Better Late, Than Never #ConnectingHRAfrica

#ConnectingHRAfrica – Day 3

Today, I cried. Like, proper sobbed. I hadn’t expected it nor had I prepared for it. I sat in the bath, shower running, and had a proper cry.

If I know that I am likely to be in such an emotional situation, I can prepare, close down, become clinical and limit the extent to which my emotions are seen.

Today, I was caught out.

We spent the day at another boy’s centre. A centre which supports boys who have been with Retrak for 3-6 months.

Where do I start? Firstly, the staff captured me. The genuine love, care and will to help the boys on a path which will, hopefully, see them reintegrated with their families was immense. Retrak staff educate, counsel, guide, provide medical facilities, facilitate fun and games along with lending a supportive ear. Never judgemental. Always there.

Our agenda for today looked a little like this:

9:30 arrival

9:45 – Welcome

10:15 – Tour of the centre

10:45 – Split into two groups. Ian Pettigrew, Kate Griffiths-Lambeth and Katrina Collier led the staff training session on personal effectiveness. Sophie Tothill, Lisa Leighton, Alice Cowell, Helena Savage and Amy Littlefair led the sports and crafts activities.

12:30 – Share lunch with the boys

1pm – Sports and Crafts with the boys

1pm – 121’s with staff

3pm – Photography training with the staff

4pm – More play with the boys

We were greeted with the most vibrant of songs, accompanied with epic drumming and some dancing. The tears started here. The sheer joy of the welcome was enough to set some of us off. One young boy captured me at this moment. “Eric”, aged 7, was on his feet, dancing and singing, big smiles abound. “Eric” is missing a leg; amputated at the knee after a driver, high on drugs, ploughed into a group of kids who were heading to a local field to play football.


We had a tour of the centre. I was really surprised at the lack of resources in the Nurse’s room. There are so many things that you expect to see on the walls of a medical practitioner’s surgery; pictures and information about diseases or guidance, information and advice yet there was none of this. It was bare. How much harder must the Nurse’s job be when she is relying on just her voice to assess, explain and educate a child about their illness?

I was really pleased to be involved in the staff training session on personal effectiveness with Ian, Kate and Katrina.



We split into groups and discussed what each staff member wanted to be better at, how they wanted to be better. Feedback included time management, teamwork, managing stress, how to balance workload vs working time, conflict management, freedom to work, decision making, empowerment, communication. Sound familiar?

We identified two themes to focus on and, using the GROW model, were able to work through to provide ideas and opportunities for the staff and management of the centre to consider. The session was tough, though. Whilst some of the staff were vocal during the group activity, I experienced the stoney wall of silence when facilitating an open session. The same senior staff members with a voice. The more junior were, perhaps, lacking the confidence to openly share there thoughts with their managers present. It could just be that I’m a shit trainer 😉

Ian explained circles of influence which was incredibly powerful and beneficial for the staff. Feedback from so many of them, who came up to us all afterwards, was brilliantly positive and they explained how they would use the session to move forward and try to change the ways of working.


I would dearly love to revisit, maybe through Skype or maybe I’ll just jump on a plane, in 6 months time, to see how the changes are positively impacting their work. It made me realise that there are so many models and approaches that can, and will, be shared with the staff when I get home.

The afternoon was all about the children for me. Some of the team held 121’s with the staff and, whilst that was happening, the rest of us played with the children; football, parachutes, plate making, bunting and mask design, play doh. Oh, and we painted all of our hands and filled  a bed sheet.


The boys fell in love with my tattoo and wanted me to draw the exact same on them (with watercolour, obvs). I did check my pens first to make sure them were not permanent markers! An artist, I’m not but I gave it a good go.

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It’s a kingfisher and an alligator, before you ask. I totally acknowledge, Simon Heath I’m not.

One young boy stole my heart. “James” ran up to me and handed me a letter.


Whoah. This completely explains what Retrak, and our support, means to these boys.

James continued and wrote individual letters and plates to us all.

We learned that £27.50 per month / £330 per year would offer a complete end to end cycle of support, medical assistance, education, social workers, field visits, reintegration with family and 2 years of follow up for one child. ONE. How many of you would be up for donating the cost of a couple of daily coffees over the course of your working year to make a difference to a child? Scrap that. To make a difference to another human being.

This is on the wall of the centre that all of the children work towards. It sums up everything Retrak stand for and deliver.


We would all dearly love for each and every person in the HR Community to really get behind us. Share, tweet, donate. Your support means so much to so many. Better late, than never.

To donate to the whole team, please click here. We thank you.

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Widow, Cats, Family, People Stuff, Exec Coach, Food Nerd, Gin Queen.

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