04 May 2010

Postscript | The Last Post (on Future Life)

Those of you who have been following this journey of mine from the very beginning may recall that a number of things happened early on to have me identifying strongly with Abram (a central character in the sacred text common to Jews, Christians & Muslims).

Abram set out from a place that had been a source of security & comfort to him for many years, knowing that the Spirit of God had prompted his departure, but not knowing where it was he next destined for. He was to be led to paradise, where he would become a blessing to all the peoples of the world. His journey concluded in Palestine where he became the founding father of Israel.

Similarly, I left New Zealand knowing that I was being encouraged from above to move on and seek out my own personal paradise - that being a place where I could make a significant contribution t0 meeting the needs of others. While traveling the world I expected to find multiple places to which I could return as a development worker, especially while volunteering throughout the Caribbean & Central America. But I only found a few places to consider returning to, and as I looked into these opportunities, I found that they held less and less attraction for me, as they didn't seem to offer the support and/or experience I was hoping for in the sort of time frame I had in mind.

So one fateful night on the northern coast of Tasmania, during my first stint of professional work in Australia, I lost my rag and let God know in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t happy with how few good options I had for the rest of my life. I even stooped so low as to threaten to return to commercial optometry, that’s how mad I was. The next day I received an email in my inbox that led me back to the positions vacant page on the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE) website. Between that day and the last time I had looked a new position had been posted which was described in the following way: ‘Optometrist to join the Northern Territory Eye Team’.

As some of you know, my long term plan for a few years now has been to return to Australia so as to attempt to get involved in offering health services to the Aboriginal people. My desire to seek out development work overseas was really born out of two thoughts: one, I might learn some new tricks serving in an exotic location where unique opportunities abound; and two, the experience gained in such activities would make me a better candidate for a public health position in Aboriginal affairs when I finally returned to Australia to live. The job description on the ICEE website read like my dream position, the one that I hoped to find when it was time to resettle in Australia, reading it actually caused me to wonder if someone had been reading my mind.

With little to lose and much to gain, I set about preparing my curriculum vitae (for the first time in my life) so as to submit an application for the position. I knew that I didn’t have all the qualifications and experience that they hoped to find in the successful candidate, but I also knew that there probably wasn’t many optometrists in Australia with those skills who were not already employed in such work. Three interviews later I was awarded the position.

My paradise turned out to be Australia (I probably should have guessed that); Darwin to be specific (I never would have guessed that). In being granted this job I have effectively stepped over my short term plan (which was to work abroad for a few years) and into my long-term one (working amongst the Aboriginal people in Australia).

I don’t think I would have the job now if it wasn’t for the volunteering I did last year. Much of the volunteering I did last year was with ICEE. I was therefore somewhat of a known entity around the organisation, especially as some of the key managers had been reading the reports that I was periodically issuing throughout 2009. I also had the ICEE coordinator for the Latin American region as one of my key referees. Furthermore, I am sure that the experience I gained working in cross cultural settings last year strengthened my application and proved my commitment to development work. In these ways, the journey that I have been on since leaving New Zealand has both prepared me for and led me to the next phase of my life.

There are actually a number of parallels - some intriguing and others trivial - between how I got the job that took me to Dunedin (for nine of the greatest years of my life) and this one which is moving me to Darwin:

  • I was made aware of both positions by an email that arrived the day after I had a big yell at God for not taking care of me (not my proudest moments, but strangely effective on both occasions).
  • Both sets of interviews involved a video conferencing call that allowed me to pull ‘the pantless newsreader’ stunt (see the photographs of both occasions, separated by ten years (as evidenced by the computer technology), below).

  • I didn’t really know anyone in either town at the time that I was awarded each position.
  • Both towns start with D and are roughly the same size (~125,000, which is my preferred size).

I start in June. My official title will be “Project Development Officer (Northern Territory)”. My duties will include:

  • Providing optometry services to the Aboriginal people in Central Australia (both in a permanent clinic in Darwin & also in clinics that are temporarily set up in Aboriginal communities all throughout the Northern Territory).
  • Helping to coordinate the program that brings optometrists from all over Australia (& potentially elsewhere) into the Northern Territory in order to examine eyes in the abovementioned temporary clinics.
  • Assisting in implementing the optometry services in other areas of Australia, and adapting the delivery model to suit the local setting.
  • Preparing and delivering education sessions for Aboriginal Health/Social Workers on eye related topics.
  • Gathering statistics and generating reports in order to refine the service delivery model, apply for grants, and influence public policy.

The International Centre for Eyecare Education (www.icee.org) is an Australian based not-for-profit organisation. Its' primary aim is to eliminate the preventable blindness that is caused by refractive error. Once again it seems I have scored a public health position with plenty of variety to help keep tedium far far away.

The only things left to be said are that I am extremely grateful to my Creator for the wonderful life that continues to be gifted to me, and that I will not be continuing to blog my future experiences here as this little story has reached its' end and given birth to a new one. So it’s back to getting news about me from me using the old fashioned invasive techniques like email & phone calls. (No. I am not going to join F’book. It’s too cheap, & too easy, & too many other things I want to protect myself from.)

So then, from sea-2-see it's farewell, tam biet, ma'as salaama, shalom, elveda, athio sas, ciao, adiƶh, & babay … adios amigos.

Peace be with you all …

big love …