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.