Ruth Leaman, MEDA Senior Development Officer
In the context of COVID-19, disruption and change are occurring at unprecedented levels in our world. Personally, I've witnessed this disruption in the lives of my young adult kids – whose final year at university and high-school were cut unceremoniously short, as were their active job searches. I've been hearing about disruption in the lives of our MEDA supporters – for some, who love to give generously to help others, keeping their own businesses and families afloat is what's at top of mind. And I've been appreciative to be part of the MEDA team who has been pro-active in navigating disruption in our day-to-day work and international projects. While we will emerge from this current state – what will the new normal look like? Most predictions are for continued change and adaptation. Change is the new normal.
Resiliency is the game-changer
In the face of such disruption and change, resiliency is the game-changer – it's the capacity to adapt in the face of adversity, tragedy or threats. I believe building resiliency will be a key area of focus as we move forward – whether it be building personal resiliency, resiliency in businesses or resiliency in market systems or other system level resiliency. At a personal level, I've found resiliency is like a muscle – all of us have the ability to build up resiliency as we exercise and use it regularly. Sometimes it takes a "rock bottom" event to draw the level of resiliency we are capable of. For me this occurred when our family almost lost our beautiful and vivacious 5-year-old daughter to Type 1 diabetes. On an ambulance ride to the regional children's hospital I did not know if I'd ever see a grown-up Emily. Once Emily did pull through, we were informed that our new normal would include testing blood sugar 8-10 times a day, weighing food, meticulously counting carbs and being prepared for dangerous, crashing lows – for a lifetime. My adrenaline rushed in along with a steeled determination to exceed the best-case scenario – our regimen included getting up every hour through the night, every night. At Emily's first three-month A1C check the doctors were puzzled – her results mirrored almost precisely a fully healthy person – they wondered what we had done to achieve these results. Rock bottom moments cause us to draw very deep and learn we can rise above tragedy.
Resiliency by example
Resiliency can also be learned, and taught, by example. For those of us whose family history is part of the Anabaptist/Mennonite movement – I'd propose we have inherited a legacy of resiliency. Our early Anabaptist forefathers and foremothers endured persecution for their beliefs and through it became strong, resilient and resourceful. Meeting MEDA clients inspires me to be more resilient -- I'll never forget the three women rice farmers I met in Bahir Dar. As they shared their stories of improved livelihoods and partnership with MEDA – their strength, determination and pride was palpable. Re-visiting stories of other strong, resilient people can foster our own resilience. As change is our new normal, resilience is the new skill for us to build up and rise together.