Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When Is Your Work Complete When You Work In Development?


Development Work       
  1. work aimed at helping a country become more competitive across many overlapping sectors, from health, to education and many places in between with an end goal in creating sustainability
I have been thinking a lot about sustainability and development work while working in Senegal and each day I come up with a different conclusion. On good days, as you can just about imagine, I think development work is great and we really are making a difference, while on bad days I question what I am doing here and doubt that I am even making any difference at all. Of course I know I am making a difference at some point it’s just a question on if it was the difference that I intended on making.
Our project has been running as smoothly as one can ask but there are still bumps in the road that I want to sort out; they should have pretty easy and realistic solutions.
We submitted out 2013 budget and letter of intent to the Mayors office last week hoping to get funding from the 2013 Velingara budget since the budget has not yet been finalized, even though its March. Everyone at the Mayors office thinks our project is a great idea and that our city is in great need for this type of work; it’s just a matter of finding funds for it amongst all of the other expenses the city holds. We submitted a budget of all of our expenses but Amadou and I have both agreed that if we could even get them to pay for our personnel costs that would be a win in our books. And of course, I should have never looked at it after we submitted it, I found items that were rather important that we forgot to include such as food for the donkey. I guess he isn’t going to be eating this year.
As of late we have found a handful of customers to add to our ever growing list of clientele in hopes to start breaking even and one day begin to earn a profit. We are still working on getting all of the households to pay each month; right now we are at about 18% of households who are not paying on a regular basis and once we get that number down to zero we will have the numbers to be in the green and out of the red. At the moment Amadou, and a tiny bit of help from a couple of other people, goes around to each house each month to collect payments. This is a task in and of it self and takes almost a week to complete. He is constantly being told to come back later, and that is if the person who pays the bills is actually there which is usually never the case. We are hoping, fingers crossed, to open up an office space in the center of the market within the next month so that customers are able to come to us to pay. This would hopefully give Amadou more time to focus on the customers who don’t pay rather than those who do.
Sunday we had an appointment at the garage (transportation hub) in town to install trashcans. We were supposed to do a cleanup beforehand to help them start off on the right foot with keeping the garage clean but of course things did not go as planned. We arrived at 8:30am with trashcans and supplies in hand only to be met with questions regarding the security of the trashcans. I have never really thought about this before, I am not sure if it is a large issue in the states or not, but apparently trashcans are a high commodity here. They are used to store about anything imaginable with food and water for animals at the top of the list. We purposely puncture holes in the bottom of them for this very reason but its nothing a little cement can’t fix. On top of the questions about security we were also met with a debate on price. We have had a couple of prior meetings with the officials from the garage and I tried to bring up the issue on how much the service would cost them but the topic was always set aside and I was told it would be discussed later (I knew I was right and should have settled on a price before we showed up ready to work).
This setback makes me question how serious the garage really is about our project and left with the question, when exactly is your work complete when you work in development? If the garage officials actually want to change the appearance of the garage, and they say they think it’s a great project, then why won’t they take the appropriate actions to ensure that it’s successful? Are they waiting on me to get fed up with waiting on them so that I both fund the project and do all the work on my own? Peace Corps has been in Senegal for 50 years and at what point do we consider our work done and leave Senegal? I could easily write a grant for funding from some European or American NGO and be financially set for another year but that is not what I want my Peace Corps service to be, the American that came and gave us lots of money, which is what a lot of NGO’s become seen as. I want to convince the local government and population to believe in what I am doing and see the positive change that will come once their city is clean. With this I am officially declaring that I will not write a grant for this project during my service. If we want assistance it will be something that Amadou can do on his own and manage even after I am gone. Don’t worry I am sure there will be more posts in the future about my run in with the theory and practice of development.
As of right now I have put on my designer hat and came up with a few sketches on how to secure the trashcans so that Amadou and myself can bring them to a metal workers for quotes. A few initial thoughts were to have the trashcans become the responsibility of a few store owners at the garage to bring in and lock up each night until we come up with a more permanent solution, which would work but being that the officials are apparently more sayers rather than doers they want to not rush into anything and take more time to think about all the options. Poppycock that’s what I say.
So far a few of the ideas that I have are:
·      Incase the trash cans in a single or double wide storage shed (metal or wood) with front doors that lock and a hole on top directly over either one or two trashcans
·      Create a metal cage for either a single or multiple trashcans that can be then chained to a permanent object. The cage would have a front door that locks to empty the trashcan(s) and again a hole/holes on top
·      Fashion a metal ring that would go around the trashcan and another to go from one side up and over to the other side (to prevent lifting the trashcan up). A lock would secure the top bar and would be able to be released to empty the trashcan
·      Dig a hole, throw cement in it, and cement the trashcan in the hole to the ground (not my favorite idea but cities actually do this because its practically free)
I am thinking that these are all basically decent ideas it’s just a matter of determining which would be the cheapest to create yet last the longest, I don’t want Velingara to have to be replacing trashcans every five years.
On other news Amar, my APCD (Assistant Program Country Director) who is in charge of the whole CED (Community Economic Development) program in Peace Corps Senegal is coming to do a site visit tomorrow to see how my projects and living situation are going. I am sure this could be done in an hour but he has the whole day reserved for me to introduce and showcase work partners and projects. I am hoping to use him to influence both the garage and the Mayors office to get more serious about our requests and our services; I think he will be a little more persuasive than I have been in the past since he has the whole Senegalese male thing going on.

Until next time my fellow readers. Take care and thanks for reading. Cheers.

2 comments:

Edward Blodgett said...

Once again, I read what you have to say and am flabbergasted at the amount of work my sister has to accomplish for an entire city. But, if anyone can do it, it is my sister and I believe that whole-heartedly. You are getting stuff done and helping people that seem like they don't really want it. Your doing great things! Keep up the amazing work!!

Kari Cinker said...

Well said Eddie! I agree 100%. Loved reading this post and am so proud of you and what you are doing!

 

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