Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's only been 7 months and I'm out of titles

April has been the fastest month of my life. All month I was doing one of two things; either recording interviews for an audio documentary on access to safe water, or planning the Prince Primary fundraising bonanza with the rest of the committee. Both required me to constantly be out in what snazzy NGO folks call “the field”, which really means you are visiting peoples homes – usually rural and poor. The term irks me because they are just that - peoples homes. Anyway, I was fully immersed and my eyes and relationships were opened up further. I’ll wait until I get a chance to edit the audio to touch on that, so we’ll just chat about the Prince event.

The fundraiser was Friday, April 24th, purposely coinciding with the regular end of the term celebrations. We held a community auction in hopes of making some of the money back that the school lost due to the UNEB business. Trying to cut planning costs at every possible turn, we pounded the red-dirt roads and went home-to-home invited folks and asking for donations of food, woven goodies, art, goats, etc to be auctioned off.
Then we hit the district offices to invite as many hotshot politicians as possible to buy up all the auction items. The community gave an incredible effort, filling up a classroom with bunches of bananas, watermelons, sugarcane, and a few plump goats. The planning committee made up of guardians, teachers, Meddy from ICOD, and a white guy also put there hearts and backs into the days leading up.
African time was in full effect. The guest of honor was the district chairman, and he was five hours late. Culturally nothing can really begin with out him so that means we all waited (not that he was the only one late.) Once we got rolling the festivities went really well save a few bumps in the road. We ate, listens to politicians, watched the Prince kids shake out some traditional dances, tried to outbid each other (maybe about 8-10% of the guests have money for this kind of thing), and planted some tress.
A little money was raised, some big promises were made to myself and the headmaster regarding political help for the project, we danced and laughed, and it didn’t rain. I personally made some bad judgment calls in terms of penny-pinching and perpetuating the lop-sided dynamic between the people with and the people without. I re-realized that cost-cutting usually only affects those who already don’t have – and can be disempowering and disrespectful to the people who really deserve it.
This thing is tricky; there are by-products of culture that no one would argue need changing (poverty, corruption, etc), but most people - even the oppressed - scoff at the idea of challenging those traits inside of the culture (gender imbalance, subserviency, false sense of superiority, etc).

No comments: