In the day-to-day minutiae of working life it’s easy to get hung up on the bad stuff:
The stresses of multiple deadlines. Or the pressures of huge fundraising targets. Exasperations with organisational bureaucracy, which exists everywhere, in spite of the efficiency of your processes and procedures. Or anxieties about re-structure, as experienced by Practical Action’s UK staff for the last eight months.
But last week a very wise colleague reminded me:
“Just remember – everything you do here is for the people of Bangladesh. Or Kenya. Or Peru. Sudan. Sri Lanka. Zimbabwe. Nepal. That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re trying. The people are the only reason.”
Her words were like a bell tolling me back from encroaching negativity to a place of clarity. I looked at the photos beside my desk and once more started to marvel at Practical Action’s work around the world:
The dreamlike magic of a floating garden which allows the poorest families in Bangladesh to grow enough food to eat and sell all year round, even during the floods.
The simple genius of a solar powered water pump that harnesses the energy of a resource which exists in abundance in Kenya – the sunshine – to produce one which does not – clean water.
The quirky innovation of an eco-san loo which gives farmers in the mountains of Peru decent sanitation AND a means of preserving dry human waste to make good quality compost for their crops.
No matter how frustrating my day is, I do feel very blessed that I can go home safe in the knowledge that I spent my time trying my best to make life better for someone in need of a helping hand. That everything I do here is “for the people of Bangladesh. Or Kenya. Or Peru. Sudan. Sri Lanka. Zimbabwe. Nepal.”
I repeated my colleague’s words to a friend this weekend and he warned me that I risked sounding holier-than-thou. I don’t feel pious or saintly, and I certainly hope I don’t sound like that. I just think that sometimes it’s important – perhaps even essential – to remember why we’re here.