Standing on a rocky cliff overlooking the pacific-ocean, we, the Global Citizen Year Fellows and staff, watched the orange
sun dissolve into the horizon… quite an idyllic setting for a mid-term retreat. We all stood in soft awe at the scene where we would set aside the daily challenges of our immersion experience and work life, to reflect, in serenity, on the past few months.
We spent the mornings in training sessions on Foreign Aid and Local Development, the Girl Effect, and Cross-cultural Leadership. The Global Citizen Year staff and experts from the region led the training sessions. A highlight of the training was a field trip to a cacao project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where we learned about the role of US taxpayers’ dollars in supporting local cacao farmers to conserve their forests. We also enjoyed getting our hands dirty in one of the cacao nurseries that USAID supports.
A group of seven Fellows impressed us when they took the lead in one of the trainings to reflect on the Fellows’ achievements during the past few months. The leaders of this session did an excellent job at keeping the rest of the Fellows and staff engaged with fun and interactive activities that led to meaningful reflection and discussions about our personal journeys this year.
In the afternoons we had free time to relax and enjoy the beach and each other’s company. Swimming in the ocean and in the pool on top of the cliff were popular afternoon activities. Beach Frisbee and friendly sand wrestling came in second. A group of Fellows got their hair braided by local artisans, while others braved the waves in a small boat. At dusk, everyone watched the sun drop into the waves and, of course, took pictures.
At night, we ate coconut shrimp and other famous Ecuadorian sea-food dishes. Games of ping-pong and pool were also prominent while other Fellows played the guitar and sang by a fire, toasting marshmallows. On one occasion, we all danced to the beat of the Afro-Ecuadorian traditional music – marimba (ballaphone), presented by a local band that came to play. The Fellows also bravely participated in an impromptu talent show.
From the staff perspective, our mid-term retreat was a complete success. Not only was it a relaxing and fun event, but it also gave the Fellows the opportunity to complement their field experiences with outside information and perspectives on development and their role within it. Critically, the retreat also gave the Fellows the space to share experiences and bond to form a more cohesive team.
Personally, I left the retreat feeling more energized than ever before. I was inspired by how well the Fellows had adapted to their individual Ecuadorian experiences. Their increased self-confidence and sense of possibility were palpable in a way that I had not sensed so far this year. It was clear that most of the Fellows were hitting their stride and were eager to make the most of the last three months of their time in-country. And the mid-term retreat allowed all of us – including the Fellows and staff – to take stock of how far we had come in this collective journey.
EQUATORIAL PACIFIC SUNSET