Get To Work!
Trip Start Jun 13, 2013
39Trip End Ongoing
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Everyone always says that projects come with time and you don't necessarily have to find them, they will find you. I always thought it was volunteers that had copious amounts of projects that said this, until now. I have always had my primary project but as a volunteer you are always looking for secondary projects to take on not only as a time filler, because I believe all projects are worth more than just filling time, but as another way for me to extend my resources and knowledge to my community. Well this is the week folks even though timing could have been a little better, though I am not going to get picky; of course my APCD, Amar, was here in Vélingara last week to check on my projects and I was left stumbling with "eh, yea I have projects, uh". Ok it was not that bad but I did wish that I had more exciting things to talk about other than English Club and my work creating a Pen Pal system, it’s important work in terms of cultural exchange but I want to make a real difference, one that could be measured.
So what are these projects that have seemed to fall in my lap you may ask? Well for starters after Amar’s visit he forwarded me a link to an online article describing a women’s group in Senegal that USAID (United States Agency for International Development) awarded more than $80,000 to for income generating activities. Out of all of Senegal the group just so happens to be in Vélingara and since I am the only Community Economic Development volunteer for miles the project was all mine! Well of course they already had a budget and plan of action but I still wanted to get involved, I was more or less excited about the possibility of being able to work with such a high budget project, it will be fun to see how finances are being managed. So I had the name of the women’s group and the name of the president of the group and I was off to ask around, literally, Vélingara to see if anyone knew this women or group. It took a couple of stops but I ended up finding one of the key people involved in the project, of course it is a male, and I requested a meeting. Later that day I met with him and the Senegalese contact for USAID who is the accountant responsible for overseeing the entire project. I was able to find out more to this mystery project that ended up being a garden with a substantial area of 1 hectare (about 2.47 acres). A few Fantas later I managed to convince the project leads that I could help with trainings, marketing, and management of the produce that is cultivated from the garden. So excited!
While on my journey to find the above mentioned women’s group I ran into a gentleman who was telling me how he works with youth for the entire Vélingara Department (which I guess could be equivalent to a county). I told him I would be interested to hear more about what exactly his work entails and we exchanged numbers anticipating to meet in the near future. Well, the next morning he called me and said he could be at my house in a half an hour which was great because it took no effort on my part and I could then see how serious this guy was about working with me. Well 25 minutes later he is not only at my house but talking to my family like they are old friends, which they were; small world but my sister was calling him her son which just confused me because he was much older but I was relieved to know that I could, at the very least, trust this person not to be a fake or creep. There are apparently 17 ASC’s (Association Sportive et Cultural), which are zones within the mission of the organization who work with keeping youth involved and, well busy nonetheless, predominantly during school breaks but also occasionally during the school year. We would only have a couple representatives from each zone come to the trainings which they would then take the knowledge they learned to hold their own trainings to youth in their zone but we would try to get more youth involved for larger more entertaining events such as concerts or soccer games. His request for me to partner with his project is partly to secure funding, of course. Since some of the youth have to travel upwards to a couple of hours to attend trainings we try to cover transportation costs and lunch, this should be easy to secure since it’s a relatively small amount and there are always grants available that help women and youth. My first request from him was to see if we could arrange a cleanup event of sorts since Earth Day is coming up next month (April 22nd) and I just so conveniently work in waste management. He loved the idea and I am so excited to kill two birds with one stone, cleanup Vélingara while getting youth and the community involved, genious. We also agreed to do some seminars or trainings to help youth with such skills as business, nutrition or environmental consciousness. Another very exciting project!
The last project that sort of appeared in front of me is working with a community of women in my area of town that want to become self-sustainable concerning rice. Here in Senegal a vast majority, I would estimate more than 70%, eat rice for lunch just about everyday. Considering that rice is a crop that can be grown in Senegal it is crazy to hear how much of it is imported, we are wasting so much money buying something that we are more than capable of supporting ourselves in. I found out about this community of women through, none other than, the man that has Mogley the monkey that I have some pictures with. He told me he had a great project and, honestly, I used to think he was kind of crazy so I was skeptical. When I showed up to his house to hear about his project he had an Excel spreadsheet with information such as a listing of all the women with their identity and contact numbers, the number of mouths they have to feed, and the amount of land they currently use to cultivate rice. For an older (I would say mid 60’s) Senegalese man he is way ahead of the times concerning technology and I was so impressed to see how much of the information was actually documented and analyzed! I am going to try and help this community of women get a Food Security grant in order for them to expand the production quantity and if we can get a sure fire model maybe we can implement it in other parts of town.
So yes, life is good here in Senegal and I am already getting nervous about being successful in my projects with only about a year and a half left. I know this is entirely way too soon to be worrying about this but it is always in the back of the mind of a volunteer. Though I may not be able to help with every aspect of the above projects I hope that I can get my hands dirty with a few of them. I am here to help my community and I would love nothing more than to look back on my service and be able to honestly say, I really did all that I could and I am proud of my service. Now, GET TO WORK!