* Saturday January 14th 2006 *
Training session in Rome
This is the story how I became a volunteer participating in United Nations World Food Programme “School Feeding”. My employer at this time had a partner agreement with UN which enabled the company to select 12 employees every year around the globe to be part of this programme. I applied to be a volunteer in the “School Feeding Project” run and managed by the UN World Food Programme in Tanzania. I was lucky to be one of the possible 12 people to be selected after a serie of tough tests ( (only 12 people in the whole world had the chance amongst totally 60.000) . Started to be off duty during Friday so I could prepare for the trip to Rome. I will attend a 5 day training at UN World Food Programme at the head office located in Rome before entering the field of Tanzania. When arriving Tanzania yet another training (studying Swahili) will take place for some days as well as to familiarize with the WFP team in Dar Es Salaam
Boarded a flight in Gothenburg via Amsterdam to Rome and arrived at noon. Taxi in Rome is expensive and you better watch out of illegal taxi’s. Tried to make a deal with one of the “official” taxi companies, but they requested 70 EUR for a trip of 25 kilometer! They did not accept my offer of 30 EUR. I was asked by an older man who was informed that I needed a taxi, we made a del of 45 EUR. I am in an older car which seams to be his private one, he seems not to know exactly the way how to get to the address I have given to him. I need to keep an eye open to find out how and where he is going and finally I am the one who finds the hotel. If I had not kept my eyes open, he had probably gone through Rome!
Nevertheless, the Hotel San Bernardo is located in a park, but not in the central part of Rome.
It is very cold when arriving, much colder than normal and I am freezing. I am only dressed for travelling to Tanzania. After my check-in, I find some other volunteers sitting in the bar area, who had flown in from Australia after a 28 hours travelling, Andrew & Lisa, genuine Aussies…
Sietske from the Netherlands showed up and we are having a small talk over some glasses of wine before it is time to go to bed.
* Sunday January 15th 2006*
Woke up early in the morning after nearly freezing my ass off during the night, the hotel are freezing cold, they had no heating activated, unbelievable! At the breakfast I meet some other volunteers, besides Andrew & Lisa from Australia (who are volunteering for Cambodia), Sietske, Johan & Linda from the Netherlands (volunteering for Malawi) plus Peter from Belgium (also to Malawi). Elisandra & Jaime from Spain (volunteering for Nicaragua) arrives.
We are having a small talk to get knowing each other over the breakfast and then we take a ride downtown using the metro. We are taking a walk from the Spanish Stairs and then to Via Condotti where all the ”expensive” shops are located, brands as, Gucci, Pierre Cardin, and all the others. It is nearly expensive even to look at the stuff through the window. After a while we arrives to Fontana di Trevi, the fountain where Anita Ekberg once took a bath, we did not as it was so damn cold plus that we were accompanied by ”carabinieris”.
Finally we arrive to Colloseum and here are as usual a lot of tourists, who have dressed up like the old ”Gladiators”and they offer you to be photographed at the cost of 5 EUR. It is nice to be back in Rome as it was approx 25 years ago since last time, and nothing has really changed in the downton of Rome.
We are going back to the hotel for lunch and more volunteers arrives. Melanie & Frank from Germany (volunteering for Gambia) and Janet from UK, who will be my partner in Tanzania for the next 3 months.
After lunch, we are welcomed by Christel (ex volunteer in Gambia), Jane and Derry, who are working with the World Food Programme here in Rome.
Sunday evening, we are invited to a guiding of Rome, and our guide is a very
pleasant guide named Carla. She is telling us everything about Rome with big passion, and after a while we are at Colloseum, Foro Romano and Piazza Venezia. We are taken to a small and cozy winebar to have some snacks and good wine. After an hour at the winebar we arrive to a part of Rome called Travestere. This is the area where the romans go for a good dinner. Good food and wine are being served and everybody seems to be satisfied and happy.
The night is getting late and we are going back to the hotel with a chartered bus so we can be fresh and prepared for the 1st day of training and preparation before arriving to our destination countries around the globe.
* Monday January 16th 2006 *
Time for the education sessions to start at Casa San Bernardo, where we are staying for 5 days before catching a flight departing from Rome to Addis Abbaba in Ethiopia and then connect to another flight to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.
After the ordinary (and as usual at most hotels, boring) breakfast, we are being welcomed by Derry, Christel & Jane from the World Food Programme. All of us 12 volunteers was asked to express our expectation of the coming
days and what to expect during the time of volunteering in the destination country. Quite interesting to learn how different expectations can look like.
Ludo Ulrich, the Director of Move The World Organization within TNT held a session and talked about the partnership between TNT & WFP and the Objectives of the programme. Also what roles we have when acting as
Several people are joining during the day and informs about present HIV/Aids situation in each country and what‘s been done and to be done, also informing about the nutrition programme. In the following days we will also be informed / trained regarding the cultural differencies and how to act and perform to avoid un-neccessary security issues.
At last we receive the Laptop, camera, mosquito net and not to forget, the emergency medical kit which includes sterilized needles, bandages, etc. to be used if needed (which I actually needed later on…)!
This evening we had the opportunity to visit a nice little restaurant, named Santa Benedetta, located between Frascati and Monte Porzio Catone in the surroundings of Rome. This “cantina and winery” is well-known for it’s wine being the oldest Castelli Romani winery) If you ever are in the neighbourhood, don’t miss this place but it is only open upon reservation.
We learned how make real Italian pasta without using machinery, just by using locally produced flower, wine and other ingredients needed. There we were, 14 happy volunteers being instructed by a genuine Italian “mama”. She was walking around the table to check the results and when she came to some of us, she tested the pasta and suddenly she slapped our face with her hands full of flower, smiling and saying, bravissimo… Imaging how we looked like…
The Pasta making was a great success and the pasta was taken to the kitchen to be cooked and after a while we all sat around the tables eating our pasta and drinking very good tasting wine to our meal. All of us really appreciated the “course in pasta making”. So, why buying readymade pasta when it is easy to it by yourself?
* Tuesday January 17th 2006 *
Another day full of information, today we will have security training which is important when being out in the field. We were informed about the UN Security Management System, Personal & Family Security, Personal Healthcare, HIV/Aids, Communications and Travel Security & Driving
Security. Also how to handle stress when being out there. Especially as we also where informed about how to act in such situations as Arrest, Detention or Hostage Taking. Also very important was Emergency Preparedness if an evacuation should take place. Did you know that during the years, there has been 95 casualties amongst the personnel working for organizations providing humanitarian assistance, 28 of those were working within the World Food Programme. Actually I was informed during tests prior being accepted as volunteer, that without having passed the “Basic Security In The Field – Staff Safety, Health, and Welfare” you will NOT be allowed to visit any refugee camp around the Globe. Therefore Janet and I both secured to perform and pass this test as we as one of the goals being volunteer, also aimed to visit refugee camps.
This evening we had dinner at the hotel as a former volunteer was visiting us to tell her story of what’s all about volunteering in a country far away from home. She gave us many stories from The Gambia, some good and some sad. While she told us her stories it was quite obvious that she sometimes was touch by heart. But she was really happy to have had the opportunity to
make a personal contribution like this.
* Wednesday January 18th 2006 *
Soon we will travel to our destinations countries (at midnight Friday) so now was the time to meet people who could talk about cross-cultural communications and to meet previous volunteers from the contries we are going to.
Pamela Shao a warm, happy woman with a lot of humour which was shown during her presentation, especially the example of how would “hell” look like if these people “ruled down there” 🙂
A most interesting day, I talked to Pamela Shao who gave us very nice information about the country in whole. She was very happy to meet us and said that Dodoma where we are going to is the home of the tribe Gogos and are one of the regions which are suffering hard due to the poverty. Dodoma is very hot, humid and dusty this time of the year, but she thinks we will enjoy our stay anyhow. She was also talking about Mbwabwa which we also are going to which are located south of Dodoma. Singida, located north of Dodoma is another place we are going to. She also recommended us to visit the Masai’s, the Ngorongoro crater as well as Serengeti. Both Janet and I think this is a good idea to do as the opportunity surely not will come once again. In the afternoon we are visited by a storytelling pro and this was both fun and serious practices we had. We learned about our Storytelling role, what they need from us and how they use the material. We learned a lot of what’s make a story worth telling including it’s photos. NOTE! This was a very important part for us as we are expected to share our work after returning back home enabling us to raise awareness and hopefully also some funds.
The evening was free so we volunteers made up our own event. We went to a nice local pizzeria nearby, and wow, it’s a big difference between the pizzas at home compared to the ones you get here. We had extremely fun and all of us volunteers seems to be real personalities and I am really happy that Janet has a great sense of humors as this surely will be an asset when out in the field, tackling the poverty and other sad things. I am taking a huge amount of photos and the volunteer’s sees me as a photo terrorist, but I the other hand, I have some good and funny pictures due this behavior.
Had a presentation of a “movie” I made late last night, by using the Windows Movie Maker programme. The Movie was called “Team 9” with lots of good and funny pictures of us volunteer’s, nice transitions and good music. We laughed a lot and had a good time, which I think is needed before facing the other side of life where people living in poverty, refugee camps and other sad and unlucky situations.
* Thursday 19th 2006 *
Today is the day when working inside the WFP HQ building…
Today we also received the stuff we ordered earlier from the WFP gift shop, I myself bought a real nice west, cap and a really big Swiss army knife to good prices. We visited the “crisis” room where the management meets when big crises as the Tsunami or the earthquake took place in Pakistan. From here they have contact online through phone, video and other styles with all their offices around the world. They also try to foresee upcoming events which might cause a crises, such as Government elections in certain states or if a country looks bad looking at the nature.
This is the last evening together with the people from WFP HQ and a “farewell dinner” took place in a restaurant located at Via Appia Antica, Rome. We were picked up by a bus who will take us to the place. We are immediately taken down to the wine cellar which had an enormous variety of wines. A waiter served us a nice glass of wine and we also got a piece of good cheese. Enormously tasty, the cheese matched the wine as hand-in-glove. A three course dinner was served accompanied with white & red wines. Everybody enjoyed the excellent food and wine,everybody is laughing a lot and really having a good time, histories are being told followed by more laughs.
The WFP assistants held a speech and wished Team 9 a successful time at the destinations countries. Andrew from Australia held a speech as well on behalf of all volunteers and said that everything was well organized and that such week as the last was one of the absolutely the best ever had.
When on the bus again which were to take us back to the hotel, it was time for singing, using the microphone. The Aussie team performed well, but the
absolute winner was Jamie within the Nicaragua team who entertained us all by singing The Macarena. Oh what a night, you might think that this was all, wrong! Back in the reception we ordered some more wine and had a couple of hours laughing hysterically.
* Friday January 20th 2006 *
Today we have free time until our flights leave, we in the Tanzania team (me & Janet) are leaving together with the Malawi team this midnight on the same flight to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, and then we will be transferred to various flights. Myself and Janet, will catch a flight via Kilimanjaro to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.
As we have the whole day off, all volunteers will go down town doing some shopping and sightseeing. Everybody went to the Vatican State and visited the Vatican museum and the Sixtin Chapel. But one sad thing happened during the journey by the Metro, one of the girls going to Malawi was pick pocked and lost the wallet with 2 credit cards and 80 Euros. The credit card was blocked within 5 minutes and our volunteer insurance company will cover the loss. Overwhelming, how many old treasures the Vatican State are holding, also the Chapel is enormous with all its fantastic paintings, carpets, statues, etc. The one who got lost in the building was me… lots of people were inside and it was hard to keep the group tight, or I should say that myself was not tight enough. After a while Janet gave me a call and asked where I where as they were looking for me, what a great team.
Together again we had some lunch and a beer before doing further walk down town. Some of us looked for an Internet café as we liked to check our e-mails and update the blogs.
Whe returned back to our hotel as we needed to re-pack and organize our goodbye. I left/stored some shorts, t-shirts, a sweater, some bottles of good wines and olive oil which I bought at the place where we had the pasta making course. We all meet in the restaurant, everybody with their computers and memory stick, as I had suggested that it would be a good idea maybe, to copy the photos taken by everyone.
Time for saying goodbye is always hard when leaving such good friends and nice people which we have had the great opportunity to meet. Before entering the taxi cabs we held a hugging party and could we not see a tear in Andrew’s eyes! Bless you guy’s, I am really looking forward seeing you again in April in Rome at the de-briefing.
The last blog post was written at the airport while waiting for the flight which were delayed 40 minutes already and was expected to depart at 00.40 only. I have to think now how to begin the recording of my diary which will be broadcasted by the National Swedish Radio (Channel P1) later on in spring of 2006. The flight leaves 2 hours late…
Story to be continued from Tanzania…