Random encounters of the project kind

The very last flight is booked. There is an actual end date to this adventure, and while I let that sink in I am reflecting on the overwhelming amount of people I have met on this trip. And without fail, they are all doing something to make the world a better place. They also all use project management, whether they know it or not. 

I was in Kandy, Sri Lanka, seeking out a caffeine fix when I wandered into Buono, a cafe currently rated #2 in the area on TripAdvisor. The cafe is associated with Child Action Lanka, an organisation that provides activities and education for children who would otherwise spend their days on the street. I was perusing the items for sale while having my coffee; bags and pillowcases made from recycles saris, hand sewn by women in the community, when I met one of the volunteers working on marketing and social media for the group. Two coffees later, we are still discussing some of their project management needs and I'm wishing I had more time in Kandy so that I could volunteer for this amazing group as well. Check out their website, or better yet, make a donation. 

Over the period of seven months of travel, I have met dozens of amazing people, mostly by accident:

  • In Guatemala, I was hosted by a friend's mother, who is creating sustainability action plans for large corporations to lead by example and raise the international reputation of the country as a whole. 
  • In Peru, I connected with volunteers for SUCO Peru to learn about their projects which are bringing local organic products to the markets and creating a sustainable supply chain for local growers. 
  • In Bolivia, I was on an Uyuni tour with two recent university graduates who bought a van and were driving across South America doing science experiments with children in rural schools. They started a charity called Viae Humani to share their passion for science with children in developing countries.
  • Standing in line to check in for my flight to Easter Island, I met Marty and Mary. Dr. Marty is a pediatrician who started a project called Oikos Karanga Siagi in Kenya to feed malnourished children. Thanks to a five-hour flight delay, we had lots of time to talk projects. 
  • In New Zealand, Marine from the road trip crew was interviewing for a position as HR coordinator for the French Red Cross. She started her new job last month and moved to the Central African Republic to support medical aid projects in the region. 
  • In Sydney, I met the volunteer coordinator for a dog therapy service launching a new program to bring dogs into court rooms to provide comfort and support to testifying victims. 
  • Walking the temples of Angkor Wat, I met a financial analyst who works for Medecins Sans Frontiers
  • Not to mention the dozens of PMI chapter leaders and volunteers I met along the way, who shared their love for their countries and their projects with me (and always over food and drinks). 

There are so many more. Imagine how many I would have met if I actually looked?!

And they all have project management challenges. Whether it's short-term projects to build a new website, writing project plans for government funding requests, overall strategic alignment needs; in every case I could imagine a project manager providing the right guidance in just a few short hours of volunteering. It's so simple. 

One of my travel missions as to create links between PMI chapters and local NGOs, so I took the volunteering needs I learned about in Kandy and presented them to the PMI Colombo Sri Lanka chapter at their monthly meeting with the objective of getting at least one volunteer for Child Action Lanka. 

I had some concerns that my goal was asking too much, that people in Sri Lanka don't really see volunteering as a professionally complementary. Like many things I've discovered while traveling, it's often a question of learning more about a country in order to understand the context of your premise. More about my experience with Sri Lanka and volunteers on my blog post for PMI-Montreal here.

The wealth of social projects encountered on this trip around the world has truly been a source of inspiration. When the news of the world seems scary and hopeless, leaning on the belief that there are good project managers out there making change is what keeps me going.

A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone I met along the way who shared their passion for projects with me. This is just the beginning!