Friday, April 28, 2006


Put Back

Would you Adam and Eve it? On Tuesday, Alan, my VSO placement officer, let me know that the Mongolian placement had been put back to August. It was always going to be ambitious to put a new development programme together in three months and I did half expect the start to be delayed. But the best news is that the Mongolian employer has accepted me as a volunteer! How brilliant is that? So, three months....... what to do?

Plan B

The first thought was to go traveling. I have two outstanding invitations to stay with friends in Thailand. That should pass the summer months quite nicely, thank you very much!!! Perhaps I could even fit in a return flight via Ulaanbaatar? Then I did a reality check. That is, I conducted an indepth financial analysis. And of course it wouldn't taxi, never mind fly! So back to the drawing board.

Plan C

A couple of emails later and a much better/feasible plan has emerged. I have managed to arrange a couple of working visits to a University and an FE college which both run courses in construction. This should go some way to plugging my knowledge gap!! Together with an invite to a friend's art exhibition and trips to stay with a couple of mates, that should take me to the middle/end of June. Sorted!!!!

Monday, April 24, 2006

SKWID - In Conclusion.

The Last Word.

Phew!!! Finally,.... home!!! An intense last Saturday morning at H.H., a 150 mile drive to Dorset via daughter Anna's in The Royal Leamington Spa, a 10 o'clock Sunday morning Christening at Blanford Forum Army Base and then the final 150 mile drive home to Wales. Eight straight hours of sleep. That hasn't happened for months!!!!!

As to SKWID, the evening out was brilliant. We booked at the Malabara(?) which was just as well, it is a very popular place. In the true spirit of SKWID, we negotiated via a faciliater who said......"Indian?" THE magic word!!! I guess we had all learnt the lessons of SKWID!!!

To all my fellow SKWIDers and trainers, I would like to say thanks for your company over the week and have a truly excellent time on your placements. You would be very welcome to visit in Ulaanbataar but please do keep in touch. It is going to be fascinating to see how we all get on in such differing placements.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Health and Safety Course.


What can I say. Scared me into getting all the injections, .........against everything I can!!!!

Skills for Working in Development (SKWID)


I am writing this on the last evening of the course. This means, despite a hair raising first two days of information over load, we have survived. Tonight is our one and only free evening........and we are going out for a curry!

The training split into two quite distinct parts.

First evening and Day 2.

The first part of the training is rather heavy on information-giving with some tasks to illustrate the points made and to make natural breaks in the material presented. The most interesting tools for me were, Stakeholder Analysis, Facilitating Techniques, and approaches to help the Participation of ALL the stakeholders. I know, heavy stuff but I found it interesting to relate these approaches to those used in education, or even manufacturing. So much crossover.

Days 3, and the last morning.

Now the fun really started and most people found themselves out of their comfort zones. I certainly did!!!! Lots of roll playing to exercise the techniques and tools received on day 2. The bridge building on the morning of day 3 was great fun. Because of the trainers total commitment to their rolls, the exercise took on a certain reality. You could not help but be pulled into the scenario.

The afternoon saw the first of two identical session, the second being on the last morning. Essentially, you had to facilitate a meeting which you had set up with 3/4 other course participants. The topic, structure and tools used in the meeting were in your gift. In other words, you had to set up a roll play. And in next to no time!!!! No pressure then!!! But it was enormous fun. The idea is to run the exercise again on the last morning with a different topic, structure and tools to see if you can improve on your first attempt.

Day 4

Another great day out of my comfort zone. Playing parts as different stakeholders in roll-plays covering conflict resolution, negotiation and networking. By the end of the first 'play' I was getting more comfortable with the process and it did become good fun. It also dawned on me that I would be feeling this way for real very, very soon!!!! But we were all getting better at spotting when to adopt strategies and techniques to enable us to cope and be more effective.

In Conclusion

Another well put together and delivered training course with the emphasis very much on simulating real situations in which you could try/practice/discuss the effectiveness of different approaches in a safe, non-damaging way.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Disadvantaged and Vulnerable.

Image Polly Whitworth (2005)

This is not right.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Volunteers and Development

Before I comment a bit on the training course, a few words about preparing for the weekend. I know students nearly always put a low, low priority on preparing for a new learning experience, but I can tell you, in this instance it would be a BIG, BIG mistake. If you do not want to feel FRAZZLED by Saturday lunch time, go research!!! Seriously!!!!

Main areas for you to look at are,

  • HIV and AIDS - get the stats, get the impact, look at ways it is being tackled.
  • Have at least an understanding about what the IMF, World Bank, UN, GATT, World Trade organizations and others are and how they relate to each other and development.
  • Find out what "Neo-Liberalism" and "Community development" are and how they differ.
  • globalization - a commonly used word but what does it mean to different groups of people? Look it up.
Friday Evening
Meet, greet and scene setting. Always a bit of fun. And good to see Bridg, Vanesa and Naomi again from the PFC weekend. Bit of catching up done there. But a major surreal moment was to happen in the bar after the formal session. I was listening to, ok eavesdropping in on, a conversation (as you do) whilst getting the drinks in. Ivory Coast, Ghana, early 1970's. Enter into my life again Liz Hind.......after 37 years!!!! Liz was a colleague of Jenny's at Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast, 1969/70. We had not met or even, I suspect, thought about each other for all that time, and yet here we are propping up the same bar in Brum......a bit of a Casablanca moment I think you must agree!!!!! Of all the ..........etc.
Big issues all day. The morning sessions tackled how development affects and is affected by power groupings, debt and globalization. This is where good preparation would have paid off. Unfortunately I must still be a student at heart!!!!! And boy did I suffer brain ache!!!
The afternoon and evening started and ended with a game, sandwiching heavier sessions on HIV/AIDS and Community Development. The first game, "The Trading Game" was a lot of fun. It involved representing countries trading in the same manufactured product - USA against Bangladesh. I am sure you get the picture. Bit of advice, be really, really nice to the banker. The end game, and I can tell you it really felt like it by 19:00 hours, involved a mythical country, "Mapunta", and the agencies we had discussed during the day and involved trying to aid development in the country. The game tested whether you had picked up on the main issues. I have to say, very difficult to muster myself for this finale. Never has the pleasures of a bar been so anticipated!
Sunday Morning
Three sessions covering VSO/volunteers and development, followed by advise on how you could increase the impact of your work in the placement and, perhaps, beyond in a wider context. I found the video of the Ghanaian experience from the volunteers and the employers points of view very interesting and revealing. Sunday's sessions were more akin to the the PFC approach and allowed you personalize the information easier.
In Conclusion
Another well structured, informative and testing weekend. And another group of lovely people to meet. BUT DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE HAND!!!!!! Otherwise, the following two days will pass in a blur!