Skills for Working in Development (SKWID)

’twas the weekend before Christmas and I did my second round of VSO training at Harborne Hall – the Health and Personal Security workshop (Thursday afternoon) and then Skills for Working in Development (Thursday night through to Monday afternoon).

Two people from my P2V course were on the same SKWID and it was great to see them and catch up – they’re both off in January (to Rwanda and Ethiopia) so made me feel like I had loads of time before I go. I also bumped into someone from my assessment day doing her P2V so that’s all four of our little assessment group that made it through.

As with P2V everyone was lovely and the trainers excellent throughout. Once again if there was a p***k in the room, and there always is with a group that size, it was me. Happy days.

The usual wide mix of skills and destinations (once again I was the only IT nerd). Met up with someone going to Namibia on the same date I am so we should be travelling and doing our in-country training together. She’s also going to the north of Namibia but about 500 miles East of me. Strangely she’s opted for the bright lights of a town with at least three resteraunts rather than the dusty more cultural charms of Opuwo.

Health and Personal Security consisted of learning the VSO injury-impact flowchart with questions such as “Has it gone black?” “Has it fallen off?” “What bit what?” and so on. Mozzies are bad, Rabies is double-plus-super-bad and you do not even want to joke about Rabid Mozzies, oh no.

On a serious note much talk of avoiding risky situations, group discussions, medical information and statistics. Most common reasons for medical repatriation – general stuff the same as you’d be hospitalised for at home; sprains, lacerations and broken bones etc. You will get sick, colds and flu at the very least and you will spend a not inconsiderable time c**pping through the eye of a needle. We’re all signed up now so there’s no sweet coating just the hard facts of where our personal idiocity and/or sense of adventure may lead us.

Around this time I discovered VSO had my job role listed as “Medical Officer”. I am aware one of the “selection dimensions” (and key things they keep re-iterating) is “adaptability” but I though this went a bit far. I am happy to give surgery a go but I would need at least google and YouTube. Job duly corrected to “IT Monkey”.

SKWID itself is however many days of all sorts of, well, skills you might need when working in development. This includes; corruption, conflict resolution, negotiation, participatory facilitation and a myriad of other weird and wonderful witchcraft.

Where P2V was intense in terms of deep questions; “why are you doing this?” “how will you cope?” etc SKWID was intense in terms of the volume of participation required. This time when we broke off into groups it was to prepare and deliver our own “facilitations” rather than just to discuss a topic.

My two facilitations went badly and not-as-badly in that order which at least shows progress of a sort. Apparently I have a tendancy to gibber quickly without much sense and cut people off. Pah. There was more but I’d cut them off. On the positives I was told I’ve a “dynamic personality”. I was all pleased until I looked it up in the VSO glossary and it simply says “bit of a git”. Oh well, at least my group were very gracious and we got through it all to conclusion both times. Whoopie.

I led an “energiser session” based on binary maths first thing in the morning which earned me nothing but love from fellow participants (though they did have a strange way of showing it). On the sage-like advice received in the bar the night before I didn’t do my thirty minute preable on the meaning of the game and this saved me an actual lynching. How we laughed.

On Monday after the second “facilitations” we danced in a circle to the sound of a trumpet (really), exchanged emails and scattered.

That should be the last time I see Harborne Hall until perhaps a returned volunteer thing if I get that far! It’s a wonderful place full of nooks and crannies all with their own odd smells of stale something and aged statues peeking out. The staff again were wonderful even cooking us a Christmas dinner on the Saturday night. They coped especially well given the unexpected influx of approximately four and a half billion small children that weekend as well as us.

Back to reality with the realisation that with two days to go I hadn’t bought a single present.

Highlighted Learning Point

I need to speak slooooooooowly and clearly and spend less time gibbering incoherantly.

New Goal

Same goal – don’t become a case study.

Knowledge Gained

Teachers (and especially head teachers) continue to have a psychic hold over me gaining instant obedience and quiet with just “that look”.


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