A Fellow’s Week in Natik

Devin at Yo'onik

Devin Graves is the monitoring and evaluation fellow for Natik, and began a fellowship at Natik in September, 2013. Devin earned his Bachelor’s degree from BYU – Idaho in Organizational Communication. He has worked with refugees and immigrants from Latin America and Africa, and spent his undergrad developing and implementing service projects throughout eastern Idaho. Most recently he worked at the Experiment in International Living recruiting group leaders for cross-cultural summer abroad programs, and led a group to Salta, Argentina.

Devin at UNICH

Ever since I started working for Natik back in September, the question I get more than any other is, what do I actually do in Mexico? Since this week is my last week in Mexico before moving down to work with our partners in Guatemala, I thought it would be fun to walk through a week in the life of a Natik fellow. So, here goes!

 

Thursday
On Thursday I woke up to a text at 6:30 reminding me about a meeting with the students and administrators at UNICH (Universidad Intercultural de Chiapas) to talk about the intercultural exchange we had back in January. The hope of the meeting was to talk about creating an annual class that would incorporate cross-cultural learning and exchanges into the curriculum.

 

Friday
Friday was a busy office day. We spent a lot of time going over the logframes (“logical frameworks”) that we have been developing for the projects, talking about budgets and timelines, as well as how to implement activities in each project.

 

Saturday
On Saturday, we visited Yo’onik Learning Center for one last time. It was an emotional day since we are not sure when we (myself and Caitlin) will get to see the kids again, but it was also a lot of fun. The kids dressed up in costumes for Carnival, and we also had an activity where we painted their hands Costumes and hand-prints on aprons.

 

Devin GardeningSunday
Sunday is always our day off, and since it was our last Sunday, we spent the afternoon exploring parts of San Cristobal we hadn’t yet been able to visit.

 

Monday
Monday was another full office day. As usual, I spent a lot of time in the office writing — project descriptions, logframes, and finishing up the monitoring and evaluation plans.

 

Tuesday
Tuesday was a half-day in the office. I spent time helping Anita format the newsletter and designing a flyer for our upcoming service learning trip to Chiapas. In the afternoon we had an incredible meeting with Xunca and Yoli and Educreando to talk about interactive and creative curriculum for Yo’onik Learning Center.

Happy Folks!

Wednesday
Wednesday was another half-day in the office. We worked on the 2014 calendar of all Natik activities and again spent a large part of the day organizing and writing. In the afternoon we had a farewell lunch with Anita and in the evening we met with an advisor from La IBERO Americana, a university in Mexico that places students in Chiapas for 8-week internships in the summer. 
And here we are back on a Thursday! Today Anita and I are working on the basic framework for a video from Edgewood University and UNICH exchange in January. I leave for Guatemala tomorrow, and it is definitely a bittersweet feeling. I am excited to move to Guatemala, but I will miss the people and projects I have been able to work with so closely here in Chiapas. Working for Natik has been life changing, and no week or day is ever the same. I can’t wait to see what a week in Guatemala is like!

Distance Volunteering

Kyle

Kyle Farrell has been the blog editor for Natik since the early fall. Although he works at a medical software company in New England and is currently working on becoming an EMT, he introduces himself as a writer and a volunteer.

After college, I worked in New Hampshire as a volunteer coordinator.  It was a colorful job because despite what I expected, non-profits need more than just helping-hands; they need people.  Publicists, accountants, magicians — you name it, they’ll need it at some point.

I also found that besides the organizations, the volunteers who gained the most were people like me and (based on who most of our readers are) you — the under-experienced, but highly-capable millennial generation.  To you I preach: non-profits let us prove and practice our latent professional skills. I have been able to learn some fun, useful skills here at Natik, skills I might not have been able to experiment with elsewhere.

Better still, because this is the computer age, you can volunteer from home. Fact check a grant on the couch, offer program advice during lunch, and then film your magic act during supper. Really, organizations need those skills you have been practicing. Want to help house the homeless? Educate children in the inner cities? Help a cohort of female Guatemalan artisans sell their products? You can, and so long as you go in with a reasonable knowledge of what you can offer and accomplish, non-profit volunteering can be a perfect way of giving back and getting back. Maybe this is why community building is one of those beautiful things — it graces everyone it touches.

So whether you’re like me, cold at home with oil-fueled heat you’d rather not put on, or you’re sweltering in a Bungalow in Cairo, Sydney or even Santiago Atitlan, why not pass some good over the internet? There are some wonderful programs out there that just need a bit of your know-how. Or maybe consider Natik?