January 4, 2011

Hi, welcome and a little intro

I come from the Czech Republic. I like Europe because it's small and it's easy to get to places, but my favorite mountains are in Canada and one of the most important places of my life is in South Africa. Kayamandi, a South African township, is where I realized what I want to do "when I grow up" – I want to help people make their lives better. And so I moved to the US to learn how to do that, or learn as much as you can learn at school. 
Kayamandi. That's where it all began.
 In December 2010, I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Master of Public and International Affairs, major in Human Security. While this sounds like I should go work for the government, the truth is that I did more international development stuff than many of the real students of international development. To see how it works in practice, I spent the summer of 2010 interning in Ghana with a local non-governmental organization. That was eye-opening. Although I had no illusions about the work of NGOs and the world of development (read: I really didn’t think that all the people involved are idealists who care about the cause more than anything else), I still had days when I felt as frustrated as never before in my life. The I-came-here-to-work-for-free-and-you-think-I’ll-be-fine-with-watching-you-sleeping-on-your-desk-at-work-and-doing-nothing moments were more common than I liked. At least until I found a way to keep myself busy with making a website for an NGO that actually works (Manya Krobo Queen Mothers Assocation) or raising money to buy bikes for orphans. Or with the research on support for AIDS orphans that I went to do there (and that I would never finish without the help of my Ghanaian friends).

New bikes!

It was frustrating at times, but I didn’t give up. And I didn’t give up after seeing that even a thousand of NGOs (or at least it seems that there are as many in Haiti) can work and still do nothing. I finished my degree and I still want to work in development. For many reasons, I decided to get a work permit and I’m going back to the US, if all goes well. No, I’m not doing the rational thing – I’m not moving to DC “because that’s where everyone is and it’s best for networking.” I’m not doing that because I know I can’t go to all the social events and smile and pretend like I’m happy to be there when all I actually am is stressed and tired. My first stop is Pittsburgh mainly because that’s where I have my “support base” of friends and people who understand what I’m trying to do. The plan is to look for a real job from there. I don’t care where the job is going to be. While I love Africa, I can see myself working anywhere. All that matters is that the job makes sense, is fulfilling and allows me to see results (i.e. better lives for those who need them). And what areas? HIV/AIDS, education… but while I know I can’t do technical stuff, I’m otherwise open to pretty much anything because I think I do have knowledge in more areas than just these two. Urbanization, for example. Or better yet - get a job whose goal is to make sure kids get to play.

I already know it’s not going to be easy. I didn’t choose the easy path, but hopefully, it will be at least as rewarding in the end as it will be stressful. And what is this blog about? This is about the path I chose, about what I have to go through and about the results. It’s about an idealist who doesn’t want to give up and who hopes that there’s a job out there, in the international development world, that is the right for me.

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