Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Group Coordinator's Story: Joana at the Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre

Joana lead a group of international volunteers on the last shift of our project at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre at the end of summer 2017. Volunteers' work supported the day to day running of the centre and had the chance to learn a lot about meditation and Buddhism. Thank you Joana for your great article and we are glad you had such a great experience and learnt so much from it!

Joana leading volunteers on a outdoor excursion!

Being a coordinator on one of Concordia's summer project was one of the most rewarding experience of my life. At first I was really worried about not being able to make this experience the best possible for the volunteers, indeed having all those responsibilities in terms of social activities and group bonding was a first for me, however the volunteers made it quite easy. The main problem I encountered was probably trying to be firm and cool at the same time, acting like a “mum” and a friend at the same time.

Joana and the group of international volunteers
 The greatest lesson I learned from this experience was putting other people's interests (mainly volunteers) before my own, as a coordinator I thought it was my role to make everyone feel comfortable and as satisfied as possible from the various activities. However, as a human being I wasn't always agreeing with what the volunteers were keen on doing; it was really uplifting to put myself second for the best of a group, as it is something I was not too used to do (but I really enjoyed it and it taught me so many things about myself). Within the group as well, many differing views were expressed in terms of social activities, being the coordinator taught me a lot about doing compromises and taking responsibilities to please everyone whatever was decided. For instance, when we went on a day trip to the Lake District, the physical abilities of all the volunteers were quite different in terms of hiking, but by talking to each of them separately and then as a group we managed together to make a plan for the day that pleased everyone.

One of the volunteers doing some cleaning at the Manjushri Centre
 I believe the experience of coordinating a project in the UK made me more confident about a lot of different things; I now know how to make all the voices in a group heard, I've learned how to communicate well with two different parties (in this case the host and the volunteers) to prevent any issues from happening and avoid further conflict when an issue is already here.

For the future, I will definitively be using those leadership skills, communication skills and of course the kindness and understanding the Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre taught me. I would really recommend to anyone, from any background and any personality to try being a coordinator as I think we all have so much to learn from volunteers and hosting organisations.

Joana Salles, Group Coordinator at the project Manjushri 3, summer 2017 

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