So how in heavens did Comhlámh’s Áine Lynch and Ruth Powell find themselves discussing Volunteer Management in the capital city of Togo, at the beginning of May this year?
Áine is the key project officer with the European Union Aid Volunteer Initiative (EUAVI) and has been working with Comhlámh since January 2016. Her role is to share theory and practice with a range of volunteer sending and hosting organisations, and to encourage synergies between those specialised in humanitarian aid, and those involved in volunteer management.
Ruth, meanwhile, is Comhlámh’s information and support officer and works with people thinking about volunteering overseas. She also facilitates debriefing sessions for individuals when they come back to Ireland.
And they were both invited to Togo.
The Volunteer Management seminar was spread over three days and a number of organisations attended it. Sessions included different styles of volunteer management, the diversity of perceptions, intercultural conflict, and ways of communication. The sessions used a mix of formal and non-formal learning methodologies with both presentations and group discussions.
After the trip, Ruth said, “you can never replace meeting people in person. You can SKYPE and email, tweet and Facebook all you want, but the feeling generated from spending a number of days together, with your colleagues from other parts of the world, is irreplaceable”.
Áine agreed and added “a lot of my job involves reading and writing reports and can be very academic and theoretical. To see the projects you might have read about is inspirational and encouraging. It gave me a new lease of life, when I came home”.
In addition to the formal sessions on Volunteer Management, the host organisation, Agence Nationale du Volontariat au Togo (ANVT), arranged for Áine and Ruth to visit their main office, meet their staff and hear about the various and diverse projects happening in Togo.
But there was a little bit of free time as well.
Áine and Ruth went to the Akodessawa Fetish Market, and visited the House of the Slaves. They had time to go to the beach and buy some Togolese chocolate for their colleagues back home. They enjoyed some delicious fufu, goat and fish dinners, and they might have also enjoyed one or two refreshing cold beers, at the end of the days.
All too often, the content of seminars like these go missing into people’s emails. So both Áine and Ruth would be delighted to tell you more about the training sessions, the EUAVI or the host organisation ANVT – please send them your questions or your comments.
The EUAV initiative is meant to:
• deploy 4000 EU citizens to work on humanitarian projects,
• provide 4400 non EU citizens with capacity building opportunities and
• provide opportunities for 10,000 online volunteers between 2015 and 2020.