It all started with a letter. A handwritten letter outlining why I’d love to be considered for a placement with The International Exchange, painstakingly drafted to make my spidery scrawl legible, scanned across hemispheres and hand delivered to WPP’s Farm Street office in London by my amazing friend Ellie.
Fast forward four and a half months, and I’m now in the final stretch of a 24 hour journey from Sydney to Addis Ababa, ridiculously excited for everything to kick off. Currently we’re cruising, somewhere above Somalia, and it feels like there’s no better time to write my first blog post.
There’s something quite otherworldly about long haul flights – about being in suspended from any sort of reality that makes sense, contained within in a small tin can thousands of feet in the air with a couple of hundred strangers. It’s an extremely liminal experience but it’s a great place to reflect.
The six weeks since the dates for the project were confirmed have been intense and incredible. In the midst of pitching for new business and developing communication strategies for some of our agency’s key clients, I’ve had fantastic training and coaching sessions with the TIE team, have had some brilliant and constructive conversations with Jacqui, Jess and Amanda from The School of St Yared, have run a half marathon, had my story featured in The Sydney Morning Herald, and thanks to very generous support from friends, family and colleagues, have raised $2000 for a marketing budget.
It’s already been a formative experience, and it hasn’t even really begun. Running the half marathon in 2 hours 13 after one training run (in which I pulled a muscle) – taught me that mind over matter is an adage that works, particularly when it’s for a cause you truly believe in. I was grateful when The Sydney Morning Herald got in touch with me to ask about the reason why I was running as it was a great opportunity to talk about the school. In the end, the article focused more on me than on the work that The School of St Yared does which I guess was a lesson in not being able to assume that that the story you want to tell and the story the media wants to tell will perfectly align. That said, in the grand scheme of things, it was very positive and all publicity is better than none!
My training session with TIE provided me with a crash course into in the world of development and encouraged me to find out more about Ethiopia from this perspective (more on this some other time.) Our discussions made me aware of the cultural lens which influences the way we see the world. ‘We see things not as they are, but as we are.’ I suppose this is pretty obvious in some senses, but it’s definitely preparing me to assume nothing, and ask questions through out the project to ensure that our work over the next month can be as impactful as possible.
I can’t wait to land and get started with everything. I know I’m going to learn a lot – more than I can imagine, and I hope that we can create a framework for communications and fundraising that will have lasting impact for The School of St Yared.