Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why I did it.

A number of people have asked why I decided to work with Engineers Without Borders, and perhaps why I even submitted an application in the first place. Memory is a funny thing to me, and I don’t know if the reasons that I have in my head today for wanting to work with EWB are anything like those that I had in February, 2007 in the weeks before I applied.

In an attempt to go straight to the source, here is the first question of the original EWB application and my response. I’ve felt the desire to edit it before I posted it (mostly to cut out particular flowery bits), but resisted. So here it is in original form.

1. Describe why I am passionate about international development and describe how this interest came about.

At night, when the stars are out, I find myself with the thought, why do I live here in Edmonton, Alberta and not in Nancy, France, or Calcutta, India, or Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire? Where I was born and raised was never up to me to decide. But regardless of why I live in Alberta, the context and surrounding of this province has shaped and molded who I am. As I reflect on where I live, I find that there is another part of me that transcends my surroundings and connects to every other person in every different context on this planet. For me, it’s from this understanding of the fundamental interconnectedness of the human race that my passion for international development grows.

This passion has emerged slowly in different areas of my life. During my time at university, and even before, I have had the great fortune of knowing a number of very wise mentors. These mentors have been friends, professors, business people, and acquaintances, and they all have stretched my own understanding of the world and of my role in it. My desire to be involved in international development didn’t spring up at a particular moment. Instead it has been the outcome of months and years of activity, of reflection, of questioning, and of discussing the important problems of the world with these mentors who have passed in and out of my life.

I’ve also found myself faced with very heady challenges, most particularly last year as President of the Students’ Union here at the University of Alberta. In that role, I found myself on the receiving end of failure time and again. Past challenges, and especially past failures, have given me a chance to admit that I don’t have all the answers, that I am error prone, that I am more ignorant than understanding of the world around me. Realizing this has been a great starting point for a new journey of learning and growth. It has made me question what I think is worthwhile to pursue, and has brought me to a desire to give the simple abilities that I have to the service of people most in need. In short, it has led me to want to be involved in international development.


Fr. Stephen said...

Now, dear Graham, you will encounter some of the most powerful mentors of all: the people of Africa. I know you will listen well.

Proud of you little bro' ...

Had a nice visit with your Dad in GP the other day ... and then bumped into your sister at the Coffee spot in SUB ... you Lettners are in all the hot spots.

Ken said...