Amid 2020's difficulties and challenges, there have been countless moments of hope and positive lessons learned. While there's much we might want to leave behind as we approach the new year we've asked colleagues, partners and the EMMS community what positive things they are taking into 2021.
Up first is Dr Cathy Ratcliff, EMMS International's CEO and Director of International Programmes.
My lessons learned in 2020:
I must be a slow learner because I think I learned things that I’d already learned before! Anyway, these are 4 things I learned in 2020:
1) Be prepared.
We had no idea that COVID-19 was coming. Still, EMMS was prepared, sturdy and resilient, with low overhead costs, faithful supporters, reliable sources of income, and a perfect team of staff and trustees, all with complementary skills and working to help each other.
2) If you want to achieve a big thing, you have to start it, continue it, do it in bits, and only that way finish it.
In 2020 I made progress in some things where only slow, painstaking progress is possible - bringing change through 3-year projects with colleagues and partners in Malawi, India and Nepal, going up 30 Munros which takes me closer to the full 282, and pruning yet more trees in my little forest to make them grow straighter.
3) Try new things, keep the ones that suit you, and discard those that don’t.
In 2020 I found again that I’m comfortable working with EMMS International's lovely staff team, and comfortable leading a small not-for-profit through which I’m a board member of Scotland’s International Development Alliance. But I’m not comfortable in any forum which goes beyond its remit and demands doublethink.
4) Do things that bring you joy, for their own sake:
In 2020 I climbed lots of hills in cold wild places with vast space and immersion in wild nature. No achievement needed.
In 2020 I read authors old and new: Maja Lunde, Alexander McCall Smith, Heidi Blake, Val McDermid, Muriel Spark, Cordelia Fine, Robert Louis Stevenson, Johnson & Boswell, Caroline Criado Perez. Reading out loud to my mum gave us both pleasure.
In 2020 I found my dog even more of a joy than usual, as she took me out twice a day, for chats with lots of people during COVID-19 restrictions.
Positive things that I’ll take from this year into the next:
In 2021 I want to continue working together to keep EMMS steady, read a book chapter every night, go up lots of hills, and keep supporting my family.
Let’s hope COVID-19 is soon under control. We must especially watch out to help people with little income, no garden, or violence at home - or with poor healthcare, anywhere in the world.
I want to make little steps of progress in writing my book about language and attitudes towards Africa, aid and development - that’s my New Year’s Resolution!
Feel free to share some of your own lessons as we look forward to 2021!