Reflection

  •  Benjamin Whitaker
  •  November 21, 2014
  •  blog

I haven’t written a blog in a while. Oceania seems to have sucked every last moment. Whether it was SOG, family or personal time, I didn’t seem to find that moment to sit down and and throw some words on a page. Now as I am 30,000 feet above the the ocean, I have found that moment, to reflect on the year that has been. Being away from the project in Argentina has given my the opportunity view what has passed from the outside. Sometimes it is difficult to see what is going on around you at any given moment, but when you step away from the situation you can gain perspective.

We have had a program plan from the start, but Food for Thought (F4T) has been a continually evolving beast. We have made a few mistakes along the path and I feel that they have helped us grow. I feel that our strength now is our evaluation process, that allows us to assess our effectiveness, and mould or improve our processes on a daily basis. Even that evaluation process wasn’t an existing element of F4T, but it seemed to naturally evolve as a necessity. In such a rapidly changing world we feel that our health and education program has to have the ability to adapt and reshape as we progress.

Through this evaluation process, a ‘form’ (I say ‘form’ because it is also evolving) of horizontal organisational structure has grown. Collaboratively, SOG employees and volunteers contribute to the decision making process to identify the best direction to progress! What I am really excited about is that the children have become part of this process. The children are split into three sub groups called communities, with each community having two representatives. We have a weekly meeting with those representatives to discuss how each community is getting on, any issues that have come from the children, or any recommendations on how we can improve or change our methods.

We have two fantastic staff members in Valeria and Justine, myself, and also a constant flow of great, young and keen volunteers from South America and Europe. The volunteers have truly become an integral part of the project, which we didn’t expect at this stage of the project. We had imagined that maybe one day we would have a volunteer program, but these guys have been a very big part of what we do right from the onset. What F4T is now, compared to what it was almost a year ago leaves me encouraged, and extremely exciting when thinking about where it will be in another years time.

Nutritious food is an integral part of our formula. In fact I believe that without it, we would not have witnessed half of the changes in the children that we have. It’s like having A+B=C, without the A. A=Nutritious Food. Feeding children a healthy meal gives them the necessary nutrients to healthily grow and defend disease in such a vital stage of a child’s physical and cognitive development. Good food increases a child’s ability to concentrate, learn, communicate, think analytically, socialise effectively and adapt to new environments and people.

B=Creative Educational Activity. We see education slightly differently than many 21st century schools. On a personal level I believe that a primary school’s role in education is to support children in becoming humans. I say primary school because we have children in between the ages of 4 and 12. Education at this level should develop a child’s imagination, creativity, problem solving, communication skills, ability to interact with one another and construct relationships, self confidence, self expression, respect for others, leadership, and emotional intelligence. We believe that through the arts, all of the above can be achieved. We use fun, creative activity in the areas of art, music, drama and games as a platform to deliver this education.

C=Healthy, socially included humans of society. In today’s world there are so many health problems. Many of which are related to diet. In today’s world there are so many conflicts between people for various reasons, be it religious or political. Here is a definition of social inclusion: A socially inclusive society is defined as one where all people feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met so they can live in dignity. If health and social inclusion are the fundamental basics of our education system, then I feel that we are on the right track.

(Sitting here in the window seat of this plane, wanting to go to the toilet, but not wanting to wake the guy sleeping beside me to get out to the toilet, has forced me into distracting my mind from my slowly expanding bladder, and reflect on my little Kiwi and Aussie experience.) The saying ‘many hands make light work’ could not be more correct in summing up the support we are receiving to maintain F4T. I can’t count the number of people contributing to our first project. It would be in the hundreds. There are so many people helping in one form or another.

In terms of SOG, the trip to this part of the Pacific Ocean is necessary to create new relationships, maintain existing relationships, spread the word of SOG, and fundraise. I feel that my role is to communicate directly with those who are supporting our cause. I Like to be able to tell people face to face how their support is making a difference in the lives of children in a vulnerable community. I want our supporters to be able to see exactly what their support translates to.

I love the fact that New Zealanders and Australians are chipping in to make F4T a reality. That makes me proud to be from that part of the world. I want to say thanks also for their support for it not only shows their confidence in SOG’s work but also gives us the confidence to continue in the same direction. (Right, the time has come to attempt some acrobats to hurdle this sleeping guy to get to the toilet!)

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