Dec 18, 2009
photo credit: Davichi
Last week, I went on a three-day workshop with educators from various government agencies in the Philippines. It was for a project run by the Philippine Commission on ICT in cooperation with a few foreign donors. It was a training of trainors, and the topic was the responsible use of ICT. It was a last-minute activity, at least for me. What was interesting was that I was actually not a participant, but I was the facilitator, upon the request of an old classmate and a former teacher of ours. And so I had to rush through the material, drive 90 kilometers to the venue, and hold a workshop for 20-odd participants.
Among the expectations at the start of the workshop was for the resource person to be exciting, lively, and, well, resourceful. I pointed out that the activity being a workshop, I wasn’t actually there as a resource person, but rather as a facilitator. Each and every participant was a resource person. After all, the topic at hand is partly their expertise. Therefore, my job was not to teach, but rather to help bring about a relevant exchange of thoughts and ideas. My job was to synthesize and to help people bring out the best in themselves.
In short, I was there to help.
Coming back home during the weekend, and after some nudging from my wife, I had a realization. I often trudge through my daily routine thinking that with all the work I’m doing I’m able to help a lot of people. But spending time with the people from the workshop made me think and rethink this.
Am I truly helping people?
Back when I was working as a government economist, I had grand dreams. I thought I was helping people by facilitating programs and projects that the government was financing and planning. Then at some point I got disillusioned. I started thinking that what I was doing was only helping propagate inefficiency and corruption. But again encountering people from government has helped change my mindset. These were people who were actually working at the grassroots. These were helping people learn about technology. These were people who are actually trying to effect small changes that might actually result in the improvement of the lives of those in need, no matter how marginal and minute.
It dawned on me that this was what I wanted to do. I want to help people help themselves.
The challenge for me now is how I would do it. And these days I ask myself many times a day. Have I helped anyone today? Have I actually, concretely, done anything to help improve the life of one actual person? Is what I am doing actually helping that person help himself, thereby breaking the vicious cycle of helplessness?
Ask yourself this. And maybe this can help you realize what you want to do for the rest of your life.