The authenticity of being able to say that there are countless challenges and hurdles, but also that powerful, fundamental and positive change is possible is the best part of my job
When I think back to the 'aha moment' that made me consider working in the third sector, I remember an exercise I took part in during my second year at university. We looked at the distinction of ‘helping’ versus ‘serving’ – the difference between giving people hand-ups as opposed to handouts. While helping is based on inequality and implies an incurred debt, serving is mutual: I am as served as the person I am serving.
To better understand how my coursework related to practical changes in developing countries, I volunteered in Ghana, where I learned a saying: "When you create good for others, you create good for yourself." I spoke about this idea in my TEDx talk, Girl Power 2.0, and I knew I wanted to work for an international charity focused on education; supporting people to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to achieve sustainable change.
This is why I feel so fortunate to work at Women for Women International, a charity that for almost 25 years has been committed to serving women survivors of war and empowering them with the tools to rebuild their lives.
When I visited our programme in Kosovo in 2016, I met so many inspiring graduates [of the programme] who – against many odds – have managed to slowly transform their lives through resourcefulness, hard work and sheer determination. Women who cultivate crops to feed their families, sell the most beautifully intricate handicrafts, and have started their own shops, hair salons, cooperatives and businesses. Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends: women who are the role models for the future of their communities and countries.
“The classes that I attended really made me brave – they pulled out the best from us,” shared Sylhane, who has been able to use the funds from her small business to put her three children through school. Many of our graduates highlight that the most valuable outcome of our programme is the connections they build – the feeling of sisterhood. There is so much energy and strength in bringing women together. It’s empowering to play a role in that.
If you’re looking to work in the charity sector, the road is rarely a straight one. There are few degrees that specialise in third sector careers and our team is composed of a dynamic patchwork of experiences, talents and expertise.
Finding out what you love, what makes you tick, and applying it is a good place to start, and be prepared to set aside some time and resources to volunteer first. We’ll often receive up to 100 applications for entry-level roles, so competition to ‘do good’ is steep, but on the plus side it teaches you that necessary resolve early on.
The best part of my job? The authenticity of being able to say that there are countless challenges and hurdles, but also that powerful, fundamental and positive change is possible.
The incredible women we serve prove that every day.
This blog was written by Paulina Stachnik, Campaign Manager at Women for Women International – UK and was originally posted on Refinery29 in January 2018.
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