Well … “best-laid plans” and “circumstances beyond our control” combined to create an interesting volunteers’ get-together here in Faversham on 7th November!
We love our ‘people and places’ social meetings and had done as much prep as possible ahead of time so that we could enjoy our guests’ company and lots of time to talk with each other. Lists, signs and name badges had been printed off the day before; food and drinks had been purchased, and with volunteers due to arrive at 1pm, Dianne, Sallie and I (Kate) were enjoying a leisurely start to our day.
Our morning’s preparations were well-planned over coffee with final tasks allocated (planning and preparation are very important to us here at ‘people and places‘, you know!) so we were feeling well and truly ready for a lovely afternoon … but then, at about 8a.m. the power went off. No worries – “this isn’t The Gambia”, we joked, “the power will be on again very soon” …
BUT NO – by 10.30 we had all enjoyed (!) cold showers, found every available candle in the house (it was a grey November day), dusted the floor (as vacuuming wasn’t an option) and were beginning to wonder how we would heat the food …
Next, Nigel arrived so bacon butties all round, thanks to a gas hob, cold food prepared, signs put up, brainwave about heating food as our computer wizard, Kerry, lives just down the road and had power and would let us use his kitchen … so far, so good … Nigel and Dianne despatched to Kerry with food to be cooked.
Then Adama arrived … Adama is our local partner for all projects in The Gambia.
You can imagine the breadth of his smile, his polite chuckles and his ironic “Thank you for making me feel so at home!” when we welcomed him to a house with NO POWER !
Everything continued to go well (despite the failings of our bit of the national grid). Dianne and Nigel came back with hot food, and volunteers arrived and shrugged off the minor inconveniences … there was quite a group of ‘old hands’ from South Africa who were delighted to meet up again and to share their experiences with future volunteers; Dianne talked about new projects in Swaziland; Adama talked about the need for volunteers to approach their placements with a willingness to be flexible and adapt to circumstances (!)
We all had a great afternoon, and when the power finally came back on at about 4.30p.m. everyone was so involved in chatting with each other that they barely noticed !
All of which just goes to show that a combination of good planning and preparation, and a willingness to be flexible and adaptable, make for a rewarding volunteer experience – whether at home or abroad !