We live in a globalized world. We are connected by international politics, economics, culture and environment. The diversity and interconnectedness I encountered in the past month was at times disturbing but often beautiful. In the spirit of my work here, which focused on reflection and learning, I will try to draw some lessons.
- Generosity. Sharing, giving and welcoming those in need are common practices here. This appears to create a sense of community amongst people which transcends day to day hardships. As many of these people live on less than $1 per day, technically they are poor. What is the value of happiness stimulated by connections with family, friends, and community?
- Divisions. The rural-urban divide continues to widen. Most development efforts appear to be focused in the cities. Apparently this is a result of the argument that most income is generated in the capital. Still, often national accounting doesn’t include rural people’s use of natural resources for health, food and energy.
- Connectivity. Another divide exists based on connectivity. Where Internet is accessible, people thrive with new information. Those not connected continue to be isolated. As one villager put it when questioned about the importance of communication: “Information is Knowledge”. This often results in improved, heath, education, diet and incomes to name a few.
- Diversity. Each country has their music, food and traditions. As McDonald’s and Starbucks make their way across the globe, I hope societies find ways to improve livelihoods while valuing diversity. It is clear that there is no one ‘right path’ and that we need to learn from each other.
Tomorrow I return to my home in Canada. The rhythms of West Africa will not be forgotten.