Better Than A Desk

I love this job.

I love being the Program Director of La Ceiba Microfinance.

Before graduating, I walked through the university columns every day and took my seat behind a desk. I learned how to think and how others thought for themselves. Sporting a cap and gown, I prayed to be spared a desk job and to find some other way to use these thinking ‘skills’ for which my family had paid a fortune.

No doubt in my mind, I found a gem of an opportunity right out of the gate. Although it’s not always apparent, I know it’s true. Any overseas employment has its fair share of asking ‘what the hell am I doing here’, but those moments always pass.
La Ceiba places its safety net far below where its students climb for their highest achievements. As learners it taught us how to fail – how to fall. I can tell you it’s no different as an employee; the list of projects I’ve worked on that didn’t succeed could fill a scroll that falls to the floor and rolls down the stairs.
Two weeks ago, Chilo and I held a solid and productive meeting with clients to discuss big changes in our loans for 2016. The material we had been slaving over for eleven months was finally coming to fruition and off to a great start. Last week we held a second meeting in the next community. No one came. The two who did, grilled me on our policies for an hour. Both events were taken head on, client to employee, employee to client, with no desk or higher authority to mediate.

Working abroad means that when you blow it, your safety net is your boss who sweeps in to fix things or the company oversight. What I love and hate about this job is that neither are right there to catch you. You are the director and your oversight is far away and a firm backstop.

The meat of this position is being amongst the communities. The hands-on labor that every entry-level humanitarian worker dreams about is part of my daily routine. It teaches humility and how to surrender control to local coworkers. It teaches you how to deal with the mountain of obstacles stacked against poverty alleviation. It teaches you when to surrender and when never to give up.

I couldn’t learn any of that in the office, where the issues are on your screen and the clients are seen through a telescope. Although I spend my mornings at a desk, the job is much more than that. It is better. It is better than sitting in a lecture hall and absorbing development theories from gaunt white boards. It is better than sitting in a DC or New York high-rise, day dreaming of what it would be like to actually be there.

I’m learning how to make progress and how others make progress for themselves. That is a job worth getting up in the morning for.

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