This post ended up being much longer than I’d thought when I sat down to write it. I’ve learned and experienced quite a lot in the last two weeks!
On the first day of work, Save the Children (SC) sent a driver to take me to the office, which is about 5.6 km drive using highways or ~3 km using inside roads. It took 20 mins to get to SC. I met my manager RM and my two MEAL (= Monitoring Evaluation Accountability and Learning) colleagues (PL and EG), who are friendly and helpful.
I had to complete online GSK security training and SC orientation (HR and security) in order to access the SC system. I started the GSK training but soon realized that was not going to happen; WiFi was slow, painfully slow. I was told the IT team was attending an off-site team meeting so there was no one to monitor and fix the issue. I spent the whole day talking to various SC members. I learned about the “Comments and Response Mechanism” (CRM) system that has been put in place to collect feedback (including anonymous feedback) via different mechanisms (e.g. face to face interview, text message, Facebook, Dropbox, phone hotline) from benefactors in various regions. Unfortunately, the feedback is sparse, especially from the most deprived regions in the south. The MEAL team has summarized this feedback and shared it with management. I will be helping the MEAL team share this feedback with the beneficiaries, i.e. the children and their families. I also learned that SC is trying to collect “baseline” data from existing and potential beneficiaries, so that they can easily identify folks who would be eligible for a “new”program.
The second day, I took an Uber to get to work, which is the recommended mode of transportation by GSK security. My MEAL colleague PL had shown me where I should be dropped off, a block away from the SC office, to avoid getting stuck in traffic. Traffic congestion is a daily feature here. The sweltering humidity, the beeping horns, and the use of street lanes as suggestions rather than rules remind me of Kolkata rush hour.
PDQ stands for “Program Development and Quality”. The PDQ team includes project managers, HR members, MEAL team, and advocacy team. The all day team meeting was scheduled to start at 8:30 am, but we had to wait since many of the staff were late. While waiting, folks enjoyed the chocolate I’d brought from the U.S.
The meeting started with an ice breaker, facilitated by my MEAL colleague EG. We were each given a blank piece of paper and a crayon. We were instructed to write our name on the paper and walk around, until we were told to stop. We then had to turn to the person closest to us, exchange our papers, and draw each other’s eyes. We got our paper back and then the game continued. We drew our colleagues’ nose, lips, hair, face profile, ears, and accessories. There were a lot of laughs and apologies for not being able to capture one’s features correctly. We learned it was important to observe, draw, check, reflect and adjust–while playing this game and while assessing information and trying to relay it to others. Do you recognize the cover picture?
The second item on the agenda was facilitated by my manager RM, the lead for the MEAL program. She discussed “accountability”: (1) what it means and (2) what actions SC can take during the second half of this year to be accountable to its beneficiaries. We were split into five teams and asked to brainstorm answers to two questions. The goal was to make all the project managers aware of the larger goal and build consensus on tangible efforts to move forward . I believe I can work on a few of the action items for which the MEAL team is responsible. I will be speaking with RM to gain better clarity.
We ate a catered Filipino lunch – rice with the option of fried fish or chicken, a side of boiled mixed vegetables, and pineapple cubes as dessert. In general, folks here speak in their local language, Tagalog, so it is up to me to start a conversation in English, if I want to participate. I started a conversation with the person sitting beside me, ML. I learned she’d lived in the US and worked in DC at a non profit organisation for a year. We spoke about our experiences as immigrants. I felt she and I have known each other for ages.
After lunch, the SC Advocacy team informed the group on what they’d been doing for the past few months and asked the group to think about what we wanted them to focus on over the next 18 months. The main presenter started off saying, “Welcome to the sleeping session! When you sleep, please do not snore, so you do not disturb others sleeping around you.” It’s true! I really did see one person fall asleep. If you are wondering about me though, I was wide awake, engrossed in their presentation. The team explained what is meant by “advocacy”: the collaborative process of how policies are drafted and the long drawn-out process of turning them into laws. Currently, SC Philippines is pushing the legislature to adopt a bill guaranteeing access to proper nutrition for the first 1000 days of a child’s life. They are hopeful it will become law soon. You can read about it here http://www.savethechildren.org.ph/lahatdapat
The WiFi issue continued, so I decided to venture over to the GSK Philippines office. I sat in the lobby there and completed the training. 🙂 I also finally met my PULSE coach, MB. It was good to put a face to the caring voice.
I experienced heavy rain on my ride back to the hotel. I could barely see a few meters in front of my face Once I reached the hotel, the kind Uber driver wanted me to wait in the car so I did not get wet. I had to remind him that his next ride was waiting for him and it was ok if I got wet, I wouldn’t melt! He got the hotel staff to take me under their umbrella, but I still got wet. It reminded me of my college days in Kolkata. I used to walk (with K, my now-husband) from College Street to Sealdah and wait in line to catch the bus returning home while it poured. Sweet memories!
The second week at work, I focused on getting SC mandatory training complete, in preparation for my visit to SC Quezon City office, which is about 16 km away. I’ll be attending mid year review meetings there–July 10 to 20, to learn about the different projects run by that office.
Since my last post, I’ve moved to a furnished apartment and found a few different restaurants that serve yummy food. At the recommendation of a GSK colleague, I’ve also joined a WhatsApp group, where I can get fresh vegetarian Indian food delivered. I’m slowly settling down.