Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Blessed are the Flexible, for they shall Never be Bent out of Shape"

First day of work at World Vision!

The title of this post was a motto of the Rotary Youth Exchange program, and I learned it when I was an exchange student with them in Finland the year after high school.  The phrase stuck with me in Benin, as I dealt with the infinite frustrations and challenges of my first Peace Corps service.  And now in Vanuatu, I’ve had yet another chance to experience the importance of flexibility.  The good news is, whenever I get the question about whether or not I can work in a rapidly changing/flexible work environment during future interviews, I’ll be all set!

Some time ago I wrote a post about my job here in Vanuatu/ what I will be doing for work.  You may not have read that post; it was very long, and didn’t have any pretty pictures until the end.  If you did read it, disregard everything you learned from it – my situation has had some pretty major changes.  Shortly after my time on Ambrym working with fellow Peace Corps volunteer Kathleen, we learned that our project (the Youth at Work program, helping young people with climate change adaptation-related service projects and small business development) was going to be cancelled.  There are a variety of reasons for this, too complicated to get into in detail, but the decision was mainly due to lack of funding.  So all of a sudden, I wasn’t really sure what would happen next – would I stay in Vanuatu through January was planned?  Would I remain a Peace Corps volunteer, or not? 

Peace Corps wanted to work with us to help us remain volunteers if we wanted, and they offered me the opportunity to go to Walaha (the community where I’d originally been posted) to work in the school as a literacy teacher.  I did like the community and thought I’d enjoy living there, but my long term goals are to work in international development with a focus on agriculture or environment, and my preference was to find something I could do that was more in line with that.  So at the encouragement of some friends, I sent out copies of my CV to any and all international development organizations in Port Vila and asked for informational interviews.  I wanted to see if I could leave Peace Corps and get a “real job” with one of these organizations in Vanuatu.  It was a fun process- I interviewed with quite a few different organizations, learning a lot about the development community here.

 The final organization I talked with, World Vision Vanuatu, just felt like a great fit.  They had projects that interested me, and I got a great feeling from the two staff members I met with – I got the sense that their office culture would be a good fit for me.  The whole conversation felt very natural – I didn’t feel like I needed to “sell myself” at all, since my skills and background honestly could be of use of them.  The only catch – like the other organizations I’d talked with in Port Vila, they didn’t have the ability to offer me a job right then.  I didn’t think Peace Corps would allow me to work with them as a volunteer, but we all thought it was worth a try – and a series of meetings later, Peace Corps had agreed to let me spend the rest of my service working with World Vision Vanuatu!  So 4 months in, more than 1/3 of the way through my service, I finally, finally have a job.

I’ve been with World Vision for two and a half weeks now, and I'm sure there will be plenty of interesting posts to come about my work.  But a brief summary: I’m now based in Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, but will be doing some travelling to other islands to help with World Vision projects there.  (In fact, I’m out of town on a business trip right now!)  My title is “Livelihoods and Resilience Officer,” and I’m helping with a couple projects: one, on Tanna (an island in southern Vanuatu) involves working with coffee farmers, and a second one, in Port Vila and Luganville (Vanuatu’s second largest town) focuses on waste management and business development.   This is now my third week at work, and the impression I’d gotten of World Vision Vanuatu during my interview has proven to be correct.  There’s really a good bunch of people working in the office here.  I feel challenged by the projects I’m working on, but also like I’m able to contribute – and I really think this experience is a good career step.  So at long last, things have gotten started – no more lazing around on the beach, there’s work to be done!  

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