Thursday, March 22, 2012

Anatolian Changemaker: A Turkish Girl's Tale

By Hanzade Germiyanoglu

Here I am sitting on a bank in an organic farm Punpun, in the north part of Thailand, Chiang Mai. I am reporting on change and agents of change. I have been thinking a lot about the concept of change, since I got Dan and Chip Heath's book, "Switch" at a Council on Foundations meeting in 2010. Is change really as simple as the word "switch" resembles? Is it an overnight process or a sharp decision people make?

Change is hard, especially when the present offerings of our daily life give some sort of stability and regularity. Comfort in an uncomfortable world is desired. So desired, we cling onto the daily grind like an addiction. But like any addiction, it soon comes to suffocate us. We start to look for ways to get out of the trap and slumber. We listen for the bells that will wake us up.

Bells rang for me back in September 2011, as I was sipping my morning coffee at my desk in the office. I was looking at an ad about an Anatolia Jam "event" in my inbox. It said:

"Are you a young leader between the ages of 18-35 working in the field of social change and community transformation? Here is our invitation to you..

Anatolia Jam brings together 20 young leaders devoted to social, ecological and economic change and community transformation for 5 days. During the gathering, between 2-6 September, in the Mount Ida (known as the Mountain of the Goddess, in the western part of Anatolia), participants will experience sharing, deep listening, self discovery, systemic thinking and community building and gain skills regarding those capabilities."

Excuse me? Community building? Self discovery? Deep listening experience of 20 total strangers in five days, on the "magical" mountain Ida? This sounded a bit exaggerated, especially to a person like me who can't stop for one minute in a day to hear herself. And, yet this so called "inner voice" of mine that had a powerful message. It was shouting: empty & meaningless. It's how I was feeling. It was the bell ringing for me to change the way I perceived life. "Should I answer this ad?" the voice asked No, no, no... Mountains, 20 strangers, self-discovery, deep listening, no way, not my piece of cake! Another voice cried. I was not a changemaker. I did not have entrepreneurial ideas or innovations that could multiply and change people's lives. I was just a programs specialist in a grant making foundation, the Sabanci Foundation, hanging around the real change makers, supporting their causes and standing by them. I checked the application form and forwarded the e-mail to Sabanci Foundation grantees to recommend them to apply.

The application form was a simple survey consisting of 10 questions about work history. As I was going through the questions I started to answer them in my head. Suddenly I caught myself filling out the form. Impulsively, I sent it out. I liked the idea of challenging myself in different environments and strengthen my survivor instincts. It's a side of me that I don't have a chance to recognize in my daily life.

One month later, I received an email that read: Welcome to Anatolia JAM! Now, I was scared.

Leaders who? Build community what? What did I do? "What did I get myself into?" I thought. Before I knew, I was in Mount Ida sharing my room with a stranger, getting ready to become a jamily, a community...

To be continued...

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