By Michael Okidi – Public Communications
The entire staff of the State Department of East African Community Integration (SDEACI) participated in a highly adventurous and motivating three-day team building exercise at the Kenya School of Adventure and Leadership (KESAL) in Meru County, meant to rejuvenate, reactivate and re-sermon renewed energy, commitment and determination for joint approach to the coordination of the EAC integration process.
The adventure would start with a six-hour long group drive from Nairobi to the venue, strategically but cunningly located at the foot of Mount Kenya, nineteen rough-road and steep kilometers away from the Nanyuki-Meru road, in an elephant territory where there is no public transport. The import of this scenario is that once at KESAL, you undertake the activity as scheduled, no individual excuses permissible, until you again leave as a group.
Well, the six buses ferrying the staff to the venue powered their way through the dense Mount Kenya Forest, climbing 9,000 feet to KESAL, and offloading their unsure passengers to a biting August cold that initially looked like a deliberate punishment for undisclosed offences. And this formed the justification for the rigorous morning aerobics that would follow for the next three cold mornings.
The staff had been warned, and urged to carry “warm” clothing, and those who took it lightly soon realized that the organizers, in liaison with KESAL staff, knew what was in store and would soon wash their hands off any blames for the possible freezing of a few legs and hands.
Details about room accommodation were initially scanty, but the team soon realized that the objective of the exercise was actual team building, starting with room sharing and joint approaches to exercises and other practical undertakings, including classroom assignments.
To keep pace with the chilly weather, the program was developed in a manner that a few classroom lectures were interrupted by lengthy physical exercises out in the open grounds, giving little room for the cold, and soon the officers were enjoying themselves, the beauty and necessity of the exercise sinking slowly and admirably.
Day three of the exercise would be the most eventful, with the team attempting a mountain hike up the cold forest, though Lenana peak, the highest point of Mount Kenya, would remain unthinkable for a team that was not psyched into a mountain climbing mood. However, they managed several thousand kilometers up the forest, the Principal Secretary, Betty Maina, leading from the front, to the disbelief of the staff.
There were numerous lessons learnt from the two-day event, with candid group discussions and presentations unveiling staff expectations and recommendations for a way forward. And of course, the biggest recommendation bordered around the need for improved internal communication, transparency and inclusivity in the operations of the various Directorates.
Unlike previous team building exercises organized by the State Department, the KESAL forum was record-setting, with virtually all members of staff, except for a handful with official permission, missing from the attendance list. Of course, uncertainty and the fear of the unknown, had triggered a few attempted excuses, all of which were firmly turned down, resulting in the massive attendance.
Principal Secretary Betty Maina was impressed by the attitude at the camp, and expressed hope that the recommendations and way forward, among them increased team work in tackling various official issues, would be implemented and sustained.
The PS reminded the officers that the success of any organization is realized through honest team spirit and commitment to the ideals and objectives of the organization.
She noted that as officers working at the State Department in charge of the EAC affairs in Kenya, approach to work, during meetings and at various other regional or bilateral forums must reflect the true Kenya country policy of hard work, honesty, transparency and accountability.
The Director of KESAL, John Mwangi, who welcomed the officers and stayed with the team throughout, said the school, which is managed by the State Department of Interior, would be monitoring the implementation of the various recommendations reached during the exercise just to ensure the efforts were not in vain.