It is hard to believe that we are near the halfway mark for 2012. The last three months have been so busy I haven’t taken time to breathe and reflect on the many activities that I am involved with.  As a practitioner of mindfulness, I have learned that life should not be dictated by a clock or calendar. Instead it should be marked by the moments that shape our global outlook and promote our personal growth as we strive to make our contribution to this world.

During the last three months, I have been engaged in many activities that included taking a course on humanitarianism, volunteering with new organizations, and networking with many interesting and inspiring people.

Introduction to Humanitarian Assistance

The American Refugee Committee (ARC) offered a nine-week course about the many facets of humanitarian work in emergency situations. As a volunteer with this organization, I was interested in learning more about their work and reflect on how my experience in Liberia might apply to my aspirations in the international arena. This course gave a thorough overview of the challenges and opportunities working with displaced people in some of the toughest regions in the world.

Each session was taught by one of ARC’s executives; however, the information they shared applied to international relief work on a broader scale. We were given a glimpse of the different theories of humanitarianism, what it takes to coordinate a relief effort with multiple agencies, navigating the differences between various cultures, how to ensure staff care (mind, body, spirit) and protect them in hostile environments, and so much more.

This course opened our eyes to many things that are not necessarily covered in the media when a natural disaster hits or war breaks out. For example, one of the important aspects of helping people who are displaced is getting different perspectives from the those affected by the situation to better address everyone’s needs. This process includes getting the perspectives of children, because their vantage point (i.e. vertically challenged) and knowledge of the area is not the same as young and older adults.

I highly recommend this course to anyone who is seeking a career change in international work, wanting to be more involved on a global level, or learning more about humanitarian assistance.

Volunteering to Empower Others

This year, I started volunteering with WomenVenture, in hopes of facilitating a class. I have been in their career transition networking group since 2010 when I was unemployed and taken a few of their core classes such as Social Media. Also, I have been engaged in supporting others in their transitional period by providing resources or just simply listening to their stories.

In February, I had the opportunity to assist with a class called “Build a Business Website“. This three-week course was being redeveloped, because it was not achieving the goal that each participant would publish a website by the end of the course. The course facilitator of this course found an easier inexpensive site-builder that would allow the class participants to develop, publish and maintain their website.

Though this course had a few hiccups introducing the new site builder and curriculum, five of the six participants were published by the final class and the sixth was just about ready. My assistance to the success of this class was awarded with the opportunity to write a part of the curriculum and co-facilitate the next the class in May, which was cancelled due to low enrollment. The next one is scheduled in September and I am looking forward to helping the next group of participants launch their business websites.

I had another great volunteering experience with ACER (African Career, Education, and Resource Inc.) on April 28. They were hosting their third annual job fair at the Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park. I had become aware of ACER through some postings on Facebook by Wynfred Russell, Executive Director. When I saw the event announcement for the job fair, I asked if they needed any volunteers.

ACER job fair was unique, because it provided a more holistic approach. This was event for the whole family and went beyond just career development. Besides having representatives from companies and post-secondary educational institutions, it also offered free health screenings, activities for kids, teenage talent shows, information about Bottineau Transitway Project and much more.

I applaud ACER’s effort in recognizing job loss or job transition is a family affair. I was able to witness this first-hand as I worked at the registration table. Throughout the day I saw families of all generations and different cultures taking part in the various offerings. This event provided something for everyone. This was quite evident when a woman returned to the registration table and said “This was the best event ever, because all my needs were met.” She shared how she got information for furthering her education, her healthcare needs and job prospects. Her beaming smile and energizing enthusiasm was a clear indicator that this job fair was successful.

Networking With More Distant Stars

Uniting Distant Stars is a blog that was created to further my interest in appreciating and understanding other cultures through active dialogs with people in discovering that we are all “stars” and there is much more that unites us than divides us.

In the last three months, I have been able to meet and chat with interesting and inspiring people who are from or worked in different parts of the world. With each discussion, I have learned so much more about how this interconnected world is evolving and how we each have a part in making it better place.