Finally I’ve received the news I was waiting for – my placement with the Ministry of Agriculture in the Gambia has been approved and I’ll be flying out there on 6th February. I seem to have been in limbo for a while which was rather unsettling so it’s good to have a definite destination and departure date at last. Now I can begin to plan the essentials – sell my car, get country specific vaccinations (Yellow Fever, Meningitis) and malaria tablets, arrange storage for my house contents, and find a tenant for the next twelve months.


For those of you who don’t know, “P2V” is the abbreviation for “Preparing to Volunteer” one of the two face-to-face training courses which all VSO volunteers have to complete before going abroad. It’s a short residential course held in Birmingham and I’ve just returned from a tiring but enjoyable weekend, my head reeling with new information. There were 16 of us on the course and prior to going I was a little concerned about meeting all these people who appeared to be far better versed in “development speak” than I was, and also about my own ability to understand, process, and remember all this information after having done no formal studying for many years.

In the event the course was presented clearly and simply by Bernie and Liz our trainers, with a mixture of talks, flip charts, sticky notes, videos, discussion and “game” type activities sometimes singly, sometimes in pairs or small groups, and sometimes all together. Although I struggle to retain much of the information and will have to revise regularly, I certainly won’t forget “The Trading Game”, nor I think will any of the others, demonstrating so clearly the inequalities of global trade and the roles played by the various trading nations, the IMF and the World Bank.

Most of the volunteers I met had already been placed and will be flying out shortly to placements in Ghana, Malawi, Gambia, Cambodia, Uganda, or in the case of one intrepid lady, Papua New Guinea. As for myself, I have to assume that I’ll be going to the Gambia in four weeks although I still have to wait for news that the Gambian Ministry of Agriculture have given me the go ahead. I have another pre-departure course to attend beginning in a couple of days, and hope I will receive a green light before then. I have however just received an email giving details of my proposed flights on February 6th, so take that as a positive sign…..