Stakeholder Meeting @ Wakiso
Three volunteers of our Challenges Worldwide Community Action Day (CAD) Committee accompanied me to a meeting at the Busega Muslim Girls Primary School. The meeting took place with a number of chiefs of the Wakiso districts and with the Kampala Capital City Association (KCCA). This Saturday the KCCA will be organising a 'Go Green' Community Clean up day, on which the community is to clean the garbage of the street. Furthermore they will be offering free medical check ups on that day. An estimation of around 500 comunity members were encouraged to join the clean up of 9 different districts in Wakiso.
Apart from participating with the KCCA to clean the streets and offer medical check ups by Buganda Bulungi Bwansi, CWW is planning to add two more activities: tree planting and basic business training seminars for CBOs (community-based organisations).
Through participating in this Community Action Day, Challenges Worldwide aims to encourage sustainable business and to support CBOs in Wakiso and to promote long-term environmental consciousness in the community by helping in both tree planting and street cleaning.
It was interesting to attend their meeting. Apart from getting an insight to how the KCCA organises their work, they showed us their willingness to make street cleaning a more regular and therefore sustainable activity. It seems not to be easy. Street cleaning is something that comes paired with the community's mentality. The KCCA mentioned that volunteering is not as popular anymore and therefore the state needs to make better arrangements. To be honest, not everyone in London or Rotterdam wants to be involved in street cleaning either. State arrangements by the KCCA have however not yet been very successful. For example, the KCCA would pay selected cleaners to keep the streets clean, however the experience is that the cleaners pocket the money, and do not clean.
Even though 80% of this meeting was in Luganda (partly translated), our Challenges Worldwide CAD Committee tried to exchange experiences and knowledge with the members of the district. For example, one of the chiefs said: "nobody wants garbage in their garden, why not have everyone in one district contribute for garbage pickup?". We explained that this might cause the community to dump their garbage somewhere else for free. The KCCA suggested to set up a system in which the wealthy make a contribution, and in which the less privileged pay less contribution. However, we tried to make clear that garbage pickup could also be arranged for everyone, through using tax money. KCCA's response to this was you still have the difference between the rich and the poor. We suggested that the more wealthy could then pay more tax. The respond to this in the meeting was very positive. The KCCA has the budget, now it is up to them to work hand in hand with the community in order to change their mentality. We will help them try to bring about this change on Saturday, I imagine this will only be the start of a long way to go.
In terms of tree planting, it was the experience of the KCCA that trees that were planted in the past, did not survive. Either because nobody looked after them, or because animals would get to them. We all agreed that the trees should be fruit trees, which were to be planted at public spaces, such as schools and churches. This way the community can protect the trees. After Saturday I will let you know how it all went!
With our meeting with a number of chiefs of the Wakiso districts and with the Kampala Capital City Association (KCCA) at the Busega Muslim Girls Primary School, the 'Go Green' Community Action Day (CAD) was ready to be kicked off.
Community Action Day
A Community Action Day is part of the Challenges Worldwide and greater ICS programs whereby all volunteers, both UK and in country (Uganda for us), choose a socially beneficial project to work on for an entire day, with the aim of leaving a sustainable impact directly or by creating lasting relationships which could lead to the fruition of a sustainable outcome.
Go Green Day
By jointly organising the Go Green Day, Challenges Worldwide aimed to encourage sustainable business, support CBOs in Wakiso and to promote long-term environmental consciousness in the community by providing a lecture on entrepreneurship and by helping in both tree planting and street cleaning.
Last Saturday we intended to do all of that with our little band of 30 odd volunteers of the Ugandan Challenges Worldwide team. An estimation of around 500 comunity members were encouraged to join the clean up of 9 different districts in Wakiso. On the meeting it was made clear that we would be cleaning up garbage in the areas where is was considered most urgent, led by 9 appointed group leaders.
The opportunity to take part in a “Kampala Goes Green Day” in association with the KCCA (Kampala Capital City Authority) only popped up about a week before the date of the event, which made the original premise quite challenging. However, the dedicated CAD committee busily arranged the logistics for the day, drinking water, gloves and jammed pieces of the puzzle where it needed to fit. 6.30AM on the 30thmarked the beginning of the day at which point everyone, from varying places around Kampala, started boarding a privately hired “Pioneer Bus” (the normal Kampalan bus service) to begin our mini volunteering quest! (PICTURE OF BUS)
With boarding finished, we eventually reached the Busega Girls Muslim Primary School at around 8am Ugandan time (and I don’t mean East African Time, I just mean we were late by around 30 minutes) where we were scantily, although no less warmly, greeted by an assortment of KCCA officials and other well-meaning volunteers. We entertained ourselves for a while, having expected to be greeted with a full itinerary upon arrival, buying food, having a chat and exploring the local area. By 9 the crowd had begun to thicken out, figures of mediocre authority with rough mental plans started appearing and we were split into 3 groups to begin the street cleaning while the medical team (separate from Challenges) setup and kindly asked us to direct anyone needing check-ups to them.
Armed with our straw brooms, surgical gloves and looks of pure determination we set off into various parts of the parish to make a serious effort to clear the street from litter - which consisted mostly of fossilised plastic bags. The lack of a formal public refuse collection service was visible. However attending the KCCA at the stage of planning, the chief had made clear that paying people to clean up only resulted in the money disappearing, with the litter still on the streets.
Whilst we were making our way through town we encountered other groups consisting of volunteers from various large Ugandan corporations, universities and just random concerned citizens, who all helped a hand. Some of the chiefs encouraged the volunteers to not only pick up rubbish but to also adopt a more promotional role in street cleaning, aiding him in spreading the concept of consistent area cleanliness and hygiene. Unfortunately, many of the business owners and general dwellers who trotted these streets simply looked on. Although it would be unfair to say that nobody helped, it certainly didn’t feel the community was particularly enthusiastic about joining in, considering they had received plenty of notification on the street cleaning event. Overall, it was an interesting start to the day, whether we helped, or the communities were right in spectating I leave for your own interpretation.
Following the street cleaning, our volunteers moved onto the tree planting. A ceremonial tree planting by a member of parliament started the activity off, with baby guava trees being planted around the school, the idea being in the future the kids could simply pick the fruits of our labour off as a playtime treat. Whilst a select few continued with the planting, a large audience had gathered to seemingly thank the companies, officials and other sponsors for their attendance, all wrapped in a lengthy speech performed in Luganda. Although, the talk meant only a total of about 8 trees were planted around the school – slightly short of the 100 ideas that was being floated around. The talks at least involved a lot of clapping and nodding. Crucially though – as I was told after – the talks were actually not just verbal pats on the back but actually aimed at promoting environmental protection and sustainability. The intention was definitely 10/10 but you do wonder why the actual villagers whom we had originally been tasked to help in general, weren’t present.
(PICTURE OF GUYS LISTENING)
Although tree planting was only short-lived one of the most exciting parts of the day was still to come! The SME business talks were the final stage of the day for us and were to be delivered to a group of small business owners who had received a grant or bursary from KCCA and thus were asked to attend our talks to learn more about money management and a whole range of topics. In all we were to teach about basic bookkeeping; saving and reinvesting; marketing and communications; customer service management; stock record keeping; business formalization and finally teamwork and the importance of forming groups. The first talks went off really well, with some members of the 50 strong audience studiously taking notes and others intently listening on. Since most of the listeners were Ugandan we had a few people translating the talks, sometimes our own ICVs (in country volunteers) and sometimes members of KCCA. However, even with all the enthusiasm and good intentions in the world the weather still caught up with us! The famously strong rain we’d experienced a few times since getting to Uganda paid us a visit once again; with the rain and wind crashing on the walls and corrugated roof, it became difficult for even the presenter and translator to hear each other. (PICTURE OF ROOF) So, as unfortunate as it was, we decided it best to call it a day after trying to speak through the rain for about an hour, with closing remarks made and applause handed out we all braved the torrential rain to find shelter in our comfy orange bus to shuttle ourselves back to our various homes and get some well-deserved rest!
Just before my official conclusion, I just wanted to write a few things for those of you reading to get some more CAD ideas and the experience of one. First, just start early, get planning as soon as you can, gather as many ideas as you can and decide how you want to go from there. For us, we had a few branches and delegated the actual research work to both ICVs and UK volunteers, which worked out brilliantly. Second, have some numbers you can call for reliable transport and organise that early too, people like to be able to plan ahead. Third, keep people informed, I think any group based work needs a good flow of information, the suspense is sometimes the most painful thing as a follower. Fourth, be mindful of ICS regulations, there are rules in place for various reasons, but just know how to work with them and make it easier for volunteers to stick to them – example, we had to meet at 6.30 which is potentially dangerous, so some people stayed over houses, the whole thing was risk assessed and communicated, simple! Finally, be sure your social mission is clearly agreed upon communicated both to the volunteers you’re working with and to whomever you’re working with, it just makes the day more meaningful when you have a tangible concept that you are all driving towards.
OVERALL I actually really enjoyed the Action Day – I mean people reading this may and the volunteers on the day definitely thought it didn’t have the long-term impact CADs stand for but really…..is one day going to really cut it? For me, the impact works both ways, we make a difference and that process gives us some new insight too. At the end of the day we took part in a monthly clean-up scheme and made it better, we left our mark planting trees – which circulated online and on NTV, a national television channel, more symbolically than anything – and we opened up some new ideas to explore for some business owners (at least until the rain rained on our parade). Although the small physical aspect in which we offered seemed relatively insignificant, possibly to you, definitely to some of the volunteers, I think it is important – especially when in a constrained charity based volunteering environment – to take away the good from the day or any event and use that in creating that long lasting impact that we as volunteers dream of (right?). Case in point, our observation of how the KCCA operates, we were able to see the inefficiencies in operation, the lack of logistics, that’s useful for us as volunteers, especially when pondering the difficulties of and offering solutions to developing countries. Granted, it felt weird when we were cleaning and people were spectating, but from their point of view, it’s a free cleaning service from people who volunteered to do just that, so why bother? Also proposed was the idea that we should teach clean streets and that’ll solve this litter issue, but remember, we have that mentality in the UK AND a publicly operated litter service (which in 2010 cost almost £1bn, that’s 7% of Uganda’s 2013 GDP) yet we still have streets rampant with random pieces of litter. So tell me, do you put on your gloves to pick up litter you haven’t dropped at home?
But anyway, we all agreed at least that it was a fun day out nonetheless and although the social mission wasn’t the most life changing I hope that such experiences provide invaluable, eye-opening information to the average Ugandan not living in a fully furnished house with power and running water. One day is short and this particular one wasn’t perfect, but every opportunity is a good one, make the most of what you have and improve on it. I’m sure we could’ve made an even bigger impact, but hey, it’s all part of the volunteer learning experience right? (The opinions made in the last two paragraphs were mine or my interpretation – don’t get mad at anyone!)
"You deserve a chicken"
Full report on the event: