In mid-January, six new international interns joined EduCARE; Alex (from Ireland), Sigrunn (Norway), Emma (USA), Viktoria (Germany), Lucy (USA) and Mimi (Canada). There is always a sense of nervousness and anticipation when new personnel arrive, but after a month all six have adapted to life in Naddi extremely well. Many of the projects have been given a new lease of life, with the energy brought by the new interns motivating the whole organization.
February has been a difficult month in Naddi, with periodic intervals of snow, rain, sunshine and storms. Despite these meteorological challenges, work has progressed apace. A series of productive meetings of the microfinance team (Lucy, Mimi, Sigrunn and I) have resulted in a whole host of new ideas and plans to be implemented. The ReStore has been reopened by Mimi, and a new range of products is being created and tested. After surveying consumer demand and analysing which products are not currently available in the area, Mimi has developed a series of prototypes. I am in the process of developing links with shops and cafés in McLeod Ganj who have shown interest in stocking products made in a sustainable manner by the women of the community.
Lucy has begun work on several of the microfinance projects, and has worked hard and shown a great deal of initiative in developing them in new directions. Her editing skills for the homestays booklets, committed approach to the chicken coop project and focus on community engagement in JDM community will all reap dividends for EduCARE in the future. She has also taken over running Fun Club, and has developed a host of new ideas for stimulating activities for the younger children.
The proposed EcoStore in JDM community shows how several projects can fit together within a holistic framework. An existing local shop will transition towards stocking alternative products that are not available elsewhere in Naddi. It will also stock eggs produced by the chicken coop, and many other locally sourced items. Sigrunn is working hard to develop a range of items that can be produced locally, thereby creating business for the local community and ensuring economic and environmental stability in the future. While the project is in its development stage at the moment, Sigrunn’s attention to detail and positive engagement with the community to find out their needs should ensure that the project is a great success.
All of the projects that are being developed by the new interns reflect a model of development that focuses on the needs of people on the ground and allows them to develop their capabilities and achieve self-empowerment. Such an approach is, in my opinion, the only truly sustainable one.
Rick Parfett, UK.
MicroEmpowered Project Manager