From the Author:
I have had the opportunity to work with Juan since he joined our community and I decided it was time for me to ask him about his experience at IMFFA.
I did not know about IMFFA before coming to Washington DC, all I knew is that I had an appointment with a career counselor named Sheila McKenna. My first meeting with Sheila took place at the IMFFA Office, and I was lucky enough to run into IMFFA’s 2014 Chair, Mrs. Anne Daniel, who gave me a warm welcome.
It was a very nice feeling to learn there was a community of spouses. I wanted to be a part of it, and I knew the best way to insert yourself in a group is to add value to it.
Back in Argentina, I was working 120 hours a week in a hospital, but here in the US I needed to relicense as a doctor, so I had a lot of free time. For me not being active is the enemy of progress, and I didn’t want to become depressed with too much time on my hands.
So I decided to come to the IMFFA office and asked if there was something I could do. I then started volunteering for Kaleidoscope (a big multi-cultural event), which was a fantastic learning experience. I made friends and discovered a vast cultural diversity that I fell in love with. I didn’t have that in Argentina and I treasure it.
Volunteering for Kaleidoscope pushed me to deal with many situations, while working side by side with Anne. The versatility that I showed lead the Chair to think I would be a good fit to become a Chair myself. I was in love with the community and I couldn’t help to see how much potential there was in the association. IMFFA has changed a lot in 40 years and continues to evolve. It’s a unique place.
I accepted to become Chair because I knew it would be a learning opportunity. I admit I first idealized how things would be. It has been challenging at times to solve obstacles but it also has been fun and it really is a tremendous learning experience. Surprisingly, the cultural diversity that I treasured so much became one of the toughest things to deal with.
When you are in a room with ten people from different cultural backgrounds and experience it is difficult to have everybody on the same page. You have to be careful about the way you communicate but at the same time it’s a richness. Of course another challenge is the fact that all your colleagues are volunteers so you have to count and rely on their personal commitment.
Chairing IMFFA is in many senses a thankless job, because when you do it right very few people notice. When I succeed at making a project happen for members, all they see is the fun in the end result, not the countless hours of effort behind it. If you need someone to inspire you and motivate you constantly, this is not the right job for you. Up here, you are the one who inspires other people. It’s a leadership position.
I really think it’s easy to be a successful volunteer if you have the right mindset. You have to do it for the cause but mainly for yourself. Give yourself the opportunity to find value in these experiences. As long as you foster tolerance, respect, integrity, honesty you can’t go wrong.
After 2 years in this position I can comfortably say that I am very proud of everything the IMFFA Team has achieved, of all the difference we’ve made, and I am very thankful to everyone that helped make it happen.