This week has marked the first days of real work on my new mandate. I was assigned this new job decription about two weeks ago, but haven’t yet shared because I had not begun official work on the project, and was therefore a little confused about how my role would work. Now, I am so excited to tell you how God has been working behind the scenes to set up my placement as perfectly as could ever be imagined for me.
I am passionate about orphan and vulnerable child care, with an extra special interest in special needs children, if you hadn’t noticed from my blog verse and many of my posts. When I initially applied for my fourth year placement, I scoured the list for positions working with vulnerable children, and the closest I could find was working in a youth center. So, as I am more interested in younger children than teenagers (the hormones – oh dear!), I diverted to working with vulnerable families, and found the perfect job in the JRS placement.
Then, two days before our applications were due, the placement coordinator informed me that the JRS position had been dropped from the list and I would have to apply elsewhere. I really did not want to, and ended up applying to fewer positions than recommended, because I am simply not interested in the environment focussed side – I want to work with people.
I was rather stubborn (thanks to my German genes!) and ended up emailing the placement coordinator and WUSC coordinator over Christmas break, to request that they reassess and consider letting me apply to JRS after all. My persistence paid off, and not only was I allowed to apply to JRS, I was given the opportunity to have a skype interview and question session with my potential supervisor, as a way to ensure that both sides knew what they were getting.
I ended up with a confirmed placement about two months before anyone else in my class, which was amazing for me, as I hate the uncertainty of in-between places (yes, I am a control freak). I was ecstatic! But, as with many areas of life, doubt soon struck in early summer, and I began to question the choice of my placement – my second choice placement as a job on the environmental side of things, but was located in Burkina Faso, where I’d be able to improve my French and spend my free time volunteering at a local orphanage. Just in time, as often seems to happen, God confirmed my persistence and erased my doubts when WUSC had to cancel their placements in Burkina Faso due to violence in the area. One again, I was so thankful for my Malawi placement – if I had pursued the Burkina Faso placement instead, I would have been searching for a new placement 1.5 months before needing to leave!
So, now on to my actual job! My original mandate was that I would work with the Umoja women’s craft group to improve their market and the sustainability of the venture; that I would assist in expanding the community garden through the creation of a new course in permaculture principles, and that I would work with the college and community libraries to improve their organization and increase their collections. All of these projects are things that I have interest in and skills that I can apply – but, don’t result in a lot of interaction with children.
Then, about three weeks ago, the JRS country director determined that a volunteer placement coud be better used in a very different position. When she proposed this change in the mandate to me, I was hesitant to get too excited or to share, because I thought that my program might not approve it. However, when I submitted the new job description to my program for approval, it came quite quickly! So, now I can introduce you to my new job!
I am now working in a supervisory role in the implementation of a new special needs class in the JRS primary school. There are two teachers at the school that are trained in hearing and visual disabilities, respectively, and they will be running the class, with assistance from Respite Care workers. I will be managing the files, monitoring and evaluation and reports for JRS, as well as being an educational assistant as needed within the class.
Today, some of the Respite Care workers who are familiar with the children took the teachers and I on home visits and we were able to do some initial evaluation and meet the children. It will be a very interesting class! The ages range from 7 to 14, special needs and disabilities range from physical issues such as injuries, blindness, and hearing issues, to mental disabilities that range from learning issues to severe mental delays. We will definitely be learning a lot about these children as we begin, and I am already in love with all of them – they are so sweet!
Now our team is working on kitting out the schoolroom which is currently an empty concrete room, and preparing some further evaluation and introductory curriculum materials.
I am just so blown away by the perfect fit that this placement is for me! My hope following this degree was to either get my library sciences degree or education degree, with a focus in special needs education, and then I hoped to work with special needs children somewhere in Africa. How cool is it that I now get to do that as part of my degree, and I will now be graduating with experience in my dream field?!
Sorry for the crazy long post – but there was so much to share about this experience! This song by Hillsong United is one that has been carrying me through the lead-up to, and beginning of this placement – and I must say that as I stepped out into this great unknown of moving across the world, and being in limbo at work for a few weeks, God’s grace and peace has been my constant comfort and I’ve been full of joy, even when in the uncomfortable place of waiting. Enjoy!
Welcome! My name is Katiana and I am a development professional pursuing my dream to live out Isaiah 1:17 to the best of my abilities. I am passionate about teaching and working with vulnerable families and children to improve their lives sustainably.
This blog is composed of my personal opinions, which do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of institutions or organizations that I may be or have been affiliated with.