Stories from the Field: Some thoughts on “sustainability”

The first week was pretty brutal for us. Not  everyone was thrilled to have young, foreign, University students come in and act  as though they’re going to “fix things around here”- especially the elderly members of the project groups we’re working with (ex: Batik and CBCP).  This is primarily because a lot of  Western NGO’s come in, throw money around,  start big, shiny, unsustainable projects, then leave. What’s worse is  sometimes the community  gets used to Westerners spoiling them (giving kids  money or treats, giving out school supplies, donating extravagant gifts)  and they come to expect similar “donations” everytime they see a foreigner.  It’s not uncommon for people to stop you on the street and ask you for money or the juice that you’re drinking. It’s also not uncommon for some project groups to expect volunteers to automatically hand them money for  their projects. (This is actually a problem that we’re facing with the Batik  group. The members decided that they want to purchase a sewing machine  so that they can make clothes out of their Batik. Instead of planning  ways to fundraise, they just asked us for the money.)

In light of this dilemma, YCI is trying to send  volunteers and interns over to develop and maintain “sustainable projects”.  Instead of organizing and funding projects for groups, we try to include them  in project management and fundraising activities. For example, what we’re  trying to do with our Drama club is organize a training session for the  leaders of the group so that they can teach the rest of the group performance skills and peer education techniques. This way, we don’t have to  keep paying an expert to run workshops and the group doesn’t have to rely on other people to build their skills and organize everything for them.  Also, we want to include them in fundraising activities so that they learn  how to raise their own money instead of relying on other people. Our ultimate goal is for each group to be as self-sufficient as possible so that  they can stop relying on external support to make things happen. Julie Daniëlse, currently volunteering in Morogoro, Tanzania.

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One thought on “Stories from the Field: Some thoughts on “sustainability”

  1. Great post. Thanks, Julie, for bringing the YCI experience home to those of us who haven’t experienced it ourselves.

    It’s great to read first-hand accounts “live from the field” and to get a real sense of the type of difference you and the other YCI volunteers are making day in and day out around the world.

    Kudos to you for making a difference — and for blogging about it so we can all peek over your shoulder and see what’s going on!

    Mark

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