Originally from Boonton, New Jersey, AJ Wildey is currently a graduate student at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru where she’s pursuing a Master’s in anthropology. Here’s AJ in her own words on why she’s a Connector.
“I know a guy”
After college, I reached out to a friend in Peru to see if he knew of any opportunities to work on a cacao farm in the Amazon.
The convoluted chain of contact that emerged was of a type very familiar to me: growing up, if you needed something—from an air conditioner installed to a pair of padded bike shorts—nine times out of ten you didn’t hit the White Pages to find the answer. You asked a family member or a neighbor. And nine times out of ten their response was, “I have no idea… but I know a guy.”
Several months after graduating, I found that this same “I know a guy” chain had landed me in the middle of the Amazon jungle on a cacao farm that belonged to the mother of a friend of my friend.
The beauty of connecting to accomplish something became bigger than just a Jersey thing for me. I learned that it’s human nature to want to get to the bottom of a problem, and that often the best solutions come by reaching out to someone else for help.
Also, sometimes the new relationship you forge in this process is just as good as accomplishing your goal. Those relationships can live on—and that’s how networks are built!
As I listened to Ami talk about facilitating these types of connections, I began reflecting on all the times a query I threw into the wind came back in the form of a solid connection that enabled me to act. There were so many! If joining this initiative as a Connector could help take the casual “I know a guy” way of forming connections to the next level, I knew I wanted to help.
How Lima could benefit
I would love to see a better network of contacts here in Lima—a real forum people know they can turn to for resources. In Lima today, there’s a lot of dynamism between the government, third-party organizations, and the people.
There are many energetic, passionate social justice movements going on, and when Ami presented his analogy of the apartment building, I couldn’t help but think Lima was just the same: a space filled with people and ideas that would benefit from better coordination.
A glance at the Team page for Lima doesn’t speak much to our efforts to connect here. But that’s ok for now. For me, one of the most important roles of a Connector is to adapt the standard model to the local context. Connectors need to be flexible and in tune with their areas—what works in one context might not in others.
In the case of Lima, Internet-based social movements are not the norm, so the number of online Team members won’t necessarily reflect how we’re getting connected, at least right away.
The first thing to do as a Connector here is simply to spread the word. After explaining the initiative to future allies throughout my own networks, I’ll encourage them to jump on board and keep the momentum going by sharing with their friends in turn. It’s important to remember that successfully connecting will happen in a more organic way here.