Who am I to say…

In preparation for my trip, I had spoken to numerous experienced development staff and researched piles of historical texts, development strategies, journals, papers, personal accounts, etc. I had lived in Singida before and used that experience to draft a flexible framework of activities that would engage the villagers and stimulate collective learning and practice. And I adopted a naïve idealism, thinking that accomplishments could be made if there was a blindness to certain overwhelming obstacles.I wanted to erase all preconceived notions – to really listen to the villagers so that any intervention for positive change included their voices and involvement. This has not always been easy, and I have been especially affected when the stereotypes I tried so hard to erase presented themselves in plain view – World-Vision-style poverty (cue music), unmotivated villagers waiting for handouts, blatant lack of skills, accountability, follow-up initiative, effective facilitation, a hierarchical system excludes the vulnerable, etc.. I have spent some of my previous entries mentioning some of these issues and I always feel a sense of regret because my accounts are simplified versions of the “real thing”. It takes a lifetime to grasp the intricacies that weave together the conditions of this community.
So I retract my previous attitude. Blindness is not the answer. There must be an awareness of the multiplicity of a community. There is both good and bad. What is important is to celebrate hope and have the energy to invest in it.


youths gathering with OVCC director to learn about strategy and planning  



 youth drawing out strategies in the sand










In impoverished rural communities where unpredictable weather, sickness and unreliable infrastructures reinforce the fragility of existence, a sense of powerlessness can pervade the consciousness of the community. Villagers need to have access to resources, have the skills to analyze, make the right choices and implement. The youths (60% of the population is under 21) will be trained to do just that. A new generation of active leaders will be empowered with the ability to control the destiny of their communities.



Girls are emphasized to participate. Women are usually the breadwinners of the family but are often treated as “second-rate citizens”. In participating in the Youth Leadership Programme, girls are empowered with the skills to plan, strategize and execute projects that can benefit themselves and their community. They will be reinforced with the attitude that they are equals and should demand the same rights and choices as their male counterparts




Training a new generation of leaders is a lengthy process. Like any new idea, correct implementation involves an incredible amount of effort – especially “on-the-ground-facilitation”. There must be a sensitivity towards the unique conditions of the place – environmental, social, skill level, existing governance structure, etc. Many well-intentioned plans for development have failed to align their practices with existing conditions. Also, minimal (or a complete lack of) follow-up ignored emergent problems and possible solutions. Any programme that hopes to succeed must have skilled staff capable of addressing these issues, making the appropriate decisions, and having the infrastructural channels to discuss and implement.
How can small-scale development programs such the Youth Leadership programme succeed if it operates on the backbone of ineffective banking systems, services, roads, mobile phone and internet connection, effective government support, etc? Improvement of these large-scale enterprises takes time and are often only accelerated when real incentives emerge (ie: profits). Ironically, what can drive these incentives is the success of small-scale developments that can improve the earning/spending capacity of villagers. Therefore, projects need to be catalytic..

Stay tuned for more updates

Chicken 1,2. distribution of chickens for the “Chicken Project” (see earlier posts)

One Response to “Who am I to say…”
  1. Anonymous says:

    who is this clown giving away the chicken?

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