Life is full of surprises. Sometimes we come to realize that all our expectations and preparations for certain plans and goals in life are in fact slightly different from for what we had originally thought they should be, or something else that used to be beyond our imaginations. These surprises easily overwhelm us, put us upside down, test our wills and keep reminding us of this fundamental question: the reason for our existence.
When presented with these kind of situations, I’ve always opted for going with the flow and see what life has prepared for me. This always makes the journey of life more fun and memorable. Also, all the people whom I have come across along the way have helped me shape who I am now, and made those moments memories.
In Sept. 2009, I arrived in Huanchaco in northern Peru to assume the ‘Operations Manager’ position of Otra Cosa (before it became Otra Cosa Network). The directors of the organization (Peter and Juany) would be leaving the country at the end of my 3rd month in order to run OCN from back in England, and I would be in charge of the organization’s operations in Peru from then on! I soon decided to take this as a new challenge and opportunity for my professional and personal growth - being a boss is a cool thing after all! I also ended up staying the double the amount of my initial 18 month contract.
Working with international and local partners and volunteers has been quite fun and also a constant roller coaster of dramas! It has been so rewarding to be part of those great initiatives to help local people (and animals) improve their life chances, and also help people from all over the world live their dreams by helping others. During all this time, we also have learned to put aside our differences and egos, and work together as a team for our common goal, the hope that we can be the change that we like to see.
It has been a huge challenge to maintain and improve the quality of our work and services in a constantly changing environment – the OCN Peru team used to consist of just myself and a part time assistant with one or two occasional office volunteers at a time who would stay for a couple of months. Then from my second year onwards, we had one full time assistant and constant number of 4-5 office volunteers at our office, who have been deeply involved in core operations of the organization, relieving me from crazy working hours and workloads. To make the transitions and trainings easy each time new volunteer arrived, I started organizing and documenting management procedures for each area of our operations. I also started making manuals for each procedure with the great help from the assistant and volunteers. They all know how I loved the manuals and the spreadsheets!
Over the last 3 years, together with our directors in UK, assistant mangers, all our international volunteers and partners, as well as local partners, we have done numerous micro projects (including the school bakery project at a local shanty town school), launched the new website, enhanced online marketing by actively using various social media (twitter, facebook, blog, youtube) and constructed the 3rd floor office area. The scope and number of our local and international partners have expanded, and we also launched OCN-led community initiatives during my last year (HELP Community, HELP English and HELP Women). All the stories and pictures of our great achievements are now available on our various social media. In terms of volunteer numbers, we now have an average of 16-17 monthly arrivals (it used to fluctuate a lot, for example, we used to have just 3-4 new monthly arrivals during low season), which gave a lot of stability to the management of the organization.
All these great achievements wouldn’t have been possible without great help from hundreds of our volunteers and partners from all over the world over last 3 years. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who has contributed to make our dreams reality, who helped each other to make the impossible possible, who have learned, laughed and cried with me during good and bad times for all those years.
Ever since I left Huanchaco in mid Aug, 2012, OCN Peru has been in good hands of new Operations Manager Alton and Assistant Manager Laura, and also a very cool office crew (including the baby!). It’s been great to have two months of training and transition period with them and to get to know them personally. I am certain that with this new team, OCN will keep being ‘Otra Cosa’, the alternative for those who share the dream of sustainable human development for all.
Now I am back in Korea, after a 3 year long journey, preparing for my new adventure in Africa. Although I will be far away, I will always keep all the memories from crazy HCO life in my mind. Thank you all for everything!
Let’s keep our crazy spirit going wherever we are!
Najin's last day at OCN at the Annual General Meeting with some of the 'office crew'.