The first Teachers without Borders (TWB) volunteers arrived in Eritrea in the fall of 2015. At the time that I applied for the program, those volunteers had already made the decision to extend their stay – a sign that at least something must be going very well in Asmara.
The first impression has stuck with me, so it was really a pleasure that our arrival as new volunteers overlapped with one of the previous volunteer’s for the last few weeks here. It made it possible for us to have a volunteer to volunteer orientation week. Who could better get us started on this new path?
The orientation week was smoothly followed by our first work week. This involved meeting our new colleagues, getting our hands on important documents like local curricula, familiarizing ourselves with the initiatives that were undertaken last year and the project plans for this academic school year. Currently we’re looking at this year’s plan and figuring out our roles in it. What do I have to offer? What kind of knowledge and skills can I utilize here? What kind of resources could I use? Who might be interested in supporting our work? These are just some of the questions that can guide a TWB volunteer as they plan their work.
Equally important is taking the time to simply get to know people and listen to them. What are the strengths and challenges of this institution? What kind of support do they want? What do they expect from me? How can I begin building trust in my professional relationships? What does cooperation look like in this context? How can I support a mutual learning process?
While there are many questions to ponder upon, there is also an atmosphere of enthusiasm – everyone is ready for a new school year and eager to continue the good cooperation that started last year. I feel excited to be a part of it.