Community Assessments -- 2003

September 2003


a1 a2 a3 a4 a5
    Off Into the Blue Yonder       Collaborating       Included?       Susan and her House       Smoking Grass  
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    River       Four Hours, One Break       Group Picture       Mark and Levi       Soibada College  
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    Mark       Soibada College Courtyard       View       Soibada Church       View  
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    Holy Tree       Workers       Little Red Blanket       Verdant       Horsemaster  
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    Laclubar       Kids on the Way       Du'ut Girl       Kuru Be       Attentive Audience  
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    That's Me  

    Smoker's Corner       Collaborating       Laclo  

    Mark Gives an Example  

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    Sr. Levi Explains       Collaboration       Gaspar Gets Into It       Explaining       Laclo Group  

Back in August, Mark and I suggested to my counterpart, Sr. Gaspar, that we could help do community assessment workshops in each of the sub districts around the district. We thought it would be a good and productive way to introduce our selves to each community, and to start understanding how we (the P.C. volunteers and the government) could help a little better. Gaspar said it would be fine if we wanted to go do something ourselves, but he and the government had already done it.

Mark and I traded ideas and were still figuring how to arrange something when all of a sudden, Gaspar approached me in an excited mood, and asked if I could help him with community assessment meetings in each of the sub districts."Wow," I mused, "why didn't I think of that." Not knowing what I was getting myself in for, I said sure, and we should involve Mark and Susan. That's when he said we needed to do the meetings the next week and that he would use the information to write a district development plan.

Needless to say, the meetings were completely unprepared and the local government officers were rather put out that the district government was just doing this without consulting them (and in a couple of instances, actively sabotaged the meetings by not providing food to an angry, hungry crowd!). However, we learned a few things, Gaspar and Sr. Levi learned how to run a poorly organized meeting, and we helped pull together a little information to put into a development plan.

The first meeting, in Laleia, was brutal. The attendees were led by disgruntled former government administrators with an axe to grind. Gaspar bore the brunt of that and we came away with nothing useful. Nattarbora went a bit better, with people participating actively, and happily until lunch failed to materialize. When we reached Soibada, there were a bunch of people gathered who had already been told the meeting was cancelled, so we looked a the church, the beautiful hillside, the college, and then went home.

Mark and I were disgusted -- Gaspar had misled us a couple of times, and we'd had enough of useless travel and combative audiences -- so we said we wouldn't go to the meeting scheduled for Laclubar the next day. Wouldn't you know it, Gaspar knocked on my bedroom door at seven the next morning with a look of surprise on his face asking why I wasn't ready yet! Laclubar turned into the best meeting -- they had food ready for snacks and lunch! -- and the next day, the Laclo meeting went fine too.

Biggest lessons learned by me and Mark: include the local administrators in the planning, start out with discussions of local resources before talking about needs, be sure to provide food! Biggest lesson learned by Gaspar: avoid Laleia, and visit other sub-districts as little as possible (he hasn't been back to once since, and did the development plan on his own despite promising to consult with people).

It's easy to criticize, and in hindsight we could have done better even within the time-restraints Gaspar had, but looking at the pictures again, I realize that we did accomplish a few things, and that if we go back to those communities with the development plan and engage in a follow-up conversation with people, we could yet get something productive out of it.