A staff member’s perspective during COVID 19

Hayley Pottle

I was abroad working for Legacy International at the onslaught of COVID-19. It was a surreal experience unlike any other I have every experienced. The entire world shut down and yet life was still there to be lived and transformative work to be done. How did I personally navigate this (challenging, trying, difficult, uncertain, and every other adjective used in our email exchanges…) time?

How did Legacy International respond to the COVID-19 crisis? A Heart Pause and an Intentional Pivot to meet the direct needs of today’s youth. As Founder and President of Legacy International, J.E. Rash says – a Heart Pause is truth written on our hearts that we get to listen and respond to.

The organization took immediate steps to support employees in the face of the pandemic and equip us to serve participants across the globe. The team took time to meet on Fridays and check in on how everyone was doing and coping with the pandemic. We also discussed as an organization how we could be flexible in our work to still impact communities across the globe despite the newfound obstacles. As a leader in social change, Legacy International recognized that instead of trying to solve problems that have not happened yet, we realize that everything that matters will last.

We have time each day to do transformative work and instead of waiting for things to go back to normal we went into virtual exchange mode. This led to developing and facilitating two international virtual exchange programs this summer with over 150 participants from over 20 countries! It is a privilege and gift to work with like-minded and like-hearted individuals.

For me personally, COVID-19 has brought about grief, gratitude and giving. In and outside of my work, I have found deep loss because of the pandemic but also a constant reminder of the gifts of life. I cannot take for granted relationships, health, knowledge, and peace. I have also found a deeper need to give- my time, energy, and resources to people and causes I care about such as relief for the pandemic, Black Lives Matter and climate action. I have experienced the impact it makes in my personal life to have the company I work for exemplify these universal values as well.

Legacy International has been successful in remaining agile in COVID-19 because we owned the indisputable mind syndrome and worked through it. We all often think that what we think and feel is correct (why else would we set our brains and hearts on them?) and yet we must accept when we are wrong so we can be flexible and agile. Here are a few things I believe I have learned because of my time with Legacy International in COVID-19:

  • The Power of Virtual Exchange

In just three short weeks, for each of the two virtual exchanges Legacy International facilitated for the Global Youth Village Program and TechGirls program lifelong friendships were made, challenging dialogues and conversations were had, and horizons were broadened. Curriculums ranged from app prototype development, artistic expression and solidarity, youth leadership for the Sustainable Development Goals, climate action, and service and advocacy. Participants gained insight from experts in the field and resources to take steps locally. It delivered remarkable results.

  • Community and connection are not limited to in-person experiences

A silver lining in the midst of COVID-19 is that we are in the digital age with all types of technology to enhance access to exceptional educational curriculums and discussions as someone in America can have a conversation with individuals in 15 other countries simultaneously. As we are more isolated than ever, we have a deeper desire to connect with other people and that is not limited to a conversation across the table- it can be across time and space through a computer screen. The need to know and be known transcends physical limitations.

  • Intercultural competence and dialogue with youth is the future

Our world is continuously becoming more interconnected and the necessity for cross-cultural competency cannot be understated. To succeed in the 21st century workforce, communication skills are vital that translate across borders and nations. The ability to engage with people from differing backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and other differentiating factors is essential to excellence in all fields in a globalized world.

  • Flexible Leadership – It is all about trust in relationships!

The two virtual exchange programs would not have been successful if it were not for the support and proactivity of Legacy International’s leadership in responding to the health crisis with the Global Viewpoints Forum and immersion into researching and development in virtual exchanges. Having “practical idealists” (as J.E. Rash refers to the vision for employees at the organization) on the team to propel our work further and address immediate needs of today’s youth for a hopeful future.

Here’s to “Creating a Better Tomorrow Today.”