Coming to Cambodia was a turning point for me. You only have to read some of my earlier blogs to know that I’d been in a period of transition for the 18 months prior and Cambodia was the culmination of that work. Or so I thought.
Sadly, the placement I came here to do has not transpired to be as inspiring and rewarding as I believed it would be and has been a source of almost continual angst over the first 3 months. In fairness, I perhaps haven’t always had the most proactive attitude towards turning things around but in my defense, knocking on a permanently closed door is really exhausting, even more so when you’re at the same time adapting to a whole new way of life.
And then I went to the Annual Volunteer Conference in Siem Reap and it all started to fall in to place.
I half volunteered, was half commandeered into running a workshop on the first day to look at the issues we are facing in the VSO Cambodia community – partly as a result of the findings of a recent volunteer opinions survey conducted by the office.
Whilst I was excited to be doing this work I was also apprehensive as, partly due to my own experiences and partly due to my at times bloody annoying ability to sense how people are feeling, I wasn’t sure I could be objective.
If someone else was in this position I would know exactly what they needed to do and would have no qualms spending the time supporting them to get on track. And so, for once in my life I decided to apply this approach to myself and I took the first piece of my own advice. I looked around my amazing community of friends for the best fit and I asked for help. And it came in the form of the wonderful Jackie Kilbane (a bloody amazing group facilitator, I am so grateful to have her as a friend and to be able to tap in to her wealth of knowledge and experience in this field – thank you so much Jackie!) who spent time with me via Skype talking me through ways of getting what VSO Cambodia needed from the session.
That Skype call was all it took to get me off my subjective bandwagon and onto my fab facilitator track that I needed.
The morning of the first day arrived and I got up early and took piece of advice number 2 – I went for a walk to clear my head, ground myself and get ready for the day ahead. I have to say, this process was made all the more joyful by being in the heart of Cambodia. It’s so wonderful to wander through the streets first thing as the sun rises along with the population. Part way along my walk I put on a guided meditation – far from being an annoyance, that ability to read people and situations was just what I needed that day and so I chose a beautiful meditation focused on opening the third eye chakra to accompany me on the remainder of my wander.
When we arrived, the venue was a riot of noise and activity as people arrived from all parts of Cambodia excited to see colleagues and friends and spend time learning and sharing together.
Piece of advice number 3, I created a space for myself within the group, but far enough away to focus and concentrate on what I needed to prepare. Cheery tunes on, flip chart paper and pens at hand I set about preparing for the session ahead and then we were off.
The conference was kicked off by our VolComm Chair, Zoe and the Country Director, Guillaume and then it was over to me. Over the next 3 hours we energised, got to know each other, worked out what our issues were and then, most importantly, discussed what we might do about them.
I loved the whole process. It’s what I was born to do. Leading, facilitating and supporting individuals and groups of people to learn and make changes feeds in to so many of my strengths – the feeding of which I know is the way to add joy to my life. We ended the session with a personal commitment to positive change in relation to our work with VSO Cambodia. I again used this as an opportunity to take my own advice and strengthen my strengths by openly sharing my skills as a way inviting more of this work into my life.
And low and behold, no sooner had I made the vow than an opportunity arose. We had time in the schedule and a desire from VolComm to do some work on feeling valued. I immediately volunteered to facilitate this with a focus on the concept of ‘positive strokes’ taken from my TA learnings.
I got so much amazing feedback from the session– people really valued the opportunity to focus on their feelings of value and worth and loved the frame of the strokes philosophy as a way of viewing the need– and unwittingly I hooked in to piece of advice number 5, ask for what you need. At that point of the day I needed a hug and I got one in that session by asking my boss for it and what’s more, I got the strokes I love to receive by putting myself out there and sharing what I know #doublewhammy.
Throughout the remainder of the conference I actively sought out opportunities to do more of the work I love and I got them (I’ll tell you more about those in later blogs as they materialise). I gave out positive strokes and I received them and I also took another piece of my own advice by being true to myself. Outside of my role as facilitator there were times when I struggled. I was tired, I was angry, I was frustrated, I was bored – you get the picture – and each time one of these feelings came up, I asked myself what I needed in that moment and I gave myself that. Sometimes, that meant walking away, sometimes it meant having the difficult conversation and at other times it meant getting over myself. Whilst being true to myself I tried to remain mindful and respectful of the company I was in at the time. I didn’t always succeed in this as it turns out I’m not perfect (I know you find that hard to believe and trust me it was a shocker for me to realise that too J!?!?!?!?!) but as I would readily tell other people in those situations where I f*cked up, I told myself that the most important thing was to learn from it, and move on and that’s what I did.
The below line from a sung mantra I found during recovery from one incident really helped in more than one instance (Yeah I know it’s not rocket science, but it’s yet another piece of my own advice that I don’t often take!)
For many reasons I have returned from the conference feeling much more positive and inspired than I was when I arrived.
Writing this blog has helped me to bottle that feeling and I am now intent on taking it forward to make sure the remainder of my time working with VSO in Cambodia is as positive as possible.
I’m going to take my own advice (and when I forget to I’m sure I can rely on St Vic to poke me with a sharp stick), strengthen my strengths by doing more of what I love and in the process making a positive contribution to people I meet out here.
If you’d like to know more about Transactional Analysis this is a good place to start.