A Promise Made

Fintan Phelan

After an action packed week one of WIP I finally have a moment to put my thoughts on paper.  The week was engaging, challenging and inspiring! It is exactly what I expected from WIP. We met many people and received much advice which will no doubt stand to me throughout my life. Events this week included a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the Library of Congress and engaging discussions with trade unions, media reps and academics. One session stood out in particular to me.

It was Friday morning and we made our way to Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. The topic to be discussed was development. The speakers were Kurt Moses of the System Services Center, Chris Milligan of USAID, Jeanette Thomas of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor and Maria Luise Wagner Professor of International Development at Georgetown University. As the speakers began to talk about pupil/teacher ratios and poverty lines and gaps, for a brief moment I was transposed back one year. I was standing in my classroom in Maweni Primary School, Mombasa, Kenya where I was volunteering as a teacher with SUAS Educational Development. The students I encountered there were among the most enthusiastic and hopeful people I know despite the poverty that they faced. They had an eagerness to learn that is unrivaled. The promise I made in Kenya was to mirror their enthusiasm and positivity in my own life and to seek solutions to problems facing the developing world.

The speakers were engaging and positive in their outlook towards the developing world which was refreshing to here. However I was disappointed when there was a suggestion that new post-MDG development goals should be made. In response Maria Luise Wagner made a vital point in stating that ‘we must try and realize the goals we have already set rather than continually make new ones.’  It was clear from the discussion that solutions to developing world problems are complex. However I see this discussion as one of many opportunities I will have throughout the summer to listen, learn and challenge. I have been given a fantastic opportunity something which many of the students in Maweni would aspire to. I made a promise to mirror the enthusiasm and positivity of my students and to try and find solutions, in that room in Georgetown University I was reminded of that promise, a promise which I intend to keep.