Change in the air

After what feels like a very long time on the ground (counting our California trip as being on the ground), it was wheels up time again for this last week of summer.

I am in Togo where I arrived late at night after an interminably long wait in Paris for an ever delaying flight. The airport and all the planes were packed with travelers for the ‘rentree,’ the official end of the French summer.

I caught some of the stragglers of the conference last week for African rehab officials. I know a few of them through our various projects with ICRC and the wheelchair folks.

We had 28 people in our program, focused on getting teams of rehab center managers and both local and expat staff from two major ICRC programs. Their role, upon their return, is to launch a leadership and management improvement initiative in their center or country.

I knew a few from previous events.  Some had participated in the senior leadership program that we completed last year, others had participated in the English version of this same program two years ago. One young man had participated in this English program claiming he could follow a course in English – but later we found out he could not and nothing much happened after he returned. With three new colleagues and the program delivered in French, we have hopes that we can jumpstart the stalled effort.

This was the first time I was working with two co-facilitators who, like our Togolese friend, had been in the English program two years ago, as members of the other francophone team (DRC). But unlike our friend, their  English was good enough for them to run with the new ideas. They were my co-trainers this time, giving me the immense satisfaction of handing over the baton.

Running into skepticism about the practicality of what we were proposing is normal and we usually counter it with something close to ‘trust us,’ which I don’t find all that compelling. But this time, when people raised doubts and anxiety flared up, our co-facilitators were able to tell the newbies that they too had been in their place, less than two years ago, with the same anxieties and questions – and look at us now!

I have done this training of trainers three times now, twice in English and this time in French. This last one was the best – we had a fabulous team, working truly in partnership during all the sessions; we also had great participants, from Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Haïti, Burundi, DRC, Togo and Mali. They were engaged and critical, keeping us on our toes.

The days were long and there was much work before and after hours, but this never felt like a burden. When people are touched ‘dans les tripes’ as the French say (in their innards),  you can see something shift – for some it’s a small shift, for other a leap. This is what I love about my work.

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