We began introducing community development ideas and exercises into our child health project fairly early. In the beginning, our funding was short term. In order to continue, when funding came to an end, our volunteers had to be prepared for even their meager transport allowances (one dollar) to enable them to attend monthly meetings, to come to an end. Our volunteers thought because international partners were involved, that funding was limitless.
To explain sustainability and dependency we introduced picture codes: one based on Teach a Man to Fish, the other an adaptation of the Pit of Ignorance. The exercises and discussions that followed proved useful, even illuminating for the volunteers. A sense of commitment and a greater understanding of the importance of their role in improving health in their communities took root.
The change in attitude was most noticeable when our original volunteers were incorporated into the larger groups of volunteers being established by the Ministry of Health in Uganda as Village Health Volunteers (VHV). When VHVs began asking for allowances, gum boots and umbrellas, it was our original community volunteers, not the government or project staff who would explain to the new recruits the importance of sustainability and volunteerism. To sustain themselves many of the groups began income generating activities (IGA) and "cash rounds" to pool the small money they had to enable them to start IGA as a group.
As volunteers started income generating projects, additional sessions on community development were introduced. Finally, last year we had enough interactive exercises that had been adapted and piloted that I began to compile a manual and short workshops for both trainers and village volunteers.
Training of Trainer workshops in community development were done with our senior trainers last November as well as the first two pilot workshops with our village volunteers in development we could identify and iron out the difficulties. They were enormously successful, even more so than our child health training. Now with a small grant from a UK organization, groups of our trainers are taking the community development workshops to all the VHV teams in Kinoni sub-district.
I have been able to watch them in action. I miss the fine points of discussion without an interpreter but am able to follow the facilitation skills they are using and the flow of the sessions. One of my greatest delights happened in Ryaminyonga, one of our most remote communities this past week.
Kevin was training of group of 37 VHVs with three other trainers. Kevin had attempted a Pair Wise Ranking exercise at the TOT which hadn't worked. As a result, I was thinking of letting the exercise drop completely and hadn't used it since that time. When I saw it on the timetable at Ryaminyonga, I was a tad worried. I wasn't sure why it hadn't worked and hadn't been able to figure out what we needed to change in order to make it work. It had been a new idea to everyone and somewhat complicated.
Then I watched in amazement as Kevin, who had organized all the bits and pieces that are part of Pairwise Ranking, execute it flawlessly with a colleague assisting him. I was beside myself. A little more preparation and presto, it worked.
But an even better aspect to the exercise was that Kevin was ranking the six items the VHVs had identified as their prime motivation for volunteering. The items included: T-shirts, allowances, confidence, training, improvement in child health in their village and community respect. For his example he used one volunteer from the community. For this volunteer, training and confidence scored highest with 4 each; child health improvement and respect were next, with 3 each; T-shirt only 1 and allowance scored 0. Training, of course, is the what produces the confidence, the child health improvement and the community respect so I was doubly thrilled.
A shot indicating that training scores highest, of course, makes for a good photo! Another challenge for me is to convince the trainers of the importance of having our visual aids written in the local language, and not just translated verbally by them at the time, as few of our volunteers are proficient in English. But that is for another time, today I am still savouring the thrill of having seen Pair Wise Ranking done perfectly.
Photos: Keneth does Pair wise ranking; Ryaminyonga VHVs, Oscar facilitating; Training wins!