Six weeks, six countries
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Lynda is currently on a whirlwind tour of Operation Eyesight’s program partners in each of the countries where we work.

There are blossoms on the almond trees in Himanchal Pradesh and the comments circulating in this Himalayan state, as the temperatures reach above 20 C, are “winter is over and summer is coming.” Interesting how seasons are defined and some (like spring) are skipped altogether. Snow still comfortably caps the higher peaks of the mountain range in this area, but the sun quickly warms me as I take a brief moment to observe the passing scene of families enjoying a Sunday afternoon in the country and communities of friends and families enjoying each others’ company.

Six weeks, six countries, thousands of miles and scores of people to meet. How can I begin to describe the energy of all the people I have spoken with and the inspiration they give? And at the same time, how to convey the drain of constant flights and frequent changes of location?

If there is a recurring theme throughout my recent travels, it seems to be “community.” And if I have a recurring thought, it is how much pleasure there are in things we take for granted when at home. The communities of colleagues, partners and government and corporate leaders in South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana and India that I have had the privilege to meet all have varying perspectives, but they share the same intense passion. They believe that engaging communities at the grassroots is critical in building and strengthening larger systems, be they health, education or social welfare.

Daniel Etay’ale, executive director of IAPB* Africa, recommended that I read The Community Is My University – I am looking for it in bookstores and will rely on if unsuccessful. Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary (where I live), is passionate about community as well and I wish he could see how well community engagement works with some of our programs. Now is the time to recognize there is much we can learn from developing countries, and that international development is a reciprocal effort.

And thank goodness for texting and emails to keep in touch with my home base community. I look forward to more active engagement when I get home!

*International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness