Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Quest Begins

Yesterday marked the start of what the Clinton School calls the IPSP, the International Public Service Project. It is exactly what you would expect from the title: each student travels to a country that is not their home country and completes a service project. We first research organizations we might like to be of service towards, establish a relationship with that organization, determine a need that we can fill in the organization and design a project which helps the organization become more sustainable. That last part is particularly important. We are expected to do more than volunteer for the organization. Our project should in some way make a lasting contribution to the organization once we are gone. The common example given is that instead of teaching at a school in a developing part of the world, we might also develop curriculum to be left at the school or create a financial plan for the school that helps it have a long-term plan for remaining open.

Prior to speaking to any of the students or staff about the IPSP I thought I might like to work with Heifer International because of my past experiences traveling to Heifer Ranch with students from the International School of the Americas. I'm not completely dissuaded from that idea, but I am actively looking for other options right now. Heifer is a large, successful organization with a strong vision, a solid infrastructure and many volunteers. In other words, it is very likely that any short-term project I might do with them would not have a large impact. There is a strong possibility that I would have no direct contact with the people I was ultimately trying to benefit: the hungry in developing parts of the world. I would probably learn a great deal about what is like to be a part of a large, philanthropic organization though, which could be useful in the long run.

I'm more interested in grassroots organizations (also known as indigenous philanthropic organizations). As I begin my search for an organization, I'm looking for a small organization that I could have a large impact on in a short time. I shared my interest in conflict mediation with my advisor and he pointed me towards Plowshares. I share that link with you having looked only at the homepage of the website. I don't know much about it yet. If you happen to explore the site and be reminded of a similar organization, please share it with me. Exploring lots of options is the name of the early stage of this game.

Random Side Note: Picture Day!
Yep, even graduate school has picture day. Above is one of my school pictures for this school year. :-) I wonder if we'll get a yearbook too...