Friday, June 6, 2008

What Exactly Is Sustainable Development?

That is the question. It has been challenging trying to figure out how my actions will contribute to sustainable development. The goal is to create or contribute to projects that the local community will benefit from and will be able to continue when we leave in two months.

It seems like outsiders are relied upon for tasks such as securing funding for projects. Initially, Ashley and I were thinking that we would help in this regard. We’ve come to realize that if we do not also teach the staff at CBHCP how to find grants and write grant proposals, the next large chunk of funding may come in primarily through outsiders. We’re going to run workshops about how to apply for and successfully implement grants.

I am working on designing a website for CBHCP, and I am going to make sure that at least two staff members learn how it works before I leave. The website will hopefully raise awareness about the organization and encourage donations. The main hurdle is that the only internet connection is through one wireless USB device, which means that the going is slow.

The projects that seem most sustainable at the moment are the ones such as keyhole gardens, which are designed to conserve water and retain nutrients in the soil. They have a central location where organic waste, leaves, grass, and ash would be deposited, and the nutrients from this compost would leach into the soil. There is also a built in irrigation system in which the garden can be watered from a central location as well. There is also a project that is working to create income generating opportunities for women with HIV/AIDS such as craft making.
I hope to help in whatever way I can with the keyhole gardens and the women’s groups.

I know for sure that I am going to be teaching about nutrition in the local schools through CBHCP’s outreaches. Today I met the headmistress of Rina Junior Academy in Busaka, the village where I am staying. A pen-pal program between American children and students at Rina will be established before I leave. However, the headmistress wants all 198 children to have pen-pals. I've only secured pen-pals for 26 of them, so if any of you know of schools that would be interested in partnering with Rina, please let me know.

A key component of participating in sustainable development seems to be building relationships with people. Real live human beings are going to be carrying out the process, and they will be more likely to work on projects if they feel valued while doing them. The local culture values making time to interact with people even when one doesn’t have time. In fact, I don’t think there is such a thing as not having time to talk to someone here. It is expected that when you see a person you know, you stop whatever you are doing and talk to them for at least five minutes. I think this kind of behavior is important because it lets other people know that you acknowledge and care about them. I’m going to try to act this way more often, even when I go back home to the US.

When I got here I felt that because I have been educated in America, I have to utilize the unique skill set that I have to benefit CBHCP. I got very excited about making a difference. I knew before coming here that in order for development to be truly sustainable, the local community must be able to affect their own progress. However, I now realize how fine the balance is between making a difference and being a part of change that people create for themselves.


Prathima said...

Hi Saumya! I contacted a few of my friends who are teachers to see if they'd be interested in the pen pal thing. How old are the students?

Lucy (Y) said...

Hi Saumya - Thanks so much for sending in a blog!! It's great to know that you are OK and to share in your thoughts. Your last sentences really resonated with me - we in the US are so focused on "making a difference" when so much of what you can do in a short time is listen, learn, and yes support others in their changes (and as you point out, making time to listen!) Sounds like your web work is going to be helpful, too. Look forward to future posts - all the best, Lucy (Y)

Danika said...

I really liked this entry Saumya! I also think the grant workshops sound like a really great idea. Also-- that's so true what you said about making sure that people always feel acknowledged and valued; crucial for sustainable projects here too!

I'm so glad the pen-pal project is starting to take root, and that you'll get to do things related to nutrition while you're there. Sounds like you're really making the most of your experience! Great hearing from you all.