Mapping Time

Haven’t been able to access an internet café this last week. Now there is only one computer left in all of Singida that can access blogger. my next update may be from Johannesburg airport on the 17th…
Anyhow, Here are some updates (though not complete, check back later for more)

What does it take to build a healthy rural community? How can we investigate?



identifying patterns, resources potential. Some examples of village maps.

Mapping builds capacity. Understanding existing patterns, group conditions, and communications resources allow networks to emerge and strengthen. Mapping is a method of problem solving where sustainable solutions can be found by investigating and investing in the potentials inherent in the existing system.

Mapping also empowers the community with the skills to organize, strategize and document their efforts. An organized community is able to more effectively leverage their resources and capabilities.

Mapping has the potential to address the infrastructures/interfaces that facilitate transparent governance and human rights issues, organize capital/social capacity to collectively invest in tools that can improve quality of life (ie: solar panels, water cistern building, ditch digging, sustainable agriculture, etc)

The Youth Leadership Programme (mentioned in previous posts) embraces strategic thinking through active participation (sometimes lacking in the school system where class sizes can reach triple digits).

Girl’s netball team going through play strategies / chicken project strategy using sand drawings. There is already a remarkable progress in the girls’ attitude. Previously, they were shy and reluctant to lead discussions. Now, they are actively illustrating and vocalizing, critiquing and reinforcing. Smaller siblings and nearby children also congregate around the proceedings and learn through exposure.

 

And now for some String Exercises..
developed to establish rapport, participation and collective effort between the youth leaders and the children. Evolved out of a common children’s game. During my visit to Tanzania last year, I was intrigued by a group of school children playing cat’s cradle using the unraveled yarn off their torn uniforms.

String games such as “cat’s cradle” have been played by different communities around the world for centuries. Many different cultures surprisingly share similar games and rules. Infact, there are tales of foreign visitors using string games as a way to negotiate acceptance into a new community.

The strength of this exercise is its engaging quality. Those involved are actively participating. The first step is collective story telling. Youth leaders build rapport with the children by using the string to create images of landscape features in their community. Some landscapes need multiple hands to create (ie: illustrating 3 hills, or multiple bends in a stream, etc). Using these string-landscape-images, personal stories as well as local legends start to be told. The malleability of the string allows different stories to unravel as the participants control its sequence. This dialogue between the youth and child(ren) builds a relationship based on common expressions of environment, personal tales, and collective history.

The second phase of the exercise involves using the string for strategic planning, documentation and comparison. As the small-scale chicken project is introduced to the children, knots in the string will act as a visual tool. It documents the current number of chickens and allows the child/caretaker to visually strategize/plan future investment and expenditure. The youths will use this exercise to assess the child / caretaker’s progress and planning skills. A community of children/caretakers involved in this project can also come together to compare their strings and discuss varying strategies for success.

There is a reason why string is used as a documentation and planning tool. In these communities, paper is scarce and sometimes unattainable by the very poor. Literacy is also an issue. String, on the other hand is more accessible and is a “tool” that all are familiar and comfortable using. This comfort level gives the user a sense of control. Using simple methods of expression, ideas and strategies that have often been simply verbally discussed, now has physical presence – opening up the opportunity for accountability, follow-up, and critique. Individual and collective progress is “written” in the knots on the string.

The simplicity of this exercise allows it to easily assimilate into the children/caretakers everyday routine. As time unfolds, it has the potential to evolve as skills improve, resources expand and opportunities increase.

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