Volunteering for the 21st Century

Cuso International

Sometimes I want to provide my skills to those who need them and gain skills in the process. However, with busy schedules it is not always possible to physically be present to do so.  In our digital age and with my exposure to new media, I was increasingly looking for online opportunities.  One day while on a LinkedIn search I came across a discussion on international development.  Since this is an area of interest of mine, I clicked the site and that led me to Cuso International. They are a Canadian NGO that offers different positions ranging from E-volunteer to Diaspora agent.  I searched their site for information such as their mission, and what I saw was aligned with my goals and mission in life.  Next up was to find what positions I qualified for and to apply.  After a few more days of research I came across a position for an online Grant Writer and Researcher/ Mentor for a local NGO in Jamaica.  I have experience as a grant writer but not so much as a researcher in a formal setting.  Therefore, it was the researcher piece that really drew me in.  I wanted to see if my researcher abilities in my personal affairs would translate smoothly in the business world.  I eventually applied and went through the hiring process and today I am an E-Volunteer with Cuso International for 3 months.  I think this is so fitting that my motto is think global live global for this position because I was interested in learning and working in another part of the world which I have never visited.  With the help of the internet and its vastness, I am now able to communicate, build relationships, and network with people in Jamaica, Canada, and the United States, and the United Kingdom.  There is only one word I can think of to describe all this…AWESOME!!!

Advertisements

Raising the Vital Voices

Launching a new project for the summer months. The theme is Youth Advocacy and Child Rights.

This is radio campaign in order to promote the rights of the children. This program consists of creating stories in order to promote children’s rights, training radio hosts, and finally how to speak about child rights and abuses of those rights in the presence of children in a sensitive manner. The stories will be broadcasting through different radio stations. Topics will include school attendance (especially for girls), right to freedom of expression, against female genital mutilation. I hope to achieve awareness to the greater population of the plight of children to exercise their rights.

 http://rising.globalvoicesonline.org/microgrants2014/2014/03/29/burkina-faso-i-have-rights-too-child-rights/

West African Insight

Wow I cam across this post of one of my community projects recently (http://westafricainsight.org/articles/PDF/270). It is ongoing and participation even in the form of advice and volunteering/ e-volunteering is valued. Contact me if interested (internationalesawyer@gmail.com)

http://westafricainsight.org/articles/PDF/270

Soy a long way.

IMG_1287 IMG_1292 IMG_1293 IMG_1296 IMG_1298 IMG_1300 IMG_1301Exactly one year ago this time I received a grant / merit award from VegFund for a project that support individuals and nonprofit organizations who are interested in vegan advocacy. My proposed project was an income generating training in soy/tofu making in a rural village in Burkina Faso, West Africa. More can be read about it at https://internationalesawyer.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/two-months-of-awareness/.

The training was a tremendous success and as word spread more women got involved. One such woman is featured here in this post. Her name is Bimbatta and is a mother of 3. Her husband passed away two months after the birth of their third child Sheikh. Shortly after he passed away Bimbatta found herself with no money, no place to stay, and no assets. In her husband’s ethic group when the husband passes away they are entitled to all possessions even the children. Therefore, the family along with all the materials found inside reclaimed Bimbatta the land, which her husband purchased. Bimbatta later told me that they left her with the currency equivalent of 5 USD to take care of her three kids and she had no job or any skills beyond childcare. After much pleading her husband’s family decided that they would leave her with her youngest two children and opted to adopt her oldest son instead.

When I met Bimbatta she was in attendance at one of our soy/tofu trainings last year June 2013. She later spoke with me stating that she has nothing and is staying with her sister. She said that she would like to learn how to make the soy/tofu, however she has no money to bay for the materials to get started. I told her not to worry because she can join the group of women that have started making the products and she can reimburse what she uses once she starts to make a profit.

Well that was a year ago and today Bimbatta is self-sufficient, as she has started a small enterprise called Soy Food Development. She sells soy yoghurt, soy couscous, soy kebabs, and many more soy based products. She makes the product based on order and she delivers at an agreed upon location. Today Bimbatta is a proud mother that can provide for her family. She can pay for the school fees for her two older children, she can provide food, pay her bills, and pay for medicine in case of illness.

I am very proud of her and the fact that a selfless act such as providing an income generating training has brought lasting hope.

Please enjoy a few photos.

Two Months of Awareness

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Between April 5 2013- May 27 2013 I along with a soy food facilitator offered soy food and tofu trainings 3 days a week and campaign awareness 2 days a week for community members in the village of Tcheriba, Burkina Faso.  The schedule is as follows:

April 5 9am-12pm: Large town hall meeting is called with all community associations, and community members to discuss the start of the Soy/tofu trainings.  One hundred and sixty-seven people attend (167). During this town hall meeting the following topics were discussed:

-What is Veganism?

-Nutrition and combatting malnutrition

-The role of animals in “man’s” life (treating animals with dignity)

-Meat versus Soy products

-Soy products easier than assumed (overview of soy and tofu products that can be made easily)

A sign -up sheet was circulated for the soy food training beginning on April 8 through May 27.

Objective 1: Community members learn how to make soy and tofu products for nutrition, and income generating activities.

Two sessions every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Soy and Tofu product making

MTW 8AM- 12PM: Soy milk, yogurt, and ice cream making

MTW 2PM-6PM: Tofu kebabs, and flavored soy juice

Objective 2: to educate community members on the health benefits of veganism and to improve the treatment of animals.

Thursday and Friday 2pm-5pm

Campaign Awareness

Awareness of veganism and the health benefits. Animal cruelty awareness and different forms of abuse to animals.  During these campaigns we used theater for animation of the topic. At the beginning of the sessions a survey was given to test the knowledge of the participants on animal cruelty and veganism.  The survey results showed that 100% of the participants were non -vegan.  Furthermore, those who do not eat meat are because of poverty.  They cannot afford to buy meat, therefore it is not a conscious choice but rather forced because of their circumstances.

Special activity:  Through some networking I became acquainted with Donkey Sanctuary International. A UK NGO that works with communities and their donkeys around the world.

During the week of May 7th to May 14 is International Donkey Week.  I incorporated this into my awareness campaign on animal rights and cruelty.  I targeted children and farmers who have the most interaction with animals. Additionally, although donkeys are mistreated they actually a commodity in most developing countries.  In this village donkeys are an essential player in the daily lives of the community members. They carry items ranging from bricks to construct, water jugs, supplies, and more. They are used as a mode of transportation, and accompany farmers while at the farm.  It was important to have people understand their importance and how to treat them accordingly.

Participants of International Donkey Week 42 adults (15 women, 27 men) and 61 children (29 girls and 32 boys).

May 7th– 8th 

Activity 1:

– Participants learn about the importance of donkeys in their day to day survival (carrying materials, as a mode of transportation, etc.)

-Awareness of donkey welfare.

-Sanitation with farming animals (included collecting animal excrement and using as fertilizer later)

May 9th -10th 

Activity 2:

-Community wide trash pick- up (a main killer and health risk for animals in this village is plastic bag consumption)

May 11th -12th

Activity 3:

Child play and donkeys. Children often believe the way in which they play with animals is innocent. However, sometimes their play is rough and can be categorized as animal cruelty.  In this activity children learn new playing methods with donkeys.

May 13th

Activity 4:

Participants learn to groom their donkey (brushing, bathing, and general donkey hygiene.) Local veterinarian attended to give tips on donkey well-being

May 14th 

Activity 5:

Closing ceremony of a skit made by the participating children.

Refreshments of soy products served.

Result 1: 237(145 women, 92 men) community members are directly trained and make soy milk, tofu kebabs, soy flavored juice, soy yogurt and ice cream.

Result 2: 415 students (239 primary school students, 176 high school students) receive direct awareness on soy health benefits and animal cruelty awareness. 184 adults (118 women, 66 men) (22 men and women from the Parent/ Teacher Association) receive awareness on animal cruelty and vegan/soy benefits.

Result 3: 52 women (or 2 women’s associations) are generating income selling tofu kebabs and soy yogurt.

Unexpected result 1: school officials decide to include soy products as part of lunch for primary school children in Tcheriba.

Unexpected result 2: 30% of participants replace meat with soy products.

*the end of project survey results showed: 30% of participants have already replaced meat in their diet; 22% say they have reduced their meat intake, and 60% say they treat their animals better.

*in the upcoming months case studies will be conducted and posted.

Think global Live global!!

Picture 015

What happens when an outside source not only believes in you, but supports your cause?  You are able touch the lives of a few to many.

This is exactly what occurred that allowed me to execute the Soy/Tofu project.   I was doing online searches and networking via Linkedin.com during my hiatus from my internationalesawyer blog when I across VegFund.org merit based awards.  This award for the perfect fit for a particular project I had in mind from several months prior. The pending project which was my soy/tofu project was a relatively low costing project compared to larger ones. Although, relatively low costing, funds were still needed to start it up. Also it is a project that has great lasting impact on the community and its members.

My project was on promoting soy based food products to members of a rural community in Burkina Faso, West Africa.  In addition, to promoting soy products, I included an element of animal protection and veganism.  Why because in the village where this project was launched, the majority of children suffer from either mild or acute form of malnutrition.  Families are heavily dependent on their harvest to feed them for at least 6-7 months out the year.  Furthermore, children and adults alike do not get the vitamins that are required to live strong and healthy lives.  I learned this first hand as I spent 2 years living in Tcheriba as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  By the end of my two years, I was severely vitamin deficient.  I lacked protein, iron, B6, and 12.  I learned first- hand what it means to have a low vitamin diet.  My eyesight decreased, I lost all muscle tone, was always lethargic, exhausted, and the smallest activity rendered me completely useless physically.  Finally when I had a full medical exam, what I feared was confirmed; “you are vitamin deficient and need to have a vitamin rich diet.”  Having discovered this, I knew that something must be done to combat this in the village.  Although, I was no longer living full time in Tcheriba, I still had a duty to serve others help themselves (one of Peace Corps’ mission).  This is when I started to put full thought into the Soy/Tofu project.

In addition, people in this rural village have poor nutrition, and little to no income (especially women and children).  The ones that cannot afford meat either go without, or go to extreme measures (i.e. eating donkey meat or lizards) in order to obtain sustenance.  I long discussed soy/ tofu products, however needed to do more research to see the feasibility.  Most importantly, I had to assess the willingness of the population to try something new (which is often the hardest part).  I thought about how I can present the idea of soy for many months.  Having lived and studied in this village, I knew what the needs were, but needed to connect them into a meaningful communitywide outreach project.  Finally after much reflection and discussion with community members, it came to me…people want to make money and eat better.  They can’t eat better because they don’t have income or low income and they are not aware of how to eat better with the resources they have access to.  Therefore, I combined all the ideas (soy/tofu product making for nutritional and IGA objectives, while teaching about animal protection and soy benefits).  This is where VegFund.org came played an integral role in the implementation stage of this project.  I applied for one of their merit based awards and in a relatively short period of time, I was granted the award. I wasted no time in starting the project because the planning and analysis stage was thoroughly completed before even applying for the award.