“Service Listening and the Commitment of the Bold”

Winter Wall asked our Executive Director several questions about what Being of Service means.
Please read, share, and leave your own comments below of what it means to YOU.

  1. What does ‘being of service’ mean to you?

  • Helping others achieve their own visions and their own dreams.
  • emBOLDening WITH, not dictating TO.
  • Having compassion, not merely pity. Having empathy, not merely sympathy.
  • Setting aside judgment and understanding one’s own fears. It means accepting that another’s suffering can be as profound as, or more than, one’s own.
  • Going beyond looking to seeing. And moving beyond hearing to listening.
  • Listening, acting, then listening again.
  • Measuring impact with evidence, data, rigorous analysis, sound methodologies, and locally-driven solutions.
  • Reducing inefficiencies and maximizing resources of any and every kind (financial, human, supplies, etc.).
  • Rolling up one’s sleeves and doing what it takes toward a greater good, supporting a team, and strengthening a community.
  • Most of it all, it means putting aside one’s own ego and agenda.

Sometimes, service is the absence of doing. It can be about showing up, being present, listening, and supporting.

Can service-learning actually be transformed into learning-service? Moreover, into service-listening?

How can we actively listen our way to a better world and to impact that is meaningful and durable?

  1. How has a desire to ‘be of service’ led you to where you are/influenced your life decisions?

I have been trained and have worked for many years as an Emergency Medicine Physician, Global Health Professional, and Humanitarian Aid Worker, and am currently the Executive Director and Co-Founder of emBOLDen Alliances. Committed to international development and humanitarian crises worldwide, my work can best be summarized as:

collaboratively unifying compassion into meaningful impact.

What does this actually mean? It means recognizing that there are countless seemingly ordinary individuals across the globe doing extraordinary things for themselves and for others. Individuals and organizations rooted in their communities seeking a better life and knowing how they could achieve their dreams. They seek a better life for themselves, their children, parents, neighbors, friends, and communities. The common universal theme amongst us all is that drive – that desire for better. Not more, but better.

I have found these individuals and organizations across the globe, in makeshift shelters amongst populations displaced by conflict or in temporary camps set up after an earthquake or in tiny villages with no water or electricity. My mentors have come in many shapes and sizes from a young mother suffering from fistula in Niger, leaking urine and shunned by her family, to the elderly Pakistani man embracing religious faith while supporting his daughter’s education.

There are many examples of the people with whom I have worked who touched me deeply. For example, I had the pleasure of running a large Community Health Worker Program to combat malaria and diarrheal diseases in post-tsunami and post-earthquake Indonesia.

Esther was a college student whose studies had been disrupted by the massive 9.2 earthquake that occurred on her native island. She came to work with our organization to help her own community during this crisis. Esther quickly became one of our star students and leader of her Community Health Team. I distinctly remember experiencing Esther’s “Aha!” moment with her as we were walking down a village road one day to run a community awareness and outreach session together. At that moment, Esther realized, and voiced to me, the effects of malaria on pregnant women in her communities; she talked about the impacts she saw firsthand on women having smaller babies who were vulnerable to all sorts of infections, and school children having to miss out on many days of school because they were frequently ill. For Esther, that knowledge and understanding will stay with her throughout her life as she continues to work to serve her own people and to give back. In addition, the communities Esther has taught are better off from having learned directly from her, not only as a Community Health Worker, but also as a peer who is a role model and a leader.

While in Kenya, I met Nancy who was a nurse working with me in the slum areas of Mathare in Nairobi to help her community in the wake of post-election violence. Years earlier, Nancy had given up her job as a nurse in order to raise her family. But when the violence hit, Nancy knew she wanted to help the families around her, so she returned to

work. Nancy was eager to learn everything she could about managing a gunshot wound or a machete injury. She was a fast learner and quickly became the clinic’s Head Nurse. Nancy was very proud to share that she had earned enough money to send her own children to school, and with proper books and uniforms. She was not only helping the people around her by nursing them to better health, but she was now also able to provide education for her children who as a result will have more opportunity, be able to care for themselves and their families, and ultimately improve the lives of their loved ones going forward.

My job is to listen to these individuals and the organizations working in their communities,
help them better formulate and implement their ideas according to their own specific context, and maximize their resources.
Many may be missing certain skills, tools, or guidance that can assist them in actually realizing those visions.
Thus, we assist these community-based partners channel their incredible compassion and goals into durable impact.
Then we step back and let them thrive, achieve, and surpass – as well as carry on – to help others realize their visions for better.

  1. How is the ethic of service manifested at emBOLDen Alliances?

The nonprofit organization we have created is truly unique in its mission and methodology. The most typical responses we receive about our work are:

  • “Oh, that is so needed in the world!”
  • “Why is no one else working like that?”
  • “That seems so intuitively obvious and yet rare in implementation.”

Therein lies the innovation.
We are innovative because we keep things simple and thorough.
We deliver global expertise to local solutions and partner directly with community-driven programs.

By working with existing organizations and community-driven initiatives, we improve accessibility as well as reach. By working on operational efficiency, we bring accountability and sustainability. By utilizing locally-derived ideas and focusing on community-based initiatives, our solution is engineered to be very affordable. And, by knowing that we do not have the answers and approaching our partners through listening, we collaboratively find the solutions that work within a specific context.

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(Desti, Neena, and Esther—all part of the Community Health Worker Leadership and Team in Nias, Indonesia)

Copyright emBOLDen Alliances 2016.

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