Tuesday, 25 October 2011

End: Key takeouts - Capacity building vs. Creating unnecessary desires

End : Key Takeouts, Charlotte:

When launching a service project, providers must strive to avoid adverse effects, we suggest they should pay attention to the 4 recommendations below:

(This's a summary of what we've discussed previously, look up here Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

1) Know What to help, Prioritize & Match your Skills  - Always do a thorough & truthful needs assessment on the population / community you're reaching out at.  For instance, your team have a good mix of engineering and humanities backgrounds while the community concerned is seriously plagued with bad water system.  Although your team is capable of teaching English and many other skills, it is clear that the needs urgently lie in improving water sanitation.  When the basics are fixed, your team may think of stretching to other aspects.  Just step in their shoes!

2) Establish Baseline, Set Goals & Measure Result - be specific about what your project strive to achieve, for instance, setting a goal to increase ease of access to clean water at an affordable cost, in a setting where currently the cost is an evident barrier and have resulted in lower-than-average productivity level and health issues as shown by various indicators: shortened life-expectency, infant mortality, school absenteeism, ...etc Then during different phases of your project you would need to measure the impacts of your project, by evaluation/satisfaction survey with recipients as well as correlation studies on relevant objective indicators.  Don't be afraid of making corrections to your project to bring it back in line with the goals

3) Stewardship - The ultimate aim is to increase the communities' capacity to grow on their own.  Therefore, your role is one of an enabler or a moderator to help them carefully identify the steps they can take to achieve the goals in their interest.  In the process, you assist them in a responsible manner, to develop the domestic resources, such as people talents, raw materials, information pools & channels.  By guiding them with best practices throughout the system, you look for long-term sustainable outcomes rather than one-off result

4) Build a sense of Engagement - Encourage two-way contributions by always attaching strings to services provided.  On the national level, humanitarian aids traditionally come in a package with a state's democratization progress.  Similarly, in micro-scale projects like ours, always attach "strings" - which can be either for a complimentary developmental goal, or simply a contribution back into the system to keep the project up and running sustainably.  For instance, you may ask water project participants to attend a complimentary class on basic health / women's health, or/and ask them to learn the skills of installing simple water sanitation device and let's say, set a target for them to help install the device in 10 other households.  This sense of engagement is key to reinforcing stewardship and hence, fostering long-term change in a community

Any comments?


Part 4 - Capacity building vs. Creating unnecessary desires

Conversation between Charlotte, Sean & Sarabe

Part 4 Sarabe:

(This's just part of the series on fighting adverse effects in capacity building: Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4Key takeouts)

I love Sean's reply! I should save it!
Yes... I forgot to add something too... Whenever we implement these service programmes, either to benefit the students or the locals (well, both to be exact) - we need to make sure that we're not a charity who is giving away services for 'free'. We must ask them to contribute as well, such as negotiating with them to do soemthing for us in return. Let me give you an example, say if you're going to a village in Africa where women have to walk 2 hours every day to get/carry water.. and you are going to build a water system in their village so that they don't need to walk so much to get the water - it's great.. but we shouldn't just 'give' them this. What you should do is say, make sure that they attend a healthcare class that you're also organising. So that they know they are responsible for the contribution too.

Similarly.. students should never be 100% subsidised for a service trip.. they should pay at least 60% of the costs so that they will well.. 'treasure' the experience more.  And that will also screen out the applicants who are doing it cos the trip is cheap.

What I won't do is go to a village and show them all these technologies like an SLR camera or give the kids I don't know.. PSP or something. I know it's an extreme example... but I'm echoing what Sean said... isn't this what many NGOs and humanitarians are striving for? Education! and to know more about the world and how it works so they won't be exploited or be at risk of health damage without them realising it themselves..


Part 3 - Capacity building vs. Creating unnecessary desires

Conversation between Charlotte, Sean & Sarabe

Part 3 Sean:

(This's just part of the series on fighting adverse effects in capacity building: Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4Key takeouts)

In my opinion, she is partially true as we always need to understand what the people really need, so that we won't provide some unnecessary desire to them. And what's more important, as I have said before, we shouldn't hand in a gift to them, instead we are just a moderator, to inspire them running the program themselves after we left.

Maybe we should develop a system, that when the beneficiaries earn some money becos of the skills they learnt, they have to contribute back to the program. Let's say to contribute time teaching in the centre, or donate money back to let the program sustainable!! Then they won't depend on foreign aids anymore.

Let's think about back to 90s when we don't have computer....and we were simple. When the computer comes, did they increase our hopelessness?? Of course not, since computer allows more efficient and organized working performance. And it allows us to see what's going on in this world, other than just their own community.

I disagree with "being ignorant is better than having desires to strive for", it depends on the "desire" is basic or extra. I really think Education, Literacy, Livelihood, Sanitation, Health, Global citizenship...are basic things, so let them strive for it!! if we ignore their basic desire, it would probably result in more disappointment towards foreign aids!!

I hope we all see how the imbalance this world is. We can take an easy step to just ignore it and live our "happy" life. But it would take much tougher steps with courage to narrow down such imbalance.....So let's find out what really they need and combat it~

Be optimistic about our world!!


Part 2 - Capacity building vs. Creating unnecessary desires

Conversation between Charlotte, Sean & Sarabe

Part 2 Sarabe:

(This's just part of the series on fighting adverse effects in capacity building: Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4Key takeouts)

I think she has a valid point about not to create unnecessary desires, as to what unnecessary desire is I cannot say what they are exactly. IT seems to be a very pessimistic thought though

But I don't think that teaching them about computer software to creat hopelessness and disappointment - is that to say that they should not know anything about the world? Perhaps by knowing more about the outside world, it will inspire them to work harder and know how important education in.

In saying so, I think it's a dichotomy when working to improve poverty. We don't know about their happiness level at the moment. But say, for example, a poor village (with basic necessities) are probably really happy and simple, but when outsiders help them by creating say, trade links, then the fact that money gets involved will change them somehwat - so whether they're still happy in the end is a debate.

So it's important to find out what to help and how to do so. There're things that are obvious.. such as launching a water project to a particular village that obviously has bad water system. Things that are closely linked to basic necessities, after that we can go about finding more opportunities to help.


Part 1 - Capacity building vs. Creating unnecessary desires

Conversation between Charlotte, Sean & Sarabe

Part 1 Charlotte:
(This's just part of the series on fighting adverse effects in capacity building: Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Key takeouts)

just wanna share something with you two...yesterday in the evening time I had a casual meeting with a young student, who pointed out something shocking to me, although I'm not sure she was saying that because she really thought so or because she was disappointed that our program was not up to her expectation:

"be careful not to create unnecessary needs among the already poor Indians. I don't know their culture or their society, but are you sure it will help them make a living by teaching them HK-style cooking? think about it, for example, there's currently no such snacks as 'fish ball' in India, but if you bring it in via the project, then you're creating unnecessary desires and products within the community...similarly, teaching them some computer software will also let them see the world more and that will only increase their hopelessness/disappointment about their own poor situation. " she also talked a lot about the harm of careless volunteering...etc

obviously she has a point about the importance of need assessment and really matching their needs, but I found myself unable to agree with her world-view that "being ignorant is better than having desires to strive for" because seems it already assumes the poor is destined to be poor......what do you guys think?


Sean's Sharing - Turning Slumdogs into Millionaire

The reason of organizing this project is tracing back to the summer of 2007, when I joined a Service Learning Program called Project SEE held by General Education Unit, HKU. I was sent to Kolkata, India to work with a local NGO named FOCUS (Forum of Community United in Service) in the theme of Child Rights. Although it was not my first volunteer service trip, India culture definitely had great impact on me. We didn't do much in that trip (only teaching and home visits), however, I don't want the service to be just one-off-deal, and I really see the needs of those children and women striving for education.

Last year I went back to Kolkata and discuss with my friends working in FOCUS on how we could do something that actually benefit those poor family living in slum areas. Then finally we set up a Child Education Sponsorship Program to support educational expenses for 50 children. We found out that it only costs HK$ 300-400 for one year education fees including uniforms, books and stationery. If Hong Kong people can save money from buying 2 sets of clothes or eating out twice a week, we can definitely sponsor more kids to go to school! Before I left Kolkata, we also discussed about the situation of unemployment, and not surprisingly found out it is difficult for high school graduates to find a job. Therefore, we got to consider other ways to assist them.

When I came back to Hong Kong, Charlotte Wong and me founded an organization (not registered yet) called Impact For Peace. We would like to achieve two main goals: Universal Education and Sustainable living Standard Improvement in Third World Countries. We strongly believe when people are willing to share what they have with people who are in need, and create an impact to the friends around, world peace is not too far to reach. Although we can't deal with all the political reasons, we only want to show Love and Care, and that is the most important in mankind.

This Summer Impact For Peace recruited 10 HKU students to continue our work in Kolkata. This time we are focusing on deliver Vocational Skills to women and high school graduates, in order to let them acquire some skills like leather work making and computer utilization etc. This project is sustainable since after HKU students left, those women and graduates are still making the leather bags. We are now planning to set up a fair-trading line so that the money earned from selling their products (in Hong Kong or elsewhere) can be put back into bonus rewarded to the maker, and buying raw materials. We hope you can support our project by buying one leather bag, there are limited stocks in CEDARS office! Come and grab one!!

Next year we would like to organize a similar project in India, if you think you have special talents and you want to share your skills to Indian women and students, please contact us at: impact.for.peace@gmail.com

Chloe's Sharing - Turning Slumdogs into Millionaires

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. This is what brings me to India for a 6 weeks service trip.

We all know that there are billions of people living under poverty line but we seldom have the initiative do something for the needy. After watching the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” a few years ago, the pictures of Indian poor’s living conditions stayed in my mind.

In this summer, finally I have got a chance to been to India to explore the situation. Kolkata is famous for Mother Teresa and her Centers while at the same time notorious for its poverty. Besides the poor living condition in the slum area, high unemployment rate is also an issue that's worth concerning. Our programme aims at eradicating poverty by transferring vocation skills to dropout students and uneducated women. Comparing to direct resources distribution, we are hoping that by equipping them with vocational skill, they would be able to improve the standard of living in a long-term and sustainable manner.
Though most of the women in our centre have not been to school, they still have a strong desire to learn in the Women Centre. I was deeply impressed by their attitude and character when I saw how hard they try to absorb new knowledge. It is my honor to have the chance to be their teacher for six weeks.

Another focus of our work is conducting community research in the slum areas and squatter areas. You can never imagine how the environment looks like without stepping into their neighborhood. Without much attention from the general public and the society, there is a vicious cycle of poverty inherented from generations to generations. It is difficult for the children in slum areas to have the chance to leave where they were brought up. I hope the research can address their needs and therefore more helping hands can be given to them.

This service trip is undoubtedly fruitful and rewarding. Though the Indian children and women are not having an abundant life, they are still optimistic and passionate than most of the Hong Kong people. Sometimes I have an impression that we were not going there to teach, but to learn instead. It is such a life-changing experience and I highly recommend HKU students to participate in a local or oversea service trip during the university life.

Chloe Tsang
Faculty of Social Sciences
Major: Government & Laws

Eileen's Sharing - Turning Slumdogs into Millionaire

I'm an ordinary university student who has experienced an unordinary summer in Kolkata India!

This summer, the ten of us from different facilities and with different backgrounds come together and fight for the same goal: to improve the livelihood of the slum people in Kolkata. In the pre-trip session, we tried to apply our knowledge in this program and we learned to stand in the needy's shoes before giving our helping hand.

During the trip, we taught the slum children English and equipped the women with leather work making skills. As what you can imagine, things didn't go on smoothly and we got to change and modify our plan with referring to the limitation in an unfamiliar environment. We learned to communicate with overcoming the language barrier and listen with our heart. You'll definitely understand what the slum people truly need when you do this.

In the post-trip session, we are now arranging for the fair-trade line which helps the slum women to sell there leather work products. What's more, we planned to set up a few stationary donation centers in the school campus in order to collect the unnecessary stationaries from our schoolmates and send them to the slum children in Kolkata.

See what you should, do what you could! You will live a brighter love when you give more.


Eileen Lee
Faculty of Medicine
Major: Chinese Medicine