By Barbara Bucheli
How does one summarize an experience that tested one’s limitations, expanded and stretched one’s understanding of the world and of one’s self, has heightened one’s passions, and that has grounded theories that required practical knowledge? A practicum experience is not an easy event to describe accurately in a few sentences but may be better described by the actions and continued relationships that follow after one has completed the practicum. For example, a practicum lead my parents approximately 25 years ago to leave their home in Switzerland and immigrate to Canada, a country they both fell in love with during their farming practica here in Manitoba. My life was greatly shaped by the practicum experiences of my parents and the friendships they made through that time, some of whom are still core people in my family’s life to this day.
A practicum is an intense and powerful event for an individual, and through my observation I can say that it can most certainly guide or transform one’s direction in life. My own practicum experience in the Eastern Region of Ghana this past May through to August has since guided me both professionally and personally. My practicum, if I attempt to describe it, was nothing short of incredible, and encompassed every facet of growth (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual), building my own capacity as a budding development practitioner while building FLOWER’s capacity as an organization.
My role as an assistant for Facilitating Learning of Women in Emerging Regions (FLOWER) still continues for me here in Manitoba as I edit proposals and partnership agreements, keeping up to date of the happenings of flower, and staying in touch with Helen Attah (CEO of FLOWER) and with my Ghanaian family and friends. The relationships I created in Asamankese have profoundly affected me and it is my hope and aim that they will continue to be cherished and nurtured. These relationships are what made my experience so incredible and what helped me every step of the way, supporting me at my most vulnerable, keeping me safe, healthy, and happy.
The lessons I learned about development can best be seen in these relationships. Maybe it is too simple a metaphor to compare development to an interpersonal relationship, however, the analogy stands true in the case that both require partnership, communication (both the speaking and listening kind), the sharing of ideas, reflection, learning lessons from failure, flexibility, and long-term commitment. My experiences in Ghana showed me that relationships are at the core of what some may call ‘good’ and ‘bad’ development practices, and it is through strong, healthy relationships that we are able to develop more effective and sustainable solutions to local, national, and international issues. Although I gained many technical skills in writing, programme planning and the like, the key lesson I believe this experience has given me is seeing the utmost value and importance in building and nurturing healthy relationships; because if we value relationships we will value the people we work with and for in development and not overlook anyone’s capabilities and contributions to the solutions. With this in mind, I hope to continue my work and relationship with FLOWER and greatly look forward to see how these relationships will continue to develop over time.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in Ghana (especially Helen, Joyce, Bright, Pastor, Philip, Sammy, Kobby, Lillian, Bright Jr., and Patience) and in Canada (my parents, Sarah, Dan, Ruth Taronno, Terra, Erin, and her family) who made my experience unforgettable and incredibly valuable. Your care and wisdom will never be forgotten—thank you.
Barbara Bucheli is studying international development at Menno Simons College