Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Trained and raring to go

Spent the past week training at the VSO centre in Birmingham. The training has involved building and adapting skills learned in the western world so that they can be used in developing countries. The course has been held at an old mansion and former convent outside of Birmingham. I was quite surprised when I arrived with backpack jeans and sweats from an involved train bus and walking trip to find an imposing set of iron gates. The entry phone requested an acknowledement and the iron gates swung anonymously open to reveal a darkened path, overgrown trees and a vacant guardhouse where a notice was posted that visitors were to move to an unseen house up the pathway. It seemed like something out of a ghost story rather than my expectation of an informal international development agency headquarters. The house is a large old 18th century mansion set in seemingly huge grounds and acts as a training centre although it would be a perfect setting for a murder mystery. All it needs is a good stormy night. Otherwise the place is a few notches down from Geneva Park although the food is pretty good and there is even a bar - this is England.

Training has been varied and intense. Organisation, participation methods, facilitation skills are at the core along with evaluation and assessment. Practical role playing seems to be the favoured method here and it takes some getting used to. It's pretty stimulating because the course and teaching are new to me. I was even encouraged enough to try my hand at a theatre approach to participation learning.

People attending number 18 in all and are pretty varied in age, gender , skill and background. Seems like a lot in education and care giving jobs but about one third with IT or professional or business careers. Most from UK but some from Netherlands, Germany and US. It is really great being with interesting people who are doing the same thing as me - everyone is destined to spend mostly 2 years in countries such as Nepal, India, Mozambique, Gambia, Ghana, etc. Nobody thinks this is "nuts" and everyone is actually looking forward to the challenge, stimulated by the new opportunities. The energy is just great.

Back to London on Friday, pack everything up on Saturday and off to Heathrow by 6am Sunday morning.


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