By Rivanildo Novais, Brazil / Development Volunteer team October 2023
In my point of view, it has always been in practice that you learn. In theories you have artificial learning, but it is in practice, leaving your comfort zone that you really learn, and the CICD College provides us with this, and so it is good for everyone.
I'm going to show here an example from me and some teammates and colleagues about what I learned and what they say about the subject.
In this photo, you can see me operating a motorised elevator. I had never operated anything like this before and I was very afraid of working at heights. This was really Learning by Doing for me - I learned to operate it and do the work we had to do without fear.
Neil works with CICD every building weekend. There's no one better to talk about Building Weekends and how they can help you to learn by doing.
A Building Weekend is a Cultural Event with many, many aspects
• It allows you to improve your School/ Project at a low cost - doing the work yourself instead of paying people to do the work
• You learn new practical skills
• You learn to plan tasks, how many people are needed, how many paint brushes, how many litres of paint etc, etc.
• Make a poster showing the lists of tasks and the groups of people delegated to solve the tasks
• Move people from one task to another if, for example, one task get finished faster than expected
• Make shopping lists for tools and materials. Find the best solutions for the best prices and best quality
• Get value for money
• Plan the work with groups of people for each task.
• Learn to work together 2+2 or in bigger teams
• Learn to look at and discuss the quality of the finished task, and what kind of environment do we want to live in - study in - work in.
• Enjoy great meals and snacks for everyone taking part
• Learn from others while others learn from you
• Find the best solutions together by discussing methods and solutions as the tasks proceed
• Learn to respect each other’s opinions in a context of solving practical tasks
• Learn to keep everyone safe on the job
One clear example of learning by doing (at CICD and for life) is the monthly Building Weekends. I love that time! We just finished our last one during the study period and like every month, I learned something new that will be useful for ever.
We always have many different tasks to do, some of them take many hours and some just a morning; for some of them it is required to be a big team and for others is better to work in pairs. So the first thing to do is to organise the different tasks and teams, the material, the timing, and after that: go for it!
Once I was Building Weekend leader and I learned a lot. Time management, organisation, preparation of the materials that includes shopping in advance, checking every few hours every team to know how it is going, if something is missing, if some help is needed, also to know in advance if we need to reorganise the teams or timings, etc. It was a very good experience!
Another time, our weekend project was tiling one of the bathrooms. I never did anything like that before and I found really useful and also a way for saving money in the future.
And this last weekend, for example, I was part of a big team composed of 8 people, and our goal was to remove some mould that appeared on some of our walls (it is important to remind that we are in the north of England and in this season, it rains a lot). So we divided into smaller groups and we managed successfully to remove it, to clean, and then sand where it was needed and to paint after that.
It is always a great experience to be part of the Building Weekend (or even Building Week as we have every year in August!) It is a bit tiring - but there is always a big kitchen team that feed the rest of the teams every little while with incredible food!
What is the real meaning of being a Development Instructor (DI)? I did not really understand it when I arrived at the college for the first time. Now after being part of this community for a couple of months, I have noticed that being a DI is not about only having some knowledge about historical events or speaking lots of languages, it is having practical skills to manage situations that for some of us are just surreal.
Today I can say that a Building Weekend means to challenge yourself by doing things that in my home country most of the times you pay others to do, so with the help of new friends I can say that I have done the plastering, sanding, painting, and cleaning of walls and ceilings, that from the experience of volunteers that have being in Africa are activities that are useful for daily life.
Also, I realised that countries that experiment the change of seasons like in the UK, they have to be prepared to adequate their facilities to face the dares that each season brings. So putting plastic in the windows, even if that implies becoming kind of a spider woman or man to put it up, is necessary for maintaining the well-being of every member of the community. And let me tell you that until this moment I never thought that using a stapler machine was so difficult.
The only thing that I knew before coming to the college to be a volunteer, is that cooking is an activity that needs time and that has to be done ALWAYS with love because if you do not do it this way food is going to taste awful. But managing to do it in big quantities is a whole different story. So having the opportunity to cook several meals with new people in a Building Weekend for all the community turns to be a new experience, because the important part is to have fun, share tricks and cook delicious food. And obviously having the chance to bake a cake in the land of sweets is a real challenge and that the community is grateful for that is just great.
So finally, all the activities that are done in the Building Weekends that the school organises every month are needed, challenging, they strengthen comradeship between all the members of the college, give us skills for the projects in Africa and India. They also help the college to maintain the facilities in good condition, so that DI’s that come feel safe and can enjoy a comfortable space.
And then it also gave us the opportunity to learn in practice, that is, Learning by Doing, so we are sure now that by doing you learn more!