Expecting the Unexpected

This morning started with an early morning stakeholder meeting in an administrative building in Cape Town.  Andre, a representative from the Cape Town Lions and an economist.  Benna, a representative from Old Mutual, a marketing executive, and Kate, a former teacher passionate about rural economic development.  We went around the table in order to share our personal talents and objectives, then Ed and Mark went on to explain the Kwelanga Solar business plan.  The meeting was quite productive: the input was positive, collaboration was constructive, and contacts were shared for those most likely to provide support.  We all left lighthearted, with a task list of follow-throughs, some of whom Mark may have already reached out to by lunchtime.

The most notable part of the day was my first presentation/workshop.  We were scheduled to do a solar lantern presentation with Feminique, a group 20 young women in Mfuleni township.  We were prepared to have them build solar jars. Natalie checked her South African gridwatch phone app as we were approaching the township…LOAD SHED: 3 HRS. Forget about all that planning on the powerpoint and teaching them how to solder.  The room was already full of women, ready to go.  I didn’t have much to work with, and I had to think fast.

So I went to plan B: Icebreakers, teambuilding, women’s issues, and intro to the science of solar energy.  First, I tried to help to overcome a bit of the cultural and language barrier by playing an icebreaker game I know entitled:  “That Ain’t Me Babe.”  It’s a game where you pair off and then silently act or mime some of the things that you like to do.  Then we did a couple other ‘no prop’ teambuilding games that I’ve used in the past.  I have my summers as a camper and camp counselor to thank for all these:  they are designed to get the group interacting in a nonthreatening but a fun way (Thanks Bear Creek Camp :)).  But then we talked for a short time on women’s issues, in an attempt to bridge cultural gaps.  I introduced the soldering equipment in another game I know, called “A What?”.  At the end of the two hour session, I verbally explained how to use the soldering equipment (in anticipation of a follow-up workshop scheduled for tomorrow), and then finished with a final ‘feel good’ type teambuilding exercise.

It was one of the most well received workshops I’ve had the pleasure to run. Once we started the first icebreaker, you saw the group evolve from being somewhat reserved to becoming full of energy.  The giggles climbed to full belly laughs as the games progressed.  That shared laughter transcended boundaries very quickly.  When it was time to settle into more serious topics, the group was more receptive and collected.  Of course, we also took time out to share some snacks, and we didn’t leave a crumb behind.

I have a feeling that once I come back tomorrow morning, they’ll already be waiting to start just as I am arriving.  Another note:  I’m going to need more snacks.  WAY more snacks.

These ladies are unbelievably fun.


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