One of the best things about conducting the needs assessment discussed in the previous blog is the opportunity it gives you to truly understand the landscape of a place. Why reinvent the wheel when good projects are already in place? Or worse, why create a wheel that doesn’t fit? Or worse worse, why create a string of bad metaphors and finish them off with a self-aware unintelligent sentence?
Regardless of the quality of my metaphors or sentences, I can honestly say that I’m facing each day with a smile. Today, on my 40 minute walk to a local primary school, I came to a complete stop atop a hill I had walked up many times before. But this time, I saw the ocean churning in a way I hadn’t noticed before. The beauty of this desert – this contrast – strikes me in subtle and profound ways that I still don’t understand, and maybe I never will. And in that moment, I realized for the first time the depth of that brief 40 minute trek – I was about to meet the heads of a local school, people I had never met before, but each word we were about to speak was a seed of possibility. 2 years of growth and beyond, all from this short walk, all from those footsteps up that hill, all from a chance meeting a week before.
These meetings, these friendships, and these projects are like the ripples on the sea – sometimes churning, sometimes calm, sometimes invisible under the mist. But the water is always inviting.
Below are a handful of the potential projects I’ve discussed with counterparts and friends in the community – some of them are quite long term, others, comparably short. I’m always looking for advice on these things as well, so if there’s anything below that looks particularly interesting to you please feel free to get in touch! Your advice or collaboration is encouraged and respected.
There are 5 public schools and 2 private schools in Luderitz, and each have their own unique needs and pre-existing programs in different areas. So far, I’ve begun collaborations with some of the older students – primarily small scale HIV/AIDS prevention talks and ideas for workshops on self-esteem and becoming a successful person. Last week, I was approached by a social studies teacher at one of the primary schools about seeking funding for a media center and additions to their library books. We’ve begun exploring this through groups associated with Better World Books. These guys are incredibly motivated – so if you have any information on how to make this happen, please get in touch! I’ll also post more as updates occur.
Luderitz Disability Network
This is one which is particularly exciting to me. Roughly 3 weeks back, I met a community activist who was especially interested in disability issues in Luderitz and the surrounding regions. Not only that, but his intimate knowledge of the creation and management of non-profits was especially impressive to me. Currently, he and his colleagues are working to create a new organization, the Luderitz Disability Network, to address these issues in a more robust and holistic manner. Though I don’t have much experience in the area of disabilities, I do have nearly 6 years of work in non-profit fields, so I’m assisting in setting the framework for this organization: the creation of the constitution, membership, and management strategies. The individuals supporting this group are simply amazing, and I really think this will be one of the most successful new non-profits in the region given a couple of years.
Youth Work Experience Program
This idea is very much in an incubating stage so far, but the early results of my needs assessment indicate a huge demand for youth work opportunities and training. My hope is to create some kind of partnership with local businesses and organizations to create such opportunities for youth, and also to identify a way to sustain the program. We have a large hall in the Youth Center, useful for film screenings, dances, and other activities. My early idea is to create a bi-monthly entertainment night, featuring local talent, movies, dances, or other community events offered free of charge, and to have youth work as managers of the event and also to sell food and beverages to maintain the cost of the event, and also to put a little money in their pockets. In addition, the youth in the program could receive computer training (already available at the ministry) and resume and interview training to help them find more permanent positions. Again, this is just a very early idea at this point, but after more consultation with ministry employees, businesses, and community leaders, my hope is to see something like this begin to take form.
Previous volunteers worked with a group called “My Zone” in Luderitz, which was essentially a group of young adults who would spread the word on various health issues, run workshops on a variety of topics, and otherwise offer volunteer services to the city as needed. Unfortunately, the group has not been very active for some time, but there has been interest expressed to get it going again.
My first week, I was approached by a woman who had done extensive work with a Special Olympics program in Luderitz. We have been meeting every few weeks since then, and our goal is to get the program started again within a few months – offering training in athletics and soccer to individuals in the program. Currently, we have secured a practice field, but we aim to gain access to an indoor facility to better ensure safety, as the wind in Luderitz combined with the heavy sand is not always a good combination for your face and lungs!
Ministry of Health Collaboration
Since I’m technically a health volunteer, it only makes sense that I work with these guys! I’ve met 2 social workers at the Luderitz Ministry of Health, and I have been incredibly impressed with their work ethic, their spirit, and their goals for the city and region. Next week, I will be participating with them in a Week of Activism Against Substance Abuse project. This will be our first official collaboration, but our goal is to take this week of activism and build it into something much bigger. In fact, the goal of our first 2 days of activism is to approach local schools to encourage students to join our new and improved TADAH (Teenagers Against Drug Abuse and HIV/AIDS) group. Once we have created this new group, with sub-groups at each of the secondary and primary schools, we will be able to pursue new projects which directly involve the youth, providing them with new knowledge as well as a platform for them to share their energy and creativity with the city at large.
Collaborations with Schools in the US
One of the biggest goals of the Peace Corps is to encourage interaction with individuals in the US and sponsor countries. Currently, I’ve begun projects between 2 US schools – one in Utah, and one in Florida, and by August we will begin communication between these schools and schools here in Luderitz. I can’t say exactly where these interactions will lead, but I’m hoping that the creativity of the youth involved on each side will result in something really spectacular! I’m also open to working with other schools, so if you’re interested in working with me please get in touch!
These are the early project candidates, but with 2 more years to go, I’m sure new and exciting things will emerge! Until then, we’ll all keep busy and keep smiling.