Sanou in Hargeysa, Somaliland

My first Sanou experience

The first Sanou in Hargeysa, capital of Somaliland, was also my first Sanou. Though I’d been briefed in Brussels on what the material consisted of and how to implement it, I wondered how I would do it myself and the impact it would have on the ones involved in the mission there.

First of all, the coordination that demanded the Sanou there, welcomed Carine Daenens and I very warmly and got all the facilities ready for the days to come, giving us all the support needed. On the first 2 days, we introduced the objectives, process, topics, material and agenda to the 8 facilitators chosen by the Coordination. Once the facilitators were divided into 6 groups, the other 2 days were used to the support of each of them on their specific modules, since the organization of flip charts, for instance, to the questions that arose about the content itself so that they could be well prepared to train the participants coming for the 4 day- training.

When the Sanou actually started, the staff from the office in Hargeysa and the hospital in Burco (where MSF has its activities) joined the training summing up 20 people including the facilitators. The whole group was mixed and we had since the cook and head of drivers to the HRCo. Their expectations raised were, generally speaking, to learn more about MSF and how Sanou would help them on that. The associative life in MSF ended up being the most specific issue to be tackled according to them.

From each module a topic caused more curiosity or doubts, either for being new or misunderstood. I guess that in other countries and missions, the groups might show different interest, in Hargeysa, it was the following. Except for module 4, all the others took 3 or 4 hours to be presented. In module 1, for example, témoignage was definitely a definition the facilitators spent more time on. In module 2, several showed not to know much about MSF History and how difficult it was, all along its way, to take complex decisions in regards to interventions. For module 3, the definitions by choice and by default were the ones which took more time being explained and discussed. In module 4, the discussions surrounded the issue of staff coming from different culture backgrounds were the key point. However, the last 2 modules were the most complex and new. The group as a whole didn’t have a clear idea on how the structure of MSF was set up as it is nowadays, how the funds were raised and spent and the associative life.

After the intense 4 days of training, the one thing I would highlight is the high level of commitment of all the participants in the activities proposed. Sanou is a strategy of interactive training, not a top down teaching method and as such, it encourages active participation taking into account each person level of knowledge of MSF which will be exchanged with some other person’s knowledge/experience in a friendly environment. The fact that it has national and international staff different positions gathered with the right to freely speak, may have created an environment where the participation was impressive to me since the beginning. PPTs presentation took much more than the time planned just because of the number of questions, the games and group work activities caught their attention and interest, either if it was a an activity to compose an MSF team or to decide where MSF would intervene. Being an observer passing by each group, even if you see someone leading the group sometimes, it was clear that each of them was there, helping, speaking out, disagreeing, agreeing… Whenever there was a presentation to be made, it was crystal clear how much they had the energy and the will to do their best, how much they got from the 2 days we spent trying to improve the way to communicate with an audience in order to read them and value their voice. As mentioned before, being a young mission and not having an associative life yet, these topics of motions, right to vote caused a great interest and I could see the beginning of a possibility of having some members there and a discussion on how to set up informal ways to discuss the movement, their own mission and maybe having their FAD.

Apart from all the positive feedback we got in the end of it, the 3 elements I would point out here are: the closer the participants got to MSF, the empowerment they felt along the process and the engagement to the organization they got or reinforced. Among the comments I heard even at hour lunch time are: “Brussels is not that far”, “I’m an important part of this wheel”, “I’m able to represent it”. From all said before, I’m sure Sanou reached its main goal. The challenge now is how the mission is going to go on with that to guarantee all the others to come may have a chance to know it.

Finally, I’d say that it was an amazing opportunity to have Carine with me once she has much more experience on the Sanou implementation and to start with a very critic and smart group that challenged me many times with their questions. It definitely prepared me to the other Sanou I might go to in terms of its preparation/organization and the level of knowledge I must have to help in the dynamics of the groups and their learning process.


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By: Vanessa Cardoso