søndag 23. mai 2010

Leaving Sudan

My stay in Sudan is now over. Tonight I will go back to Norway, with mixed feelings.

These past nine months have been both amazing and difficult, and I want to give the people I have met the credit they deserve without using too many cliches. It seems impossible, and I apologize for this in advance. I have met many incredible people, both volunteers and staff, in Port Sudan and other places is Sudan. I admire the work done in the local communities every day, and the strong men and women carrying it out. I am still surprised by their ability to focus on the positive things, to strive forwards and work for a better society even though their own lives might not be as easy or comfortable as our Norwegian lives. To work closely with these people has been a unique chance, and I am thankful to the people that have made these past months so memorable.

To sum things up, I have chosen some pictures for this last blog post from Sudan. When I came to Khartoum almost nine months ago, I remember there were quite a few things that stroke me as strange. Now they have become (almost) as familiar to me as my "Norwegian" habits..

That you do the dishes like this - in cold water without soap

That your local coffee place looks like this

That dinner is prepared like this

That you are a big fish in a small pond, and that you therefore get invited to events like the HIV and AIDS meeting with the health minister Tabitha Boutros(left) and the first lady Widad Babikr (right).

That you party like this

and that you meet friendly camels while your on the road :)

Buying a sheep

On Saturday, Ingvild and I had arranged a trip to the beach for all the volunteers in Port Sudan, with great help from many of them. Groups were formed, tasks were delegated and things were being prepared. In the end, Mahmoud, the volunteer Younis and we were responsible for buying the lunch, which included two very alive sheep.

Mahmoud making the first approach

Younis and Mahmoud checking out the sheep

After a good half hour of bargaining, we finally get the sheep into the car

And they are taken good care of at the office

Before they end up like this the next day

søndag 9. mai 2010

Leadership training!

This weekende, Ingvild and I finally got to have a long planned leadership training in Sinkat, a small town two hours from Port Sudan. 15 volunteers from Port Sudan and five from other towns in the state participated in the two day course. Here are some pictures:

Mahmoud in action: the volunteer structure of the Red Crescent is discussed once more

Gabbani presenting his group's ideas

...and has to defend them too

Cooperation games

Playing volleyball..

..and cards between the lectures..

.. and watching "Pretty Woman" in the evening

onsdag 21. april 2010

A breakthrough!

We have had one goal here in Khartoum: to present our workshop here at the headquarters. Because of the election, the staff has not had too much time for non-election related activities. But yesterday, we finally got a chance to speak to Emad, the head of the Organization Development department, and Sami, the head of the Youth and Volunteer department, as well as several other staff members.


We spoke about our workshop and its manual, which exists in both English and Arabic. The workshop is partly an introduction the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, and partly meant to provide the volunteers with strategy and planning tools. Like I have mentioned before, the Sudanese Red Crescent has 400 000 volunteers trained in first aid, both active and in-active. We want to encourage the Society to utilize this capacity, and the volunteers to plan small scale activities themselves.

Our presentation was very well received, better than we imagined. It is very likely that the manual will be “exported” to the Red Crescent branches in southern Sudan, as well as to several branches in the North. If everything goes well, we might even be able to train trainers in other branches before we leave!

From one of the workshops in Port Sudan

søndag 18. april 2010

Still on stand-by

The first multiparty election in Sudan in 24 years is now over. It has been surprisingly calm, even though candidates have boycotted the election and there have been accusation of fraud. Because of logistical problems and the low turnout the elections were extended by two more days.

The vote counting started on Friday, and for every polling station that has finished its counting, they announce the result right away. On Tuesday the last results are expected, and the winner of the presidential election will be announced. According to the newspaper Sudan Vision, president Bashir is leading with "a comfortable 85%".
The way it looks now, there will not be any major problems related to the announcement of the results.

Even though Jimmy Carter and other observers have stated that the elections have not met international standards, I still think it is an accomplishment that the election days and the three first counting days have been with no major violence. 60% of the registered voters have casted their ballot, which is a surprisingly high number.

At the Red Crescent headquarter, the staff is still taking turns at sleeping at the office. They are still on stand-by until Friday afternoon. Even though Friday still is four days away, you can practically feel the relief of the staff and volunteers – many of them walking around with a blue left forefinger, the sign for having voted.

mandag 12. april 2010

Election time!

After months of preparing, the Sudanese Red Crescent as well as the rest of the country, is ready for the first multiparty elections in 24 years. The election is part of the comprehensive peace agreement from 2005 that put an end to a 22 year-long civil war.

The ruling party's campaign poster (Port Sudan)

I came back to Sudan about a week ago, and it had been decided that Ingvild and I will stay in Khartoum until the election result has been announced. We have therefore been able to follow the last days of the preparation of the Khartoum Red Crescent branch closely.

At the head quarter, Khartoum

Over the whole of Sudan, there are at least two volunteers deployed at each polling station, they are responsible for the first aid if it is needed. All together around 17 000 volunteers have been mobilized, over 2000 of them in the Sudanese capital alone.

“Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst”, the well-used phrase gives a very accurate description of what is going on at the head quarter. The volunteers have been trained in extreme situations such as “dead body management”, just in case. Sudan is now well in its second out of three election days and no major incidents have been reported, neither by the Crescent nor by the government. Inshallah, it will stay this way during the next few days and also during the election result announcements next week.

torsdag 18. mars 2010

Handing our baby over..

The last weeks have been busy at the Red Crescent office in Port Sudan. We have had visitors, and a dengue fever outbreak. In between all of this, Ingvild and I have been trying to arrange training of trainers-workshops in order to secure the sustainability of our workshop about capacity building.

The volunteer leaders have chosen 13 volunteers, six men and seven women, for this job. After rearranging several meetings and workshop days, we have finally trained them all. We have focused on teaching methods and why we have chosen different methods for different parts of the workshop. Now, they will form teams of two and conduct a workshop while Mahmoud, Ingvild and I observe and take notes for two full days. After this, they are fully trained trainers.

Awadiyya is explaining the difference between the ICRC and the IFRC while I am taking notes

Zuhur in action

Awadallah, one our star students

This now feels like a mile stone, since it is the first step in handing our baby, the capacity workshop, over to the volunteers.