Thursday, June 23, 2005

Capacity Building at Its Best

Wednesday 22 June, 2005 21:31 Banda Aceh

Wow, again it’s been a busy week. I have been so caught up in the planning of our Cash For Work training. It’s been non-stop for the last few days getting things ready. We’ve been working with our sister society here in Indonesia to build their capacity. With my anal tendencies, I was a little scared that things would fall through. They have never done anything on this level before… but they did not let me down. The training was a full day. It was held on the grounds of the local university here. The university had a lot of open spaces and parks… now they are filled with IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps.

Sharial and I went yesterday to check out the facilities. The room was damaged from the tsunami. It was missing part of a roof, but we decided to use it anyway… with the condition if it rained, we could move to another classroom. The building is actually used by the women’s handicrafts training. This is where seamstresses perfect their art. I was amazed by the beauty of some of the work. I talked them into letting me by a quilt from them (we don’t have any at the house) and also am ordering an ornate quilt that will take about a month to complete. This quilt, which is hand made, would easily fetch $1500 for its intricacy in the states. I’ll pay just over $100.00 It’s worth every penny. It’s beehive flower style. Each of the hexagon’s are about an inch wide… really a fine piece of handicraft… and really, I just came there to look at the room!

Even though I was involved behind the scene for the training, I really wanted it to be run by our local society. This was partly successful. I did an icebreaker and facilitated a four hour critical thinking activity… I really liked the concept of my icebreaker… it was classic youth camp/church group activity… but it bombed painfully here. The basic idea is that you have a name taped to your back. You have to go around and introduce yourself to others in the room and ask them a yes or no question about your character. When you finally guess who you are, you can sit down… easy… right? Something definitely got lost in the translation. Ruby and I had worked to come up with World and local politicians as well as Indonesian pop stars. But when we planned this activity, it was mainly going to be our sister society at the training. They invited the geuchiks (village chiefs) and a female representative. Some of these people were in their sixties… and had NO clue who “Jet Lee” was. In retrospect, the group size (fifty people) was too big for this activity.

After my activity, they took a prayer break and then started with the technical part of the training. There were discussions of the SOP and of pay grades. Our sister society also conducted a refresher course on the fundamentals of our organization and why we do what we do, trying to let our volunteers know that we are part of the bigger picture. We had lunch and then I conducted my critical thinking portion. This was mainly to get them to think outside of the box and to understand how good planning is directly related the success of an operation. We also discussed community action plans and the importance of a holistic approach to village rehabiliiation. We then conducted a mapping exercise to illustrate the point. This was more successful than I EVER imagined. We divided the people into five groups: Women; Farmers, Fishermen; Small Business Owners; and Entrepreneurs. I gave them a simple scenario… your village has been completely wiped out and you need to design your village from scratch. How would you design it. We had poster board and colored markers. Each group really got into it. As I sort of hoped, farmers only concentrated on their farms and neglected the fish ponds. But they also designed small scale palm oil factories and rice mills. Small business forgot about the farmers, etc. It was great to have the kids view as well… In the midst of disaster, it’s easy to forget the remaining children still need to have a childhood. Everyone is concentrating on the farms and the houses, but kids need a place to play and have fun.

After each of the groups presented, we had a wrap session and discussed what we had learned. They really got it… their villages are wiped out and yes, this is an almost unbearable tragedy, but they also have the unique opportunity to rebuild their villages from scratch. They can build them with paved roads and with every house having a vegetable garden. Yes, there are budgetary limits, but you don’t have a pesky neighbor’s coconut trees in the way. After that, the villagers broke into small brainstorming groups and our sister society got together and had their planning sessions. After about an hour of that, they then divided into six villages. Our volunteers then got to meet with the villagers that they would be working with. Their task was having a community action plan before they left. I had introduced Gant charts and almost cried when I saw some of the village chiefs creating Gant charts from scratch… they really got it… and I cant’ even speak the language. The training ended about 6:30 PM. It was a long day but was ten times more successful than I could have imagined. The villagers arrived that day seeing what we could do for them and left planning what they could do for their own village. The position change was subtle but clear. We moved from a “money giver” to a partner in reconstruction. My heart sang and is still singing as I write this. Ruby asked me what we were doing tomorrow. I have been so focused on this day that I truly have NO idea… but don’t worry, there will always be something.

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