Friday, 27 August 2010

Volunteer Conference- Day II & III


19-20 August 2010
I did the full use of swimming pool while I was in the hotel. Being based at Bongo, opportunities for swimming for me are very less and I had to make use of this opportunity to its fullest. I always went to the pool very early in the morning so that there was nobody in the pool and it was entirely for me. On the second day, the sector meetings continued up to the first half of the day and then volunteer conference started. There were explanation about the sessions planned and then there was speed dating where one was supposed to get introduced to the people of as many nationalities as they could in an hour. In the VSO community there are people of following nationalities; Ghana, UK, Netherlands, Ireland, Portugal, Gibraltar, India, Philippines, Japan, Australia, Canada, US, Uganda, and Kenya.
The theme of the conference was uniting for change. The first day involved session on working in a multicultural environment and volunteers were grouped in such a way that each group would have members of various nationalities. They were given task to present a theme involving background of various cultures and people presented dances, festivals, games of various cultures. Our group presented four small acts presenting educational issues in four countries viz. UK, India, Uganda and Philippines. As in India, we have always been taught the concept of Unity in Diversity in schools so it was not difficult to understand the multi cultural concept but still it was fun because here the canvas was that of the world and not of the country.
At this point I shall like to write about our discussions on racial differences and discrimination. It is a very delicate issue to discuss but this was being done at a number of times. I have to mention here that the volunteers here are from two different worlds, one is developed and the other is not very developed or so called developing. Developed countries of course include those of Europe, Australia and Canada and majority of the volunteers from these countries are white skinned. Remaining nationalities i.e. Africans, Indians and Filipinos are not whites and come from developing countries. Personally speaking I did not find any racial discrimination in the whole conference and logically speaking most of the volunteers have come here to get experience and contribute to the process of development so ideally any kind of discrimination on the base of race should not be there.
But yes, one major difference between volunteers from developing world and developed world was there in terms of articulation and initiative. Most of the volunteers from developing world were falling behind on those fronts. I think this has more to do with the education and the inferiority complex which is the result of remnants of memories of colonial era which we are still carrying within us. There is also another factor of money. As the developmental funds are coming from these nations it is natural for them for being proud and vocal for putting it to the right use.
Personally I felt that it has also relation with the cultural differences. Majority of the volunteers were from European culture so in a group when so few non European people are sitting, a non European can feel left out. I experience that as I came from a non western culture and further I have to take some efforts to understand the accents which are so different from Indian English, I am bound to remain silent and just hear the things till the time I understand the context properly and get used to it. It will take certain amount of time to start expressing myself. The important thing is being very much proactive on this front rather than complaining about it as being discriminated on the basis of race. I have to make special mention here that many of the volunteers from developed world were very sensitive and made special efforts that everybody gets to contribute to the conference equally. But some were not so sensitive about it and just pushed themselves. I think I have written about this issue in detail but I had to do it as I heard about it and engaged myself on this issue during the conference for great length of time.
The third day involved the sessions conducted with Open Space Technology. The volunteers were told to work on issues or problems which they felt important and anybody could join anybody to discuss on those problems and issues. They were supposed to come up with the solutions and recommendations for them as well. It was an interesting methodology of learning and working together voluntarily with responsibility and respect for freedom is its essence.
The night was again fun with the programme of Ashanti Dance Troupe. They presented a number of folk dances from Ashanti and Volta region of Ghana. The dances were really graceful. They also gave some lessons in dancing but there were too many people on the floor and only four people teaching so I felt that there was just chaos and nobody could really learn the dance steps. The steps of the dance are very complex and the movements of the hands also have some meanings. The drum beats were so powerful that I think nobody in the whole of hall would have left without at least moving his feet in their rhythms.
After the dance troupe was gone, it was our turn. We tried some Ugandan dance and then we taught the game Indian game of Phugadi to some people. But after seeing the condition of some people after playing it very few people came forward for it.
After their performance there was musical night of the volunteers. Anthony had brought his guitar with him and they sung many English songs. Of course all the songs and the way of singing them was new for me as I had never heard neither the songs nor the way they were sung. On the public demand I had to sing my Marathi song again and everybody enjoyed it. Some people went to the night club late in the night after finishing this musical gathering. I wanted to go with them to see what does night club has and some were inviting me to join them. As I had woke up very early in the morning and with exercises, swimming and all the activities through out day and dancing and singing in the tail end of the day had made me very tired. I had to say no to them and just went to bed.
Group Discussion, besides the pool. Really Cool!

Opening Ceremony of the Volunteer Conference

Graceful Asante Dance

Maharashtrian Phugadi, Ghanaian Land, Australian Player. It's truly global.