I think one of the most prominent principles I have learned and am still learning everyday is how to define success. Success can be looked at as a friendship, as it is constantly up for reevaluation. A friend can be someone who you wave to every morning, exchanging a small set of words and going on your way, or it can be someone in which you share every waking moment of your life with. Like experiences, success can be remembered, but eventually if you greet someone every time you walk in their office you will also make a long lasting impression on them. Thus, what may initially go unnoticed can be one of the most successful things that you accomplish.
While volunteering abroad, I have acknowledged that I am a part of a growing industry that doesn’t always succeed. In fact, the majority of it is set up for failure. Why? The reason is that I will always receive more than I can possibly give to my host organization. Therefore, success is easier to define in terms of my personal growth. Are my Spanish skills growing rapidly? Yes. Am I participating in the local culture? Yes. Needless to say, there are a multitude of benefits waiting for me back at home after participating in a service learning program. The only question is, how am I being successful at my place of work? This is the very reason I came here. Sure, I go into my English classes everyday and teach hundreds of students how to use my native language. Yet, at the same time, I am by far not qualified to do so. I would never be allowed to walk into a high school classroom in the United States and just start teaching. What justifies my ability to do that here in Nicaragua? Though the knowledge I give can be sustainable and I have made some impressive accomplishments, when I leave there will be classes that no longer continue. In turn, I have had to seek for other outlets in which I can be successful within the institution that I work for.
My first steps were just to sit, listen, and begin learning. Then, and only then, was I able to start inquiring about ideas in which we could implement to improve the institution. I worked within the fabric of a Community Based Initiative Process, designed by the organization I work with Amigos de las Americas. I redirected how I saw success within the framework of being a facilitator when working on a specific project, allowing the current employees at the institution to take the leadership roles. I just recently was able to move forward from the Amigos standard. Again, a state of redefining success, I joined the new ecological committee. What I like most about my involvement in this committee is that it is very minimal. I am able to present, plan, and implement ideas, yet when I leave they will continue flawlessly without my support. This has given me hindsight on how I want to continue working throughout the following semester, continuously refining my definition of success.