Donna Laveriere (India)

Donna Laverdiere (Butterflies, India): Donna grew up in a small town in Maine and received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Tufts University. After college, she spent three years in the publishing industry, and then worked for AT&T and Cadillac. During this time Donna was heavily involved in political organizing on women’s issues and helped found a nonprofit privacy rights organization. At the time of her fellowship, Donna was pursuing her Master of Public Policy at Duke University’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, with a focus in global policy.

How Much I Don’t Know

14 Jun

It seems to me that many American and European students set out on trips abroad to work as volunteers at domestic NGOs, expecting to offer their services with the optimistic goal of helping others. They may expect to share skills they have learned in graduate school or other work experience, and to take on difficult projects. I arrived here merely wanting to help, and willing to take on tasks that suited my abilities, wary of taking on projects that I could not complete or that I didn’t feel comfortable doing. I was trying not to leave my NGO in a lurch after leaving.

However, it becomes increasingly clear to me, as my time at Butterflies progresses, that the best way for me to help is to listen, ask questions, and learn from the people here. They already fully understand the issues they are trying to address and are innovative, resourceful, and strong-willed. They are seeing success helping street and working children. And I have much to learn.

I have begun writing my first funding proposal for a new project here at Butterflies. The project will be a training program to teach a few adolescents about the tourism business while working to hone their language skills in Hindi and English. I arrived here thinking they would need my help with marketing the program and with business aspects of the plan. However, I have undertaken the task of writing the basic plan for the program.

This is a humbling experience to say the least. I sit and talk with the people here about Butterflies and how this program fits into their larger mission, and I realize I have to change my way of thinking about so many things. This program aims to empower adolescents, to impart the skills they need to develop a tourism cooperative that they will manage on their own. It does not aim to lead these children down a set path and provide hand-outs.
This approach is different from anything I have encountered before, and I continually try to shift my thinking to be in line with the very unique way Butterflies approaches poverty and development. I have so much to learn, and there is so much that I don’t know. I will keep writing and re-writing and making mistakes. I am learning so much from being here, and am grateful to Butterflies for allowing me to take on this project. Hopefully at some point I will get it right.

Posted By Donna Laveriere (India)

Posted Jun 14th, 2006

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