Resiliency and Exploration

Ten months ago, I left California to move to New York City to live in a place that I didn’t know, work for an organization and mission that was new to me, and create friendships in unknown places. This time has been a time of exploration, not just of the physical new city that I’ve adopted as my home, but of myself in a new environment and in the workplace.

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Me standing in front of the Kibera School for Girls, in Nairobi, Kenya (Dec 2017)

Through the Newman’s Own Fellowship, I came to work with Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), an international development organization that works to create urban promise from urban poverty in Kenya. Through free girls’ schools, SHOFCO educates students from pre-K through 8th grade and gives them an environment in which they get the support to realize their potential. By providing holistic services in the form of access to health care, clean water, economic empowerment programs, and support in community organizing, SHOFCO supports the creation of a community in which our students can continue to grow and effect change.

Before joining SHOFCO as their Partnerships Coordinator, I had limited experience working with an international development organization, but was drawn to the organization’s grassroots nature and focus on local leadership. My time at SHOFCO has given me the opportunity to discover a new area within the nonprofit sector, work as an important part of a development and fundraising team, and visit our programs on the ground in Kenya.

Having been involved for several years in the community benefit sector in my hometown of Fresno, California, it was slightly unsettling to suddenly be in a community where I didn’t have a network or wasn’t familiar with the important players in the area of nonprofit that I was working in. There was a learning curve that I went through in my role, as I learned about other organizations that do similar work to SHOFCO or funders and institutions that support international work. By being an active listener to those around me, and being involved in prospect research, I’ve unknowingly come to a place where I can confidently participate in conversations and feel like I have a grasp of the landscape in which our organization works. I’ve learned that by being observant and dedicating myself to tasks that may otherwise seem small in the beginning, I built a stronger foundation to be successful on later down the road.

Being a part of the development team at SHOFCO has definitely given me the chance to learn about major giving and institutional funding through a much more detailed lens than I’ve had before. But there are also some lessons that I’ve learned about on this team the tough way. Several months ago, the dynamics of my office changed quite drastically, as a result of organizational restructuring and the natural progression of coworkers to new opportunities. Having the landscape that I had been working in for several months change so quickly was difficult to deal with, considering the workspace had become my one constant in this new place. While the last several months in this evolving workspace have differed than how I pictured my fellowship playing out, it has been a great lesson in learning how to be flexible and being willing to jump in where needed. My role has continued to change with the needs of the new office, and I’ve had the opportunity to manage greater responsibility. Organizational change will always exist, so learning to deal with it early on in my career will be a lesson that will serve me well in the future.

Being thrust into a new environment, a new workplace, and then to watch it all change, has been an experience that has taught me an important thing about myself- that I am more resilient than I had assumed. I have introduced an immense amount of changes into my life over the last ten months, some by choice and some that were thrown at me, and yet I’ve managed to work through them all. I may get overwhelmed in the beginning, but I have experienced repeatedly, that being pushed outside of my comfort zone is where I learn and grow the most. My decision to move across the country has brought me to a fellowship cohort that is beyond supportive, a job that I’ll take numerous lessons from, coworkers that have become friends, a city that I continue to grow to love, and took me half way across the world to Kenya to be inspired by the most confident and curious group of young girls. As the Fellowship winds down, I’m going into another time of uncertainty of where my life and career will go next. But if this year with the Newman’s Own Foundation Fellowship has taught me anything, it’s that I am resilient, and I can handle what my future has in store for me.

By Navmit Dhesi – NOF Fellow at Shining Hope For Communities, NYC, NY