Expect the Unexpected
This week, twelve eager AP Peace Fellows traveled to DC for training before we ship off to work with community-based organizations across the globe. The services we’re trained on range from story-telling and strategic planning to website-building and fundraising.
If someone told me before I came to DC that after a week I would be learning HTML and coding my own designated host server, I would have politely asked them to repeat that in English. But now, after a deep dive into the techie world at AP training, if someone asked me write HTML or create a host server, I would whip out my computer, confidently pop open my browser, and Google “HELP- what is HTML?!” Ok, so I haven’t exactly become an IT expert in an afternoon, but I have certainly learned A LOT over this past week—much more than I was expecting.
I will be heading off to Athens, Greece in a few days to work with the Greek Forum of Refugees, the newest AP partner organization. GFR is truly grassroots—it was created a few years ago by a group of refugees and local Greeks to help protect human rights throughout the process of seeking asylum and to foster community integration. I have no illusion that my purpose is to parachute in and perfect the organization, solve the refugee crisis, then grab some feta on the way back to the US, but this week of learning from the AP staff, various expert guests, and my incredible peers has helped me build confidence and understanding in what I can offer the GFR.
What to do if You’re Not Making Soap, Shearing Llamas, or Curing Uterine Prolapse
I’ll admit that compared to the other Fellows, I was feeling a little inadequate when we first went around the room and talked about our projects on day one. They are entering established partnerships with pretty clear goals—Rose will help produce soap with victims of sexual violence in Mali, Daniel with create an income generation project with wool in Peru, and Morgan will build a clinic in Nepal to screen for uterine prolapse (check out theirs and all the other amazing blogs!) What the heck can I offer? What does my organization even do? We only hooked up with GFR a few weeks ago (finally—apparently the back-up plan was to send me to Nepal with my partner in crime, Megan).
Although I have been following news about the refugee crisis in Greece and studying issues of forced migration at Fletcher, the reality of everyday life for locals and refugees in Athens is a blind spot, and my brief phone call with one of the GFR staff members left me with way more questions than answers. But throughout the week, I’ve been given tools to help me craft overall goals and specific processes and deliverables. My first, and continuing, objective will be to listen. By asking the right questions and understanding the needs of the GFR and the refugee population they serve, I hope to be an effective advocate.
When in Doubt, Take a Picture of a Goat
So what does it really mean to be an advocate? At the very least, you have to take a lot of pictures. And, according to our Director Iain, they have to be “really, really good pictures.” The Peace Fellows must be master storytellers through many mediums—pictures, blogs, videos, interviews, profiles, podcasts, quilts, and my personal favorite, social media. Now that I know some of the basic rules of photography, I can really experiment with some arty fartsy flourishes on the photos I post to my new Flickr and Instagram pages (hello rule of thirds!!). There is a bit of pressure to deliver compelling photos that will illustrate the stories we hope to tell to potential donors for our organizations, but you don’t need a $500 professional lens to capture magic—one of the most memorable photos from a past Fellow was of villagers loading goats atop a bus in Nepal. I know there will be a wealth of stories to tell in Greece, and even if I can’t find any goats, I’m excited to get to know refugees and the people who help them on an individual level, and help share their voices with the world.
Posted By Mattea Cumoletti
Posted May 27th, 2016