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By Nova Kruijning

Field Engagement Week 2018: A Youth Perspective

youth

CTG’s Field Engagement Week (FEW) takes place annually in December, inviting CTG staff from around the globe to participate in a three-day strategy workshop and celebration. This year, thirty-one staff travelled from our field offices in Somalia, Tunisia, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq and South Africa for the Dubai event. There were many inspiring moments over the three days, with everyone on the team sharing their knowledge and collaborating on how CTG can work to better support our humanitarian and development projects on the ground. Part of that team was digital native Nova Kruijning, who spent two weeks with CTG in December as part of a youth work experience project.

youthNova is a 17-year-old feminist and self-dubbed third-culture kid, who is steadfast on challenging the status quo, taking her first steps into the humanitarian aid sector. Inviting Nova to take part in the FEW is part of our belief in empowering, upskilling and mentoring our youth. Young people, who represent a majority of the population in most developing countries, have the potential to become visible agents of change. They are tomorrow’s policymakers, peacekeepers, innovators and leaders. Hiring students adds to their experience, knowledge and employability, and helps advance SDG 8 and SDG 4.

Nova Kruijning shares her experience of CTG’s Field Engagement Week.  

Few…. It’s over.

JK (for all you non-digital natives out there, JK stands for Just Kidding. See Urban Dictionary for more). All jokes aside, the 2018 Field Engagement week was an experience I’ll definitely never forget.

I’ll give you a little bit of background on me. My name is Nova, I’m 17, and I’m currently in my last year of high school. I actually arrived at the Field Engagement Week 20 minutes after my last mid-term exam, so my excitement to be there could easily be mistaken for relief that exams were FINALLY over.

I came into the FEW knowing very little about the private Humanitarian sector. My knowledge revolved around the UN and UNICEF, and what I’d read- sorry, watched (who am I kidding? millennials don’t read) on the news.

I could carry a decent conversation about human rights and foreign affairs, but nothing that could hold a candle to all those present at the FEW. All I knew was that I wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world, to fight social and political injustice, and to not just be the voice for the voiceless, but to actually give them one of their own.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I stood outside the meeting room where the FEW was being held for about 15 minutes, positively shaking in my shoes. In my mind, I was entering the work-experience equivalent of the Golden Globes or Grammy’s, walking into a room full of supreme beings who would take one look at me, peg me as a clueless teenager, and move on with their day.

That’s not what happened.

From the get-go, I was welcomed with open arms. After a morbidly embarrassing introduction (cringe factor 100 000 000!) I was shown to a nearby table, where I sat amongst other members of CTG’s staff. I even had a little name tag, which was great for my ego (I took it home; keepsakes, y’know?).

Throughout the day, I watched and listened as these insanely smart individuals discussed foreign affairs and events in war-torn countries, talking about travelling to such countries with the same nonchalance as I take an Uber.

Then came the time for open discussion. The topic of DILO’s (day in the life of videos) had been broached, and all of a sudden, I was incredibly grateful for my youth status. There and then, with confidence and coffee running through my veins, I realized that this was my moment to shine; the internet and YouTube videos were as familiar a language to me as my native English. I had this in the bag.

Before I knew it, a microphone was pressed into my hands, and my lips started moving. I was convinced nobody was listening, but as I kept talking and imparting my ‘wisdom’ (if you could call it that), I noticed that all eyes were on me, and these individuals were nodding along, listening to what I had to say.

Needless to say, I was shook.

When I finally finished my TED Talk, I looked around, prepared for the mockery to ensue. But it never did. Instead, I was asked questions, with themes ranging from daily vlogs and YouTube videos to my all-time favourite, “What is Snapchat?”. Suddenly, I’d become a human encyclopaedia, and the tables had turned. I was no longer the bollixed youth who didn’t know the difference between UNOPS and UNMAS. I was still a teenager, but my age was no longer my Achilles heel. Rather, my perpetual use of social media and the fact that my phone was glued to my hand had become my greatest asset. My Herculean strength, so to speak.

I’m almost certain that I speak for everyone present when I say the most entertaining part of the FEW was the Camel Polo. Yep, you read that right. Camel. Polo.

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There’s nothing funnier than watching a bunch of adults half hanging-off camels as they attempt to balance coordinating their motor skills and trying to avoid tumbling 10-feet down and eating dirt (except maybe when the CEO, Alice’s camel decided to start playing musical chairs mid-game)

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, in between all the fun and games, and lessons on how to take a great selfie, we actually did get some work done. Prior to the start of the FEW, objectives had been set in terms of what CTG expected to achieve, which were deepening the understanding of CTG’s brand, ethics and customer service, building relationships amongst the staff, teams and countries which, in turn, would strengthen CTG’s delivery and service. I think it’s safe to say that we achieved all of the above, and even tackled the digital ineptness many of the team possessed. I’m now friends with three of them on Snapchat, which to me, evidences a job well done.

I think what I valued most about the FEW is that I was never treated as less than. Granted, I felt out of my depth when the more complex topics were broached, but instead of leaving me high and dry, each and every single member of CTG tried their absolute best to make sure that I was included, even going so far as to listen when I made suggestions and actually considering these ideas and taking them onboard.

So, in light of this, I’d like to thank everyone involved in the 2018 FEW for making my experience an unforgettable one. Each and every single person taught me so much, even if it’s something as simple as patience (which, trust me, teaching five adults how to ‘like’ on Instagram DEFINITELY requires).

But what I’ve learnt, most of all, from watching the way that my peers tackle issues and face challenges head-on, is that you get what you settle for. I know now, more than ever, to never settle for anything less than 110%.

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