Monday, 21 November 2011

Under Training

I arrived at the area earlier than normal. That’s not something out of the ordinary for me. I always do that. I hate being late in appointments and I always try to be 10 – 15 minutes earlier than expected. I just walk around till it’s time. So, I bought a coffee and with that keeping my hands warm I walked around. It was a bit cold but at least it was sunny. The area was tired. Most of the shops were closed. Those that were open had employees sitting outside probably waiting for customers. Only a Turkish bakery looked a bit alive with some families going in and out. The people of the surrounding Council flats were probably still sleeping. It was after all somewhat early on a Saturday morning. I was waiting for my ‘public facing training’ for the gay men’s charity I’m planning to start volunteering.

The building where the charity was based was new. That was one of the only new buildings around. They occupy an area of the ground floor next to the common garden by the canal. Overall it’s a very nice building. The room where the training would take place was cleared and only the chairs needed and a drawing board were left. I was welcomed by one of the members. He showed me in and explained where coffee and tea were served. I was one of the very first people to arrive but I felt at ease, supressing a slight feeling of self-awareness I had.

Overall they were waiting for 11 people but not everybody showed up. Even with the latecomers we must have been 9 and the whole training lasted 3 hours as previously agreed. Apart from some presentations on what to do and how to behave during public facing, we did some group exercises and discussions. I hadn’t done group exercises of this kind. We wanted to check how body language affects people’s personal area, how to mingle and start a conversation with a goal to extract specific information and how to finish a conversation to move to the next one. What we talked about weren’t staff I hadn’t thought before but it was nice to have them explained in detail.

What I was most interested in finding out is how they actually maintain the safety of the volunteers, especially when they are trying to contact people in public places like bars of coffee places. I assumed that cases of homophobia assaults wouldn’t be that rare. Also, I feared that holding money in a plastic bucket in common view is dangerous. I was very relieved to learn that most events like that are controlled and thoroughly pre-planned. Volunteers visit bars that are gay friendly and only after agreeing it with the store manager. Also, the places for fund raising are selected so that the buckets are locked for the night and collected by the charity’s managers later. That means that the volunteer is not walking back home with money on them. Generally, a common policy of non-engaging and simply ignoring ‘unfriendly’ public is advised. 

In most cases what a volunteer does when facing the public is fund raising by collecting money with the noisy buckets, pretesting materials for campaigns or booklets and informing the public on campaigns already under way. As far as I know the charity is now organising events on promoting awareness for AIDS and HIV. I’m very interested in the matter and I will try to dedicate time in the upcoming weeks!


  1. good for you! You have a good approach; and I like you want to be on time. Commendable.

  2. That sounds like an interesting meeting.

  3. @Ur-Spo Thanks. I tend not to be late at meetings / dates / plans

    @Jim It was.