Greetings from training in Madrid

We’re sitting in a circle, everyone curiously eyeing who is next.

There are expectations this very first day. Excitement of learning. To get to know each other and more about the topics.

We are about 16 candidates on training for some of the EUAidVolunteer groups, which is a project to bring solidarity between organisations inEurope. Together we will learn, exchange knowledge and undertake Humanitarian work on different locations around the globe.

In this moment of mid-May 2014, we are on a practical training in Madrid at the headquarters for Alianza por la Solidaridad, which is one of the three collaborators in this specific project. The two others are the Italian GVC and the German AWO International. Those of us here come fromIreland,Sweden,Germany,France,Italy andSpain. There will be another training group for other mission destinations, coordinated through the same coorporating organisations, which will take place inBologna. We all participated in the online training in Humanitarian Action before doing face-to-face training inEurope.

The EuAidVolunteer group training in Madridis for those who applied for positions in Colombia and Haiti.


Most of us arrived on Sunday. Some of us in time to share dinner together and walk around the city a little bit.Madridis beautiful. People are very warm and there is a calm vibe. We felt very welcomed. Even the sun was shining for us and someone said it was well above 25 degrees.


We started the week with presentations of the training, the EUAid volunteer project, ECHO and the organisations involved. Then we did a hot potato exercise to present ourselves. It went as follows: Everyone got a blank sheet of paper. We had to fold it three times, or at least divide it three times. The first fold was about our background (nationality, studies, experience abroad), the second space was for which program we applied for and why we applied for that. That included location, position of project and learning expectations. Without signing names, we scrunched it all up into a little ball. Here comes the hot potato part: We threw around the paper balls in the room never, letting them drop on the floor. Then we all picked one up, read aloud the information, and we had to guess who it was.

Then followed a training with Pierluigi. His session was about Advocacy and Communication. We all enjoyed it very much, because it was a lot of practical group exercises, mixed with photos and small case studies of videos. He talked about the importance of media and marketing a message for funding. He also enforced the value of radio connection since everyone listens to radio in rural areas. As we heard throughout most of the days to follow, we were advised to listen and know our contexts.


We continued our second day with Sergi, who talked with us about Volunteering. He would do so for half of Wednesday too. He would also mix the day with photos and videos.

The first assignment was the balloon exercise. We were all given a balloon to blow up, then to protect this with our lives, since that was what it represented in this context.  We had two in the group with small pins to try to burst the balloons. It was interesting to see how, when we were standing together, we were less vulnerable and could protect our “lives” better.

This day we also got a group assignment about resources. Divided into teams of four, we received various items. Paper represented raw materials, pens – knowledge, magazines – high technology, glue – highly skilled labourers, and scotch – low qualified workers. With these pieces of equipment we were tasked with creating a mural of our expectations and positions in field. We had two minutes to notice what others had, then 20 minutes to work. Those with more resources were not considering so much what others had and, when starting out, they just calmly proceeded with their assignment. Those who did not have so many resources had to be really inventive and creative, they had to go around nicely asking to exchange resources. In the end we all had really nice pictures to present for the group.

So we really got to talk about values, thinking of actions and procedures. Again, we were told to be aware of the context, to listen and communicate.


The morning after, Sergi continued his presentation. This time about Psycosocial care. He said it was very important to take care of ourselves, so that we have strength to carry out our work, and that we always should communicate with our field coordinator/superior.

We then started with a SWOT analysis. It’s a matrix of four columns; strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. We then imagined ourselves in the position we applied for, then we filled in what we considered would be the different things. Afterwards we summarised our SWOTs into a group context. We had done so similarly the day before with values.

Ah I did not tell you, did I? You have to know, this exercise was very good. It was about role models and values. Again, it was blank paper, three spaces. In each we would write three names and three values that we admired in these persons. The first space was people we knew. The second, people we did not knew. The third was imaginary/fiction people. Then we had to sort the qualities according to personal importance. Afterwards we all decided to read out everyone’s three most precious values. We then had to summarise them in order of one to ten. Remember, we had around 16 people in the classroom! However, it was good. These values were a constant reminder for us. Many of us shared similar ones.


THURSDAYWe continued with a session about gender and vulnerable groups in humanitarian response. Also here we would get a lot of references to reports and short movies to discuss. We discussed how to get these perspectives into context, how to use a capability approach and tailor the response to meet difference needs. Carolina, our lecturer, was very knowledgeable and we enjoyed the session very much.

During Thursday we focused the whole day on safety and security. Diego was a very experienced and passionate lecture that had much hands-on field examples to tell us. We went through so much today – making group exercises, watching small documentaries about cases in dangerous contexts. He also underscored the importance of knowing your context, to listen and to be respectful. Diego said that security is a tool that allows us to carry out the activities assigned by the organisation that we are working for. We always need to be prepared and knowledgeable about procedures of security, calculating risks and staying calm.

We talked about systematic approaches, security strategies, information sources and relationships, security risk management model, livelihood impact matrix and standard operationing procedures. Again, we were advised to know our context, be sensitive to our environment and LISTEN and take care.


During the last day, we did various dynamic group exercises. The first one was to arrange ourselves in a line according to age, without talking. Then the organizers from the organization were dividing us into two different groups, splitting in the middle.

Next group dynamic exercise was about turning around a sheet we all were stand on. Both groups did this on the same time.

The third dynamics was to bring down a long stick that everyone kept up by gently holding their fingers under.

The last exercise was to place a heavy ball on a water bottle. The ball was balancing on a plastic container which we all hold a thread to.

After the exercises we had questions time, which most was regarding practical issues for the different missions. Then we evaluated the training through enquires and marking on a board. We had lunch and took photos and sent a message for the next training group.

Some words

We have already started to connect through Twitter, LinkedIn and Hangouts. Regardless of our coming six months, we have all learned a lot that will make good use of this week in Madrid. We all feel grateful to have been invited to participate. Thank you for this time and good luck to all humanitarians and others in field work. It has been a pleasure.

By Carin Emenius, Friday 2014-05-