So, pre-departure training is now finished. One week of intensive training in Toronto, mainly at the EWB National Office, the training house and the UofT campus. An exhausting and eclectic mix of sessions consisting of things reasonably inside one’s comfort zone (sector team case studies, history of EWB), and fully outside it (coaching, learning to eat food with my right hand). All useful exercises though.
There are six of us in this particular sending session, five working professionals (called Professional Fellows) ranging in age from mid 20s to early 4os, plus one university student (a Junior Fellow) who is also going over in the fall. Nice, small sending group consisting of people of diverse talents that leads to good discussion. In terms of countries, there are two going to Malawi (including me), two to Zambia, and two to Ghana. We are all flying out tomorrow, so very exciting!
As a quick note about Malawi, there have been some issues in the country over the last two weeks or so that people may or may not have heard about. Basically some protests and such due to fuel and food shortages that turned somewhat violent, but nothing widespread and it was pretty short-lived. Nevertheless, there are a new round of protests planned for mid-August, so as a precautionary measure our national leadership has decided to evacuate the entire Malawi Water and Sanitation team to nearby Zambia for the duration of these protests. Obviously not a great way to start my placement and I’m not happy that this has happened since it plays into people’s stereotype of the African continent in a pretty negative way, but these things do happen on occasion. It’s important to note that none of the volunteers currently over there were at any point in any danger, so this shouldn’t have any impact on the work I will be doing over there other than to delay my ability to start it for a few weeks.
As for my headspace, I`m still not sure if the idea that I`ll be living in Africa for the next four months has fully sunk in, and probably won`t until I actually arrive there. I am still very much looking forward to this opportunity however, and am determined to do the best job I can in the time I have available to me. At the same time I have to remember that my ability to make significant progress in a four month time frame is going to be pretty limited given the cultural differences, etc. Luckily I have a lot of confidence in the team I will be joining and the organization I`m going overseas with, so I have faith that the work I will be doing will be continued and built upon after I`m gone.
So that`s it for this post. The next one will be from Africa, so stay tuned!