I’ve just been on my final VSO training workshop – so I really feel like the countdown is beginning. Well at least it is the final one in the UK - I still have a month in Delhi on cultural and linguistic training once I am in country. This Skills for Working in Development course (SKWID) was all about participatory methods and tools for facilitation. As usual the course was held at Harborne Hall, which is a great resource that VSO have in Birmingham - such a peaceful retreat for so intense a training programme - Tuesday to Saturday. I never fail to be amazed what a wonderful job the catering staff do there to keep us all well fed on what must be a very tight budget!
It was nice to meet fellow volunteers, some of whom I have met before, but mostly they were new to me. This time everyone on the course had their placement: some are going very soon, like next week and some not until later. I met a future colleague, Jen, who will be on an India placement in Bhubaneshwar, in Orissa and leaves for the Delhi training at the same time as myself. Somehow it doesn't feel so daunting any more now that I have a face that will be familiar there.
The course tried to get everyone from different backgrounds up to speed with techniques for aiding participation and for facilitating meetings. In additon, and very importantly, it also got us all thinking about how doing this in developing countries would be different than we are used to when working with our exisiting colleagues or clients etc. For example, just think about how much jargon we use in everyday life, how many of our examples are culturally specific, how we expect the person we are speaking with to be literate. And I’m not just talking about technical jargon but our phraseology or turn of phrase, eg phrases like “ to get up to speed”. Very thought provoking and it reminded me of how when I am trying to say something in French and I don't have the words I want to use, I have to slow down and go back to the simpler words that I do know - "small small" as I am always being told :) . A good lesson which I hope I remember regularly when I'm there!