For the last four days I’ve been sequestered with 31 other volunteers at Cuso headquarters in Ottawa for SKWID (Skills and Knowledge for Working In Development) Training. Our group is the largest intake of volunteers that Cuso has had for as long as anyone can remember.  The people I am training with are of all ages and ethnicities and have an incredible wealth and diversity of experience.  I feel humbled and in awe to be included in their cohort.  

A bonus of this training session is that I have had the chance to get to know 4 of the other volunteers going to Kingston around the same time as me (there will be 7 of us in total).  They are so kind and fun!  It is reassuring to know that I will have such a good support network close by when times get tough.

Our training has been comprehensive and completely exhausting.  We’ve covered every topic I could have imagined, including things like culture shock, gender inclusion, and personal safety and security.  There has been some challenging (and uncomfortable) moments where each of us has been confronted with our biases and assumptions about something, and the training is teaching us how to grow and learn from these judgements to be more thoughtful global citizens.

The security session was especially timely as today’s front page news was about the deaths of 6 humanitarian workers in Burkina Faso. We were reminded that there is a 1 in 116 million chance of being killed in a terrorist attack, and that *only* 84 volunteers have ever died during a placement in the 50 or so years that Cuso has operated — an alarming number until you learn that Cuso has sent of 15,000 volunteers to serve around the world, which makes it about 0.5% that have died overseas, most of which were either in automobile accidents or drowning. Good lessons to learn!

Tomorrow is the last day we’ll spend preparing as a group.  I feel grateful to have had the chance to get to know these talented people and I am confident that each of them will be an asset to their placements.  Most especially I am glad to have had the chance to learn from their experience.  I can’t imagine better preparation than what we have been given during SKWID.