The first quarter of 2019 has been an exciting time at Girl Up Initiative Uganda, thanks to the amazing management team.
First, we moved into a new spacious office, a delight for all the staff. Then come 6th to 8th of February all roads led to Garuga, a serene place on the shore of Lake Victoria where the team had a residential retreat to refresh and reflect on our previous achievements and our future plans of the organization as well as at the personal level.
The three day residential retreat included learning sessions and a lot of fun filled teambuilding activities aimed at building the professional capacity of all 21 staff members. It was an open space for reflection and helped us to build a strong team culture based on our values of accountability, collaboration, and inclusiveness. The retreat was also a way of appreciating the staff for all that they have contributed towards the growth of the organization and realization of the mission.
The first day of the retreat focused on personal reflection. The team had an exercise dubbed “Who are you?” where they reflected on who they are, what gives them joy, and what gifts or unique talents they bring to the organization. This exercise helped the team to understand that everyone is different and, therefore they should appreciate their unique qualities and contributions that they bring to the organization.
We later moved to the personal values exercise where each team member filled out a value sheet on what is the most important to them, and then later on shared with the entire group. Upon sharing, we realized that some values such as helping society, leadership, integrity, creativity, knowledge and responsibility were crosscutting among the entire team. This helped us understand the need for effective teamwork because working together helps us to achieve our goals as a whole.
After a day of reflecting on who we are and how best we can use our personal strengths, we headed to a relaxing time where we got to enjoy ourselves. Some of the staff preferred the swings because it reminded them of their childhood while others headed for the swimming pool.
As the saying goes, you have to face your fears and we had some first time swimmers who were brave enough to face their fear of swimming. They were supported by more experienced swimmers, which portrayed the aspect of collaboration amongst the team.
We later enjoyed a lovely meal and then an inspirational movie about the power of teamwork.
Day two focused on the reflection of the professional self and strengthening the skills of the team members in a few key learning areas. The session started with a reflection of each one’s journey with Girl Up Initiative Uganda, what they have learned and what has changed personally as a result of the work. During the journey sharing, we realized that many of the staff members started as volunteers and gradually grew into who they are today.
Just like any other organization or place, challenges are also part of the equation. The team got to share about the challenges they have faced and how they have dealt with them. Others shared about current challenges and our team brainstormed solutions. For instance, Jackie, a Mazuri seamstress, shared about how it is sometimes a challenge for her to work with her fellow seamstresses who speak a language that is more common to them than to her. The team discussed about it and came up with a solution that she can endeavor to learn that language with help from her fellow seamstresses so they can work better as a team. The rest of the team members were also encouraged to speak a language that is common to each and every one more often.
All participants were then organized into groups based on their departments to work on professional action plans. The professional action plans aimed to support team members in reflecting on what their professional goals are for the year, the actionable steps to get there, and what support they will need along the way. The other team members were tasked to hold each other accountable to monitor the progress of their peers and offer support to realize the goals. Workplans were also developed to input the major activities/deadlines for each department.
The final sessions of the day were aimed at building the capacity of staff in a few key areas. The team was trained on professional email communication and time management. The team was given an opportunity to share about what takes up most of their time. During the sharing, it was noted that majority spend their time with distractions like whatsapping, texting, attending to phone calls and others and attend to tasks that are not urgent or important, thus contributing to time wasting. The ED later provided a talk to the staff about the importance of good time management and making the most out of the 8 hours of work.
The group broke off for lunch and then enjoyed afternoon team-building sports activities such as basketball, volleyball, and yoga. The team was divided into two sports teams: the “wild cats” and “the waves” and they played against each other. Both teams were energized and showed collaboration throughout. After team-building activities, the team members were free to enjoy the pool, beach, and relax.
We had a BBQ dinner on the shore, that was followed by dancing and enjoying. The team loves to dance and it brings them together as they cheered on one another’s dance moves and shared the DJ responsibilities. Staff also exhibited their talent. Joan was the DJ of the night, Susan sung a beautiful song and Ivan came in with a rap. It was a night worth remembering.
Day three focused on presenting the new strategic plan (2019-2021) and sharing organizational policies and procedures. The trainer explained the basic principles of a strategic plan, as well as any new terms or definition of terms. He also opened up a discussion on what barriers may arise that could potentially prevent us from achieving the plan’s vision, mission, objectives, and actions. The team members were very engaged and had important discussions on why our focus is on girls with the other beneficiaries that we work with supporting the girl child.
A nice luncheon concluded the amazing three days of growth, teamwork, and fun as we headed back to Kampala. It was definitely a magical retreat and we are so grateful to have had this opportunity to step outside our normal work environment to more deeply connect to ourselves and each other!