Beth Watkins of AWE is a community champion, whose life and work inspire us to mobilize and do better. We had the wonderful opportunity to interview Beth for this week's feature in Sprouting Forward. Beth is also one our contributing writers in February's issue of En Root, so be sure to check out here article here!
This month's theme is all about community. Tell us about how you define community, and how you stay committed to building community through your work.
I think community is made up of those whose well-being we deem as tied up in our own. In my work, I seek to build community by striving to emphasize with staff, volunteers, and the clients we serve that we are all journeying together - that our well-being is tied up with one another, and that flourishing is collective, not individual. Or at least it should be that way.
At OutGrowth, we are committed to bridging gaps between communities in all that we do. What do you think we as individuals can do to begin to create more bridges, in our lives and careers?
Be mindful of whose words you are reading, who you are following on social media, the places you go and the people you surround yourself with. Try as much as you can to make sure the voices in your life are diverse, and especially if you are a person with privilege, listen to voices that are marginalized. If you want to learn more about the immigrant experience, follow immigrants on Twitter, read books from a diverse authorship, listen more than you speak when you are in places with those whose lived experience is different than your own, in your own spaces amplify the voices of those who are traditionally marginalized or co-opted. Pay attention to suffering and interrogate it. Do something about it if you can.
Tell us about your most significant professional moment to date.
My most significant professional moment to date was when I was managing a very diverse team of in-country nationals, refugees, and ex-pats in a difficult setting at a non-profit. We were serving refugees in Cairo, and earning the respect of everyone on the teams I managed was challenging. It took time and I needed to prove myself to some members of those teams, but earning their respect was one of the most satisfying professional experiences I've ever had.
How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook?
It solidified certain skill sets that I thought I had, and also decidedly set me on the path of working with refugees and forced migrants. It also showed me that the way I approach professional relationships, particularly cross-culturally, takes times but really pays dividends in the end. I learned the value of listening well, being humble (but also decisive), and being willing to take on extra difficulties for the good of the whole.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Be a little kinder to yourself.
At OutGrowth, we believe in preparing the next generation of leaders. Based on your experience to date, what are the top three career competencies that you believe are essential in 2022?
For my line of work in non-profits, I would say empathy, good boundary setting, and dependability/follow through.
What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2022?
Finishing my MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies and hopefully helping AWE transition our day program and services back to in-person services when safe, sometime in 2022.
Beth Watkins is the Program Director at Asylee Women Enterprise. Beth has spent nine years working with refugees and asylum seekers, including six years in North and East Africa working with refugees and other vulnerable populations. She previously worked with CASA de Maryland and the International Rescue Committee in Baltimore. Beth is currently pursuing her Masters in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies through the University of London.