Operation Scrub Brush: Leaders at Work

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Leadership in the 21st century is a more complex game than ever before. New Era went to have a peep view of an innovative training programme that has found its way to Namibia.

By Catherine Sasman

WINDHOEK

Over the last couple of days a group of Finns were hard at work outside the Peace Centre in Windhoek carting wheelbarrows full of sand and bricks to and fro, digging in with picks and shovels, showing what “practical solidarity” between North-South communities can mean.

“Coming from an environment where the snow is knee high and temperatures are below six degrees Celsius when we left to a warm climate like this is quite challenging,” said Mikko Vaananen.

Vaananen is the head of communications for a maritime organisation that is involved in breaking up the ice masses in the normally frozen seas around the busy ports of Helsinki.

“The work here is very rewarding but it hurts,” he said.

With their bright orange T-shirts and big hats against the unfamiliar sun-filled days, the Finns have been levelling off and putting interlocks to an outside shaded area where orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) support groups can have their weekly meetings.

The group brought oodles of enthusiasm and money used to purchase material and equipment for the task they have set out to finish within six days.

“This is probably one of the good aspects of globalisation,” said Director of the Peace Centre and psychologist, Gudrun Kober.

The Peace Centre provides psycho-social services to victims of traumatic experiences, which is often part of complex trauma such as childhood neglect and domestic violence.

Complex trauma, said Kober, is often a combination of factors that have the potential to negatively impact on social and psychological development.

The non-governmental organisation is attempting to get more involved in preventative work, and liaises closely with the Ministry of Prisons and Women Solidarity, as well as a host of other service organisations to provide a holistic approach to trauma and violence, which includes counselling and psychotherapy. It is also working closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Services, providing training to nurses and social workers in the Kavango Region with a strong focus on family counselling – “however one would want to define a family”.

Its main sponsors are the Finish Embassy, Bread for the World and the Centre for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis.

“We would like to see more concrete assistance from Government because a lot of what we do is to provide services that falls within the ambit of Government’s responsibility,” said Kober.

Apart from the OVC support groups, the centre has over the last two years embarked on establishing a children’s trauma centre, and engages in the alternative to violence initiative with a host of other organisations and individuals from communities.

“A big challenge is to reach out to people who do not know what psycho-social services are and how they can benefit. This means that we have to connect with people on the level of their immediate needs.”

The work with trauma victims, said Kober, assists people to move on and become productive agents of change.

“People keep on limping along instead of steaming ahead because they are so traumatised. Often what prevents people from using development opportunities is that such psycho-social issues have been neglected.”

The centre established a link with an organisation called the Finnish Psychologists for Social Responsibility, which backs a company, Novetos, which provides an innovative and groundbreaking ethical leadership programme to middle and top management cadre.

The Novetos trainers selected a Third World country in which to conduct the second phase of the leadership training, which involves physical labour to an organisation of their choice.

In return, the receiving organisation establishes important linkages, new inputs and new networks.

For the group of Finns, the Peace Centre, is an ideal project to work at while they are themselves subjected to challenging training.

“The participants want to get something done; they find the work meaningful,” said Erika Heiskanen.

“We are all very enthusiastic about the project; we are doing a great job here. It is always nice to be part of something worthwhile,” said Marja-Leena P??????’??

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