Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Challenges of Working on Community Based Projects

As part of the Entreprenurial Education team, we work with a charity called Focapaci.  They run community based projects which help families build greenhouse so that they are able to grow vegetables for commercial selling. One of ICS’s roles is to work with families that need help building the greenhouses.

Volunteers building with Emiliana and family
Emiliana has been in the project for 5 years.  Recently, the community have threatened to evict her from the project for failing to fulfill the conditions of the project (not building a second greenhouse and not maintaining the first).  To help prevent this, ICS were asked to help her build the second greenhouse. Emiliana was supposed to be present to learn how to build and plant so she could pass this knowledge onto the community, but she only came twice. After a few weeks I began to resent this, as I felt that we were being taken advantage of. After five weeks, by which time we had built most of walls, we raised the issue of Emiliana´s absence. A meeting was arranged and it surfaced that Emiliana had a full-time job offer and wanted to quit the project.  After five weeks of working on the greenhouse I was very upset that she was quitting the project.  It was only after a meeting with our Team Leader, Zoe,  that I fully appreciated the difficult situation Emiliana was in. 

Emiliana joined the project with her husband and four children. At this stage, she was able to take part fully in the project. Three years ago her husband died, leaving her to single handedly look after four children, while also trying to meet the project commitment. One of the reasons she wasn’t at the house to help build the greenhouse was because she had to go to sell merchandise in Cochabamba to support her family. Unfortunately, it takes around a year to make a profit from the greenhouse, and Emiliana needs to feed her family now. Her full-time job allows her to do this at present, but the nature of the work means she will be without job security for the future. Finding out this information made me more empathetic towards her situation. 

Emiliana is clearly struggling and, other than funding for the roof of the greenhouse, she had received no help from the community. One of the project aims is to build cohesion within El Alto.  The lack of support for Emiliana makes me call into question the extent to which this has happened.

Working on this project has made me realise that you need to look beyond the surface, and to appreciate that everyone has different circumstances.  It’s also showed me a different side to development. I used to believe that working in development was simple, and that everyone had the same aim; to help. I have come to realise that nothing in development is certain, and one of the greatest challenges and assets is being able to adapt to the different needs and situations of the individuals and communities we work with.

Written by Hannah Oates
Edited by Sarah Cassidy 

1 comment:

  1. Great to hear about the positives, and challenges, of your placement.
    Looking forward to hearing all your stories at your reunion day.

    Enjoy your last few days!
    Stella McKenna
    Alumni Coordinator