Monday 23rd March
Gulnara and I found the Rainbow Centre after being sent to Raindrops Nursery by our host home. Luckily they have GX volunteers there and knew what we were on about so one of the staff gave us a lift. Once there we were presented with bus timetables, which cover the whole of Essex, look like a phone directory, and are impossible to work out! We talked about living with host homes. About why GX uses host homes, the host homes feelings and motives and our experiences so far. Most importantly for me, as I hadn't thought of doing it, we were reminded to keep in touch with our host homes during the second stage of the programme and once it has finished. This session was followed by a health and safety talk by a token police officer, the jist of which was 'don't fight, don't take drugs and avoid hoddies'. Next we looked at global issues like poverty, inequality, education etc. and the links between them. We were given votes as members of a pretend UN on where to allocate resources. We all took a very individual approach to voting, accepting our unequal share of the votes. With just 2 I assumed I was Luxemberg or somewhere. Then we discussed development. What we can and can not expect to achieve in our time in the community and that development is a process. Often a frustrating one. Reminded me of my essays on consolidated democracies in Eastern Europe. Perhaps development is not a process with a end point but a continuous process of improvement. Quote 'we are catalysts in the community'. To finish the day we held a reception in Boshops Stortford for the host homes, volunteer placements and BAA communities trust (the sponsors). We mingled, ate a pretty good spread of food and gave a brief presentation about GX. This was followed by a bit of debate about whether we should go out but as it was one of the first nights with the host homes alot of people felt it would be very rude, as did I, and we went home. We argeed to go out as a group tomorrow instead. After dinner Gulnara and I sat in the living room and had a chat whilst sharing photos we had brought of our friends and family. Mine are a bit random, a few of me as a baby and a toddler, mostly with the horses, then a couple at school, followed by loads from uni! I've been writting a few first impressions of people, which I won't post here. It will be intresting to see if I was right by the end of six months.
Tuesday 24th March
Today we began by discussing our opportunities for learning on the programme. Learning through experience and how the Global Citizenship Framework (a learning framework, drawn up by GX and Oxfam around which Global Citizenship Days are structured and our learning can be rationalised) can be used to articulate our learning through new skills, kowledge and attitudes. We then discussed what a global citizen is. Our group definied a global citizenship as 'bring people across the world together in a community sensitive to diversity with an awareness of global issues and the desire/action to tackle them'. GX defines a global citizen as 'individuals who learn from the experience of others around the world, have an awareness of issues facing all countries, and put that learning into action.' Then we had to think about what we have done towards being a global citizen. My immediate answer as not alot. I've studies politics, occassionally read the newspaper, have started to do more for the environment by recycling and turning off lights, volunteered for support services at uni (though thats not really linked to global issues) and joined GX!!Next we spoke about volunteering in the UK. We identified both positive and negative perceptions of volunteering in the UK. On the negative side we had the notions of do gooders and CV builders. That volunteering is a waste of time and tax payers money, that one person will not change anything. On the positive side we had the idea that volunteers are brave, unsung heroes and selfless. We perceived a class difference both in terms of who volunteers and perceptions of volunteering, but that was massive generalisation. Our team, for example, doesn't fit that stereotype. We also discussed how volunteering in the UK is very structured and formal. Being run through organisations. The more informal, unstructured types of volunteering such as visting a sick neighbour is hidden and not generally thought of as volunteering. Finally we discussed potential problems in our volunteer placements and how to solve them. The jist was basically just to put more effort in and use our intitative. After training we decided to go into town so the Kazakhs could get sim cards. There was much debate about which would be the cheapest but somehow an agreement was reached on Orange and we flooded into the shop. I went off with Ali the programme supervisor to look for a place to purchase international call cards. We were directed to a fast food shop selling chicken and chips which in no way advertised call cards and wouldn't give a receipt. It was all very doddgy! Once everyone was sorted we headed to Bishops Stortford with the intention of going bowling. However at £4.95 for one game and £9.50 for two it was a little outside the budget of a group livign on £15 a week each. We then wanted to go to a pub but not everyone had their ID and obviously the barman asked for them. Then we were going to go to a coffee shop but they were all closed. By the time the team had decided on taking up their last avaiable option of going to McDonalds Gulnara said she was tried and hungry so we went home instead. GX is already proving harder than I had imagened.
Wednesday 25th March
Today was better and easier than yesterday. We met at the Harlow museum where we had a talk by Ron,who was involved in the original planning of the town, and had our picture taken for the Harlow Star. I finally got a picture of the whole group after persuading the photographer to take it for me. Ron's talk was reallt interesting. The vision for Harlow ws amazing , a town built to serve every need of the community. He read a quote from a book writen by someone born in Harlow. It went something like this. 'They built a town around me. When I was born they built me a house. When I was sick they built me a hospital. they built me a pavement so I could be pushed in my pram to the local shops...' For a time Harlow was prosperous, nicknamed 'pram town' by the media it was a centre of the post war baby boom. I have developed a certain affection for Harlow and I find it sad that today 'there is not really any reason to go there'. As a gift Ron gave us all a hard back book on Harlow. A lovely present but not practical in terms of the weight of my baggage when flying to Kazakhstan. If we don't agreed to go home for a weekend I may have to arrange a secret drop off with mother. We had a quick look around the museum where I took a picture of a Victorian mourning cape that I hope to sew a replica of when I get home and was struck by an embroided postcard sent from France during the first world war. We left the museum and after some hassle ate out packed lunches in the Bhs cafe. We somehow ended up talking about women eating the placenta after birth which lead to having to draw a picture of a baby in the womb to explain to Baur what the placenta is. After luch we went to the Art Gallery at the civic centre, containing a Henry Moore of a Harlow Family and watercolour paintings donated by the architect of Harlow before his death. There was a memorial to him outside which read 'If you seek my monument, look around you', which I found very touching. We then went bowling, it was a good daytime deal, 3 games for £4.99, but I think the agreement was reached easily because the supervisiors agreed to pay for everyone, presumably from the GX budget. I don't really enjoy bowling but I had a good time. Everyone was relaxed and seemed to be enjoying themselves. then we went to the library (see this post) where everyone registered and learnt about the odd booking system and one hour limit on the computers. Solution? Get more computers!
Thursday 26th March
Today we had our incommunity orientation in Bishops Stortford. The day begun in th Northgate Youth Centre with it's stereotypical graffitied interior walls. We had a talk from the Reallife Trust where Beth and Kassym will be working. It is a really interesting organisation that runs a number of projects suggested by the community such as a cafe, music festival and a forum that lobbies parliament. They primarily help disabled and disadvantaged people, making them coworkers in the projects, equal to the staff rather than clients. The speaker described the project as a big social experiment aiming to redefine social work. I'm still not entirely sure of everything they do but it sounds really interesting and I will be questionning Beth and Kassym once they have been there a while. We then had a talk by the YMCA and spent a frustrating few hours trying to write the team contract. Everyone was very concerned about social activities and having a social committee which in the got forgotten and wasn't chosen! I began to understand how the founding fathers must have felt and why simple constitutions are the best. Once the eight to ten rules (which ranged from not using mobile phones during sessions to having a chair person of discussions) we were signed by the team we headed out for a tresure hunt around Bishops Stortford, where we interrupted a funeral, got soaked and missed a whole page of questions. Once back in Harlow Gulnara and I were grateful to be met by Ilma and a hot meal. We went with her and her daughter to Efua's african drumming and dancing class (Efua is host home to four of the team). I really enjoyed the class. My rhythm wasn't as bad as I expected and the dance was a good workout.
Team 93 with the programme supervisors and Ron
Taken by the Harlow Star photographer
Right, I've been hogging the Cathch 22 computer for over an hour and a half now. I think it's time I headed home. Another big update soon