Being A Team Leader | VSO

Being A Team Leader | VSO

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Experience of being a Team Leader with VSO in Ghana

Context:

For 8 months I volunteered in Ghana with VSO as a Team Leader. I was posted in the Eastern region in Asamankese under the livelihoods project; working alongside a local NGO called FLOWER. The main aim of the project was to give the local communities access and training to alternate livelihoods that they could support themselves with.

Most of the community members were unemployed, high school dropouts or illiterate so the skills training by volunteers and FLOWER provided had to be simple, practical and realistic for them to put into practice. The livelihoods project had been running since September 2015 and I was on cycles 3&4. Cycle 1&2 taught skills like tie-dye, sandal decorating, liquid soap and beaded handiwork as well as some bookkeeping and marketing skills. Cycle 3&4 continued with beaded work, soap production and introduced new skills like hair pomade, animal rearing and fruit juice making. They also continued with developing branding and marketing skills.

All of these sessions and skills training combined aim was to make sure the communities have different options and are well equipped to manage their own businesses in the future.

Whilst Livelihoods was the main focus for the program the volunteers also run local reading clubs with the schools, help with infrastructure development – repairing boreholes, renovating clinics and cementing school floors, undertake personal projects and if you are pro-active you can also take on personal projects if you can fit it around your schedule.

A few of the success stories are featured on the VSO website, which you can read here

My experience of being a Team Leader:

“I’ll start by saying my overall experience and time in Ghana was incredible and I was able to gain so much from it. From management, interpersonal skills, community entry, networking and cross-cultural working these were just some of the skills I was able to gain from the role. It really is amazing to see a group of individuals from different backgrounds come together and help a community as well as develop themselves.

I felt like there were times where I was being held back a little from being more decisive as a leader; as the essence of the program is that it is ‘volunteer led’. This meant that I could not play a key role in the individual teams decisions and this was a big challenge for me as I had always been at the forefront of the work from the volunteering experiences I have had; I had to learn to be more in the background and let the volunteers ‘learn’.

It was a different approach of leadership to what I had first thought but I was able to learn a new style. To some extent you are allowed to be a part of the work by supporting, guiding and facilitating (I have never heard this word as many times as I did throughout my VSO experience – being a facilitator is a major part of the program) but you have to remember not to take over the volunteer’s work and just be prepared if someone needs anything.

From management, interpersonal skills, community entry, networking and cross-cultural working these were just some of the skills I was able to gain from the role

A lot of my experience was made up by making sure the team was healthy and able to work – whilst not getting sick myself – or if you do then putting it to the side. As much as everyones health is important, as the leader you have to prioritise the team, no matter what anyone said I felt pressure to remain at 100% for the team – even if the pressure was just from myself.

However, as far as an experience, it really was one of the best I have had. You get to completely immerse yourself in a different culture, live with a host family, taste the local foods, learn the language and interact with real people as well as manage different people, emotions and workloads. You also get to make great bonds and relationships with your volunteers and community members which helps you manage the ‘high demand’ days.

Teaching the kids useful stuff like animal sounds 👌#ttot #travels #travelblog #positivevibes #ghana #africa #volunteer #VSO #VSOICS

A photo posted by Jack ✈️🌎👌 (@travelling_jackg) on

Be prepared for anything. You’ll plan your days with your counterpart in the evenings and the next morning receive texts from sick volunteers, annoyed teammates and hear from just about every community member before lunch. You could be on your way to visit a head teacher of a school and then have to completely do a u-turn because there is a volunteer who thinks they have malaria 20 mins away and needs to go to the hospital asap. I could be invited to a meeting with a chief and before I even get there have to be in a different community because a host home needs to discuss an issue. It really is a juggling act but I loved the variety and challenge that came with it.

So I’d finish by saying prepare yourself for an incredibly dynamic role and to be tested – which I guess if your signing up to do this – you are going in with the forethought of ‘challenging yourself’….or at least you should be.

Prepare to be a leader, volunteer, friend, family member, supporter, networker, confidant, councillor, hospital chaperone and local celebrity – every role comes with its pros and cons.

Be ready for sick volunteers, tears, persuading people to stay, arguments, cultural differences and volunteers adjusting to everything (adjusting to everything yourself).

BUT

also expect welcoming friendly people, big highs, great people, diversity, talented volunteers, amazing culture, interesting foods, beautiful scenery and at the end of it all being so proud of your team (a little bit of yourself) for making it through, but more importantly making an impact on the community, each other and you.”

What VSO say:

How it works

Depending on the placement, you will spend four months living in one of the following countries:

  • Bangladesh
  • Cambodia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Nepal
  • Nigeria
  • Tanzania
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

ICS is funded by the UK Government, meaning all costs are covered including flights, visas, accommodation, food etc, and you will receive an allowance during your time on placement.

As with all ICS volunteer placements we will ask you to do some fundraising before you go overseas.

All volunteers have a target of at least £800, but you don’t have to start any fundraising until you are definitely accepted onto the programme and we will offer you 1:1 fundraising support.

No one is excluded from ICS for financial reasons.

You will receive training prior to going overseas, as well once you arrive in country, and once you return to the UK.

Requirements

Team Leaders must be aged between 23 and 35.

You need to have experience – either voluntary or professional – in leading and motivating young people, along with organisational and communications skills.

You need to be able to support young people both individually and as a team, and gain the respect and trust of others through leading by example.

You will also need experience in some of these areas:

  • Co-ordinating a project or initiative
  • Coping with change
  • Empowering and motivating team members
  • Managing a variety of projects in a varied environment
  • Understanding of volunteering
  • Living/working/volunteering in a cross-cultural environment
  • Committed to VSO for a minimum of four months

If you want to do something worthwhile whilst also developing yourself then apply to be a team leader today!

You can read more about my Life in Asamankese as a Leader here

Also check out what Ghana meant to me after being there for so long…

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A Very Merry Ghanaian Christmas #BloggerBoxAppeal

A Very Merry Ghanaian Christmas #BloggerBoxAppeal

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BloggerBoxAppeal

I’ve teamed up with my good friend Lauren, otherwise known as Blonde Vision in the blogging world, to spread some festive cheer this Christmas. I am currently based as a Team Leader in Ghana – more specifically the community of Afranse. Our plan is to give out gift boxes to the children of the local school filled with gifts like toiletries, stationary and books in the form of the BloggerBoxAppeal !

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Photo Credit: Thomas Dodd Cycle 3 Asamankese VSO volunteer

Lauren is a lifestyle and events blogger with a passion for charity work; I have dedicated a lot of my time to volunteering projects and inspiring wanderlust via my own travel blog. Together we have pulled our resources together to create the #BloggerBoxAppeal that aims to provide Christmas present boxes to the kids, which will contain gifts that bloggers from all over the UK donate. We have created a crowdfunding page to try and help fund the postage costs involved in sending the boxes over; whilst any left-over funds will go towards buying more stocking fillers to give to the kids this Christmas!

Lauren’s expertise in events has led to the creation of a #BloggerBoxAppeal event where bloggers can come along to donate and package the presents up ready to send. She is an avid vlogger and will be filming the whole thing, once the boxes reach me in Ghana I’ll be filming the reactions this end.

There’s no better way to help spread a little festive spirit this year than helping those who are less privileged than ourselves. There’s numerous ways you can get involved from attending the event, donating, sharing or supporting the #BloggerBoxAppeal

If you’d like to donate then head over here

If you’d like to keep up to date with the #BloggerBoxAppeal event Go follow LDNMeetup

If you want to read more about my time in Ghana so far then check out my latest post about the past cycle, my experience as a Team Leader and Ghanaian life-style.

Thank you once again for all the incredible support and generous donations we have received so far! I know the kids will love it!

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Photo Credit: @jaycornejo Jaidee Cornejo Cycle 3 Asamankese volunteer

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Travel Update – What Plane Are You On Now?

Travel Update – What Plane Are You On Now?

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Hello & Namaste!

A quick travel update to let you know what I’m doing, where I am and what’s next! I have just finished the first part of my travelling plans for 2016 with Nepal and India. Can’t believe I can add these to my travel history!

NEPAL

I re-visited my Nepali family & village which was an incredible trip being able to head back again to see them all. Most importantly it was good to see how relief efforts are going and to deliver the sponsored fundraising money! The homes are looking good and should be finished within a few months so they will be able to move out of the tarpaulin tents and back into their home.

For everyones continued support and donations – a BIG warm thank you from me & the children of Bhakatpaur Orphan Home. This is what we can achieve when we work together! I had such a great time with them all in Nepal and there will be more detailed blog posts coming up as well a few new projects I’m working on, so stay tuned!

INDIA

India is hard to sum up in one word. Unreal. Crazy. Beautiful. Chaotic. Awesome. It was everything I wanted from a trip to India and more. I met so many amazing people, experienced such diverse places and got a real taste of the culture. Although my time was short I managed to cram in so much and again I will be writing up some more detailed posts on my trip, along with reviews and some pretty epic photos! For now enjoy some of these…

GHANA

As you may know I am volunteering with VSO at the end of May in Ghana. I’m back in the UK for a few days to sort some things out for visas & work permits. However I am flying to Portugal for a week to soak up some sunshine & do some exploring! I’ll then come back for a Team Leader training weekend where I’ll find more out about my projects & meet some of my team hopefully!

You can still donate to my fundraising page and anything is very much appreciated – you’ll also be able to see the projects your money is going towards too!

https://www.justgiving.com/Jack-Gunns1

That’ll bring me to the beginning of May – where I have 3 weeks before I depart for my VSO program. I currently have some travel plans being arranged for that time and I’ll update as soon as I get confirmation, which is very exciting!

I also wanted to take a moment to just consider everything. I feel super grateful that I am able to have these experiences – I have created a lot of them for myself with dedication, handwork & persistence. But it just shows how you can completely change your lifestyle if you truly want to. This time last year I was in an office not enjoying it all, I took the steps to change that.

“If you want something badly enough. You’ll make it a priority.”

Stop dreaming and start doing.

Keep up to date by following my social channels,

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How To Get The Most Out Of A Volunteering Trip

How To Get The Most Out Of A Volunteering Trip

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Hello and welcome to 2016! I love the new year as its a chance to make a fresh start and plan loads of new stuff! There is a lot coming up this year in this blog so stay tuned for more adventures and travel stories. For now here’s my Top Tips on ‘How To Get The Most Out Of A Volunteering Trip!’ Why not do something great this year and give something back, Enjoy!

Volunteering is one of the best ways you can get the opportunity to interact with locals and help make a positive impact on your travels. Once you’ve got your destination and project it’s time to get prepared for your life changing trip! If you haven’t chosen yet then read my review of my experience with IVHQ for some inspiration! I’ll give my advice on how best to prepare for it and what to expect to gain from embarking on a volunteering project.

Pre-Departure

  1. Before you go research. Research everything you can find through blog posts, articles, videos and reviews of the place your staying at and what it has to offer along with all the possible problem areas to look out for.
  2. Get your visas sorted! It’s something that is often overlooked in the planning process but it is a vital part to be able to enter the country: find out where you need one for, for how long, the price, how long it takes to get approved approx. before you go, wether you’ll need to renew it if your staying longer than the ‘normal’ amount of time ( for example visas for Australia are free to apply for online as a tourist for up to a month, after that you’ll need to renew it or get a different visa category) 
  3. Check what/if you need vaccinations for the place your staying at, a great resource is fitfortravel also make an appointment to see your local travel nurse to make sure your covered.
  4. Collect all contact numbers for in country support and out of country support. i.e. support officer, government, host-family, immigration office, airport, taxis, family. 
  5. Get your travel insurance sorted. I would definitely recommend getting some cover especially if your heading to more rural, high risk areas. Also if your planning on taking valuables such as cameras/laptops then get them covered just in case! 
  6. Try and find out if the host-family/project your involved need any resources that you could take out with you to help. 
  7. Look into setting up a fundraising page for your trip – also look at doing some sponsored races, events or collections to help raise some money for your chosen project. I use www.gofundme.com 
  8. Make at least 4 copies of all your documents (passport, money cards, project info, visas, vaccinations, contacts, travel insurance) Give a copy to someone at home, keep one copy in your bag, give another copy to a program coordinator if you have one. This is a great way to make sure you always have someone with a back up of all your important info if anything happens. Its also a good idea to create a new folder in your email account and store all this digitally as well so you can access it via a computer if needs be or you need to email a document. 
  9. Change a small amount ( enough for a couple of nights stay in a hotel/food) into the destinations currency just in case your unable to get your money travel card up and running straight away – tip. check this works before you even leave for the airport in an atm in your own country so you can check everything in order. 
  10. Give your parents/guradian a list of all possible numbers/ emails they may need whilst your away or in case of emergency 
  11. Check social media for any links to your chosen project and see if there is anyway you can make contact with any other volunteers before you go. It’ll help you introduce yourself before you have even left and probably calm your nerves or get you more excited about your chosen project! Social media is such a powerful tool these days which you can take full advantage of before you trip! 
  12. Find out the basic phrases and vocabulary in the local language ( hello, goodbye, please, thank you) before you go to give yourself a head start in greeting and interacting with locals – tip learning the numbers 1-10 is also quite useful!! 

Now all the important stuff is planned and sorted, you can focus on packing!

13. Pack what clothes you want to take. Now unpack it and take half of them out, you won’t need that much! If you get stuck whilst your out there, you can usually pick up a few new t-shirts cheap or just hand wash them!

14. Include practical items such as a hand torch, head torch, batteries, swiss army knife (multitool), plastic bags, padlocks, universal plug adapter.tip take a throw away camera, no need for charging and great fun as a surprise to wait and see what the snaps look like when you come back!

15. Pack some medication i.e. paracetamol, ibuprofen, dehydration tablets, water-purifying tablets, insect repellent.

Once you bag is packed your ready to take to the airport!

Fast-forward the nervous, excited and sleepless flight to your volunteering project.

It’s overwhelming, especially if this is your first experience abroad or in a developing country. Just remember your here for a short amount of time and you will be heading home so make the most of the time you have. Take in as much as possible from the sights, smells, people, lifestyle, language and culture. Be open and accepting that you’re in a different country with different values/views to your own. They may not be what you are used but be respectful and embrace it.

Be Open

Be Respectful

Throw Yourself Into It!

Enjoy your experience of a lifetime and thanks to your well planned pre-departure you know everything is in place, so your able to just enjoy it and help out! Make sure you write down and take loads of photographs to remember your trip by!

Lastly my biggest tip for getting the most out of your volunteering experience or any experience is to just open yourself to it fully. Embrace every opportunity to learn and discover something your not used to, everything that challenges you helps you to grow.

Happy travels!

If you’d like to see what A Day in the Life of a Volunteer is like or Teaching in Kenya then check out my experiences!

If you’d like to keep up with my adventures and get social;

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