I consider myself quite a happy person, but I am not often thís excited. Pre-departure training not only meant that I would get to learn the ins and outs of being a Team Leader in Uganda, but also that I would finally get to meet my trainers, fellow Team Leader, and our ‘Children! And all of that while visiting Edinburgh, which is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
First of all I would like to agree that Edinburgh is indeed pretty stunning. Edinburgh has a great atmosphere and beautiful architecture. We do not always appreciate how lucky we are to have a visible history and culture in all parts of Europe, but thinking of countries like China – where the Cultural Revolution destroyed much of the visible culture and history – I feel very fortunate to have seen just a little more of Europe.
On Monday afternoon, when trying to leave Guernsey, it was completely covered in fog. As delays were announced I realised again how tricky it can be to live on a small island. After a 9 hour trip, which took me passed Jersey and Birmingham, I arrived at the pre-booked hostel around midnight. The hostel was located near Haymarket Station, on walking distance from the old town. It was here where I had the pleasure to meet my fellow Team Leader, Donia, who had also just arrived from a long train ride – from London. Remember Donia, you will hear a lot more about her! Not long after sharing our travel stories we joined the other 10 smelly sleepers in the dorm.
Before leaving on my trip, many people had said: “I could think of better places to be in February”, well, the next morning I woke up to a bright blue sky, but I kind of get the point now, it was absolutely freezing! Not cold enough to spoil the fun though. I dragged Donia out of her bed down to the cafe and grabbed my chance to get to know her a bit while having breakfast. It did not take me long to realise that we would become a miraculous team :). After breakfast we picked up our (very thick) coats to face the Scottish weather, as we had to walk for at least 50 yards. The head office of Challenges Worldwide was literally two doors away. Their building has high ceilings, big windows with a full view of St. Mary’s Cathdral, and it has a very relaxed and welcoming feel to it, as if you walk into granny’s living room. I can still not comprehend how beautiful their old wooden stairs are.
We were welcomed by Nicola and Georgia, our dedicated trainers, who taught us about our role as a Team Leader, our responsibilities, about how to support volunteers, and how to manage conflict. At this point Im am feeling happy that the main focus of the program is on cultural exchange, something I am particularly interested in.
Highlight of the day, meeting Eoghan Mackie – the CEO of Challenges Worldwide – who mildly expressed his views on International Development, and who took us on a first class journey through Challenges Worldwide and their effect on developing marketplaces. Eoghan has recently been invited to speak at the 3rd Annual Commonwealth Africa SUMMIT, alongside over 18 heads of State and Government. It was an honor to spend some (valuable) time with him.
Nicola and Georgia followed up with more video’s, case studies, and so on. In short, they gave structure to the big blur of information I was drowning in. I can now say that I am ready for this job, and that I am confident enough to help the other volunteers to make the best out of theirs.
After hours of absorbing as much information as we could, Donia and I strolled through the old parts of Edinburgh, in search for a good meal and a glass of wine. On our way there we realised that one of the volunteers, Justin, had arrived and he joined in.
The next morning was mainly focussed on disease and security protocols. This was not something I usually think about when waking up, but we covered quite a few topics that I was curious to learn more about. Later on we discussed facilitator skills and then, yes yes yes, we got to meet all the volunteers! So exciting! Meet our Children!
This is the first photo of many others to come. A bunch of the volunteers I had already met during our assessment day, so it was really nice to see them again, and I have been able to have chats with almost all the others. It was a pleasure to spend some time with them and I am looking forward to more! I really had the feeling that this will become a fabulous team, and I hope they feel the same way. And now, I am ready to COUNTDOWN!!!! 22 more sleeps!!!