Engaging with people from different parts of the world has always been a very enchanting experience for me. My time with the Terrascope team was all the more fascinating, as the focal point of our association would envisage poverty alleviation. The mechanism in which this collaboration took route was what resonated with me most. To illustrate...
Last Thursday night at 9 pm we were told that 6 MIT students would be competing against 6 NMMU students the following day in a debate about whether the Millenium Villages were helping Africa or if they were instead just a means to import/export American goods. The MITs mobilized into action. I observed a brilliant convergence of coordination and cooperation. It was the manifestation of Terrascope - it was beautiful.
I sat there in awe, trying to take in the experience, but also trying to participate and learn the content of the discussion. It was not easy. Hours passed of what felt like minutes. There was so much going on. Malte at the front on his super fast tablet connected to a projector capturing relevant arguments and drawing up the pros and cons. Francesca, the orchestrator, on her feet, democratically selecting the next hand to bring forth their point. And then the UTFs. Oh man these people gave their all to help facilitate their freshmen counterparts… and as we were there too.. so we benefited. They would fill our glasses with water, regulate the temperature of the room and making pretty ornaments keeping us creative and captivated. Everyone worked together in unison. Like a super brain with each student a super charged firing neuron.
This continued until 1 am. I hear these discussions would go on for much longer, but we were on “vacation”.
The following afternoon we had our debate. Which was more of a blur to me. But I remember it being exciting and realizing that we were designing a common path, one where we could together assist in building a desirable future for Africa.
The outcome of our debate, as I remembered it, was that the Millenium Villages were a failure. That we needed more cooperation between the aid givers (or investors) and the community receiving the aid, that is, as coordinators of such a project you would need to be open to the community and be vigorously adaptable. A local perspective was paramount. I think that was the take home message for me.
If we as NMMU students can take what we observed from Terrascope, we can make a difference.
I look forward to designing our proposal for Missionvale together and hope that our collaboration continues to build as we go forward.