“I like to think of myself as a visual learner,” is usually the phrase I use as an excuse when I’m asked to imagine/visualize something before I’ve actually seen it. Although this has often become my scapegoat statement, I do believe it accurately describes my need for tangibles in order for my creativity and imagination to begin to work. This reliance on my real eyes over my mind’s eye has hindered me in the past, but in the first few days of my internship with Hill Country Hill Tribers, I think I might have also found visual learning’s benefits (and perhaps another reason to keep it as my excuse).
My name is Kelsi Williamson, and I graduated with a journalism degree in December from Abilene Christian University. I met Jessica this past fall at an ACU event, and we connected over our shared mission internship experiences in Chiang Mai, Thailand. As I learned more about Hill Country Hill Tribers, the women who run the organization (Caren and Jessica) and the women who are involved in the organization (Koh Meh, Ku Lo, Meh Mo and others), I was absolutely blown away by the lasting and powerful effects such a simple idea can have. Every time I saw with my own eyes what HCHT was up to, I felt more and more reassured that I wanted to be involved.
Yet in the months leading up to the beginning of this internship, I have often wished I could picture more accurately what exactly was going on. I heard and read stories about the Village Center and ArtReach, and I saw the results of these talented women in dozens of meticulously woven handbags and scarves and artfully stitched rice paper products, but HCHT still seemed so distant from my own reality. I didn’t know any Burmese refugees, nor was I a talented weaver, sewer or jewelry maker. Excited as I was to arrive in Austin and begin working with the non-profit, my visualization skills were yet again failing me.
Yesterday morning, however, reality finally caught up with perception. As I sat in the Village Center apartment among several of the artisans, Dr. Salai, Caren, Jessica and Constance, I was so overjoyed to be exactly there. The meeting was simple: there were no slick camera-caught life changes, no dramatic rearranging of economic classes or language break-throughs, but as an outsider not always knowing what exactly to expect, I suddenly realized that anticipating expectations often causes you to miss the beauty and significance in the every day relationships and choices that make an organization like HCHT happen. The principles and basics of HCHT are not some foreign concept: they are based on a daily decision to love and fellowship with neighbors and friends.
So whether you are great at visualizing the way HCHT functions or not, remember it’s often not visualizations of grandeur but rather daily tangibles that establish and sustain. I’m so excited to be involved with just such an organization.