Stephen, about changing the world

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about NGOs and how I am slightly lost and losing faith in them. And because I still want to believe that change is possible – not only in Africa but also at a planet scale (environnement…) I decided to talk about it to Stephen, a volunteer I met in Malawi last year,  and to ask him all the question I had in mind about this topic. It didn’t totally change my opinion but he gave me a little bit of faith in humanity and our ability to care and take care.

 

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Who are you? What do you do?

Stephen Hunsaker, I do evalution of NGOs to determine their effectiveness.

You volunteered in Malawi last year, what exactly did you do there?

I worked with the NGO Force for Good and evaluated their school for farmers on the correlation between curriculum adaptation and actual self reliance. I looked at whether their students that had gone through their program were better off and still implementing the things they were taught.

What are your thoughts about volunteering? Is it important? Does it change anything?

Volunteering is a very important thing, it can make a difference if done right, the done right part is the most important. Many volunteer programs are more focused on the volunteers than the people they are working with. This is ineffective and can even be detrimental. Volunteering needs to be focused on working with locals and their ideas, pretty much taking their ideas and being the hands to help implement it instead of trying to bring in western ideas with no context in that culture.

What is, for you, the mission of the UN?

To create a global community that is focused on the good of the world and making sure that those in all part are given rights and freedoms and help when needed. And to maintain international peace and security for all, including minorities.

How do you think NGO & the UN are improving people’s life?

The UN has many incredible programs that, in conjunction with NGOs, are aimed at enabling people to make differences and get out of poverty traps and oppression. They giving much needed aid, help and encouragement to millions of people are the world.

What do you think of the Un’s 17 goals? Do you think they are reachable?

The sustainable development goals are high marks. Some see them as unachievable and they might have a point to that. The point is that these goals are made to not cut anything short, those are the goals that need to be reached without compromising. That makes them very hard to achieve, such as eradicating poverty completely. But the point is to strive to achieve those goals and work towards them as much as possible and get as close as possible to completing them.

You dream to work for the UN, why? What would you like to do?

I do, I see it as a global government whose job is to help as many of the people as possible. They stretch further than any border, that sounds like the best goal, to help not just one country’s economy but all economies and people mutually. I would like to work with UNHCR with refugees or help represent a country like the US, where I am from, as an Ambassador to help influence resolutions and use the power of a great nation for good and promote globalism not nationalism or populism.

Do you feel a kind of obligation in helping poorer country? If yes, why is that?

Yes, good question. I believe we have a obligation for a variety of reasons, but if we have so much how can we not want to help bring as many people to that level as possible. It only seems fair. Another side of that is though, for hundreds of years, countries like the US have stood on the backs of other countries to achieve the prosperity we currently experience. That was at the cost of many lives of those people from those countries, we need to help them as a social responsibility.

I personally sometimes feel helpless when I see nothing seem to change regarding poverty, hunger, lack of education, climate crisis etc… how do you keep believing you, an NGO or the UN can have an impact?

This is a very real feeling. The change can be slow, but there is change. 70 years ago we were still colonizing countries, 50 more we were enslaving people, 30 years ago we didn’t see climate change as an issue. There will always be opposers of change and progression in the name of tradition but they cannot stop the movement of progression. It can be slow and slower than we want but we have to see any change we make as progression and moving toward a greater goal. That one change can affect many generations and the preserve they have on change.

What would your recommend to a human being who want to do something about these questions but don’t know where to start?

Knowledge is power, asking the questions is the best start. Then taking that knowledge and beginning to teach others. As you teach others you never know what they will do with that new information, they can go on to make a difference. Not everyone can devote their lives to a cause but that doesn’t mean you can devote time, money, and passion to it. Find organizations you feel are effective and support them, work with them. Talk to those in your government and try to influence them, if they don’t listen, rally more behind your cause. There is a lot to do, it all seems daunting, but small starts with propel you further. Most of all be patient and don’t lose hope when change is slow.

Thank you so much Stephen for answering my questions. I’ll keep in mind that whatever time it takes us, how impossible to reach the goal seem to be, the important is to avoid any compromise of the changes that need to happen for an improvement of our world, any step in the right direction is a change already. Strive for the best, always. 

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