[Work In Progress] Adjusting project design

Every failure is a stepping stone that leads to success.

Although we are pleased with the progress of the project, not everything goes as planned. It is important for us to be flexible in designing the project from lessons we learn while doing the field work. Our photovoice project* with children in Cuncani is a perfect example of this. In this blog, I would like to share some lessons we have learned with the photovoice project.

Lesson 1: Planning a time to teach the children how to use the equipmentPhotovoice Nexos

We found it necessary to schedule a time and place to meet with the children and show them how to use the equipment. The original plan was for the coordinator to visit the school every week and show the children at that time. However, the teachers strike in the Cusco region, which lasted for more than two months, prevented us from carrying out this plan. Under these circumstances, it was difficult to reschedule the workshops, since the community has limited communication methods (Cuncani does not have phone service or internet). To fix this problem, and ensure the progression of the project, we coordinated with the students to create a schedule of training workshops based on their availability. Also, with the help of the community, we decided to carry out an hour-long after-school workshop in the community centre.

 

Lesson 2: Greater emphasis explaining the purpose of the project

During the workshops, we had instructed the kids to take pictures of all of their meals for 7 days. Even though the students have followed the guideline to take the photos of their meals, they did not take pictures of everything they ate. Our local coordinator, Saturnina, has indicated the need of NC to focus on explaining the project to the parents in order to have their cooperation. It was clear that we needed to explain in greater detail the importance of the project and enlist help from the parents. I will be sure in the future to allocate time in explaining to the children the purpose of the project and provide appropriate guidelines on how to make a food journal so that they will not miss a single meal of the week.

Lesson 3: Process of selecting participants

Embarking on a project as this requires flexibility, but we learned our original method of selecting participants was too flexible. We have worked with children ranging from 7 to 11 years old. Each one is curious about the use of camera and wants to be involved in the project. However, a 7-year-old boy, who was competent with the camera during the workshop, but could not take the pictures while at his home. Therefore, we decided to focus on students in grade 5, who are old enough to understand the project’s purpose, and be capable of using a camera to take pictures of their meals. At the same time, working with a small number of kids (there are 9 students in grade 5 at Cuncani’s primary school) allows us to complete the project more easily in the planned timeframe versus involving all children who are interested.

Based on the challenges from the original project design, we were able to adjust it easily. It’s a learning process, but the great part of working as a project coordinator for NC is that I have the ability to make these modifications. With the responsibility to carry out the project, and I have experienced the first-hand issues at the ground level. I believe a good field-worker is a someone who makes the most out of their mistakes and uses them to improve the situation. Our photovoice project is still a work in the process of finding a method that works best in Cuncani. Despite all the challenges, we believe this project has the potential to help measure the nutrition level of the community, while establishing a working relationship with all people involved.

 

* NC uses the photovoice as one indicator to measure the nutrition level of the community. The objective of the project is to capture with photography what family’s daily meals are really like in the community.

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Spare change… It can change the world!

Kenji Misawa (NC Project Coordinator)

If you were to ask to draw a mind mapping of how non-profit organizations work, what ideas would come up instantly? Perhaps, you would think about concepts such as humanitarian aid, grassroots, local community, interculturality. Probably, the word ‘money’ would not appear in your drawing.

We often disconnect the idea of ‘money’ from non-profit organizations, at least when we compare them with businesses. However, without adequate financial resources for the projects, they  could not be successful even with lots of good intentions or compassion. Thus, while dedicating multitude efforts in coordinating the projects with our local partners, NC also spends the same amount of work in generating and raising funds to support our initiatives and our organization.

Since its creation, NC covers all operational expenses and as much as possible of the projects expenses with  the fees receive from participants of our programs. Nonetheless, despite all changes we made since we started working in Cuncani, for example:  reducing the number of our staff in half, our operational expenses have increased tremendously. In comparison to our work from 2008-2013, one day transportation to our community partners is now 40 times more expensive than before. Yes, 40 times more expensive.

Before Cuncani, we were able to cover all aspects of NC institutional expenses and all projects ones with the fees we receive from the programs. Since Cuncani, donations have have been crucial to accomplish our goals. These donations have been used, exclusively, for the projects (salaries and all overheads are not covered by them). Although it has been challenging, we cannot be more grateful for all the donations we have received. For example, after the floods in Piura, we successfully raised more than US$4,000  to support the victims by providing first aid packages and food, with your donations, we were able to successfully implement the Lunch Program in Cuncani! Do you know that in few opportunities, government officers have asked us for help to reach the community? They did not have the money to pay for their own transportation.

Currently, we are finishing the details of another initiative that will allow us to be able, again, to cover all of our projects expenses and support our organization as well. Nevertheless, for now, we still need your support. As you know we are currently raising money for our Sustainable Homes in Cuncani project and the goal is US$ 5,000. Promoting this campaign has not been an easy task but, at the same time, we are convinced that our partners from Cuncani, especially their children, deserve all of our efforts and your donations as well. We know that one of our roles is to  to connect people outside the community to the reality in Cuncani and look for support so they, specially the children, can have real opportunities for their lives.

If we reach the targeted amount for this campaign, we will be able to buy all the materials needed to implement the three technologies for each of our partners within the community: a greenhouse, a chicken coop and a composting toilet.  All donations will exclusively be used to purchase the materials for them. The materials include roofs, windows, doors, toilet seats, bags of cement, wood planks, plastic for the greenhouse roof and others. Not all materials are extremely expensive. For example, a $8 donation would help us buy 1 of the 2 bags of cement for the composting toilet. Would you consider making exchanging a beer this week for a $8 donation to help reach our goal? A composting toilet would help them to have a better hygiene, hence, less parasites and that means, better chances to combat malnutrition! You don’t have US$8, what about US$2? That amount of money would allow us to buy the nails to build a chicken coop for one family! Your generosity would help NC extensively to implement life transforming projects which ultimately support the vulnerable children in the community and improve their health standards.

Unfortunately, significant inequality still exists in today’s world. The family you are part of and the place you are born in are decisive to determine your future opportunities. Have you ever imaged to be born in a beautiful but isolated community like Cuncani? This is my second time in Peru and since my first, I  realized how privileged I am. I’m able to receive proper education, live a healthy life and have the freedom to pursue my career aligned with my interests. But this privileges should not be privileges anymore, every child in the world should have equal opportunities for their lives. Please, help us so we can continue with our work in Cuncani. I cannot lie to you, it is hard to work there but I love to be there, to work in this country, to play with the kids, and that’s more than enough for me to do some shameless work promotion, to ask you to make a donation for our project.

 

 

Applying the SDGs in a remote Andean community

Kenji Misawa, NC Project Coordinator

During my undergraduate studies in international development, our classes often focused upon understanding the approaches used in the international community to confront the problem of on-going global poverty. In 2015, world leaders assembled at the United Nations and executed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG’s represent a global commitment by the international community to end poverty and to improve the lives of people in a sustainable manner for future generations. But how does this universal call to action fit into the context of a small community like Cuncani?

The SDG consists of 17 goals and 169 targets. Although the SDGs capture problems on a global scale, civil societies such as NC have a role to play in meeting the targets of the SDGs. Without the work of civil societies in promoting development at the community level, SDGs will never be realized. In the case of Cuncani, we see rampant malnutrition amongst children despite its abundant beauty and natural wonder.

If malnutrition rates in Cuncani do not improve by 2030, it implies that the SDGs failed to achieve their target of ending all forms of malnutrition in the world. Therefore, despite the small act of addressing malnutrition rates in Cuncani, our efforts to improve the health status of such a small community is contributing to the international community’s goals. In this article, I will discuss NC’s current project in Cuncani and its relationship with SDG targets.

Credits: Miguel Arreátegui Rodríguez

Since 2017, NC has initiated the Sustainable Homes in Cuncani (SHC) project which provides each household with a 1) greenhouse 2) chicken coop and 3) ecological toilet in an attempt to better nutrition, sanitation, and environmental health. First, the implementation of a greenhouse and a chicken coop significantly helps the community to achieve SDG2: zero hunger. Due to its exceedingly high altitude (4000m), the variation of the available vegetables in the community is limited. Its isolated location makes it difficult for families to purchase food from other communities. A lack of regular intake of various nutrients causes vulnerable children in Cuncani to suffer from health problems such as malnutrition, stunting and anemia. The construction of a greenhouse and chicken coop will ultimately allow indigenous families to have greater access to different types of vegetables and animal proteins. This increase in access to a variety of foods will help the community to reach the SDG target of ending all forms of malnutrition and stunting in children under the age of five. At the same time, such efforts also support the UN’s target, outlined in the SDG’s to further resilient agriculture practices that increase food productivity.

The construction of an ecological toilet is related to SDG6: clean water and sanitation of the community. By replacing the current latrine, which pollutes the ground water and the land of the community, the ecological toilet would decrease the level of water contamination. At the same time, the new toilet has the capacity to properly compost human waste, eliminating any pathogens and viruses, converting it to nutrient-rich fertilizers for farming, keeping the local land intact. This approach corresponds with SDG6’s target of improving water quality, reducing pollution, and increasing the level of sanitation and hygiene.

Furthermore, unlike the former NC Lunch Program, this new initiative of  SHC project helps to achieve SDG11: sustainable cities and communities. Until 2016, NC visited the community every Monday to provide enough food for the week to feed the children at school. Although local families appreciated this initiative and it had a positive impact upon the health status of the children, the community was dependent on NC and lacked sustainability. In other words, without the financial support of NC, the community was not able to continue the program. To overcome this challenge, NC developed the SHC project which aims to raise the level of nutrition for future generations in a way that is self-reliant. Unlike the former Lunch Program, the creation of the SHC will improve the health standards of households while allowing families to enjoy such benefits without NC involvement in the future.

It is amazing to think that a single project of an NGO in a small community still counts as a step in achieving SDG2, SDG6, and SDG11. A big accomplishment is an aggregation of the small successes. Meanwhile, there are other important targets of SDGs in Cuncani that have been left out, for now, from NC projects. In the next series of blog posts, I look forward to discussing the relationships between Cuncani, NC and other SDGs in more detail (particularly SDG13: Climate Action, SDG9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, and SDG17: Partnerships for the goals).