January 10th was a deadline, but also a monument of our trip. We presented the projects we had created for the varied organizations of Auroville and Pondicherry, explaining the process of working with them and adapting ourselves to their missions and needs. It called for reflection on what the experience had meant to us, if we thought we’d contributed to lifting them up into the light of the public eye. Everyone seemed a tad nervous, and excited, as we trickled into the auditorium.
What was clear with each slide was that everyone’s experience was unique. There were dozens of frustrations and disappointments that had had to overcome. Our reactions to these had gone from hopelessness to inspiration. The way we maneuvered around them was our own.
Every organization had specific assumptions of what it needed, and some that had clearer planning and understanding of the public perception guided us students very easily in what seemed to be the most effective campaign or publicity for them. Others had sat back, presented themselves and let us evaluate how we could best create an image to represent them in all their virtue with freedom. The best would have been a perfect match. “We need you to do this!” says the NGO. “Perfect, that’s what exactly I wanted to do!”
But no, everyone had negotiated. They’d sat down with their developmental clients, their limited knowledge and resources, and figured out how best to proceed with the situation at hand. Like most change-builders in action, they had to confront a problem that was holding the world back and find a solution.
As students trying to contribute, we were handling all of these negotiations with our projects and NGOs at the same time that we were negotiating with ourselves, asking, “Can I do this? Is this the best way to help?” Exploring our interest in mediums and sympathy with fellow activists. It was a personal development that we faced in these challenges, as much as sustainable development.
At the end of it, no matter what, everybody’s enlightened, just a little bit more. Everyone has a slightly clearer picture of another side of the world. We’ve made friends, we’ve faced fears. We’ve laughed off the little quirks of new countries and built campaigns to serve a higher purpose. How do you fit that in a PowerPoint?