Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hard Work, Final Push, and a Break

I am in the home stretch, so to speak, of my work in Gabane. Our Close of Service Conference is just over a month away and then begins our final "lockdown" period. From that point, we are supposed to be observing our agencies utilizing the skills we have taught them and closing down our projects, rather than implementing new things. As capacity builders, this is important for us to ensure that we have successfully imparted skills to our host country counterparts. I have discussed this eventuality with the staff at my NGO at great length, preparing them and encouraging them to keep striving to learn.

Yesterday, the NGO's coordinator and I talked about this looming date once again. I think it was a big eye-opener for her, realizing that the date is fast approaching. We set to work outlining all of the things we still want to accomplish before then. It is a daunting list with more than a few big picture projects left on the agenda. To keep us focused, we decided to make a wall-sized calendar and work plan -constant reminders of the things we have set out to do and a timeframe to do them in.

This morning, I came to the office bright and early with large pieces of paper to make into a floor-to-ceiling wall calendar. I had drafted priority lists for our programs (utilizing our new strategic plan!!) throughout the evening and was set to get down to business. The ladies, as they slowly trickled into the center, were curious (and speculative) about my determination and the project before them. Hadn't this been discussed yesterday and agreed upon? I continued on, explaining as I went what I was doing, why I was doing it, and how we were going to accomplish everything (or at least get started) in the next six weeks. The ladies sat before the new calendar and nervously chuckled and spat words of apprehension.

Before long, we were talking together and solidifying the plans. They kept asking if I could stay with them at the center longer to help them get through these lists. I constantly reassured them that they had many of the skills to do it themselves but that I would be here for some time still to guide them. We then set to work on the first of many tasks...

About three and a half hours later, after tireless work (i.e. no tea break), the ladies stopped and looked at me and said "Kamogelo, we are working too hard. I think you should go home so we can take a break." Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my calendar of objectives and deadlines put stress on the ladies to the point that they realized the kind of work they wanted to do so they did not pause for tea (an oversight due to diligence and earnest on all of our behalves) and became so overwhelmed that they felt I had to actually leave the center in order to get a breather! Whoops! But, before I left, they were sure to sit down with me and discuss what needed to be done next. And they want to get started as soon as the doors open tomorrow.

In the end, I consider it a success. It is important to look ahead and make a plan and that is something that has been lacking here. So, in putting up the calendar and showing them exactly what needs to be done, I issued them a challenge and it's one they have accepted. I truly believe that, in seeing the work that lay before them, the ladies will accomplish more and feel more confident and successful. Plus, I got an afternoon off guilt-free! :)

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