I was recently interviewed by The Rotarian Magazine, the official publication of Rotary International for the feature, “Cultivating peace: Our peace fellows dig in to Rotary’s areas of focus”. Needless to say, I felt honored when I was asked if I’d share a bit about my experience as a Rotary Peace Fellow and my current work as an international development consultant with True Roots Consulting Group. And I’m excited to share this with you here now.
I studied as a Rotary Peace Fellow at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia from 2011 – 2012. The Rotary Peace Fellowship allowed me to hone my academic and practical knowledge, skills, and experience, preparing me well for advancing my professional career in international development. It also made me hungry again to be back in the field and on the ground.
Post-graduation, I was blessed with the opportunity to work in Oaxaca, Mexico as a Program Coordinator for Coffee Kids, a nonprofit dedicated to improving livelihoods for coffee farming communities through health, education, food security, economic diversification, and capacity building projects. My work with Coffee Kids taught me a lot that I hadn’t learned in the classroom—about relationship building, trust, and integrity. About building strong projects and resilient communities—and just what sustainability really means, and how to achieve it in a project. My work with Coffee Kids inspired me, along with my former boss José Luis Zárate, to start True Roots Consulting Group in 2015.
To be fair, my colleague and I had always been wary of consultants. We’d seen one too many provide their services to a nonprofit organization, and then exit upon project completion, leaving local staff and participants more dependent upon a now absent skill set, knowledge, and product. We decided we could be—we would have to be—different. We would provide consulting services with a conscience. We would focus on building confidence and self-management capacities—rather than dependence—in local organizations, staff, and participants. And we would do this by being ourselves, and by connecting at the same level. We know what it’s like for a small-scale producer trying to make ends meet, and we also know what sorts of possibilities are out there for providing the resources and tools necessary to help make life better. It’s about building bridges and connecting people and resources and hope. Based on this knowledge and experience, and what we could call “common sense”, we are able to uniquely position ourselves as professionals who are down to earth, and yet have the capacity to help participants dream. And we provide the tools and guidance necessary to obtain the resources, plan for, put into motion, and measure the impact of those dreams.
This is the sort of work we are doing with businesses, as well as with Rotarians and Rotary clubs, as the article details. It’s a natural fit, based on my background as a Rotary Peace Fellow and the nature of the technical assistance and guidance that we provide in True Roots. I do truly believe that it can, it will, it must make a difference in the world. And I’m proud to be a part of it all:
“People sometimes ask me how one little project in one little community makes a difference. But you can’t think of it like that. You have to consider the thousands, if not millions, of projects all over the world. Then you have to consider all the Rotary Peace Fellows working on projects like this. Then think about all the Rotary clubs carrying out projects in communities. Now you’re talking about changing the world.”
By Summer Lewis
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