Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mali on our Minds

Each week as part of my coursework for one of my classes at SIT we are asked to explore a different layer of leadership, service, and management and apply a theoretical framework while referencing our professional work.  The theme the week of the coup d'etat in Mali?  Transformational change.

As I sat in my house on lockdown, I read through articles and tried to push myself to apply what I was reading not to my personal life but to my professional one.  With a constant radio and television stream of information coming across the waves and Abdoulaye calling out evolving developments, needless to say it was a little hard to concentrate.  I read and re-read through reasons why experts in the field have identified change as difficult.  Loss of control, excess uncertainty, the fear of more work, ripple effects.  Check, check, check, check.  I wondered if my professors would accept a more personal angle to the assignment.

In the end, I did complete the assignment as described (see video below).  But I couldn't stop thinking about how it all related to the extreme change going on around me.  And, while I am not prepared to analyze the political situation in Mali, and many others already have, I can offer a small personal testament.

At the end of our transition conference*, the administrative officer for Peace Corps Africa made a speech commending our efforts in Mali.  What stuck with me was when she said how all of us made a choice to come to Mali, which is very true.  However, what I immediately thought of was how none of us were choosing to leave Mali - at least not on our own terms.  Then, since my mind tends to be pretty jumpy (must be following my body) I immediately thought of the choices that lie ahead.

Mike, our Peace Corps country director, asked for one of the Peace Corps Response Volunteers to say a few words about our time in Mali.  While my most recent sejour in Mali was a short one, this July would have marked four years in Mali.  Having been home a few times and having had the incredible opportunity to share Mali with Americans, I decided to talk a little about my experience stateside.  What a unique chance we have, I said, to be the face of Mali.  Just as we were often that one American to many Malians that they met on a bus or in market, we get to be that one person, maybe, who has not only visited Mali - but lived there.  We didn't choose to leave but we can choose to keep Mali on people's minds.

*Peace Corps did such an incredible job working on this transition conference and making our lives easier as we abruptly left Mali.  I can't thank you enough.
See more pictures here from our transition conference held at La Palm Royal Beach Hotel in Accra, Ghana.

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