Knowing our work is worthwhile

We all get our moments of thrill — when we see the effect of a dialogue-approach on an individual, group or organization.  I had one of those moments last week and wanted to share it because it felt extra special. About 14 years ago, I worked with Karabi Acharya (both of us then with Academy for Educational Development) on a public health sector project in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region of Ethiopia. It was a "technical assistance" project of 3 weeks or so, to work through an Ethiopian team on community -based health promotion activities.   The team was big — including a wonderful man, Wondimu Amdie. On subsequent visits to Ethiopia I tried to track Wondimu down, but had no luck. Last week, the day before leaving Ethiopia, I was having lunch at a little place in Addis Ababa. A hand gently tapped me on the shoulder – "Valerie?" It was Wondimu Amdie — looking just like he did 14 years ago but like all of us, with a few more wrinkles and eyes a bit tired.  We felt waves of disbelief and gratitude for finding each other.  He invited me to lunch the next day and we couldn't stop talking… Wondimu's words confirmed for me that, even when we feel a bit disheartened by the limitations on our work, or our own abilities to make things " perfect," the approach we use is felt – and lives on – well beyond what we usually realize. Wondimu spoke of our teamwork together like it was a clear (and fulfilling) memory..

  • He remembers how we encouraged them to talk in Amharic, even though we didn't understand – and they thought this was great.
  • He said the approach we used made them work, but let them be creative so it was fun.
  • "You shared your ideas but you didn't make us think like you… we could have our own ideas."

In the years past, Wondimu has taken many other trainings.  He shook his head as he described one of these in which the trainers were bent on controlling the words everyone used to describe concepts: "They wanted us to present our work using their words… You can never really be successful this way because it's their work, not yours." I think you get the gist. Let's keep doing what we're doing, and when times get tough, let's remember what a DIFFERENCE it can make.

   Valerie Uccellani is a Certified Dialogue Education™ Teacher, a Partner, Global Learning Partners, Inc. 


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