Summary of how I benefited from ICS
I was a national team leader for the first two cycles of Simukai, in which I successfully lead the first team of 7 volunteers and the second team of 12 volunteers. These cycles ran from January 2014 to June 2014. Our program supplemented the work done at Simukai, covering the Mutare urban and rural districts. I am really grateful to have participated in this program which has built me professionally and also developed my community immensely. During the programme I have gained the following skills:
This is one of the greatest skills I have developed during my placement period. At first I was hesitant to take on the role which was taken by a volunteer who however dropped out after having secured employment. The management and the team members then chose me to fill in the leadership role. It was an amazing experience to begin to realise my potential in such a role. The placement revealed to me that I am a leader, and it moulded me into a great one. I was unanimously appointed to lead the next cycle by the Simukai management at the recommendation of my team.
Cross cultural Communication
Cross cultural interactions are complicated and tricky experiences that make working together difficult for cosmopolitan communities. Such is the situation with ICS Teams and it was not an easy road for me in the beginning. Though I could speak English, interacting with volunteers from the UK (UKVs) was more than language. Communication is more than a language, communication is a culture that takes time to learn. During the placement I learnt to tolerate, compromise and learn. Right now I can safely work in a multi-cultured community and perform excellently with minimal or no challenges. After all I learn that the more different people come together to work as a team the more different ideas and skills are harnessed and the more productive humanity becomes. Cross-cultural literacy hereby then becomes the key to this resource.
Conflict is inevitable, more so in a cross cultural team wherein some far distant cultures are converging for their first time. My teams were not spared by this expected experience. Being a team leader, my role involved resolving these differences that came and at times clashes between individuals from different backgrounds. In such situations I developed some listening skills, communication skills, negotiation skills, problem solving skills as well as increased emotional intelligence and sharpened perspicacity. I also learnt how to build the moral of the team through different team building activities to try to quicken culture exchange, team bonding as well as minimising conflict.
As a team leader I learnt how to run community development programmes. These include planning activities, budget management, implementation of activities and supervision of teams and individuals. During this time I developed some important soft skills such as etiquette, time keeping and generally professionalism. We also did Skills Exchange sessions wherein I learnt some other hard skills like operating the Microsoft office, budgeting and budget management. In the implementation of the program I also facilitated sessions and this boosted my facilitation skills as well as public speaking, confidence and self esteem.
Summary of Action At Home
After my placement I had become an advocate of child protection fully furnished with knowledge, skills and the passion. Though I jointly wrote a proposal to ICS HUB to do economic empowerment projects with orphans and vulnerable children, the proposal was not approved but we continued to do community development at zero budget. I continued volunteering with the host organization (Simukai Child Protection Programme) in the Drop-in-Centre department, doing mainly street work (working with children living and working in the streets). We managed to reunify 22 children to their homes of origin from the streets between June and December 2014. Having done well at my duty, the organization management appointed me an Outreach Officer for Rusape Outreach Project where I am currently working.
Written by: Blessing Zanorashe Muchena, Cycle: 1 and 2 January-June 2014.