As well as supporting my country and city – and the benefits of international Sport in general – I love my volunteer gigs at the Games (2010 Olympics and 2015 PanAms) for 3 main reasons: i) it keeps me in touch with what’s new and different in clinical practice in healthcare; ii) helps me understand how younger, newer practitioners are the same or different from my demographic group, and iii) fuels my curiosity and understanding of complex human systems and how they operate and learn.
Thus this blog, which I’m using as a personal discipline to categorize my learning in some meaningful way. Putting pen to paper – actually fingers to keyboard – forces me to clarify for myself, and for you the reader, some of what is swirling in my head about systems, how they develop, learn and change, and hopefully continue to grow and improve.
I love watching complex adaptive systems in action – how the many parts of a rich, intricate and complicated system make the whole, how the system’s purpose – in this case to provide welcoming, meaningful healthcare to the athletes and team members of the Toronto Pan Am Games – is played out by hundreds of people learning how to work in concert with others to make it happen.
The Polyclinic pictured here is a temporary structure located in the centre of the Athletes Village in the Donlands in Toronto. It is surrounded by Athletes’ living areas that will be turned into beautiful condos after the Games. It is a really nice part of town, easily accessible public transportation, easy access to lots of great spaces, with a brand new YMCA on site, and I’m told most of the condos are already sold.
Canada Day was my first volunteer shift in the Polyclinic in the PanAm Athletes Village Polyclinic. If you don’t know what a Polyclinic is, you’re not alone. My understanding is that it is a European term that denotes a health/medical clinic that provides a wide variety of services – thus “poly” from the Greek meaning “many”. In this case, many services.
The PanAm Polyclinic provides all kinds of services from Family Medicine to a fully-stocked ER, Specialty Services such as Dermatology, Cardiology, Dental, Optometry – Bochner Eye Institute and Loblaws are donating time, expertise and hundreds of pairs of glasses for the teams – and of course, full Sports Rehab Services (Physio, Massage, Chiropractic, and Sports Medicine, Physiatry).
There is also a Public Health office staffed with City of Toronto nurses to deal with any outbreaks or other public health concerns – there are thousands of condoms on all the services desks for the taking – they are snapped up quietly by many – and not just the athletes!
I am one of 3000 volunteers in the Health/Medical Services at the Polyclinic and the many Competition Venues and Fields of Play across the Games. There are about 6500 participating athletes from 41 different Pan American countries, competing in 36 different sports.
Planning has been in the works for 6 years and has involved 16 different communities surrounding Toronto the north, west and east. According to the Chief Chef for the Games, 500,000 meals will be served in the Athletes’ Village alone. These Games are the largest multi-sport event ever hosted in Canada. The cost for public security and traffic management is in the neighbourhood of $250M.
If you watched the Opening Ceremonies Friday night – or better still were actually there, you’ll know that it’s all very exciting for Toronto!
I was listening to an HBR webcast yesterday – an interview with Christiane Amanpour, who has always interested me, on Leadership. One of the things she said really struck a cord. She said “leadership is not a zero sum game” – an expression that has long confused me and which I now understand more clearly. She said: “As a leader, you have to look for the win – win for yourself and for the other. She used Mandela’s desire and ability to build relationship with De Klerk as an example and she talked about understanding the other’s perspective so that you can find the win-win and enable others to act. This is something I have always believed in and tried to practice and teach/coach. With her gift of communication, she expressed it so well and so easily.
We spent last night in the Fairmont Zimbali on the Indian Ocean after a frustrating day spent in the Durban King Shaka airport waiting for flight to Port Elizabeth. Too bad we couldn’t enjoy it because it looked beautiful. We arrived after dark at 8 pm and had to leave at 6am; however we were very glad to have a warm and safe bed to sleep in. Durban looks to be a beautiful place and we would have liked to have more time there -everyone at the airport was very helpful – but once it gets dark it’s nice to be settled in somewhere familiar.
This morning early we flew into Cape Town on South African Airlines and what a site from the plane coming in!
We had a fantastic day today. After a very good sleep and a wonderful breakfast overlooking the city of Johannesburg we headed out on a tour of Soweto, starting with the Apartheid Museum and ending with the Hector Pieterson Museum. In between we visited Mandela’s home, which is now a small museum, and we had a local lunch with our guide. There is so much to tell that we will do it in stages today and tomorrow so please check back on this post as we put it together. It’s almost dinner time so we will publish it as we add information.
We left the hotel with Ben, our excellent tour guide at 1030am and returned at 5pm. We were concerned that much of what we would see would be very hard to take in. Ben started the tour by saying “I am going to show you the good, the not-so-good and the ugly.” And he did – all while answering our many questions with honesty, humour, grace and pride. He has many good reasons to be proud, he has lived in Soweto all his life – he tells us he is 40 and the youngest child of 4. His mother is 75; his father left when he was 6. Their household also consists of his two nephews, 21 and 17 (as their uncle he has resposibilities to see they are raised well) and his own 2 children on weekends. He is a very conscientious and kind man. We know this by the respectful and kind way he treats the many people – both old and young – that we come in contact with over the course of the day. He tells us he has just finished paying the bride price (dowry) for his second wife. He is proud to tell us she is a teacher. We are sorry to learn that his mother has just been diagnosed with TB. Happily she is being well cared for in a local hospital. He tells us that healthcare Is provided for all South African citizens. We later learn that TB is often used in Africa as a euphemism for AIDS, which has a significant stigma attached to it. We also learn from reading the newspapers that although health care is provided for all, the quality is not at all what it needs to be. We hear – although we don’t see it – that thousands of people wait in the fields surrounding hospitals, hoping to be cared for at some point. This is a third world country for many of its citizens and a wealthy first world country for others – not unlike Canada with its challenges in First Nations communities. The significant difference here is that the African majority of many millions of people is by far the poorest and the least educated.
A little about Soweto: It stands for SOuth WEst TOwnship and is about 30 minutes from our hotel. The population is estimated to be about 3.5 million but no one really knows how many people actually live there. Apparently the government conducted a census last year, the results have not been released yet. Both Archbishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela lived there for many years. In fact Bishop Desmond Tutu still has a house which his son keeps for him and he stays there when he is in Johannesburg. The restaurant where we were invited to have an excellent local buffet lunch was beside his house.
Gorgeous Vancouver day today! The sun is out, the sky is clear, the mountains seem closer to the city than ever and the views are spectacular. The weather has brought out lots of strollers into the streets of the Athletes’ Village. You realize how spectacular this city is when the weather is nice!
We are half way through the Games and the time is flying by. The energy in the city is electric. There are people everywhere with Go Canada on clothing, on signs and flags, on cars and trucks, in store windows, and reflected in their conversation. People are talking to each other everywhere – on the streets, in the sky train, waiting at stoplights, even in the grocery store. Locals are helping visitors to get to where they want to go, offering suggestions of great things to do, asking volunteers what work they are doing, where they are from, why they chose to volunteer and what it is like.
Continue reading “Sunshine and Excitement in the City”