As a lifelong local community volunteer who, on a regular basis, facilitates groups as part of the ‘day’ job, I was delighted to be offered a place on the Spring 2019 UCDVO Skills in Development Education Course. I looked forward to the programme, albeit with some trepidation, having had no overseas volunteering experience. However, from the very first session, an atmosphere of welcome and trust, which continued throughout, was established by Comhlámh
Global concerns, by their nature, are both dark and challenging, but my overwhelming memory is the joy of working with such a great bunch of young people. Over nine consecutive weeks, we worked with a range of facilitators from the world of theatre, social presencing and social justice who, in different ways, created space for us to diagnose issues and explore change. I enjoy theoretical arguments and research, and being introduced to new topics such as Social Cartography was both fascinating and informative as each session was backed-up by relevant theoretical and practical resources emailed promptly the following day.
Where the course really surprised me was the use of drama and play in development education. The learning was largely experiential and some very powerful tools were used to ensure that we ‘embodied’ our experiences. I use the term embody very specifically – because though absorbed with the learning – I was (as the oldest member of the group) tested at times by the physicality of the ‘methods’ used. Sitting cross-legged in a circle had me regretting my long abandoned yoga practice!
However, the movements and ‘games’ ensured that we got to know each member of the (26 person) group equally well and was great fun. Overall this was a good tactic but challenging when we were placed in our small working groups to co-design and present a workshop on a topic of our choice set for week eight. What was incredible about this day-long event was that each group (without cross-group discussion) chose completely different topics and methodologies for delivery.
Self-reflection (through journaling) was a strong theme throughout the course. When I examine my musings – I realised that I’ve been heavily influenced by ’Ryanair Rhetoric’. Rushing to be on-time or yet better – ahead of schedule. Slowing down and allowing ‘space’ for exploration is important. One of the sessions began with five minutes of complete silence. Silence is a great teacher.
I finished the course with a sense of optimism that our future is in the hands of people committed to questioning the status quo, and finding just and compassionate solutions to social, political and economic issues both here and abroad….. and thanks to UCDVO and Comhlamh – I’ve gone back to Yoga !
Ger Lardner, Career & Skills Consultant (for PhDs)