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A Huge Milestone

Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Vanessa Chimutu

I can’t say am overwhelmed but I am proud of my community. When I first had the idea about doing training in my community it was because of the little frustrations I was facing due to the lack of understanding and communication breakdown between them and me. Of course, I can say, little by little, they started understanding and getting the whole reason as to why I was here. But, I still felt the need to do training on Leadership and Human Centered Design (HCD) for them to get a little more perspective. I must say, for me, that seemed as though it was a far-fetched idea, but as of the 25th of August 2016, this idea became a reality.

The training involved the members of the Village Development Committee (the committee which I work most closely with aside from others) and also included Mr. Emas Potolani and Ms. Sarah Kazira who assisted in the facilitation process. The training started around 9am in the morning and ended at 4pm in the afternoon and was held at Nsala community day secondary school.

I would lie if I said I was not nervous, because I was. This was my first time hosting and also facilitating a training. The first session was basically on some of the tools in Human Centered Design facilitated by Emas. Here, we focused on the most prominent tool, the Innovators Compass. I must say, he did a pretty good job in translating it into Chichewa (our national local language). This part of the training took me back to Chongoni Dedza where I first was introduced to HCD by Garrett Mason. It was a very interactive session. We talked about  how the Innovators Compass guides us into development that not only centers on people but also shows people how to realize and bring this development forward. I remember the most exciting part was when certain community members talked about how it is so true that as people we do not see clearly, and pointed out that discovering observations and seeing with a third eye helps us Innovators to understand why certain things are happening and the reason behind this. They finally understood  the concepts of a community empowering it’s self and finding solutions to their problems. It was quite interesting to see how the community members were excited about the concept of Human Centered Design.

With the session done, we went for a lunch break which was an hour and afterwards, we went into the second session which was about leadership. This session was facilitated by myself. I remember telling my community members about a certain time where I went to an interview and the strangest thing happened… instead of being asked questions, they made us play a game were we had to make a 3 dimensional feature of a dog using only one hand. This really surprised them as the essence of this was to teach us how to work together as a group. We discussed about how each member of the village development committee was chosen into being a member of the committee, each member talked about the qualities that they have which are seen from the people in the village and hence why they were put in the village development team. We further went on to discuss about the leadership shield. This is a shield that every leader has to have as it helps to direct you towards your success and the success of your community. We divided our shield into four parts, two of your leadership skills, the part of your current work that you like best, two values that influence how you work with others,  and a recent  success or accomplishment.  The essence of doing this activity was for the group to see their potential and strengths as well as share those with the rest of the group as they are very important for good group dynamics on community leaders. We closed the session on leadership with an evaluation form on how one ranks themselves with qualities of being a community leaders.

Following this session was the last session facilitated by Sarah, on a section know as dimensions of community empowerment. The aim of the section was to give the Village Development Committee tools on how they can work more efficiently and effectively with members of the community. They were shown how they could do this if they could rate themselves and their community in terms of Confidence,  Inclusiveness, Organization, Co-operative, and Influence. They discussed what happens when these dimensions are ignored as well as the benefits of addressing the dimensions. It was quite an interactive session and before we knew it time was against us.

Throughout the time I started planning my training until the day it was finally done, I can say I have learned so much about my Community, my fellow Volunteers, as well as myself. I have learned the importance of collaborating with my fellow Volunteers as it brings more effectiveness to the project and also helps gets things done at the right time. I have also learned that this training has also helped my community members to understand more about the projects we are doing. I can confidently say that the training has helped to have our projects move quickly. Lastly, I have learned that I am a person who doesn’t give up quickly, despite all the uncertainties at the beginning of my service and to see where I am now. I am happy being a member of this community.

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