Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Liss On The Value of Sustainability

So we are coming to the close of our time here with ICS, I think this would be a good time to reflect on how the project is going at Create Change. When our team began this project, I was anxious to get stuck in meeting new people and connecting directly with the girls and young women who are being sponsored by ABC - not realising that, actually, that’s not really what schemes like this are about. From a UKV point of view, we were told consistently before arriving in Ghana to manage our expectations about what our work was going to be like. In other words, we wouldn’t be out in the field every day talking to the people in these marginalised communities and beginning to solve issues straight away, but that it would take time and a good deal of office hours and research before beginning to see the fruits of our collective labour.

Even though we were made aware of this before leaving the UK, the first two or three weeks felt a little slow. It seemed like we were completing reams of paperwork, editing hundreds of documents, never to leave the office. When we finally did go out into the field and met some of the girls who attend the club run by the interns, it served as motivation to strive for the best possible outcomes with the documents we were developing. 

When I consider what we have achieved in this cohort, the value of sustainability cannot be overstated. Much of the work we have been doing as a team has been gathering and analysing data to be put to use for our successors, the next ICS cohort. Even with the practical work we have accomplished, the progress made has not been instant by any measure. However, this is not to say that nothing of substance has come of our time as an ICS cohort. Every survey and statistic we record will be beneficial to this project in the long run – it is important to remember that community development like this does not happen overnight, and by working to record this data, we are laying the groundwork for future cohorts to affect the definitive change.
We are bringing about change in small ways, though. In one visit to Yapala community, while we were gathering data about the rate of school drop-outs in that particular area, one member of our team met a girl whose family could not afford to send her to school, but who said that she desperately wanted to go. Our volunteer passed this on to the project partner, and arrangements are now being considered for this girl to be sponsored. 

Another contribution that we have made as a team has been the donation of the volleyball net made of recycled water sachets. This had been an ongoing side-project of ours since this cohort cycle began, and we finally saw it come to fruition when we donated it to a Taha community school along with a brand new volleyball, and played a game with a teacher and some of the children. We also taught some of the students the method we use for constructing the net, which is sustainability in its purest form: the idea that progress can be continued even after the departure of the people providing assistance. 

Finally, we had a brilliant opportunity after work one day this week. The Create Change interns run a literacy club at a school in Ticheli community, and our team of volunteers was invited to come along to see how it is run. When we arrived, we were encouraged to get involved with the class and ended up leading some of the sessions, which was great fun and another fantastic hands-on experience to make up for spending a lot of time in the office!
The importance of sustainability in development work is something to be mindful of in the closing week as we reflect on the progress we have made as a cohort. Although it may at first have seemed like we were not achieving great things straight away, the contributions we have made (coupled with the hard work on documents and data which will guide the next cohort) have made a positive, lasting difference to the communities in which we are working.

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