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My journey to becoming a Sphere trainer

An interview with Oumar Dembele, Sphere trainer, Burkina Faso

Becoming a Sphere trainer requires experience, skill, and commitment. Oumar Dembele completed the Sphere Training of Trainers (ToT) program in Burkina Faso in late 2020 and is now a listed Sphere trainer.

Eight people in an orchard attempt to coordinate with each other to lift a 2-metre-long tent pole using just one finger each. Easier said than done!

Sphere workshop, Burkina Faso, 2022

Sphere caught up with Oumar at the end of a 5-day Sphere workshop which he co-facilitated for Plan International Burkina Faso earlier in 2022.

How did you first hear about Sphere?

I heard about Sphere briefly when preparing to become a certified CALP Network trainer in 2019. I met Illiassou Adamou, a Sphere trainer and focal point in Niger, who is a Bioforce [Sphere’s focal point in France] trainer, like me. Together we delivered a series of Sphere workshops in Burkina Faso – co-organised by Sphere, CHS Alliance, Groupe URD and H2H Network – that culminated in the ToT in Ouagadougou in 2020.

What is your background, and why did you want to become a Sphere trainer?

I studied Economics and Management and have now been a trainer and consultant for over 20 years, working with businesses, NGOs, Associations, and Farmers’ Groups. I wanted to become a Sphere trainer to use my facilitation skills to share Sphere philosophy and further promote the use of humanitarian standards.

What were the key steps to becoming a Sphere trainer?

The first Sphere workshop I attended was as a participant in a 3-day event led by Illiassou, after which I was selected for the Burkina ToT. Since the ToT, I led five Sphere workshops before applying to Sphere to join the community of listed trainers.

What did you find most satisfying about the 5-day workshop you facilitated for Plan International in Burkina Faso earlier this year?

The first achievement was getting the event scheduled, which was challenging because of the participants’ busy schedules. In the past, Plan Burkina was mostly working on development projects, but because of the acute insecurity in our country, they now have active humanitarian programmes.


I really appreciated the participants’ active engagement in the workshop and their desire to share the opportunity with their partners. Finally, there were 30 participants, 25 from Plan and 5 from their crisis intervention partners.

Why is Sphere important in Burkina Faso?

Burkina is a young country [almost 40 years old] which is experiencing a massive humanitarian crisis for the first time. There is therefore much to learn. Things that may seem obvious to expatriate staff of large NGOs and UN agencies, like how the humanitarian system operates and who the different actors are, are often not well understood by local staff.


Sphere’s principles and foundations are important for everyone and provide a great introduction to the sector, while Sphere’s technical standards and guidance support further learning without limits.

Oumar interviewed workshop participant, Djeneba Ballo, Plan International Coordinator for Central and Western Burkina. Watch the video here (in French with English captions).

Since the first one in the year 2000, there have been at least 60 Sphere ToT programmes, whose graduates go on to facilitate hundreds of Sphere trainings every year, reaching thousands of participants.

ToTs play an important part of the growth of Sphere’s global network, spreading knowledge of Sphere standards among field practitioners, policymakers, and government officials around the world as they implement and advocate for high-quality and accountable humanitarian programmes.

For more information about organizing Sphere training or becoming a Sphere trainer, visit the training page.