these people don't deserve help, otherwise I wouldn't be here. Nor am I saying development workers should be recognized more... I am just stating our reality.

This reality has required me to make a shift in my understanding and measurement of success. Success here means the completion of a project, the involvement of one person, or changing one person's life. It often can't be measured in dollars or in numbers of people, but in small things: an English word learned and remembered; a family willing to do legwork themselves instead of relying on other people; project partners finally understanding and admitting the need for a business plan (even if they think it was their own idea).

In light of this understanding of success, I walked away from last week with wide eyes. Courtney and I have been working for the last 3 months to get birth certificates for the kids of our communities. We had 120 people - kids and adults - that we were working with. Finally, the day came for all these people to go to the Judge's office to sign papers. By the end of 2 days, we had 70 people completed. Seven more are adults entering the 6-month process in the capital. Courtney and I were blown away by the success of the operative... something we can actually measure in people affected for a change!

We will continue to work with the remaining 50, to encourage the parents to get the missing paperwork and be processed. I have even been asked to extend the project to Constanza, a town about an hour away, where several people have family members.

Seventy people in the campos of Jarabacoa are now legally recognized as existing. They will be able to go to school and declare their own children when they have them. But the work doesn't stop there! Back to the fuzzy view of success... now we must educate the people of these communities on the importance and the process of getting birth certificates for their children so they will have an equal chance at the future.

Sometimes one just has to work knowing it is important and right, and leave the recognition and rewards as a pleasant surprise.

1 comment:

mrs stearns said...

Happy Birthday Pumpkin ! Oct. 3rd
I hope today is filled with God's blessings for you. We're very proud of the things you are doing in the DR.I love you very much !!!
Love MOM