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Working an Ocean Away, From Home

This spring, IBI welcomed three new members to their team. I was lucky enough to be one of them. The current COVID-19 pandemic makes starting and supporting new positions complicated. IBI, however, has experience working in trying circumstances because of their development work during the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Liberia. They have used these experiences to create a welcoming environment even now, including a remote training program and built-in mentorship.

Of course, there are still the usual stressors of starting a new job, now with a pandemic spin to these worries. I am not just concerned about logging into a new email account or learning how much to contribute during group meetings. I’m also worried that I will hit the video call button when no one else has or overwhelm my internet connection once and for all. And I miss the face-to-face contact with colleagues, who I’m getting to know but have never actually met. Working during COVID-19 has its struggles. However, working at IBI has also helped me frame this pandemic in a new way.

International development is based on the understanding that we are all connected. Our problems are not separate, and our solutions don’t have to be either. That’s not a bad starting point for understanding this pandemic. IBI also understands that development has never been about quick fixes or sweeping responses that solve every aspect of the problem. Our work concentrates on the slow, detailed, and sometimes boring (filing is important) effort to make the world a little bit of a better place. This type of training and practice is a lot like the type of slow, steady work that social isolation demands. There is no one big easy answer. But there are a lot of good solutions that step by step will get us back to safety.

Working at IBI not only means that I have the chance to do my small part in making someone’s life better an ocean or so away. It also reminds me that helping someone far away helps me, my friends, and my family too. It’s an empowering feeling. One that helps me reach out to my community as well. I know that every effort that we make to be good to one another is also an effort to be better to us all.

I can’t wait for the day when we’re all free to work with one another in person. Until then, I am especially grateful to be a part of this field.

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