Thursday, 29 October 2015

Skills for Working in Development

From May 9-13 Brent and I participated in the Cuso Training program Skills for Working in Development (SKWID) course in Ottawa Ontario. As an introvert it has taken me a bit of time to process the experience. But I wanted to share my thoughts for future volunteers.
This reminded me of our roadmap to learning in SKWID
First it was absolutely an experience rather than a “course”. For many our only experience with a course is reading and lectures- if we are lucky maybe a little bit of group work thrown in. However SKWID is all about interacting with the knowledge you already have and reframing that knowledge to assist you in applying it to working overseas.  The facilitators do a great job of guiding the discussion and adding their own experiences to bring some of our hidden values and beliefs to light. I think this is a critical part of the learning process, we all have things we didn't realize how passionate we were about... until we are confronted with them. Knowing what those hot button issues are, can help you to understand where you might have difficulties when your values bump up against your placement countries values.

Next, it is tiring! You are not only managing your own learning but meeting new people and navigating those relationships. For me, many of the concepts presented were not new but that didn’t mean it wasn’t work to consolidate that knowledge. For my husband, many of the concepts were new (now he wishes he had taken some of my courses!) and for him being confronted with new ideas daily was also tiring.

Most importantly as tired as you are, try to have dinner with your colleagues at least once. As I noted, I am introverted, so all day with 20 people and then having dinner with people seemed a bit overwhelming. However it helped to build relationships and trust. Some of the people on my course I hope to have visit my home over the coming years, unfortunately we are all going to different countries but I want to keep up with their journeys, because they are all remarkable people.

In this particular session we had a group of young women from Veterinarians Without Borders. I was so impressed to see these remarkable young ladies getting ready to set out to places I know I would not go because of my fear of not speaking the language, how different it would be to Canada and the living conditions. The projects they were setting out on were interesting and important and you could see that they would advance the lives of women and improve the economies of local communities. I will be thinking about Anika, Mary Clare, Sarah, Julie, Michelle, Nancy, Jamie and Liz (some of whom are already in country) and their work this summer.

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