Thursday, October 22, 2009

Team Building in Ruhururu

Our last workshop on Team Building in Bwezibari is by far the most smoothly run of them all. However it doesn't start off very promising with only one participant on site when we arrive at 9:30 am. Having passed the Health Center ambulance, which serves as a general all-round vehicle for the Health Center, returning after having dropped the trainers off, we were surprised when we arrived that we couldn’t find them. They turned up about 45 minutes later by which time 29 participants have gathered. I guess they were getting their marketing done early when they found no one at the site.

At the last workshop we provided some formal feedback to the trainers who have been facilitating these workshops. They have been doing a wonderful job, are enthusiastic, engaged, active and interested. They have adapted to the changes we have added in and the newer material that includes community development. They have taken turns so all trainers have facilitated all the sessions and have begun to include the volunteers who have also begun to be trained as trainers to facilitate sessions. We also suggested that they all need to concentrate on pre-planning each sessions so they not only have all the material ready to go but have run thru in their heads the lessons they want to pull out of each exercise.
Amazingly, they have responded to the suggestion about advance preparation and the material needed for each sessions has been prepared in advance and the lessons to be drawn appear to all be elicited. As well it appears that without prompting they are tying the questions they ask to elicit key points after the lessons to actual behaviour within the groups. I can barely believe it.

One example goes like this.
In the Puzzle Pictures exercise, everyone is given a single piece of a puzzle. Five pieces make a picture. Puzzles are unfamiliar to people here. They don’t play with them as children. A Peace Corps volunteer told me she gave a puzzle to the children in a family she stayed with and after counting the pieces they didn’t know what they should do with them. So just making the pieces fit together is something of a challenge. Some people are better at finding other matching pieces than others. But always one or two people wander around, not fitting in any puzzle, until with almost the whole puzzle together, a group goes looking for their missing piece. Some people and their pieces are also sent away from a group because they are the wrong colour.

The lessons that can be drawn from this exercise are many. When you have just one part of the puzzle, it means nothing, but when you have all pieces, you have a picture which means something. You feel bad when you are not included in a group, no matter what the reason, even if it is just because your piece is not needed. Some people are more active in finding matching pieces than others. Some people wait to be found. Even when you have all the right pieces together it takes time to make them into a picture.

Obviously it works best in debriefing people if you select someone who had trouble and ask them how they felt, what happened and what they did or ask the person who found other matches early, what they did that worked best.
Our facilitators have finally done this. This is when I figure that I am getting an additional lesson as well, that when one facilitates well in a group, magic happens. I am reminded of this a little later when we do the exercise Build With What You Have. Each of three groups is given a heap of what looks like junk and asked to construct something. In the past they have mostly rearranged it into a store or home. This time we specifically say we want a building made. One group has made a grass hut of a traditional healer. When at the end everyone goes around to the three groups to see what each has constructed, one person is left at each site to explain to others.

At the final site, one of the two men who came to this workshop in a sparkling white shirt and shiny tie, has made himself a corncob pipe and is drumming on a tin can, mumbling loudly, playing, for all it is worth, a traditional healer. As the onlookers say, amidst great laughter and applause, his group has constructed a building but he has made theatre out of it.

When the groups sing the songs they have composed about the work they will do as volunteers, their enthusiasm and conviction carry far beyond this hopeful church in the green hills of Africa. They are silhouetted against the church windows, the male and female voices a counterpoint to each other weaving together in graceful effortless harmony.
About half way thru our
workshop in the nave of a partially constructed church, local schools children are let out for recess and we are swamped. At first the participants try to get rid of them, shooing them outside, but finally they give up and tell them to be quiet. Amazingly it works and until the recess drum goes, they sit at the windows and on the floor and quiet as stone statues. Now where else would this happen?

A while later a group of seven women are returning from market, a couple with small children. They come tentatively to the door and look inside at the single group working on the benches at the back of the church. I smile and greet them in Runkankole wondering if they are participants. They answer shyly and then sit down at one side of the church to quietly pray before making their way home.
Photos: Puzzle Pictures; Groups Sing; School Children Join US; and Traditional Healer Drums


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Team Building Training In Uganda

We are headed out to the village in Bwezibwera in Southwestern Uganda for a day of Team Building. The Ministry of Health is launching a nation-wide program of Volunteer Health Workers (VHW). In the parishes where our child health training project works, many of our volunteers have been chosen as VHW. As our volunteers have been trained and working for five years and have formed cohesive groups that are proud, self-reliant and active, many are not sure they want to give up this identity and the connection with our NGO project. This is despite the fact that funding has drawn to a close so it looks like our project may be coming to an end. This has resulted in them thinking of themselves as better than and apart from the other government volunteers. We are concerned this may affect team work as VHWs and want them to start to work together as a group, hence the Team Building day.

We are out early in the crepuscular light of early dawn. The red murram village roads take us past milk cans being collected and tied on the backs of bicycles for delivery or waiting by the road for transport to larger centers. Local sales appear to be part of it too. Milk is plentiful here in Ankole. African Tea is almost half milk, my favourite breakfast drink.

We are weaving our way over and around the hills. At one small widening of the road, the driver finds out the trainers we were meant to collect are elsewhere and we trace our way back to the health center. While we are stopped, I am able to photograph people winnowing peanut shells after the peanuts are passed whole thru a grinder. The whole operation is set out on a grass mat by the side of the road, stunning in its simplicity. I have seen such tableaus before but never knew what was being ground. My African colleagues identify it right off, so distinctive the equipment. It makes me aware of how much else I look at but don’t really see.

We arrive at Mirongo at 9:00 am and there are about 30 volunteers already gathered. They trickle in over the next two hours and by 11:00 there are 83. They arrive by foot or bicycle, climbing up over the crest of the hill, many of them delayed by the need to dig in their shambas before the sun gets high in the sky as it is the rainy season and digging must be done in the early hours. About 20 of the group gathered are our volunteers, the rest are newly appointed to the volunteer health worker role by the government.

We use a variety of interactive exercises. The five trainers each take one group and change groups after each exercise. At the end of the day, one of the participants who is new to such training, says in awe, “We didn’t come with pens and paper but we have learned a lot.”

Another says, “I thought we were not getting the same teaching in each group, but I can see from the feedback that we have all learned the same things.”

It is exciting to work with people new to participatory methods. They are so keen and eager and seem to have Eureka moments at every other turn. The Picture Puzzles we have used seem particularly effective. Each person is given one piece of the puzzle and told to find others to make a picture. Some are active, circling the groups, holding their own picture piece up high for all to see. Others hang on to their own piece afaid to let it go,hoping others will find them. The pictures we use are bright and colourful photos of our local area of calender photos of West Africa. Not many of them have worked with puzzle pieces before so even when they find others that seem similar there is time spent in making it fit together.

Our facilitators are skilled, especially at holding the energy and enthusiasm in large groups. Many lessons about how to find a group, how to locate others like you so you can create a picture together and how the overall picture is much more obvious when the pieces are fit together, are readily made in this exercise.

A question in the feedback highlights that someone did not understand a lesson in an exercise and they easily review it for the whole group. It has been a totally successful launch to the Team Building training. In the car on the way back home we hold our facilitators’ meeting and decide we will introduce some community development exercises as well in the next training. And everyone agrees we are off to a good start.

Photos: milk cans ready for pickup; winnowing ground nut shells & putting the puzzle together.


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