It is Friday afternoon here in Gaborone and I have left the office early today. When I arrived home I checked the temperatures with Jetske – on the front stoop it is 40 degrees; at the pool it is 44 degrees!
I am not hitting the swimming pool again today for a couple of reasons. One, I am heading out for the evening soon and because of the heat it just isn’t worth struggling into the swimsuit, swimming in a hot pool and showering again. Two, I have been told all day that the outfit I am wearing makes me look like a young woman! there is no way I am taking it off! 🙂
Today was an interesting day at the office, in fact it has been an interesting week. As many of you know I have come to Botswana to provide capacity building for HIV and AIDS Service providers. It is a huge task and one that I am not expected to tackle alone. And I have really learned to take my wins where I can get them.
Yesterday when I returned to my office after being out all morning, I was rather sorry that I had returned. In fact, I was tempted to call Tabuche to come get me by 1:00 pm. The source of my anguish, the Bonaso office. I am sure that I stated before that this organization and office really are rebuilding from scratch. My role is to build capacity and my title is Organizational Development Advisor.
This week I have had several moments that caused me to doubt my organizational abilities! But on the other hand, I have received proof that all is not in vain. I have been here four months. Some days it feels so much longer. Yesterday was one of those days. You see, the office still does not telephones, our IT and other infrastructure is shaky at best, we can’t accomplish even basic office functions without some kind of crisis in which everyone comes to me to figure it out! So in those moments I feel like a complete failure. How can I build capacity in HIV and AIDS service providers and train in advocacy when I can’t even get an office up and running?
When I returned to the office yesterday it was to the crisis situation of a printer/photocopier not working and the appearance of no one wanting to take the initiative to get it fixed. The office has only the one printer/photocopier so without it we basically can’t accomplish anything. After getting pieces of the story from two of the office staff, I responded to a text message from Oscar with what can only be described as despair. He was in a painful meeting and I made his pain worse but asking him to see if we could get the funds from our funding source to fix the photocopier. Fortunately, he was already on the case and that is what kept me from calling Tabuche to come get me!
As I prepared today to be out of the office for the next week, everyone expressed how much they are going to miss me. They view me as the glue that is currently keeping the office together. That is a huge responsibility and I often feel that I am not living up to the task. I am also concerned that if I was doing my job properly they would be able to handle these situations on their own. Perhaps they can but they just trust me to solve anything that comes up. So I am hoping that this coming week will give them the opportunity to stand on their own two feet without relying on me. Then I will know that I at least accomplished some capacity building.
On the positive side I have accomplished the main objective that I had set when I started out on this journey. That was to empower at least one woman to have a better life. I am in the process of doing just that. Sadie, is our office cleaning woman. She is smart, resourceful, has fantastic instincts and makes less than 800 Pulas a month (that is less $100 Canadian Dollars) on which she supports herself and a young son. Because she is such a hard worker she is finished her cleaning tasks by no later than 9 am every morning.
I had observed over the past couple of months that she was quick to greet visitors when there was no one else to do so. She happily sat at the reception desk when our admin assistant was out of the office. You could tell that she was aspiring to a better living for her and her son. So as a capacity builder I am helping her. In fact, I have secured the support of everyone in the office. In December we taught her how to use a computer. She had never had access to one before. I told her that when she finished her cleaning duties that she could change out of her uniform and remain at the reception desk.
She now spends most of the day acting as a our receptionist. She prepares the infamous tea tray when Oscar and I are holding meetings with visitors in our board room. And a couple of weeks ago I found an online course for her to complete that provides the basis training for a receptionist. The deal was that during her and my lunch hour ( I am always working through lunch while everyone but Sadie is out) she could work on the assignments and I would grade them. By the way, Mr. Wedge, can you please send me some of your gold stars!
She completed all of the assignments in record time and with straight A+ grades. She is a natural for this type of position. On Monday, I found an on-line typing course for her. Today, when I sat with her I was amazed by the progress that she is making. She was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be in the office next week. So I came up with a list of things for her to do while I was gone. I am confident that in another month or two she will be ready with both the skills and the letter of reference from Oscar and I to find a position as a receptionist. Hopefully, we can pull a miracle out of a hat to find funding to officially employ her ourselves. If we can’t, then I will help her find a new position as sad as we will be to lose her.
Today, she told me what a difference that I have made in her life and future. She never would of had this opportunity if I hadn’t been at Bonaso. So while I question my abilities to get a functional office up and running with no money in a foreign continent, I do know that by simply focussing on one person at a time in the midst of chaos, change can happen.