When I last wrote we had been here only a very few weeks. We have now been through Christmas, New Year and are well into our third month. Things that seemed new and strange have become normal and, in fact, the time we are due to be here is running by at great speed, which is a little bit disconcerting.
We have settled very comfortably into our roles at work for the Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters (SAME). It is now routine to arrive at the office each day often just at the time that the Police band is marching along Beach Road (our street) to the Government Building for the flag-raising ceremony which takes place each week day at 9am. I love standing watching this, I enjoy the band which has been invited to play in many of the other island nations in the Pacific. I enjoy standing still when the Samoa National Anthem is played and I truly appreciate the thanks from local Samoans for my having done so. These are the little things that show the over-riding personality of Samoan people – their love of their country, their appreciation of others who are respectful of their way of life, and their warm friendliness.
We had a very quiet Christmas but did catch the local ferry to Samoa’s other large island Savai’i and spent three nights over there. Savai’i is more rural than the island we live on, Upolo. Some people say Savai’i is the true Samoa as it is more as it has always been. We enjoyed our time there though I felt it was hotter at times than was comfortable for me, so thank goodness for an air conditioned car. I also think I provided the Christmas Feast for the Savai’i mosquitoes. But we had a lovely break, relaxed, read books and generally chilled out.
On New Year’s Day it started raining and it didn’t stop until 12 days later – day and night it rained and rained very hard. I did not believe one small country could absorb so much water. There was flooding, the rivers rose high causing concern, two people drowned when their car was swept away from the road. The rain was torrential and something I had never seen before. The mould growth was rapid and caught us somewhat unawares as even some of our clothes became mouldy. Once the rain stopped everything went out into the sun. Much had to be washed, all sorts of items needed to be brushed and then dried – from camera cases to the string of a necklace that I wear a lot. All my shoes needed cleaning and I now keep some of them at work where the air conditioning keeps them dry. However, it was a learning process and we are much more alert now.
At work I have continued with up-skilling our Office Administrator, Faith. At times these are regular sessions at others they are sporadic depending on what other work I have to do. Membership fees for SAME are due January 1 so we needed to invoice all SAME’s members. We used Mail Merge in an email to do this. It was something new for me as well (I had mail merged letters but not within an email) and so we both learnt as we went along. It was really quite exciting and very satisfying for us both to complete this task so straightforwardly.
We have also tackled: headers and footers, page layout, numbering, columns, page numbering and indents. For many of you these would be seen as basic skills you require before you get work. Faith had learnt them at school but she hadn’t had the chance to use these skills over the last four years so was struggling to remember them. Much of our training is a refresher for her but with a mail merge its use is only demonstrated when you have reason to make use of it. Faith really enjoyed learning about mail merge and she has written up how she did it so she can teach others.
SAME is a membership organisation and in its requirements is very like the Association of Administrative Professionals New Zealand Inc (AAPNZ), of which I am a former National President. Now that SAME has a physical office I have now written position descriptions for the President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer and our Office Administrator. I took as my starting point those same position descriptions from AAPNZ and this made much of what I was doing very familiar. It is always easier starting a task with something to work with rather than a blank page.
The work I am doing here in SAME reinforces for me how much I have gained from my time both as a member of AAPNZ but also in taking on roles within AAPNZ. I believe, now I am working in this role, that the strongest skills that I bring to this voluntary role are my administration skills and my knowledge of working within a membership-based organisation. It reinforces for me the value of being willing to put your hand up and take on an opportunity. I know we are all busy, I know how hard it can be to fit everything into our day but the old adage of “If you want something done ask a busy person” stands true. We can often take on something extra quite simply because we are well organised to cope with our busy lives.
While I have been here in SAME I have so far used my knowledge to:
•Upskill our Office Administrator which is ongoing
•Develop Distribution Lists within Outlook to make communicating with SAME’s members, Executive Committee and Office Staff more efficient
•Develop a Monthly Newsletter for Members
•Develop Position Descriptions for SAME office staff and Executive Committee
•Review the SAME Constitution and recommend some changes for the March AGM
•Develop Policies for SAME to meet their needs
•Help our Office Administrator to develop a Desk File covering her Job Procedures
•Develop and started negotiating training for SAME Members which is ongoing.
•Developed a monthly cash book system to assist the Treasurer with his financial reporting
•Arranged methods for managing Petty Cash
•Tidied up and streamlined regular payments
•Clarified and streamlined payments for staff wages
•Developed financial procedures and started training our Office Administrator which is ongoing
SAME has been an organisation since 1982 and it of course had systems and processes in place to function all of those years. The above steps have been taken as until now it had been solely a voluntary organisation and each new elected officer would change and adapt processes to suit their method of working. Now SAME has a physical office and paid staff there are different or modified processes required ensuring continuity and consistency for the SAME Members.
In some areas this has involved our learning what the earlier processes were and seeing how these could be adapted to suit this new environment. In other areas it has involved starting from scratch and developing something that will work for SAME and its members. It is very satisfying work but can at times be challenging. Listening skills are very important as are the attributes of adaptability, patience and flexibility.
We had great excitement in the office just recently as we took delivery of four brand new “typist” chairs and finally we are all sitting more comfortably at our computers. In the interim we had purchased cushions to put on our plastic outdoor chairs and these improved our comfort but these new chairs make a significant difference.
Charles and I still work at tables but these are perfectly adequate and as we leave in just under 10 months we gave Faith Charles’ proper desk so at last she is sitting more comfortably and more correctly. A few weeks ago she was suffering from headaches when she started using the computer each day but we have now enlarged the font on her screen, seated her correctly in front of her screen and keyboard, and have encouraged good posture and these headaches have now disappeared.
Some of my abiding memories from this amazing experience here in Samoa will be the pleasure of learning something new for those who are not often given this chance and to see how much I have learnt by being here, by challenging my own skills and knowledge.