The experience at the Annual Peacebuilding Training of the Mindanao Peace Institute (MPI) in Davao City was a dream come true. It was a long and cumbersome journey with lots of new experiences ranging from airline regulations to emergency landing that resulted in missed flights and finally an earthquake. In spite of all of this, the climax was a safe space that brought different experiences gained not only from a post-war country in Africa but also other parts of the world.
MPI’s 2022 Annual Peacebuilding Training provided a space for fellow peacebuilders to share scenarios connected to the issue of fragile states similar to cases in Sierra Leone. Our delegation from Sierra Leone had such an opportunity during one of the “Open Sessions” where peacebuilders from many nations listened carefully to the stories of our work and that of other partners in the Civil Peace Service network of Bread for the World in Sierra Leone. The thematic areas include Adult Literacy, Vocational Studies, Advocacy, Youth Empowerment, Gender Equality, Environmental Prudence and Food Security.
As the coordinator of the Civil Peace Service (CPS) Network of Bread for the World in Sierra Leone, I need to be flexible in order to execute my work well. It is important to have leadership skills and be able to deal with people from different backgrounds, not only the indigenous and displaced persons. As such, what I gained in the training on Theory and Practice of Peace Advocacy (PA) will help strengthen my ability to execute my role as coordinator of a peace network, including the different types of leadership styles. During the training, I found it helpful to learn about different leadership styles and their application in different contexts. As a trainer who is mostly responsible for passing down knowledge and skills, I learned about innovative moderation, facilitation skills, and how to conduct icebreakers.
Since the bulk of the work we do in the CPS network in Sierra Leone revolves around advocacy, it was also important for me to acquire skills that can help sustain our advocacies. These included ways that will ensure that gains made over time will not be lost. These are also skills that will help immensely in preventing burn out.
Generally, my exposure at the training has been very useful in helping me deal with individuals within the network and can be applied to my everyday life. The idea of shared rooms, even though strange for most of us, taught me how to build and strengthen networks with people I never met before but was compelled to deal with in very close and private quarters. It was a psychological discipline that reminded us that development work means denying oneself, leaving the comfort zone, and dealing with emerging realities.
It was a period of self-control, dealing with time differences, coping with the diet and limited internet amidst all. Finally, the extremely long journey coupled with long transit hours and an earthquake on the third day of the training added to the experience.
Adenike Cole is the National Coordinator of the Civil Peace Service Network for Bread for the World in Sierra Leone.