Last week was a pretty big turning point for my trip. This entire time, I have been operating under the assumption that I would be applying for a grant from FSD, and with that grant money, I would issue loans to grandmothers for income-generating activities. I have developed budgets, interviewed grandmothers, and written a huge grant proposal all to these ends.
However, when I submitted my proposal, the feedback from the local site team was a little different than I expected. Since the last grant given to my host organization, OGLM, was also used to deliver a batch of loans, FSD would most likely not fund my project. Since the first batch of loans has not yet started repayment, FSD has no way of knowing how well the project has been working. As a result, they will not risk any more money on the project until its success is more tangible.
That left me, with only 18 working days left at OGLM, without a plan of action. Had I wasted my first five weeks here? What can I do with only one month left? How am I supposed to effect any change in this short time period? I really started envying Shawn, who has both much more time and freedom to do what he wants without the interference that comes with working for an NGO.
I have since come to realize that this change of plans isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In my remaining 18 days, I had budgeted the following activities:
- Work with four groups of grandmothers to develop sustainable income-generating activities.
- Determine what materials each group would need to start these projects.
- Deliver loan-basics training, bookkeeping training, and business-specific training.
- Work with an agriculture specialist to train the two agriculture groups in proper farming-as-a-business techniques (this would require five days of training alone).
- Bring each group to the market and buy the materials they needed to begin their projects.
- Monitor the grandmothers as they begun business operations.
Once you factor in the fact that the work pace is much slower here and that most of this work depends on my translator being free, that schedule is ridiculous! It wasn’t that I was being naive, it was just that I didn’t realize how little time I had left before I leave here.
I have since worked with the staff to develop a new plan for the rest of my time here. I will be developing OGLM’s microfinance program on the organization side. Kind of like a microfinance consultant. I will be restructuring the program and training the staff to make sure that the program lasts for a long time.
The bad news is that this work won’t be anywhere near as interesting as the stuff that Shawn does on YouTube. The good news is that OGLM definitely needs it. This is something I am confident that I can accomplish and its effects will last long after I hop on that plane 31 days from now.