SkWID & VSO

25 07 2007

I spent last week in VSO’s training center – Harborne Hall, Birmingham.  This was to learn some “Skills for working in development”.  It felt like the most practical course so far (although preparing for change, no longer offered, was useful as a way of making me thinking about what I’m letting myself in for).  SkWID is much more about equipping volunteers with some of the “softer” skills they might need in their placement, a useful thing for those of us coming out of less than cuddly roles.   In fact quite a lot of the training I got would be useful at work, lots about facilitation (helping people discuss ideas and make their own choices) and participatory tools – ways of exploring ideas and making group decisions, with a few sessions touching conflict, negotiating and networking.

The most useful things though were the opportunity to meet other volunteers (including 2 going to Ghana) and the chance to think about what I’ll be doing in in Tamale.  The last few months I’ve been focused on the lead up to my departure; rushing around trying to see people, organising injections, get someone to redecorate my flat planning my China holiday and generally “doing stuff” and worrying that I won’t have everything organised in time.  SkWID made me think about my role with ISODEC, my interactions with other volunteers, and what I want to acheive.  I’m thinking more about the task of equipping the staff there and less about technical stuff.  It maybe more useful to show how I deal with particular problems and gain knowledge than being smooth about knowing stuff.  It is also important that I don’t impose my idea of what solutions are needed, but instead provide the people who will be staying there with the tools to solve their own problems.

Last night I met up with my friend Briony who got back from 2 years volunteering in Malawi in April.  It was great seeing her and hearing her stories – she was really encouraging, and supportive of my decision.  It turns out that she got married in Malawi, hopefully her new husband will be over before I head off.

Friday is my last day at work, and I’m really looking forward to ending.   I have now received more days training from VSO in 7 months than my current employer has given me in 6 years, which sort of summarises their attitude over the last 6 years.  Ironically things started picking up this year – after VSO decided to accept me and I knew I was off.

Friday is my leaving do (Via Fossa in Canary Wharf), Monday I fly to China.

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