What I’ve Learnt – Summarized In Under 300 Words

15 Dec

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Well I’m currently in Zurich, only about halfway home, but I’ve already had a lot of time sitting on buses and planes over the last few days to reflect on my experiences over the last four months in Ghana.  Here’s my best attempt to boil down what I’ve learnt based on my personal experiences…

About Development: good development builds the intended recipient’s sense of empowerment whereas bad development decreases it.  Sounds obvious?  You’d be surprised at how many development projects inadvertently violate this basic rule by training people into a reliance on assistance from NGOs or government. 

About EWB: the strength of the organization is rooted in the passion, creativity, and talents of it’s members.  EWB volunteers do an amazing job of empowering individuals on a daily basis during their overseas work.  This is great long term sustainable development work, but there is a challenge in communicating the impact, as many people overly focus on easily measureable short term results.    

About Ghana: there are many cultural differences between people in Canada and Ghana, for example the way we view time and our perspective on family responsibilities, but what struck me far more during my stay were the many similarities.  The average Ghanaian is happier than the average Canadian, despite the fact that they have a fraction of our wealth. 

About Myself: I am happiest when I have the courage to pursue what I am passionate about.  Of course I mean this with respect to big decisions, like deciding to volunteer overseas, but I believe this is actually most important on a day to day basis with respect to all of the little opportunities that are always around us.

7 Responses to “What I’ve Learnt – Summarized In Under 300 Words”

  1. Lorna Young December 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

    Hi Mark – you have had an amazing experience and have taken to heart the role of change (for the good of others) agent. You have learned some truths that apply not only to development but to all organizations and groups of humans – first, in order to to teach, you need to learn. To affect real change you need to help people help themselves – not do it for them. And last – short term measurement is easy – and can lead one into bad decision-making – only thoughtful long term goals and targets really make sustainable change. Good for you.

  2. Heather Cant December 15, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Thanks so much for taking us on this journey with you.

  3. Shandor Nikoras December 15, 2010 at 5:21 pm #

    Mark, sitting back here in Vancouver I would like to say that I’m proud to be able to call you my friend. What you have done over the last few months has not only been a life experience that you will never forget, but I know that you have also touched us back here in Canada as well as the people in Ghana, not only with the work you have done but the words you have shared with us. Congratulations on your challenges and triumphs over the last few months.

  4. Rogayeh Tabrizi December 15, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    Can’t wait to hear your stories..
    I love this line: I am happiest when I have the courage to pursue what I am passionate about.

    we are so lucky…

  5. Anita Moore-Nikoras December 15, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    Mark, I’ve really enjoyed your updates. You have an amazing talent in your ability to report your activies in an interesting and entertaining way, while at the same time educating us folks on the other side of the globe. Now every time I eat a yam I think about you and the Ghana gang building yam mounds!

    As much as we are really excited to see you back at home, I am sure the people of Ghana are going to miss you very much. You have made such a significant positive impact on their lives in such a short time…and you’re such a kind soul, how can they not miss you! I can’t wait to see you and hear the stories live and in person!! Anita

  6. Darlene Webb December 16, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    Mark, thank you for sharing your experiences and reflections with us. I was fascinated by your descriptions and interactions with children. I hope you will give a real live debrief once you are back in town.
    –Darlene Webb

  7. Colette December 16, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

    I have enjoyed following along on your journey–you’ve definitely opened my eyes to a whole other reality and a host of complexities with regards to development.

    These are great reflections–I especially like the one about pursuing what you’re passionate about.

    I’d love to hear your theory on why Ghanaians are happier than Canadians. I observed the same thing in rural Mexico years ago.

    See you soon!


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