Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Conference Update

I'm back in Toronto now, and settled in enough to finally post an update. I'll save the details about Toronto, the training house where I'm living, and all that fun stuff for another post. For now....Calgary and the EWB National Conference.

So first, some perspective. Every year EWB holds a national conference where chapter members from all over Canada get together with the national office staff, past and current overseas volunteers (OVs), and a whole bunch of great speakers, some famous, from all over Canada and sometimes the world. It's an intense 3 days of workshops, debates, discussions, keynote speakers, and of course some fun thrown in there when there is time.

This year the conference was held in downtown Calgary. Although the conference didn't officially start until Wednesday evening, the Long Term Overseas Volunteer (from here on out this will be known as LTOV) group that I'm training with all arrived on Sunday. We wasted no time getting into it, as our training started on Monday morning. It's an awesome group, even though it is small. There are 8 of us, from varied backgrounds. A few, like me, have just graduated from university. Others have been out in the real world for a while. Some have done previous overseas placements with EWB, others have been overseas with other organisations, or for work. And then of course there is me, who has never been overseas yet! Guess my learning curve is just a little steeper! We also have a few people who are relatively new to EWB, which is pretty cool. It's always great to have a new perspective on things. All in all, the group is awesome, and the discussions are interesting and thought provoking.

Like I said, we didn't take too long to get into things. In the first day of training we were already discussing the definitions of poverty and development. No easy task to say the least, but it sure makes for great discussions. I'll post more on training later, after I've been through more than two days of it.
Conference was great, as I mentioned. Some highlights:

Going out for lunch with a wonderful Ghanaian women named Adisa Lansah Yakubu (or "Mama Adisa" as she insisted we call her) with the LTOVs and then hearing her moving speech to the entire conference later in which she urged us to be more than just people, to be human beings.

Attending the presentation by returned OV Jenn Dysart, who I will be working with for a few weeks when I get to Zambia. Jenn has spent the last year and a half working with WaterAid, the same partner organization I'll be with, and is doing something very similar to what I'll be doing. She left last night to return to Zambia to continue her work, and will be waiting for me when I arrive.
The speech by Canada's Governor General, Michaelle Jean. To be honest I was a little surprised that she wasn't more passionate in her address, as I've seen some of her speeches before, but it's still great to get recognition by such an important figure in the Canadian government, and Jean had some great things to say about EWB.

The passionate address by Robert Fox, the Executive Director of Oxfam Canada, who shared from his experiences working in Sudan, and commented on the difference it makes when someone who has been using only 2L of water a day gets access to 20L of water a day. (20L of water a day is pretty hard to imagine for those of us in the developed world who take 15 minute showers everyday. Do some research and estimate how much water you use each day. Then think about that joy of getting 20L)

The "Development Partnerships" workshop, led by Robin Farnworth, EWB's Director of West Africa Programs. This workshop was about the typical EWB approach in its overseas work, forming partnerships with existing organizations and working within those partnerships to have positive impact. Very applicable for me!!

Hanging out with the Western Chapter and part of the Windsor Chapter at "King Henry the 5th". Great time, plus I got a chance to practice my drumming! (See below)

The surprise going away party that the Windsor Chapter threw for me, complete with a DJ and lots of ridiculous pictures of me through the last year and a half. Thanks guys!! Thanks also to all the Western people and my other EWB friends from around the country that showed up!!

Hanging out with the Windsor chapter after, just some nice quite conversation in a hotel room. Always a great time!
Helping Melissa Lefas (returned OV) and Robin Farnworth facilitate the "Thinking About Becoming an LTOV" session. It was great to be able to share my experience of applying and what I know about training and prep with EWBers who are thinking about applying. It was also great hearing their questions. Some of them were questions I have too!!

And of course, the final Gala Banquet. Always a great time. Great food, engaging speaker, and a party after that lasts all night!!

So as I said, the conference was great. It was an awesome way to both kick off my training, and say goodbye to all of my EWB friends that I won't see for a while. It's also awesome to see the energy and passion of so many young people. Knowing the mass of the organization that is behind my time in Zambia is a comforting thought.
Enough for now. Next time I'll post on the setup here in Toronto, from the house to training, and all things in between!


Lisa said...

Well Trev, all the while I was bugging you to update your website, I forgot to comment on your first blog! Shame on me! Anyway, a few things to say:
1. It was fantastic to hang out with you at the conference (I'm bummed that I missed your drumming premiere!)
2. Enjoy training. That training house is nuts, and a great time!
3. Keep in touch as much as you can! We'll miss you in boring Windsor!
4. Get ready for some sweet tunes on your guitar when you get back, performed by yours truly.:)

Talk to you soon!

Jen said...

Hey Zambian Trevor,
It was great to see you post on your conference experience!! Which I agree.. lots of learning and great times jammed into a few days!! I can't wait to hear how training in Toronto is going! ewb/results is certainly not going to be the same without you!!!! But I am can't wait to continue to hear from you on this incredible journey you have began!!!
PS: I think you should know the fact that I came downstairs in my pjs just shows how much you are going to be missed!! ;) I will send over some great pics soon!

Paul Jackson said...

Hey Zambia man.

Cool hearing what you are up to. Love the bongo pictures. Keep banging buddy.

Love from