I grew up less than two hours from here; I have family in the area, and even spent four years as a Howard University student living in our nation’s capital. Yet over the past few weeks, I have experienced a different side of Washington, DC as an intern at the IRD headquarters.
For example, I attended a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill for the first time, where I learned about efforts and recommendations to increase the participation of women in developing democracies. I also attended panels and speeches at various Washington think tanks featuring ambassadors, senators, foreign dignitaries, and renowned academics. These events have expanded my grasp of foreign policy and exposed me to how much I still don’t know about the struggle for democracy and civil society in developing countries.
Now I know my new experiences may not be as dramatic as my colleagues who have traveled to Asia and Africa, and my discomfort on the crowded Metro system during rush hour in the heat and humidity of DC is nothing compared to sub-Saharan and rainforest-like conditions. Yet there is something refreshing about exploring the unknown within a familiar place. It sort of reminds me of my experience at seminary. Being a lifelong Christian, studying my faith for the first time in an academic setting has opened my eyes to new worlds of theological discourse. My familiarity with the Bible was just the tip of the iceberg compared to the wealth of knowledge I’ve encountered in my Old Testament courses.
When I’m not traveling the Metro system around the DC area, I’m at the IRD headquarters helping the Democracy, Governance, and Community Development (DGCD) sector support its programs in Iraq, Colombia, Cuba, and the West Bank and Gaza regions of the Middle East. The DGCD team, which consists of four people, is currently responsible for backstopping a total of eleven programs in five countries, and also provides long-term planning and proposal development for other opportunities in the sector. This portfolio includes programs that focus on vocational training, strengthening civil society, community stabilization, and conflict mitigation. All of the programs aim to relieve the suffering of those affected by conflict or help to build sustainable community governance structures through the promotion of democratic ideals. Backstopping consists of a host of duties, from processing invoices and recruiting staff and key personnel for field projects, to creating and updating weekly project reports.
The privilege of being here and learning about this work from the headquarters of a huge international organization is not lost on me. Everyone I have met, whether they work in the field or here at HQ, has had a unique journey and path to IRD, and offers unique insights to how IRD works as an organization to fulfill its mission of improving lives and building livelihoods. Many people here at headquarters have spent significant time out in the field and know how challenging it can be. Though the work done here may not be as glamorous as the work done out in the field, it is vital to fulfilling the mission of IRD around the world. Both areas need each other to accomplish project goals efficiently and responsibly, as IRD continues to grow and expand globally.