Well, I’m still here in India but some people have asked about life in Britannia. It’s pretty normal. I’m doing crisis pregnancy and post-abortion counseling at the moment, continuing work that I was doing in South Africa. That has been good for me on many levels, whether it’s meeting a few more people in this lonely, big town I live in or provided a male counselor to a place that doesn’t have the capacity to help men who want to see a male counselor. I’m also mentoring two university students and mentoring ex-offenders at a furniture warehouse. The ex-offenders work at the warehouse for 16-20 weeks getting valuable work experience. Then they can list the warehouse as a volunteer work experience on their resume and use the warehouse as a reference. Mentors help with looking for jobs, telling them how to interview, what to wear, etc. My current mentee has a learning disability and is sometimes thinks like a child. I love his childlike joy at seeming me and being so excited to find a job once I arrive. It stinks that I travel sometimes and am away. I look forward to seeing him in a few weeks.
I’m also currently helping at a homeless shelter, which is a good thing. It’s been awhile since I was doing overnight shift work like I did back in college. The shelter I started helping with is a traveling shelter in which different churches volunteer for a few months to host the same night a week. The group is given a map and directions on how to get to the church that will host the next night. So they all know each other, and they are like a family. The laugh and sing and dance together and help each other during the day. Of course some people are newer or some people keep to themselves, but it’s a great atmosphere.
Lastly, I was invited to apply for a few fellowships. I didn’t get the Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellowship that would have paid me a lot of money for one year to start my own social enterprise addressing a particular issue (the same one that struck me while in Italy, the same one that may not happen because I don’t have all the help I need). I was then a finalist for the inaugural class of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) fellowship that would have brought me back into direct development work based in DC. They decided to reopen applications again in February though the first deadline was at the end of November. I may apply again. Now I’m waiting for my favourite poverty-alleviation design fellowship with a company I’ve always wanted to work for—IDEO. We use IDEO’s design thinking and ideation principles at work (at least we’re supposed to). The fellowship is on the IDEO.org side and it looks quite amazing. Even if I don’t get it, I love participating in online forums like HCDConnect.org and OpenIdeo.com.