Monday, August 8, 2011

Training, Team Building, and the Recovery of My Idealism

For the past week, I've been in training. Like any other school or work place orientation, training so far has consisted of me learning the organizational culture of this program. Most of the culture is based in the belief that a commitment to idealism can make a difference, not only in oneself but in the community and in the world. To my organization, idealism is not a naive belief in a world of "Kum Ba Ya" and rainbows. Instead, idealism is our own commitment to improving ourselves, our communities and our entire world. Far from being easy, it takes work.

This non profit manifests its belief in idealism by encouraging a positive attitude in all its members. To encourage a positive atmosphere, we constantly engage in team building activities. For the last week, before we found out our service teams, we were all placed in teams with people we did not know, under the leadership of senior corps members (second year volunteers). We gained practice in not only getting to know each other, but in learning how to work with each other to accomplish simple tasks. In addition, we learned about unity rallies, which are basically like pep rallies and allow the entire corps to come together and fuel each other's energy.

Why is this important? It's not just so we can indulge in games. We actually have learned of serious issues, such as the low proficiency rates of DC's public school students in math and English, as well as the huge high school dropout rate. We've also discussed racial and economic justice and learned about the high rates of unemployment in areas such as Anacostia (one of DC's poorest neighborhoods). However, as I've learned from my Kenya experience, issues of poverty are difficult to deal with, especially on one's own. Further, the fight against poverty is a battle that seems endless. If we let the darkness in, it will overpower us.

A united team and a positive attitude are what we can use to keep on fighting, even when the rest of the world gloats in telling us how useless it is.

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