AIMS (African Institute of Mathematical Sciences) is a centre for post graduate studies in Muizenberg, close to Cape Town. The AIMS centre which has gained international recognition as a centre of excellence prepares students for research and teaching careers in quantitive sciences. This year, AIMS hosted their Africa@home workshop. 46 delegates from all over Africa and some lecturers from Europe were invited to attend this conference. My role was to represent the ICVolunteers as the official Africa@home coordinator. I was to be based at the AIMS offices in Muizenberg.
The Africa@home conference was to commence from July 16 and would finish on July 22, 2007. I started during the month of June whilst the conference was still in Phase 1 (The Planning phase). Lots of preparation still needed to be done before the actual conference.
Jan Groenewald (AIMS administrator) was also the project organizer for Cape Town. My role as coordinator meant that I would need to work very closely with him. Our working relationship consisted of an informative brief (in the morning) of what needed to be done, new ideas and things that he was thinking of. Together we would discuss and if needed research and find "workable" answers. The main focus was always to look at the conference holistically covering all aspects successfully.
My duties as the ICV Coordinator were to find the cheapest quotation for flights, discuss the quoted price with Jan, mail the prospective flight dates to participants and wait for their correspondence.
Once participants ok'd the prospective flying dates, I would make request for the air tickets to be booked. This was extremely challenging as flying in Africa sometimes have stop-over which (if you are not aware could make traveling very difficult).
Fortunately, Jan had a vast geographical African Travelling knowledge, which really simplified matters for me.
Once flights were confirmed, participants' details needed to be captured on an Excel spreadsheet where we could add information such as Dietary requirements, Estimated Times of Arrival/Departure etc. and monitor the budget.
A standard invitation letter was drafted by AIMS Management and modified accordingly to suite our participants needs and was sent to all the Embassies of participants. This was done to help ensure that participants obtain their visa timely for the conference.
Two days before the actual conference, I had to ensure that all participants had the correct spelt name tags with the relevant Public Relations information packs for the conference.
Even though transport was organized to and from the airport, some participants extended their stay and needed advice, maps, website details, on "Things to Do" in Cape Town. This acquired me to book alternative transport and suitable hotel accommodation.
Whilst In the process of planning the conference Jan and I decided that we were doing a social day (outing) for all our participants. Again I was briefed on what participants would enjoy and I had to arrange the outing accordingly. Please see below (Addendum A) for the original Itinerary. For the day to be successful the following plans needed to be set in action. A Coach needed to be arranged, discounts for the group bookings needed to be set in place as we had a strict budget to adhere to. Various back up plans needed to be set in place incase the weather did not allow us to go to Table Mountain etc.
The AIMS experience was really amazing. In a short period of time I had the opportunity to learn from an articulate planner Jan Groenewald and gain first hand experience in planning, arranging and setting up for a conference. I had the opportunity to work in a very friendly environment (AIMS offices) and had the opportunity of meeting all the participants from all over Africa and Europe. In a nutshell...an empowering opportunity!
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