Community engagement can come in various forms. Service is one of the best ways internationalesawyer engages with the community. Service is a vast domain and can include simple participation in town hall meetings, or formally serving on a board. Recently internationalesawyer was asked to serve as an expert panel judge for an English competition among university students at CFPEM International located in Ouagadougou. This is not the first time that internationalesawyer has partnered with this university. In the past the director of the school approached internationalesawyer to be a monthly guest lecturer to business students. The objective there was to give lectures in English and organize career counseling (i.e. practice interviews) to students in fields such as accounting.
When approached to be a judge for the English competition, there was only one answer…YES! The competition included an essay and oral presentation in which competing students from CFPEM were given topics that ranged from improving the school system in Burkina Faso to the current epidemic of Ebola affecting West Africa. As one of the 3 judges, we made the rules and criteria. The 7 candidates all had 5 minutes to present their topic, and then 1 min 30 seconds for each question. The candidates were scored on criteria that included grammar, verbal and non-verbal communication, and dress. This was no easy competition as the stakes were high. Some of the prizes included scholarship money, tablets, and even a laptop. For all the candidates English is either their third or fourth language. In some cases the fifth language they speak. To write a 3-5 page essay on serious topics such as youth employment and healthcare is no easy feat. The candidates all gave their very best effort which showed in the scores. However, the judging was not easy as well. We were objective as possible and what made it easier to be objective we did not have prior contact with the candidates. All the judges knew was their essay by number.
The English competition was held on a Friday October 10th. The results were strategically released at graduation the following day. Out of the 7 candidates the first 5 took home prizes. Nevertheless, those who did not win a physical prize, still won as they gained experience in oral presentation, essay writing, and the spirit of competing.
Many of you who read my blog are aware that I am a community outreach/ organizer. I have talents that I put to use, plus I build on these talents through serving the community. Learning is an ongoing process and we should not limit ourselves. In an effort to streamline my activities I have created WanPot, which is a formally organized entity, that house all the projects in which I work. WanPot serves as a bridge to associations (especially women led organizations) that lack resources by connecting them to those resources. For instance, a local women’s association (Association Kamba Yinga) approached me to help write a grant for agri-business. The organization has no English speaker and of course the grant has to be in English. Not only do I help, but I also keep this association as a contact for community outreach projects which I run.
The goal of WanPot involves connecting people to information, resources, and building relationships through leadership in the “common good”. It is a forum for where I use my talents in the domain of community outreach/organization to help others achieve their potential. What’s more, monies that I receive for the work I do, I reinvest it in associations and projects. It becomes a cycle of give and take. For example, a grant that I was recently awarded goes to help a rural African community to generate income through tofu and soy product production. WantPot is my interpretation of collaboration and leadership in action. It is a way to generate money for projects that benefit communities without always asking for donations for these projects. This way communities are completely involved in the process and gives them a better understanding of the effort it takes to fund a community project. Thus far I have collaborations with the following associations:
Association of Women Pottery Makers of Tcheriba, Springboard for Higher Education, the International Bilingual and Professional School in Ouagadougou, and MISS.ORG. It is my hope that the partnerships will grow.
With this in mind Internationalesawyer who is the creator of WanPot is seeking your feedback on the logo design. Please take a few moments and vote on the logo design that you like the most. I selected a focus group to narrow the choices; these are the top three out of six.
Happy New Year and welcome to another year of service, sharing information, collaboration, and explicit / tacit knowledge. I have not posted in about a month. No I did not forget about my blog nor did I forget about my online community. Much of the delay was due to me coming to terms with the popular relationship slogan ‘its not you it’s me.’ However, in this specific case I want to report, it is not applied to a romantic relationship; it is credited to a donor that promised funding, but never came through. The funding was to support the 2 chickens and a cock project which could have alleviated the hunger pangs and financial burden of hundreds in the village of Toéga, Burkina Faso (https://internationalesawyer.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/update-to-chickens-and-cocks/).
The donor approached the project last year February 2012, and bred excitement and promise into us. I was always weary because I work in development and am very familiar with phantom donors. Nevertheless, I contributed labor, money, and a lot of time since this project is dear to me. The months went by and I forged on with the villagers and my project manager. During those months the donor gave us hope by discussing airline itineraries, asking me to look up hotels, inquired about best seasonal times to visit and oversee the project, requested information on international wire transfers; however, after 8 months of this back and forth and no tangible action, I was left with the task of telling the village and especially those that helped in the initial construction phase, that ‘Its not you its Me! I explained to hungry faces that we must come to an immediate halt as my funds were already dried up and there were no present donors to help fund the project. And although during the 8 months I put out other applications for funding, those usually take several months from the deadline to award date (if you are lucky). It was during my speech that I felt exactly like what I have tried to avoid in development work thus far; being the bearer of promise and extreme disappointment. It was ME being the source of lost hope and lack of confidence.
Nevertheless, I am resilient and people are forgiving, therefore, I see this as a minor setback. This incident is what we call a blessing in disguise. I spoke with my project manager who was completely disheartened as this project is his ‘daily bread’; I told him it is probably better that we never received funds from this particular donor as it could have been the beginning of disastrous funding relationship.