By Ram Das, Deputy Country Director- Humanitarian Response, CARE Bangladesh
We all are living in and working through highly complex times. It is especially challenging for those who are on the frontlines providing essential and life-saving support. The staff members from Rohingya response in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh are no exceptions. Given the day to day challenges and complexities, the farthest thing from the mind may appear to be pursuing `knowledge’. However, this is exactly what the Site Management & Site Development (SMSD) colleagues of CARE Cox’s Bazar office had done. They took advantage of the lockdown/restricted presence and movement in the camp areas and utilized the time for professional growth. And how! Together, they completed a whopping 900 online courses from CARE Academy over a period of only three months. CARE Academy is an on online learning platform that offers courses on diverse subjects of humanitarian and development work as part of self-study and individual capacity building.
The SMSD program involves facilitating and overseeing the activities undertaken in the camps. Through this program, CARE seeks to work with both the refugee and host community households who reside in the area. Coordinating closely with NGOs, government stakeholders, and beneficiaries, the SMSD program seeks to identify and bridge gaps in services through instituting a community governance structure. The key efforts is to strengthen camp management, improve common facilities, and plan for future needs to enhance the quality of life of those living in this area. As a result, SMSD’s work profile requires communication and coordination with diverse stakeholders in the camps on a regular basis. But with Bangladesh Government mandating that the SMSD staff would have 50% presence in the camps due to COVID-19, we prepared a roster duty plan and put it into action.
For those who worked from home/office and didn’t have to visit camps, it seemed like an opportunity they could seize for something worthwhile. They chose to spend time on Learning and Development. Between April and June, 20 colleagues from the SMSD unit, especially working in Camp 13 under the leadership of Camp Manager Shohel Mahmud, completed on an average 45 courses each from the CARE Academy. The courses included Management and Leadership, Personal Development, Professional Efficiency and Humanitarian Project Management, among others. This speaks volumes of not only their passion to gain knowledge but also their intention to plan and execute the work better.
When Camp Manager Shohel proposed, the entire SMSD team immediately welcomed the idea and recommended the courses they wanted to pursue. He says, “I had never thought we would be able to achieve this feat. But putting a structure to it, inspiring and holding each other accountable, reminding each other of the commitment and goal helped us tremendously.”
Sayda Taslima, Site Management Assistant shares, “I am a field worker and had never ever imagined that I would get to work from home. When it did happen, I used the opportunity to study, gain new professional knowledge and earn certificates. In fact, I am already able to apply some of the learnings at work and in personal life. For example - my decision making ability has definitely gone up as I am able to use diverse perspectives.”
“Completing the courses while working from home/office is playing a significant role in our lives. And the greatest impact has been on my mental well-being. I am now able to respond to COVID-19 situation much better. The courses indeed made a huge difference in my personal and professional life” adds Shohel, who himself has completed 90 courses.
The achievement is not just in numbers of courses completed. The whole team has immensely benefitted from it. Like Sayda, most of them express that it has expanded their thought process and their world view on a number of areas. The theoretical knowledge complemented by practical modules on real work situations will certainly help them in the long term. Managing teams to implementing complex projects to handling stress at the work, in all of these matters, they have a better understanding and have a renewed confidence of managing their work in a better manner.
CARE Cox’s colleagues have once again demonstrated that with the right intention and planning, the process of learning and development never ceases. COVID-19 locked down our freedom in strange ways but certainly not the quest for knowledge. Shout out again to my colleagues out there who are definitely challenging all limitations to set an example.