Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

Peace Corps is hard. Development work is harder. There are things that we do to ourselves to make our lives more complicated, drinking too much and having a hangover when it is already 100°F, and there are things that the world does to us and make us wonder why, such as people stabbing your already overworked donkey, but I will elaborate more on that later. With all these things being said when work is going well or, more or less, your way, it is something to celebrate and appreciate. When you find yourself in this rare ideal you tend to see, not just look at, the sunrises on your morning run, savor the lunch that you eat probably five times a week or play with the kids in your compound a little more; everyone benefits!
While work has been about as busy as ever and though it still does not compare to a busy schedule in my previous life it feels good to be on the move again. My trash project has all of a sudden stumbled upon financing from a few sources which seems typical as far as timing because I have been working my entire service to get funding without writing another grant and I finally find it once my service is in the last stretch; 1) the city contributed 100,000CFA (about $200), 2) we were fortunate enough to add one of the local pharmacies to our list of clients which also just so happens to be owned by the richest person in Velingara and insists to pay more than 3x the service fee, 3) Sodefitex, an international cotton company with a local bureau, promised funding if we write an official request for donations and 4) we may have found financing from the US Embassy to install public dumpsters throughout Velingara.
With the good things come the bad and like a famous rapper once said, “mo money, mo problems.” We are now faced with the ever so daunting question of what to do with our new found wealth. Buying a new donkey is top of the list at the moment ever since someone decided to slice into her back leg with who knows what when she was eating the other day forcing her to visit the vet to get the wound cleaned out which I think she is less than thrilled about. We already considered her over-worked but since we were always financially unable to buy another donkey we just sort of
Donkey getting the best medical care Velingara has to offer!
hoped for the best I guess. Donkeys apparently run for about 50,000CFA (about $100), which cuts a large piece of the already small pie given to us by the community but we will consider it as an investment in the business. The rest of the money will be put in the bank so that we have money to fall back on as it’s needed, like during dry season and donkey food is so expensive that she is eating most of our profits. Amadou has expressed a few things that we can buy but I am keeping him grounded, I think.
The meeting with Sodefitex to ask for donations, materials, or pretty much anything they could contribute, went great. We initially spoke with someone but he ended up being in charge of manufacturing but kindly showed us who the correct person was to speak with and, while he was a little less inviting, he said that he would accept our request if we had a proper written request. We have to state the brief origin of the project, our current dilemmas and what we plan on doing/how we will benefit from the donation, in whichever form we are requesting. This was expected, and he wanting a formal request did not surprise me, but I was surprised when he started explaining that he probably wouldn’t be able to give funds or materials 100% and that in fact projects are more successful and people are more invested when they are required to also contribute to the end goal. With that being said they usually would, as an example for our request, give us a well-built cart containing the Sodefitex logo and we would have to pay for a percentage of it, which could be paid in full or monthly installments. What? I was speechless. This is great! This is exactly what I wanted when I was declining to write another grant for the project in the first place, the community and the project needed to be more invested and here I was listening to a Senegalese man preach about the importance of the project leaders having a sense of ownership in the “donated” materials and this is why Africa is how it is today because they receive too much free stuff and aren’t involved in the development process. I am not paraphrasing or summing up the point of what he was getting at, this is what he said and I wanted to jump out of my chair, throw my arms around him while I cried. He gets it. People can get it. This is what I am doing here. Not to write grants, though I did do that a couple times, or to solely teach people about Americans but to show people that there are resources here which are available and it is up to them to take advantage of them and with a little hard work, and if we are being honest, education, they are more than capable of doing this.
Concerning my project in Tambacounda producing poultry feed I think we were approved, well I received a text from the Peace Corps grants manager asking if I had received the funds yet and while I informed him that I was unaware that we were approved I was encouraged to look into my account. This is great timing since not only has it been a while since we submitted our application but my counterpart Cissé had called me the other day to tell me that the project had already started because “if he were to wait funding he might be waiting forever and he doesn’t have time for that.” This does not mean that he has funding to do the project on his own it merely means that he is financially capable, and determined enough, to start the preliminary crucial steps in the project so once funding is received we can more easily hit the ground running! He has great determination and has not let me down thus far and I am excited for the week when we get to set up shop and start a truly wonderful business; it will also be kind of nice that I will get to live at the regional house with Wi-Fi and access to a kitchen since it is approximately two hours from my actual site and the thought of commuting sounds horrible.
In summary, life is good. I have more work than most volunteers, which is something to be excited about and I love, for the most part, the people that I get to work with. My service is going to be coming to an end before I know it so now is the time that I get to, pardon my language, start kickin’ ass and takin’ names!




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