Saturday, May 13, 2006

Training - aka. being on the wrong end of a fire hose

Training...where to even start?! When being subjected to so much new information, it's extremely difficult to keep from floundering while trying to retain as much as possible. Thankfully, much of it was written down.

Upon arriving at the house we would be staying in for our week of training, my initial thoughts were: 'This is going to hold 28 or so people?' It was a small townhouse situated somewhere between Chinatown and little Portugal (near Kensington Market!). After meeting my fellow volunteers for a second time, my doubts were gone - and rightly so, for there wasn't a single dispute, controversy or complaint that I heard in the entire duration of our stay. And how could there be with such an amazing group of accepting, intelligent, motivated individuals?

Training itself took place on the University of Toronto campus. Over the course of 6 days we covered everything from
- the root definiton of Development
- to how to be a successful agent of change
- to our hopes, fears and objectives for the summer
- to working on facilitation skills
- to cross-cultural communication and learning the dos and don'ts of Ghanaian culture
- to safety and security
- to gender roles
- to nutrition
- to the levels of impact
- to capacity building
- to Participatory Rural Appraisal
- to the basics of agriculture....etc.
After having started the week with my various doubts concerning my inadequate knowledge base (especially since I knew nothing about agriculture), I finally began to feel more at ease with what I had to offer the placement. Throughout the week, we kept a record of our A-Ha! moments - so just to share a few of mine:

1. When entering a new phase in life and being confronted by the unknown on many levels, it is natural to have doubts and fears. I also learned how comforting it is to share those thoughts and feelings with with others in the same transition phase, and how it is not uncommon to find that many of those fears and hopes are not uniquely yours.

2. During some of the training exercises with other JF's, it was interesting to see: firstly, how different some of our own values were even having grown up in similar cultures; and secondly, to see how easily someone's ideas could change in an open, tolerant conversation where each person expressed the 'whys' behind their opinions. Hopefully overseas I'll develop close, trusting relationships in which I'll be able to have such discussions.

3. Something I've known but have never conciously thought about when preparing presentations, activities - how important feedback is. I think that is one of the things I love most about EWB - that they are constantly trying to get feedback and improve themselves and the organization. There's a lot to be learned from them on an individual level as well - the National Office staff are some of the best facilitators and analytical thinkers I've ever met. It was truly a pleasure.

4. After a case study we did on the Friday, I think for the first time I felt truly competent about going overseas and being able to have an impact. You'll never know what you can accomplish until you try!

And besides the learning and training aspect, during that week I developed some meaningful friendships with very incredible people that I hope to maintain. Without even leaving for Ghana, I'd already had an absolutely awesome experience!


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