Guest Blogger series: Tina Robbins edition
Guest Blogger series - Tina Robins Edition
Quick Note: I love community and connecting others. That is why I’m happy to publish these guest blog posts. I hope this series resonates with you and please know that the opinions expressed are those of the writer and not my own.
Wandering roots is a term I can definitely relate to in my own way. My roots are in Michigan, growing up, up-north, in Hubbard Lake and spending 12 years though college and career in Grand Rapids. Then, I got bit, not by a stray dog, but by the adventure bug. I decided to quit my job, rent out my house and join the Peace Corps. I thought I would go do this crazy thing for two years and then settle right back into my Grand Rapids life. That’s not exactly what happened.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I lived in the village of Assomada, on the island of Santiago, in the country of Cape Verde. (What?...you haven’t heard of Cape Verde? That’s ok. Neither had I, until I found out that’s where Peace Corps was placing me.) Cape Verde consists of 10 islands located 350 miles west of Senegal in the Atlantic Ocean. I taught yoga at a girls’ orphanage and AutoCAD at a vocational high school. At the vocational school, we had 10 computers, an average class size of 25, 10 different classes per week, and electricity sometimes. Some of my students had never touched a computer before. None of them had attended a drafting class, but we were going to learn to draw floor plans. Those two years were a practice of improvising, of taking what the day brought, regardless of the lesson plan I created, and making the most of it. It also helped me appreciate the little things, like when I would be walking down the main street as school got out and one of my little yogis from the orphanage would yell out, “teacher”, one of the few English words I heard, and then strike tree pose right there in the street until we both started giggling. To stay connected to my roots, during this time, I also participated in World Wise Schools, a program that links Peace Corps Volunteers with classrooms in the U.S. I arranged to link with my goddaughter’s classroom. I sent them monthly updates and I got some great artwork and cards in return. It helped me feel involved with home while I was away.
After Peace Corp, returning to my roots, I spent a year back in my home town as an AmeriCorps Member, engaging youth to volunteer in the community. But then the adventure bug struck again. I decided to go to grad school and chose the International MBA program at University of South Carolina, which allowed me to spend half of the program time in Brazil. I got to polish up the Portuguese I started to learn in Cape Verde, see an amazing country and meet some of the nicest people on the planet. Oh and there were caipirinhas…stories for a different time.
After grad school, I accepted a position with an international development firm in Washington, D.C. From their home office, I had the chance to support projects around the world and I was able to travel for short-term field assignments to Egypt, Iraq, Mozambique, Pakistan, and The Philippines. Three years into my work with this organization I was asked to do a short-term assignment in Afghanistan. I was a little trepidatious at first but decided to do it. While I was there, I gelled with the field team so well I ended going back to stay for almost two years. The project involved strengthening the agricultural value chain from Kandahar in the south, to the largest domestic market, the capital, Kabul and looking for export opportunities. I grew up in rural northern Michigan so agriculture again brought me back to my roots. I oversaw the programming for women, including introducing an agriculture and entrepreneurship curriculum to girls’ high schools and women’s community centers across four southern provinces, overseeing establishment of a 12-acre demonstration farm for women and providing content for a weekly ag radio program targeting women.
As my time in Afghanistan came to an end, I felt my roots tugging at me a bit, so I came back to Michigan working with some non-profit organizations and still doing consulting trips for international programs. Most recently I had the opportunity to work in Ukraine for a month.
Some people hear the countries I’ve traveled to and tell me they could never do it. Now I realize, the tourism industries in Iraq and Afghanistan are not going to make any Condé Nast top 5 lists any time soon. I went to those places for work, with support. But I hope, dear reader, if you take away anything from this post, it’s this: That place you’ve always wanted to go…GO THERE! Of course you can! But be careful once the bug bites, the infection is not deadly, but it will be lifelong.
Tina Robbins is a Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist available for consulting engagements, abroad or right here in Michigan. Check out her LinkedIn profile or connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to bring more inclusiveness to your organization.
My name is Anna VanAgtmael, and I love community and connecting others. That is why I’m happy to publish these guest bloggers. I hope this series resonates with you and please know that the opinions expressed are those of the writer and not my own.
Anna VanAgtmael | Yoga Enthusiast | Travel Designer