Mick Eccles, Radio Trainer for WFP’s Fast IT and Telecommunications Emergency and Support Team (FITTEST), was recently in Guinea delivering essential training to staff from UN agencies and NGOs. He sent us this dispatch, describing what it's like when you're on deep-field operations and have only office chairs to sleep on.
Ever felt like you’re being ‘sling shot’ from one location to another? You land in one location and only a short while later you’re being slung somewhere else? This is how I felt in my first week in Guinea.
I am currently in Guinea delivering radio training to staff from various UN agencies operating in the region. I target three main groups with the training - radio operators, drivers and guards. These are the people who are required to use radios often and, in an emergency, these are the people who will need to communicate the message quickly and clearly to other parties.
I landed in the capital Conakry and two days later I was on the road heading to N’Zerekore. To reach N’Zerekore I had an eight hour drive, an overnight stay in Faranah, and then another eight hour drive the next day.
I spent two days in N’Zerekore delivering radio training to 45 staff from UNHCR, WFP, IOM, UNDP and UNDSS, and from two NGOs. With the training and various practical exercises, I was very happy to see an increased level of understanding of basic radio operation and associated procedures.
I then found myself on the road again for another eight hours, travelling to Kankan. On arrival we discovered that the hotel which had been booked for my stay had given the room away to someone else. Apparently there was a ceremony happening in Kankan and the hotels were all booked out. Thankfully I always carry my own swag – pillow, sleeping bag, mosquito net and towel. I made myself somewhere to sleep within the WFP compound using chairs from the office. Whilst in Kankan I delivered radio training to staff from UNICEF, WFP, FAO and UNFPA.
The following day I was back on the road and travelling to Labe in the north-west to provide training to staff in a small WFP regional office. It is at this point in my story that I have to mention that I am a non French-speaking Australian. However, with the use of a translator (and picking up certain French phrases used in radio communications myself) I can say that the radio training is delivered efficiently to allow a sound understanding by those attending.
On completion of the training in Labe, I was taken from Labe to Mamou (a three hour drive), where I was ‘relayed’ across to a driver from WFP Conakry. Five hours later we arrived in Conakry where I find myself now.
After travelling by road for approximately 40 hours, to three locations, delivering radio training to 82 humanitarian actors, I am now in the last week of my mission.
One of the recommendations I will make in my report is to return to Guinea and provide ‘Trainer of Trainers’ training. The aim of this course is to train those who assisted me with translations during the lessons, and other staff whom I have recognised as having a good understanding of the correct use of radios, in order to leave a pool of radio trainers. By doing this, it is hoped that a team of trainers here in Guinea will have the skills to deliver radio training to newly recruited staff to maintain a high level of understanding of radio operation, protocol and procedures.
Now, it is almost time for me to be ‘sling shot’ one final time this mission. This is the life of a FITTEST team member.