Sanou in Afghanistan

My first Sanou experience in Ahmed Shah Baba

The second edition of Sanou in Afghanistan was organised in February this year (the first edition took place in Kabul in February 2012). It was planned to go to Kunduz in the north of the country, but unfortunately the plane could not take off due to bad weather conditions. So, the Sanou team (Göran and Carine: Sanou coordinators from HQ, Margareta: national staff developer in Afghanistan and me, as a Sanou coordinator), went by car to Ahmed Shah Baba instead, another MSF project, 1 hour away from Kabul, to do the training there.

In a very short time, the Ahmed Shah Baba team put a lot of efforts and energy into making it happen. The team gave us all the support needed for 6 days of training. Firstly, two days for the training of trainers and then four days for the full package of 6 modules. We were warmly welcomed. Edi, the fieldco, explained that Sanou as an induction course about MSF was highly necessary in the project and, I would say, even for all the mission because most of the staff are new employees in MSF; they have been working for MSF less than one year. The Sanou has a great role to play in the capacity building of the staff and to get them to know about MSF’s principles and history, MSF’s activities, structure, funding etc... The objective of the Sanou is to make staff, “MSF ambassadors” internally and towards the community. It’s a way of building a stronger MSF identity,  greater community acceptance and  to improve security for MSF.

The Sanou started with a “training of trainers” during 2 days with 7 facilitators: 3 of them nationals staff (admin fin assistant, deputy medical focal point and admin patient assistant) and 4 of them expats (nurse and midwife supervisors, national staff developer and me). The level of English was high. It was a mixed group, very dynamic and eager to learn about the content of their module. Carine and Göran supported the facilitators to improve their training skills and gave tips to ensure that the modules are interactive. They were told that they didn’t have to learn everything by heart but that the most important was to make the groups participate in the different exercises. The facilitators were so involved and interested to make it well, asking questions and drawing nice flip charts. In the end, the role of the facilitators was key to the success of the Sanou.

After the weekend (Tuesday an Friday), the full Sanou started with 22 people including the facilitators. It was a very male group (only 6 women) and many with a medical profile. There was also a good dynamic interplay between the national and international staff who did the training together. They could share ideas and experiences and the training helped them to understand each other better. It was an opportunity to bridge different cultures and everybody was at the same level of learning without any hierarchical status. The Sanou is about exchanging, meeting fellow colleagues and it provides a space to step out of the daily activities in the project. It also provides a real space for participants to express their questions and concerns and to debate and exchanges views on MSF. It creates an environment of free speech.

After the 4 days of intensive training, we got positive feedback from the facilitators and the participants. They found it a fun and interactive training and this helped them understand and retain information. They felt proud to work for MSF and said that Sanou had helped them understand and explain important information about MSF. One a participant, an international staff who has been doing loads of missions with MSF over the last 30 years, said at the end that he thought he knew everything about MSF, but he realized after the Sanou, that he nevertheless learnt a lot about the “new” MSF.

For my part, it was a great experience to do my first Sanou with Carine and Göran. I have the feeling that the Sanou creates great enthusiasm to contribute a lot together for the good of the mission and vision of MSF. Now, my new challenge will be to implement the Sanou in all the projects in Afghanistan together with the newly hired Sanou assistant. The third edition will be in Kunduz in the middle of march. Another challenge will be to translate some of the Sanou material into Dari and Pashto and to simplify some parts to make the Sanou accessible to all the staff. And a last thing, I will try my best to give support to the field for the roll out of Sanou to keep the MSF spirit up!!!

Jessica Roisier
Sanou coordinator in Afghanistan

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