Cape Town

A month after our sub-team meeting in Costa Rica, it was time to head to Cape Town for our annual HOp’s meeting. On May 8, 2011 I boarded my flight from San Jose to start the journey to Cape Town. My route took me through Atlanta and across the big pond to Johannesburg. From there, on to Cape Town, arriving on the 9th in the evening.

This was a big meeting, over 50 people flew into Cape Town from all over the world for a three day meeting. Staying at the very nice Protea Fire and Ice hotel, we all gathered ready for a week of meetings and fun activities. Now, Cape Town in May is a little cooler as winter is starting down in this part of the world.


The theme of the meeting was ‘Leading through change together‘, in recognition of the many changes taking place at different levels that either had an impact or provided opportunities for us. We looked at the need to adapt to significant changes going on internally and externally and explored this at a number of different levels: globally, regionally, team and individual.

There was also be plenty of space and fluidity in the agenda to connect with others, to have informal meetings and to allow important issues the space they need. The flip side to this is that we had hoped people would arrive on time to joint sessions and to contribute positively with energy and ideas.

The meeting was facilitated in such a way that there was almost always relevance to us throughout. There was always somewhere that we could contribute. This was a major challenge for such a diverse group and we were fortunate to be able to bring in two external facilitators, Viv and Johnnie to help with this.

External Visitors

We were also joined by a number of other people from the Humanitarian Emergency Affairs (HEA) team, including the Regional HEA Director’s, as we sought to interact with other parts of HEA and build our plans around the most critical issues emerging for the regions.

A first-class delegation from the Headington Institute including Don, Brent and, Linda were also on hand.  They provided 1-on-1 sessions as well as providing input into specific sessions and contributing to the process throughout the week.


Throughout the week, following each day, we had specific activities for team building. These activities were actually a great deal of fun. When our daily meetings concluded, we had something called “Creative Resilience Building”.

This was actually facilitated by a musician, Mark Dodsworth of the Red Zebra Foundation. He had brought in all kinds of drums and other musical instruments native to the region. We were led through some skills in developing our own HOp’s band. There were many who were already musically inclined, like Steve, our communications expert who carried his drum sticks everywhere he went.

Our band even found a name, we became known as “Big Dog Chris and the CAT III’s”, the significance of CAT III being the emergency category level required for us to deploy.

The drums we used were so awesome, I had to find one as a souvenir…which I did the second time I was in Cape Town.

Small Incident

I cannot write about South Africa and Cape Town without a mention to our colleague, Mike. You may recall Mike from my Nepal story, who had the bike accident. Well, Mike seemed to be the type who favored hospital stays over the hotel!

During this trip, Mike had swallowed a fruit pit of some sort, I cannot quite remember. But it was large enough to create a blockage somewhere inside. An emergency trip to the Cape Town hospital and surgery to remove it was his highlight!

City Tours

Cape Town is an amazing part of our world. There is a lot to do here to enjoy and great food, especially if you like seafood. Zaza and I would wander around the area during our lunch breaks or whenever there was some one-on-one time. Being the two security guys, there was not a great deal for us other than planning the HOp’s HEAT.

Not far from the hotel was a nice market for souvenirs. This was back in the day when I had no problem loading up on trinkets. I was still new to this traveling thing, and still amazed at the money World Vision had no issue in spending!

Crazy Hat Night

The final dinner of the meetings consisted of a few “first’s” for me. I had finally met everyone in the GRRT, and was thrilled to be working with such professionals. Our final dinner, “Crazy Hat Night”, involved each of us to wear a goofy hat.

We had no advance warning on this, so many of us were scrambling to find crazy hats. Fortunately, there was a costume shop around the corner from the hotel. Here we found a plethora of hats and costumes that met our needs.

This evening was truly remarkable and a great deal of fun. During the dinner, we all exchanged hats and tried to act out the roles behind the hat. Still new to the team, but not new to the stressed they faced, I was able to witness the stress leaving them. This team of professionals works tirelessly during deployments with heightened levels of stress, hence the Headington Institute.

The other “first” experienced this night was the amount of alcohol consumed. For a Christian organization, it is fair to say that the holy wine was bountiful! The biggest surprise was that it was also paid for by the organization.

Following our dinner, we all walked around the water front. Here, I saw the largest ferris wheel I had ever seen. There were many shops and the evening was quite pleasant.

Wrap Up

The meetings were held over three days, May 11-13, the 13th being a Friday. We had the weekend together as team building. We had our choices over the weekend what activities we wanted to participate in. These included a trip to Robben Island or going up Table Mountain.

We also had Sunday, May 15 where we were free on our own. On Monday and Tuesday people would start there journeys back to their home bases, mine being San Jose, Costa Rica. I departed on May 19 for home arriving on the 21. Prior to my departure, I had a few extra meetings with Brendan and Zaza planning for the HOp’s HEAT as well as my first visit to Colombia.

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