May 26 in a plane above Morocco
Jody and I were discussing common conversations that come up when we mention to people we are travelling to The Gambia. “Where is that?” Or “I had a friend who went to Zambia.” (This is totally understandable)
Once we finish our geography lesson...
...we typically move on to the more exciting and definitely more complicated conversation of “what will you be doing there?”
(much harder to answer as we can’t just point at a map or tell people it is a few countries south of Morroco)
For Jody having yet to set foot on the red soil of the smiling coast, she has focused on sharing about the goal of learning the culture, supporting community development and eating mangoes.
For myself as the veteran, there is often a higher expectation. People ask about building wells or houses, schools or hospitals - makes sense, as this is what most development charities seem to be raising money for and doing - however, I don’t know much about building buildings out of mud or cement blocks or have the physical strength and heat tolerance to keep up with the young local males. (Although, starting a Gambian version of love it or list it would be amazingly entertaining)
Development of infrastructure is great things to pursue however, it can often out pace the development of the people themselves - there are seemingly endless examples of development projects (gardens, solar powered wells and Internet cafes) that sit in disrepair or no longer exist - this comes from observation and personal experience.
This has lead to a growing focus of helping people develop themselves. This is a far more abstract goal particularly went it is done in a contextual way.
A big part of this for has been Learning to walk alongside people and share in their condition. When you understand how people live and what challenges they face you can provide help in a more effective way.
Taking this a step further if you understand what people are looking to achieve you can support them in reaching those goals allowing them to take ownership of them.
It could be said our goals is to support others goals and perhaps encouraging them to reconsider or consider a few new ones. Or perhaps a bit like a coach or mentor.
When this plane lands we will begin to figure out what that means for us this trip ... seems like a good starting point.
(I’m particularly excited for Jody as she now sits beside me filling out pages of a Fula language book)