Monday, March 29, 2010

TIme flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

So, after a frustrating week I am trying to take inventory of all the good things I have to experience here. I have plenty of bananas, mangos, passion fruit, avocados, macadamia (emphasis on the da-mia part of the word), pineapples, etc…

I think the most frustrating thing about working in development is mitigating the well intended mistakes of the past. People have come to assume if they wait long enough, sooner or later some NGO will take pity on them and shower them with money. This is a phenomenon I experienced a lot more in West Africa but I am certainly seeing it here as well. As the coordinator of the Public Health Program I am conducting Malaria Awareness trainings and distributing treated mosquito nets to the greater Village Hopecore Community. Many of these groups have been connected with VHI for up to three years and have never been funded due to limited resources. In fact part of the Public Health Program’s goal through the Malaria trainings and net distribution is to bolster morale and keep connected with our groups as well as conduct preventative health trainings. Recently we went to do a training and distribute nets with an unfunded group. One member complained about the event and needed to convinced about the importance of the training. His reasons were because he was upset with not being funded and it seemed as though he felt VHI owed him something.

As part of our mosquito net distribution we follow-up with home health visits to continue the education and emphasize that the nets should be used. It’s a great way to know people and as I’ve mentioned in past blogs, a great way for people in our groups to spend time together. This man who felt we owed him something disappeared on the day we were scheduled to visit his home. His wife refused to leave her business or confirm that he in fact brought the nets home or that the family is using them. I have to question whether this person took the nets somewhere to sell them and I am disappointed. This is not something that happens regularly but when it does I am reminded of how so many years of charitable donations have caused apathy among people to take responsibility for their own livelihoods and increased the sense of entitlement to things they have been given.

This brings me to another interesting observation about myself. One might think I am an insensitive conservative who doesn’t believe in welfare or public services. That is very far from true and I think my actions certainly speak to that. I do think that when charity is given we tend to be irresponsible. The work we are doing here is a struggle because of the amount of follow-up, which is sometimes more important than the initial tasks. Follow-up informs us when things are working and guides us to make progress and in turn help others make progress. Good investments are well researched and closely followed and in the case of development will eventually empower the population and strengthen a sensible system for growth and development. Good investments rarely come from a haphazard distribution of funds. Remember the saying if you give a man a fish he eats for a day, if you teach him to fish he eats for life. This takes time and sometimes a lot of manpower.

But on a lighter note I went for another walk this weekend and made friends with a dog named Sivi. I am also looking forward to a trip to Mombassa for Easter Weekend. And the sun is shining!

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