Volunteering Abroad: Botswana Leave for Change Part 2

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Author: Manpreet Dhillon is a worldwide traveler who is always to looking to add new experiences to her journey. Professionally, she is an Organizational Consultant and Personal/Executive Coach who acts as a supporter for businesses and women to become their own best friend. Coaching women through both emotional intelligence and spiritual tools, the goal is to help them be more aligned to their own passions. Manpreet is also the Co-Founder of Be Your Own Best Friend, a networking group for South Asian Women: www.intoessencecoaching.com and www.byobfnetwork.ca.

In 2009, I was fortunate enough to go to Botswana for three weeks with the University of British Columbia Leave for Change program for Staff. When I chose to go to Botswana, I knew nothing about it other than it bordered South Africa. Over the next three months, I received cultural sensitivity training and I had a conference call with a local from Botswana. I also started reading a series called “The Ladies’ Detective Agency” by Alexander McCall Smith as a way to further understand the culture that I was stepping into. It was on my airplane ride to Gaborone, Botswana that I started reading all the backgrounders that I had on the country.

Here is Part 2 of my experience volunteering Human Resources skills at an HIV/Aids NGO in a new country that was very foreign to me. Read Part 1 of my story here.

Volunteering with BOCAIP: Human Resources Skills

I have been oriented to my organization, Botswana Christian Aids Intervention Programme (BOCAIP) where I will be spending the next few weeks as a Human Resources Management Advisor. I started my day by reading the Botswana Employment Act of 1982 and it brought to light some interesting differences in the culture. There are clauses in the Act that focus on the family of the employee. The family dynamic is usually not seen in the Employment Acts of other nations, highlighting how Botswana is community centered, not individualistic.

I am tweaking their Human Resources program as they currently don’t have a Human Resources Officer. There is a National office and 11 Centers with a staff of a 100 along with numerous volunteers. It shocked me there is no Human Resources Officer for an organization this large.

So far it seems they have many things in place already, but are lacking the expertise and strategy to oversee the human resources program. I am hoping that I can help setup a few systems and build capacity so that the current staff fulfills the Human Resources role along with their regular duties.

There are many similarities in regards to human resources between Botswana and Canada along with a few differences as well. The real similarity I think one would still see is that smaller organizations are not fully compliant to the Employment Act in Canada either.

Patience is a virtue here, but at the end of the day we don’t have to get anywhere fast. Luckily they are flexible at BOCAIP with working time. People will show up for the 40 hours a week but if they need to do personal errands they will go during the day as all offices are only open from 7:30am-5:00pm usually.

Cell Phone Stand

On the HR side, my challenge is to look at staff retention strategies and reward systems.This is a little difficult, as I don’t know the culture that well to know what motivates individuals to stay in their positions. I am hoping a little bit of research through conversations will help. One of the challenges for BOCAIP is that the International non-government organizations pay higher salaries and have more benefits than the local organizations. It is important that BOCAIP have systems in place to keep their staff happy, which is one of my passions.

Technology isn’t as a big of a tool here as in Canada. Yesterday at our braai (bbq) they were discussing sending faxes instead of emails still if they don’t have the contact information for a person. In my organization, they all use personal email addresses, as there aren’t any organization ones. They prefer to print off the documents instead of emailing as the computers are slow partially due to a culture of saving documents on the desktop and having no dedicated IT person for the organization.

Coming from the UBC Office of Learning Technology (OLT), where we email each other even though we sit next to each other, it has been quite different here. I was discussing internal communications here at BOCAIP and realized that it would have to be faxes that are used for internal communications while at OLT we like the new shiny technology-blogs, wikis, you name it we like it.

I have finished developing a few ingredients for the HR program here at BOCAIP. Many of these ingredients we take for granted especially at a place like UBC. Everything from job descriptions, non-disclosure forms, Human Resource information management system and so on. Not to say that there was nothing in place, they did have processes and systems that just needed to be revisited, as there is no Human Resources Officer to monitor the HR activities.

The time has flown by. I will be in on Monday to transfer over the skills if they have time for me. A meeting was planned to transfer the work I did, but it is 1pm and I have no idea when this meeting is happening. Reminder to self: Patience is virtue here.

Read Part 1 of Manpreet’s story here.

Photo Credit: Manpreet Dhillon.

Manpreet Dhillon

Manpreet, co-founder of Be Your Own Best Friend (a network for South Asian Women), wears another hat as a Freedom Catalyst at Manpreet Dhillon Consulting. She helps women create more freedom in their life and the game plan they need so women are happier, healthier and more successful. Manpreet is a Certified Personal and Business Coach, Certified Heal Your Money Story Coach, Certified Human Resources Professional with a Masters in Organizational Management to allow her to support women in moving forward in life.

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