Archive for February, 2009

Home Again Home Again

Whew. Got home yesterday right on time with no hitches. I’m soooo tired though. I spent the whole day today cleaning and catching up on housework. Well, and I also did my taxes, so my tax refund is that much closer and that’s a relief. Tomorrow back to catching up on all my work stuff that was pending last week. I know that I have a lot to do because I was checking email last week, just not able to reply or manage any real work because the internet was not reliable…. It will be a busy week now!

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Our meeting started on Tuesday. Our challenge for the week was to pull together a regional communications strategy. We had lots of presentations on the different aspects and did all kinds of group work and analyses to come up with a good strategy that works for each individual office and then also builds up into a cohesive regional strategy. We looked both at the PR aspect of communications as well as the program/social communications aspect, at the different child and youth media programs, and also at advocacy and our different campaigns. I did a presentation on social media to stimulate thoughts on how we could use it in Plan both at the office level and in our work with youth and communities. The workshop and the whole week was really educational for me, and also exhausting. I leave tonight around 11.45 and will be home tomorrow around 5 p.m.

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OK so I took all this video when I visited the YETAM project. Went back to the hotel, opened it and looked at it all. It was going to be turned into an amazing few testimonials about the project and its impact on the kids and community, to go with the annual report.

Then I was at the second community and my phone was full, so I figured, I’ll just delete the footage from yesterday since I already copied it to my laptop. WRONG. I looked at it but never moved it to the laptop. As I was deleting it I had this funny feeling, which I talked myself out of. But that feeling was right. I ended up deleting all the footage from the YETAM project!! Argh.

So I guess the lesson is – never try to manage stuff like that when you’ve had no sleep and are jetlagged! wah. 😦

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I had dinner last night with those who had arrived for the meeting and then crashed. My luggage came around 3 a.m. so I had to go down to the lobby half asleep to get it! But yay!
Today we went out to the community were we had dropped the radio equipment off yesterday. First we went to a meeting at the Plan office. It was really interesting to hear their strategy which is centered around the concept of Child Friendly Communities. The cool thing is that they work with the community to define a set of indicators that the community is in agreement with. Then they measure where the community is at currently (baseline). Then they work with the community to improve their indicators. The interesting thing is that I have never seen it where the community is involved with setting and tracking indicators of their own development. Really really cool. We heard all the theory about it in the morning when the country director and program manager gave us an overview.
Then we all drove out to the village where the community representatives went through all their community indicators and explained where they were with them. So things like how many mothers are exclusively breastfeeding. How many kids are attending school. Percentage that have good hygiene habits. Etc. etc. We saw a few projects in the community – the early childhood care and development center, the nutrition center, and the women’s village savings and loan project. It was really interesting to see how they work, the impact the projects are having on the health and education of the kids, and also all the work that the women are doing to improve their community.
Photo: Community nutrition center where they weigh children to track their growth. They also work with the mothers to show them how to use locally available ingredients like sorghum, peanuts, herbs that grow in the area, to make high protein, high calorie porridge. The program is based on the concept of positive deviance — where the mothers who manage to have well nourished children are studied to find out how they do it, and then their habits are replicated/taught to the other mothers.
Stefanie asked the women in the savings and loan group what the men did, because she had seen mostly women doing all the work in all the projects. That really got a good laugh out of the women. The way the development process seems to work is that the men make the decisions about which projects and initiatives that their wives can participate in. Custom allows multiple wives. The men see the advantage of the improved health and education of their children, and the improved financial status of their wives. Mostly the men work in the fields and do the heavy work for project that require manual labor. Interesting dynamic though – when Stefanie asked her question there was a super long and animated conversation among several of the women and the men from the partner local organization that manages the project. None of this was translated for us! Then Thiekoro from Plan Mali just made a very quick summary. Stefanie asked for clarification later….and I’m not sure the real story was revealed then either.
After we talked with all the project groups, the radio project crew – Kids Waves – did a live radio show. The radio project moves from community to community, training the kids and then the develop a half-hour radio show on different topics. They were covering the issue of Violence in Schools. They had invited the local mayor and the director of the school to ask them about the issue and what they planned to do about it. When will children stop being beaten in schools? The officials assured them that they would not beat children any more. Many of the children laughed at that. I didn’t understand much of what was happening because the radio show is conducted in Bambara, the local language. But the kids and the community really really got a kick out of it, and the kids were great. Self assured and really professional.

Photo: Kids Waves radio program.

We stayed until around 4 and then drove back. We arrived quite late due to traffic and I was soooo tired by then. I went out for pizza with a few of the others, Messan from Togo, Carmen from Benin and Francoise from Burkina. Messan and Francoise had participated in the Kenya Social Media for Social Change workshop, and it was great to see them again. One of the best things about working for Plan is when you have a chance to see colleagues again and develop nice friendships and working relationships.

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I got myself up around 7 and showered. Put my same clothes back on and called Bedo. He and the guys from the Kids Waves radio program came to get me about 8 and we drove about an hour and a half out to the community. We dropped the radio guys off first in one community where we will visit tomorrow and where they will do a live Kids Waves show. The YETAM community was a decent drive down a pretty dusty road, but not really too bad. The kids were all in the school house. They had a whole program planned where they showed the theater and songs that they had made up during the project and since then. They also showed me the photos that they’d taken as part of the project. I took a bunch of video with my phone so that I could make some short testimonials for Nokia about the project. I was really impressed with the kids and the topics they chose – they did one play about female genital cutting, one about the dangers of selling bad meat in the community, and had a song motivating people to go out and vote. Really relevant stuff for community awareness and motivation.

Photo: kids who are participating in the YETAM project.
About 2 we finished the community program and they served lunch. It was rice with meat – goat I think. So as usual I was faced with the vegetarian’s dilemma (as opposed to the omnivore’s dilemma, ha) of how to avoid being rude. In the end I just ended up eating the rice with all the goat ‘juice’ on it. People crowd up and share a big platter of food. They wash up and then each person squats around the platter and uses their right hand to scoop out some rice and form a ball with it, and then eat it along with some of the meat and vegetables. It’s nice to have a communal plate like that. I’ve seen it in many countries and it really feels more like you are sharing the meal rather than each eating from your own private space. I just wasn’t sure how the meat juices and grease would settle since I haven’t eaten meat for so many years…. I was feeling a big woozy by the time we got back, but mainly due to lack of sleep and water since I didn’t drink any water all day and it was pretty hot. (Didn’t want to have to go to the toilet!)

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Travel Snafu. Ugh.

After pizza we tried to watch Madagascar 2, which Clare’s husband had brought back from Morocco, but Dalila and I were falling asleep so we crashed early and slept for what seemed like forever… but which was actually about 8 a.m.! Had a morning coffee with the girls and took off for the airport for my 2.30 flight. Was sorry to leave. Maybe someday I’ll move to Amsterdam.

My flight out was delayed because of snow in Paris, and then the Paris flight was delayed too. We sat on the runway for 4 hours waiting to leave! Argh. So I didn’t get into Bamako (Mali) until about 3.00 in the morning. My luggage was lost of course (Air France seems to be notorious for that) so I had to report it, so I didn’t get to the hotel even until about 4. Bedo from the YETAM project is coming to get me tomorrow at 8…. Thinking twice about actually going. I kind of have to, but right now it seems like an impossible feat…. I’m just sooo exhausted.

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Clare and Dalila

I went over to the Plan office by bus/train this morning. I love the public transportation system in Holland and all the bicycles. Such a difference from most places that are all about cars! I met first with Chris and Klaas about the “Sponsorship 2.0” or now know as “Plan Live” concept. Klaas is really into coffee and had bought a new coffee maker, which was really noisy….

At 11 I met with this great youth group called Child Rights Watch that Plan Netherlands supports. They’ve made a quiz for organizations and elected officials that determines, according to the Convention on Child Rights (CRC), what their child friendliness is by how they assign budget and attention to children’s issues. They are really geared up and want to help re-connect with the different youth groups and child/youth advisory boards within Plan. I’m going to link them up with the team at Plan US so that they can get something going together.

In the afternoon I met with Maud from the grants team to talk about potential youth media projects we’re working on in West Africa to see if they may be interested in working on any funding for the region.

Around 4 I took the train over to War Child where my friend Clare works. War Child’s office is in this totally cool part of Amsterdam in an old church. I met Clare in Brazil at the World Congress on Child Sexual Exploitation (WC3) when we worked together on the Child and Adolescent Participation Commission. She’s totally cool and we really bonded. Clare gave me a quick tour and we walked over to pick up her daughter Dalila who is around 7, and Dalila’s friend Sammy. From there we walked to Clare’s little apartment, freshened up and went out for pizza. Such a great neighborhood! And I love that we could walk everywhere.
Photo: Clare and Dalila on this cool blue and white steep staircase

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I left for Bamako on Feb 4th in the evening with a stopover in Amsterdam to meet with colleagues there, and also to meet with the Voices of Africa Media Foundation (VoAMF) to see about possible collaboration. The flight was easy and I got in to Amsterdam Central Station around 9 a.m., checked into the hotel Terminus, and then Klaas, Plan’s Innovations Manager, came by to meet me around 11.30. We had some coffee and went out to Harlaam to VoAMF.

There we met with Pim the founder, and Henri, the co-founder. They run a mobile reporters training program for young Africans. They give them a mobile phone and a training on how to do good, short reporting with it. Then they pay them a sum if they complete 8 reporting assignments a month. 4 are specific, and 4 are assignments where the reporters can choose their topics. They also train them on how to manage assignments from Western journalist. The main point behind the VoAMF is that Africans should be reporting on Africa rather than foreigners, and they try to build up capacity of young Africans to do just that. Their training package goes for about 6 months, with the participants sending in their stories, which are critiqued, re-edited and the published on Africa News Network. (www.africanews.org). We are talking about various scenarios where we might partner together on some different types of training.

I had dinner with Nanneke from the Dutch Plan office. We worked together in the past on the Global Youth Engagement Framework and on Development Education. There are lots of cool links between our work both with youth and youth boards in the US and with the youth media work in W. Africa. One topic of conversation tonight, and it seems everywhere I go, is Obama and what it means that he’s been elected, and what he will do for the world.

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