Our first workshop - a UK volunteers’ perspective

On 7 May we conducted our first workshop for our Rowa beneficiaries. Income-generating activities (IGAS) were the focus of this workshop. All the beneficiaries are involved in both group and personal IGAs, with some of these including goat rearing, piggery, poultry, and groceries. Out of 191 beneficiaries, 156 came to the workshop.

When we arrived at the field where we were meant to be teaching, we found about 15 (out of 191) beneficiaries waiting there for us. Considering we were already 20 minutes late, this was a bit disheartening. We were then told that we couldn’t use that particular field because there was going to be a women’s football match played there later, so we had to relocate. All us UK volunteers agreed that it hadn’t been the most auspicious of starts to our first workshop, yet the national volunteers were noticeably more relaxed, which was a little surprising.

For the workshop, we were split into three teams of three volunteers, with each focussing on a different aspect of IGAs. One team would teach about Conflict Management, another would concentrate on Team Roles, while the final team would play games with the beneficiaries. However, what we UK volunteers didn’t really realise during both our preparation for the workshop and even in the moments leading up to it was that it would be conducted purely in Shona, since very few of the beneficiaries spoke English. As such, it fell to the national volunteers to interact and engage with the beneficiaries and deliver the sessions.

This was the first time we really noticed the UK/national volunteers divide at work, and it was also the first time that we UK volunteers felt almost pointless. Across all the teams, this was a common feeling. However, rather than being disheartened or resentful about it, we were grateful that we wouldn’t have to embarrass ourselves in front of 156 children. The ability of the national volunteers to interact and interest all the beneficiaries during the workshop was inspiring to all of the UK volunteers. Hopefully the beneficiaries also found the whole workshop useful and exciting, and will be able to put the information they learnt to good use. Seeing so many of them come to the workshop gave us hope that all their IGAs will not only be sustainable and prospering by the time we leave, but will also stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Written by ICS volunteer Chris Phang-Lee