news flash: relocated and somewhat resettled

When Greg and I started taking about volunteering overseas I was somewhat unwilling to give up certain creature comforts … so I laid out a couple “yes, but…” conditions to going along with this plan.  Wherever we went,

1)    there must be hot showers,

2)    and there must be high speed internet.

When we agreed to our two-year placements with CUSO-VSO, we told them that the content of the work was more important than the location and that we only had one “non-negotiable”:

3)    We had to be based in the same place and sleep under the same roof most of the time.

We neglected to tell them about our penchant for hot water and internet.

After 9 months in Maroua, we figured out that we could boil water in a kettle and bring that into the shower for a taste of warmth.  High speed internet trickles along and is fleeting, but it is possible to get things done.  As for #3 … well… we failed at this one rather miserably.

Over our first 8 months – between November and June – Greg made a grand total of 9 round trips on the 30+ hour North-South train/bus combo between Maroua and Yaoundé.  Do the math.  That’s 18 legs, times 2 days each, resulting in 24 days on the road.  Yup, Greg spent nearly a month on the train alone! It’s no wonder he knows the stations (and the produce sold at each one) by heart!  Add to the travel time the weeks spent working in other cities, …. You get the picture … He was away a lot.

To get back on track with our 3 requirements, starting this week, our new “home base” is Yaoundé.

From now on we will split our time between various activities, organizations and, well, locations.  Call it a VSO scrap quilt – a little of this and a little of that – that soon will see our workplans stitched together with interesting opportunities.

Greg’s work will largely remain the same over the next few months, continuing his work on the roll-out of VSO Cameroon’s national monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system.  The goal remains to assist both VSO and its partners assess where change is taking place, and promote continuous learning that drives improvements in programs.  Supporting staff and volunteers in using the new M&E tools, he’ll also develop and adapt other tools while also assisting everyone interpret the data collected.

I, on the other hand, am branching out a bit.  I will be doing a significant amount of capacity building work with “Team VSO Cameroon” (partners, staff & other volunteers), throughout the country.  I’ll continue to support the orientation of new volunteers, will lead coaching training, assist in the development of policies towards relationship management and networking, and engage in a few exciting research projects that will help VSO and its partners move forward.

We won’t just be working on VSO projects though!  Both Greg and I will also provide advisory support to the Africa Model Forest Network (AFMN) in our respective fields of expertise.  That is, Greg will put in his M&E and communication skills to work, while I will have an opportunity to use some of my economic development knowledge in working towards sustainable livelihoods.  While based in Yaoundé, AMFN operates in the East and South-West of Cameroon and is currently focusing a lot of its efforts on good governance and sustainability.

All in all, as we map out these new placements and begin this new phase in our work in Cameroon, we can’t help but be excited about the opportunities and challenges ahead.

We’re also ecstatic about having finally realized my original two “yes, but…” requirements.  Our new home has hot water and we have access to (more) reliable and (faster) high speed internet!

Now as for #3, sleeping under the same roof… we’re failing on that one already.  I’m leaving today to co-facilitate workshops in the North-West and Far North.  Go figure.

~ by Caroline Spira on August 26, 2010.

2 Responses to “news flash: relocated and somewhat resettled”

  1. Hi guys,
    Two out of three is not bad and perhaps the third will too…patience is a virtue! Still it would be nice to have that real connection. Good work so far.

  2. Great news! Happy to hear about more placements that provide capacity building opportunities and support for multiple organizations as well as other volunteers, rather than focusing all the attention and skills on one partner when the right people (like yourselves) can be doing so much more. Looking forward to updates from the capital, if you’re ever there! 😉

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