Posts Tagged ‘youth media’

Today’s a holiday in Rwanda so I slept in late and have some time to catch up on other work. Slept well last night but encountered my first nighly mosquito…. annoying how they buzz in your ear. And I stopped taking the malaria pills…. but I figure one mosquito won’t hurt. I’ll see what Gatsibo is like though….

Last night we stopped by the bank to cash the check to cover our expense for the next 3 weeks and waited in line, I kid you not, for 2 whole hours. There must have been 100 people in line ahead of us, the place was wall to wall. I realized how nice debit cards and ATMs are…. we take them for granted, but imagine if you had to manage your life in cash, pay all bills in cash, and wait in line for an hour or so every time to do it. Wow. I feel so lucky with my online banking.

We’re going to hit the town tonight (I finally changed some money too!) and then tomorrow Joseph, his girlfriend and other friend Tony are going to take me around Kigali. We’ll see the downtown and also visit the Genocide Memorial. I wonder how that will feel. The Kigali that I’m seeing is so calm and orderly, so nice, that I can’t imagine that less than 15 years ago there was bloody mass genocide happening right here. It think the memorial will be pretty overpowering.

Well, related to work, I got some great great news from different colleagues today — our Netherlands office is interested in funding the Social Change through Social Media workshop in Kenya in December; the German office wants to put the virtual visits on their website and may have possibilities of funding future work in that area; and the Japanese office is making a Japanese virtual visit this month and will post all our other VVs plus the Japanese one on their website. Very exciting!

At 2 I have to be on a conference call related to Plan’s participation in the 3rd World Congress on Child Sexual Exploitation. Hoping my phone works well enough to make the connection. I’m participating on the Child and Adolescent Participation Commission (CAPC) with people from UNICEF, ECPAT and Save the Children in different countries. There is a lot of stuff to work out still regarding children’s participation in the conference and very little time since it’s happening at the end of November…. Within Plan there is a broad task force from all the different regions who are feeding into the process in different countries and regions, and the linking in to Plan’s global process via the lead coordinator for it in our Swedish office. Then I’m trying to be the link between the CAPC and the Plan task force. It’s a bit confusing at times with so much information and so many things happening at once and such a short time frame.

The workshop with the partners yesterday went really well, but we still have a lot to do. It was supposed to be 3 days but due to the holiday was only 2, so there’s a missing 8 hours in there. We got to the point of mapping out who’s doing what, but only very generally. There were different ideas of what to do about that, but most people feel that it’s really important to have a precise schedule for at least the first week. Chrystel is busy today and tomorrow getting all the last supplies to take with us (stationery, first aid kit, computers, art supplies, etc.) so we agreed that I would take the draft agenda and try to put in into a grid with times/responsible people to share back with the partners. They all agreed to come in at 10 on Sunday, before we take off to Gatsibo, to finalize it. We also have to check through the equipment, make sure batteries are charged, see if anything is missing that we need, and make sure the computer software is all loaded and running.

On the home front…. Clare has decided to get her hair cut and she might do it while I’m gone (Gasp!!!). She’s donating it to locks of love to make wigs for cancer survivors. I hope she at least sends me a picture of the new style so I’ll know what to expect. She’s developing her sense of style and stuff since she’s almost 12.

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I couldn’t sleep last night because of jetlag so was really tired today. But the workshop that we did and the partners were so so so good that it kept me energetic.

We started at 9 and went until 4.30. We had several people including Bernard, Jacques and Olivier – young guys who work with video through Maison de Jeunes; Musafiri and Patrick from PAJER which is a youth parliament organization; Nandita and Amina from Never Again which is a theater group; Chaka a painter; Genevieve and Edison from the Plan program unit office, Joseph and Jean Baptiste from the University of Rwanda as translators, and Isaac, Chrystel and me.

There was tons of discussion about the project, ways of working with youth, facilitating vs. ‘training’, etc. It was really clear that we are all on the same page in terms of how to work with youth and what the project can blossom into. I’m so excited. Already the partners kept saying how we think this but we should see what the youth themselves want/think. They are talking about how to keep the project alive and sustain it and support it if the youth decide to create a youth association in the district.

They are really happy that Plan is not a ‘city’ organization, and that we are going to the community to work there not bringing kids into the city. They were really complimentary about the project design and the fact that Plan/Nokia have general goals but are not obligating and pressuring the community to implement in a certain way — that the partners and communities are able to find the best way for the project to work in their realities. Although when we talked about our ‘hopes and fears’ almost everyone had some concerns about being away from family, work, school and friends for 3 whole weeks, they were all extremely committed to follow up with the youth and to be really present during the 3 weeks training.

Now with a common vision, tomorrow we will work on who does what, when and how for the 3 weeks. We’ll focus on more solid plans (though we will be flexible as the workshop goes on) for the first week and debrief each evening, and then after the first week we will re-group to take another look at the plans for the 2nd week, and the same thing for the 3rd week.
So tomorrow we’ll put up flip charts on the wall, one for each week, and the partners will come with ideas for activities. We’ll fill things in and make sense of it all. Well, that’s the plan, at least.

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Ah, nothing like coming home from a long day of work and having a cold beer while updating your blog!

I got into Rwanda completely on schedule with no hitches. All my luggage arrived, no issues with customs, and no late flights. Something to celebrate for sure. But I had a
little bit of a cold and was feeling a bit narcoleptic the whole trip – kept randomly dozing off…. In the cab on the way to the airport, waiting for my plane, in the plane during the day, all night, etc. And when I finally got to Rwanda (after DC, Rome, Addis Ababa stops) I was STILL exhausted. So I had a nap, some dinner, checked emails, washed out some clothes in the sink (with all the equipment in my luggage, I didn’t have much room for clothing!) and went to bed.

Woke up at 5 with only one mosquito bite, and opened the curtains to the dawn, nice and cool, Rwanda style. The weather here couldn’t be more perfect. You’re fine in
jeans or shorts, sleeves or none. Nice breeze. Small hills/mountains all around.

I have decided to nix the malaria pills because they make me nauseous. I’ll see if I need them when I get to Gatsibo, but for now it’s not worth feeling sick all evening.

Hotel Ninzi is small with excellent breakfasts (whole grain bread, fruit, cheese, strong coffee, meat for the carnivores) and big rooms. One of the guys who had been eating at a nearby table last night invited me to sit at his table. I did, and it was fine until he asked if I was married (I lied), said his dream was to marry an American woman, and kept pressing me to tell him my room number. So I clammed up at that. He said I must be new to Rwanda because I was ‘scared’. OK, whatever. I’m not giving you my room number.

At the Plan Rwanda office I met the whole team, very young and dynamic, and handed over the equipment. Then we went over the list of partners we’d be working with – a youth organization, an audio-visual organization, an artist and a theatre group. All sound amazingly right for the project so it’s looking really good.

We went over the vision for the 3 week training, and then had lunch at Chez Robert (excellent salads and vegetarian entrees, as well as a huge selection of other stuff at the lunch buffet). I am pretty amazed at how charming and lovely Kigali is. I’m
probably only seeing one part, but so far it seems like paradise given the weather, the real food for lunch, the strong coffee, good beer, and wireless internet at my hotel….

Speaking of lodging, one thing we had to decide on was lodging for the 3 weeks training in Gatsibo District. Apparently there is a nice hotel further away from the communities where we’re working, but it doesn’t have enough rooms for everyone, so the options were to book rooms for me and a few others there, and everyone else stayed at a less nice place (I heard “not good” and “pretty bad” actually to describe it), or for us all to just stay at the ‘not nice’ place. Which is what we decided we’d
do. I think after living in the Barrio in El Salvador, it won’t be a big deal if the electricity is on and off as well as the water, which will not be hot. Maybe I will regret it later, but I think it will be fine. I think it will be fun anyway. Hope I’m right. Chrystel said she’d book the nice place on Sat/Sun nights so we can wash clothes, access internet and have some entertainment, which sounds great to me.

In the afternoon, Isaac, the new Youth Empowerment coordinator (Chrystel is the Child Rights and Advocacy Coordinator, but Isaac wasn’t hired when we had the Dakar training so Chrystel participated but now Isaac is the main point person) and I
worked out a schedule for the partners’ training. We only have tomorrow and Thursday with them because Friday is a holiday.

We planned the training like this:
Morning 1st Day: getting to know each other and the organizations, setting ‘ways of being’ with each other as a team, team building

Afternoon 1st Day: project overview, project outputs and outcomes, general outline of the 3 week training, thinking about the first week – how to use different arts, media, etc. as tools for youth to look at themselves through different lenses (self portraits, dreams, wishes, where do they fit in the community’s/society’s expectations of them? and how do they feel about society’s expectations/stereotypes of them?) and to look at the community through different lenses (what is living in the community like for a boy vs a girl? An older person vs a baby? What is the spiritual life? The
physical life? The cultural life? The community in time: what happens in the early morning? The late morning? The afternoon? The evening? What are they proud of in the community? Worried about? What are their hopes for the community? Their dreams? Their challenges and what are they doing about them? Etc)

We will close by asking the partners to think about different activities and methodologies that they have used in the past or can imagine using to help youth look at themselves from different angles and the community also from different perspectives. When possible, we will encourage the partners to co-facilitate, like if youth are doing an exercise about what their dreams are (delving into their real feelings and hopes) we can combine it with using the video cameras to record it (practice with video cameras). Or we can film a theater piece to practice using the cameras. Or the artist can work with a group of youth to create an image of the community for the community map, and look at some other aspects during the map creation. The idea is to really mix up the art forms along with the ‘work’ of pulling out the ideas and concepts on what to film/draw/paint/etc. to represent the community in the final ‘product’. We will look at the outcomes we hope to see in the youth, and
then at the different media as the tools to get there.

We will try to do the technical training for the equipment in small doses along with the other more broad exercises in the first week so that we don’t have to stop the process for a day to do dry and boring ‘training’ on the equipment, and so that the youth can see which area they want to focus on in the 2nd and 3rd week (video, photography, visual art, theatre, music). Hopefully in the process we will come closer and deeper to knowing what would help the youth have better presents and futures and this can be worked into Plan’s program planning.

Morning 2nd day: we will come back to yesterday’s discussion and see what the partners come up with for possible activities to build trust, environment of participation, and methodologies for looking at things from various angles.

Afternoon 2nd day: we will make a big flip chart for each week, define what we should have achieved by which point (by day 4 week 1 we should have some ideas for videos, by day 3 week 2 we should have shot some video footage, etc.) and together with the partners we will fill in the activities for the week.

I’m excited to meet the partners tomorrow and to put things together. The youth who will participate in the training number around 30, and they are ages 12-18 and
out-of-school youth. Most have up to a 6th grade education but were not able to continue due to financial reasons. They are from 2 different communities in Gatsibo district.

OK more later….

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Today was our last day in Senegal and we’d planned to do something with Aissatou, one of the girls who had come to the US youth conference in 2004. We took a cab downtown and walked around with her for awhile and then we went to the Dakar museum which was cool. They have lots of statues, masks and carvings related to different ritual ceremonies from the peoples of W. Africa. Most of the ceremonies and carvings are related to female initiation (excision), male initiation (circumcision) and fertility. Aissatou told me that female circumcision is now illegal but that many people in the South of Senegal still practice it and it’s quite dangerous. They consider that men and women are unmarriageable if they are not circumcised or they don’t go through the initiation ceremonies. I knew this from work where we do work around awareness raising to mobilize communities and help support the women who don’t circumcise their daughters. It’s hard to change this kind of thing though.

We went to the market after the museum and got just a couple of things, and then met Laye and took a car rapide to N’gor, where we caught a water taxi out to the N’gor island. The beach out there was really nice. We sat on some mats, listened to people’s reggae music and relaxed till about 4 when we headed back to pack and get ready to go to the airport.

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We had a field trip today to the Notto community in the Thies district where Plan Senegal is going to be implementing the project. I took Clare so she would get to see some of Senegal outside of Dakar.

Photo: Community notables with Papesidy (center) explaining the project.

We stopped at the Thies Program Unit (PU) Office first. (Click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liX3VniQ11c for a video of the PU Office.)

Papesidy is the manager of the Theis PU. Within the Plan structure, most countries have a Country Office (CO) and then a few PUs which are district offices closer out to where the communities that we’re working with are. Each PU has staff (100% local people) that manage programs, sponsorship, grants, finance, etc., and that report into the CO. There are ‘community animators’ who have close relationships with the communities where we’re working on projects and who spend most of their time out in the communities helping facilitate the projects, supporting them to plan what they want to do and manage their projects, etc. They also spend quite a lot of their time managing communications between sponsors in the 17 Plan offices in the ‘north’ and the sponsored children in the communities in the ‘south’.

The meeting in Notto (the community in the Thies district that will participate in the YETAM project) was really long. When we got out of the car, we were surrounded by kids just staring at us for awhile and then we moved over underneath a tree and sat on some mats. The head imam from the village along with a few other ‘notables’ as they called them sat in chairs and addressed everyone in Wolof (one of the main local languages in Senegal) to start the meeting. We had translation in French and I realized I’m understanding pretty well actually! They gave thanks to God and prayed, saying that the prayers would be to the Muslim, Christian or Jewish Gods and we all pray to the same one God. Then we were welcomed to the community, and the children and youth were encouraged to put their total trust into the people from Plan who would come work with them on the project. We were told that we should to think of the community as our family – that we had mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles in the community and that they also had the same in us. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JkquUlusuk for some scenes from the meeting.

There was a really really long discussion then about the project. The community had been seeing it as an internet training project but after several exchanges and lots of interventions, it became clearer what the project is about. That through different arts and media the youth would learn how to better express themselves and the community would have the opportunity to take its place, to occupy its own space on the internet, and that it would be they themselves who would portray their community there, not people from the outside. There were lots of questions related to how they could access and use the internet if they didn’t attend school or read/write in French and if their community didn’t have an internet connection. But then the wife of the imam said that she hadn’t gone to school and she could do lots of things with her cellphone, so it was the same thing. After the community meeting everyone came up to us to say bye and Clare had lots of boys asking what her name is, how old she is, etc. She turned pretty pink. Photos: Community youth commenting on the project.

Photo: Papesidy filming a testimonial for the Nokia report.

On the way home we drove the back way through a whole bunch of urban communities right near the beach to avoid traffic. At one point we just plowed through this big sand field with all these guys playing soccer, making our own road as we went along. There was so much going on – people selling mangos, baobab fruits, fish, kids, goats, cars, busses, men and women sitting outside their houses chatting all along small winding streets next to big expanses of sandy beach leading to the shore. Along the beach the entire way was pure movement of people — playing soccer, doing sit ups, running in groups of 2-3 or in larger groups the size of a soccer team. (I’ve never been in a country where so many people jog – at all hours of the day in all types of gear and non-gear – from running shoes to flip flops to even small groups of women with headscarves). I kept thinking of Laye’s term “social living” and thinking this is really it. If I ever moved to Senegal I’d want to live in an area like this where people ‘live socially’ rather than the more exclusive neighborhoods where people tend to stay indoors more and the only people you really see outside are the men sitting in chairs in near the front door keeping an eye on things.

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