By Allison Connealy
It’s a question that we were asked during orientation. We all wrote an answer. We said things
like “to make a difference” and “to find myself.”
Orientation consisted of team building exercises and exploring the boundaries of our comfort
zones. We shared our personal stories and experiences and got to know a little bit about our
similarities and differences. We did a group work out, shared rooms, shared a bottle of wine
and flew across the world together. We laughed together and cheered each other on as we
struggled through pull ups and conquered flight anxiety. And today is only day one.
I don’t think any of us quite knew what to expect out of the first day of working at Hi5. The
eight of us rode in our van for an hour from the hotel to the clinic and soaked in the views of
shack lined streets lush with mopeds, street vendors, stray cats and palm trees. The bus was
filled with excited chatter, mostly unrelated to the challenges ahead of us.
We were greeted warmly by two women that appeared to be in their early twenties, dressed in
traditional Muslim attire, covered from head to foot by flowing head scarves and floor length
skirts in the 90 degree weather. Cassie, our group leader, met them with hugs and raved about
how beautiful the new clinic was. Her blonde hair, pulled into a side bun and her beaming
smile trimmed with bright red lipstick made an apposite picture to suite her South Georgia
accent. Cassie seemed tower over the other two girls, although I would not consider her
particularly tall. She inquired after Shinta, the clinical manager and founder of Hi5. One of the
young women explained shyly that Shinta was one her way and then quickly apologized for her
poor English, which was actually quite clear and required no apology.
We all sat crosslegged on the ground in a circle and introduced ourselves. Our hosts were Rani
and Hotik. Before we were able to get to work, Shinta arrived. Clad in jeans and a long sleeve
shirt, she jumped off the back of a moped and strode confidently into the clinic. She greeted us
exuberantly and then it was down to business.
Discussion began with how to talk to to parents and how to manage one’s professional
insecurities. We talked about ethics and how to avoid dual relationships with clients and
families. Finally, we tore into the assessment tool that would be a large focus of the trip. The
meeting had been constructive but uneventful until Shinta began to probe us with questions
about shouldering the burden of the responsibility of the job.
She confided to the circle that she was struggling with her role as a mentor and manager. She
had concerns about her relationship with her employees, who are also her best friends, and she
was afraid that she was pushing them too hard to share her vision and passion. Just like the
children that she has made her life’s work, she wanted these young women under her charge to
reach their full potential. Rani and Hotik bowed their heads, embarrassed. This was the first
time they had heard this feedback.
When Shinta asked for their responses, the two turned away and hid their faces in their hands.
Shinta patted Hotik on her knee encouragingly and Hotik, after a long pause, spoke to Shinta in
Bahasa with much head bowing and fluttering of hands. Shinta translated, “She says that she
needs someone to tell her what to do.”
Then Shinta turned to Rani, explaining to us that she puts the most pressure on Rani because
she knows how much potential she has. Rani began to speak several times, but finally shook her
head as she wiped tears from her face. We redirected conversation and shared supportive
stories until Rani finally felt comfortable enough to speak.
With a few more tears, Rani expressed in Bahasa that she doesn’t want Shinta to stop pushing.
She said that she needs the leadership and wants to be held to high standards. Most of my
team members were wiping tears from their own eyes and the room breathed a sigh of relief.
Finally, it was time to take turns sharing the highlight of your day and something you would
change. When it was my turn, I said that I wish I would have asked Rani and Hotik, “Why are
you here?” I wanted to know what made them stick with Shinta through this endeavor when
there are so many easier routes. I wish I had learned about their passions. They obliged me by
answering the question after everyone else had spoken. The response was simple.
“I am here because I want to help of the children, together,” Rani stated with an open armed
gesture to her friends.
I looked around the room at my team members. Even though I just met them, we have already
shared so much and I have already learned so much from them. We are all so very different,
from all over the country and even outside of the U.S., with varying skill sets and professional
backgrounds. Yet, these amazing professionals and adventurers somehow all ended up here in
Why are you here?
Maybe we are here, not to find ourselves, but to find each other.