As Zimbabweans, time is always ahead of us, and our sessions in the communities are always commencing late! This is something I feel the UK volunteers have had to adapt to, they might call it ‘Africa time’. Sometimes 10am, can really mean 10:15am, or even 10:30am! This is normal for Zimbabweans, but for UK volunteers this may be strange.
Conversely, the styles and accents of the UK volunteers can be strange for national volunteers, and for those in the sessions we are running for communities around the Mutasa District.
These experiences, from Africa time to odd accents, help the team to bond and become more cohesive. As national volunteers, we are able to share our culture and help the UK volunteers to understand the workings of daily life in Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, we can also help to interpret and translate when communities we are working in are unable to understand either English, or the strange regional accents of the UK! This cross cultural experience is great, and helps each of us to develop our skills and broaden our horizons.
Writing this at the end of our first week, I am happy with how our sessions have gone so far. Before we began, I was sceptical about how, for example, a UK volunteer might be able to communicate, or whether I would be able to understand the UKV volunteers’ comment in order for me to translate to a session. In addition, while the turnout to our first few sessions has been good, we as national volunteers are able to contribute local knowledge that can help the team to plan. For example, anti-retroviral drugs supply days in Mutasa happen on a Wednesday - this could mean turnout on that day may be low as locals will be at pharmacies or clinics collecting their medicine. This can help the team with the monitoring and evaluation of our projects, and add to the UK volunteers understanding of the locality.
Overall, I am pleased my expectations before the placement have been met. Before we began, we hoped we would be working within a good, friendly, sociable team and this is what I have found so far. In the coming weeks, I look forward to the cross cultural working continuing, and maybe the local communities even getting used to the UK accents!
Written by ICS volunteer Brian Sithole