Global Volunteers’ regularly scheduled Team Leader training has always been anticipated by staff and volunteer team leaders from every corner of the globe as one of those welcoming “yay,” can’t wait “highlights” of the year. Typically conducted in St. Paul, MN, the program was suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. The bi-annual training covers new technologies, updated volunteer management practices and policies, shared experiences and best practices on all aspects of Global Volunteers Service Programs. Long-time Greece Country Manager and Social Media Manager Sam Pinakoulaki describes her experience “discovering” our partner community of Ipalamwa during Team Leader Training this year, and why these staff training programs are so important.
We journeyed to the Reaching Children’s Potential Program (RCP) campus in Ipalamwa, Tanzania – literally at the top of a mountain and at the end of a muddy red dirt road! Instead of Minnesota this year, this partner community was selected to host our training because of the complications of travel for our Tanzanian co-workers. It added the value of meeting them formally in their own work environment, which has become Global Volunteers’ most ambitious service opportunity in our history.
Our daily schedule: We “hit the ground thinking.”
Staff began arriving in Tanzania during the first weekend of March. Each of us were greeted warmly with huge smiles and a Habari na karibu– Hello and welcome, by dedicated RCP staff. They had prepared and scheduled everything right down to the finest detail under the guidance of Dorota Wierzbicka, Director of International operations, and Andrew Philbrook, Director of Reaching Children’s Potential Program. Global Volunteers Co-founder Michele Gran (who was already leading a volunteer team when we arrived) directed us alongside our delightful new Tanzania Team Leader, Given Mlowe, offering her crucial hands-on training and guidance. As usual, our training assumed the structure and schedule of a typical service program:
- 7 am Breakfast
- 8 am Morning meeting (journal reading, assignments for the day)
- 8.30 am Training (PowerPoint presentations, scenarios)
- 12.30 pm Lunch
- 1.30 pm work projects (Earth boxes, home visits, handwashing stations, teaching, chicken coop construction)
- 4.30 pm Free time
- 6 pm Evening conversation
- 7 pm Dinner
It felt wonderful finally meeting up with colleagues again (both old and new) from near and far to learn, practice and understand Global Volunteers’ RCP (Reaching Children’s Potential) program. After all, I had spent the past few years writing about it and the RCP staff in blog posts and on our social media channels. Finally, I could put a photo “to a real” face! I knew exactly who was who without introductions.
“I’m looking forward to returning to Peru and sharing with the kids at Sagrada Familia all that I’ve experienced here in Tanzania. I wish I could talk with the kids here, understand them and have fun with them as I do at Sagrada Familia. I want to develop the RCP technologies in my community in Peru to help children and mothers get a healthy and higher quality of life.”Jorge Sánchez Prieto (RCP technologies Manager-Peru)
The mornings were conducted in a classroom-type setting, with large tables in the shape of a ‘P’ and flag stands displaying bright colored flags from all the countries Global Volunteers has either served or is currently serving in. Presentations, PowerPoints, brainstorming discussions, were conducted by various staff of each department.
Attendees review Service Program practices for optimal engagement and outcomes.
- Global Volunteers’ History
- Global Volunteers’ Vision, Mission, and Core Values
- Philosophy of Service
- Service Program Meetings
- Setting the Team Goals setting
- Characteristics of An Effective Team
- A Successful Team Leader
- Policies and Guidelines
- RCP Program & RCP Impact Report
- Logistics A-Z
- Managing Emergencies
- Budget Overview and Program Finances
- Health and Safety Best Practices
- Acquiring Useful Photos and Videos
- Global Volunteers Website and Social Media Channels
- Ensuring Full Local Engagement
- Importance of Partnerships & Groups
- Fundraising & Grants
- Innovations Around the World
Before lunch, everyone’s “favorite” topic was tackled under the watch full eyes of Bud Philbrook, JD (Co-founder, President, and CEO) – a chance for us to “problem-solve” real-life situations, and scenarios that have happened to Team Leaders in the past. It was hilarious watching how we all suddenly became school children, lowering our faces to our books and praying not to be called upon. While the scenarios themselves may have seemed amusing at times, the lessons learned were important, giving staff an extra “arrow in their quivers,” an additional resource crucial to optimal team leading.
After a delicious lunch served by Tanzania Lead Cook Mama Tony, we’d split up into small groups and disperse out into the Ukwega community. Jeeps and vans were loaded with supplies for Handwashing stations, Earth boxes, and chicken coops while RCP caregivers gathered their flip charts ready for home visits. In the hands of the skillful RCP drivers, we drove up and down and up and down small mountainous muddy dirt roads to reach our various destinations, passing through tiny villages of little red brick houses. I can’t describe how I felt driving through the villages, especially when the local children would hear the jeep’s engines and rush to the road’s edge, waving frantically. It was an AMAZING feeling, and we’d excitedly wave back! Wherever we went we were greeted with huge smiles, and enthusiastic families, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers aunts, uncles, cousins all ready to work alongside us and build and learn new technologies.
Journal excerpt- Emily Wood (Global Volunteers’ Manager of International Operations)
Friday March 11th was a good day. After training in the RCP learning center for three days, I was thrilled to be going out into the community to plant earth boxes, even though it started raining. At that point Being outside and working with my hands felt like a vacation! The children in Ipalamwa were interested in the activities as always and gathered around eager to be included. They helped Mwinne, Drew and I plant 5 earth boxes, handing us pieces of tape and holding down the plastic that covered the earth boxes. They even wanted to help us move the completed Earth boxes, and got together in groups of 4 or 5 to move the heavy boxes as a team. It was a real life example of a effective team until a couple of fights broke out over who got to help carry the Earth boxes. The day was a great reminder of the importance of including local people in Volunteer activities and proved that anyone, regardless of age or ability can (and should) always be included!
While I enjoyed learning about all of the RCP components, my favorite impromptu assignment has to be teaching at Ipalamwa Primary School. Together with Peter Kelley, Maya Witte, and RCP Co-op Coordinator Debora Joshua, we walked the short distance to the school to meet with the Headmaster. We decided Peter would teach alone and Maya and I would teach together; this was not to be. The Headmaster made the assignments by putting Peter and Maya together and escorting me with Debora in tow to a relatively small noisy classroom. When the door opened, I was greeted by 89 kindergarteners. Bright beaming faces and full of energy. I was in my “element!” A few high-fives were all it took to break the ice. Things were never the same again after that class; they would gather around me or shout at me from the classroom window every time they saw me. Great memories!
The two weeks flew by quickly and saying goodbye was bitter sweet. We came together; many as strangers became a team and “renewed” our “Global” family. Now, we’re equipped with new technologies, information, and knowledge on how to successfully and passionately represent Global Volunteers’ vision and mission – to wage peace and promote justice for all in our host communities across the globe.
A special Thank you to all the staff in Tanzania, each playing a crucial role in making the Team Leader training a huge success. Until we meet again …..Asante sana!
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