November Project Roundup
November 9, 2016
We visited both groups of girls in Panama this month to celebrate the completion of our first Survival Skills pilot program. We spent some time with Karen Robinson, our new English teacher in Colon. She is completely fluent, an excellent translator, and has a deep conviction to help the girls become independent.
During our visits to Malambo and Colon, we conducted interviews with each of the students. We wanted to learn how they would describe the value of the program and what improvements could be made. Each girl received a Spanish Bible following the interview.
With the conclusion of this pilot, we have tweaked the curriculum for the next program, which will begin in March. Everyone believes it critical to start the program with lessons on independent living, which immediately introduces the girls to the concept of what it will cost to live outside the orphanage. Beginning with this module will allow the instructor to build every lesson on the importance of pursuing economic independence.
Other youth empowerment activities we conducted included a meeting with the program Transicion a la Vida. This program has included the girls in weekly Deloitte workshops, which have covered topics such as self-esteem and how to write a resume. The next Transicion a la Vida program will be held every other Saturday beginning in January, and will address personal professional branding.
Our partnership with Friends of Malambo continues to be a significant priority because they are experienced at connecting young people to jobs and college scholarships.
Team Ghana continues to see excellent results with both savings groups and demonstration plots. Another three savings groups recently participated in their end-of-cycle share-outs with ROIs of 24.7%, 19.5% and 4.6%. These positive returns are encouraging participants to continue with a second cycle and launching additional savings groups in their communities, and there are now 30 groups with 604 participants.
On the agriculture front, Abu Rabu, a member of the Peace and Love savings group, recently harvested a phenomenal pepper crop from his 6×6 meter conservation agriculture plot at a rate of 1.39 lbs of peppers per square meter. The harvest from the remaining plot planted with conventional methods (no inputs, no mulch) was only .035 lbs per square meter. Using methods that Abu has learned and can sustain with resources easily available to him, he was able to increase his per-square-meter pepper harvest by more than 39 times!
Peter will be leaving Ghana at the end of the year, as the time has come to transfer program leadership to the local team. Until the end of the year, Peter’s role will be mostly hands off, as the local team fully takes the reins on their farmer advocacy program and continues the work they have built together.
Bauya, Sierra Leone
Sullay, Joe and Jenneh have become especially well organized in their activities and adept at balancing and integrating their work with savings groups and agriculture plots. They continue to work with 11 savings groups in seven different communities. Nine groups will complete their first annual cycle in January 2017, and we eagerly anticipate their first year results. Many of these groups and numerous people are showing an increased interest and adoption of conservation agriculture, and our team is currently working with 16 model farms and 29 extensions that have grown from those models. Sullay, Joe and Jenneh are developing mentoring relationships with people who rise up as potential advocates for savings groups and teachers of conservation agriculture in their own communities.
Lunsar, Sierra Leone
In recent weeks, John and Shanty have created a more organized system of agriculture training in Lunsar. Savings group activity is beginning to pick up, with five active groups representing 114 participants, of which 75 are women. Still in their infancy, the savings groups soon will experience their first share-outs.
The agriculture program now includes 20 active model plots with 35 extensions. The high number of extensions tells us that members of the participating churches and communities are impressed with the activities and results of the models and want to see what the impact might be for them personally. These model and extension plots, which represent 45 farmers, are cultivated in bananas, pineapples, maize, cowpeas, okra, groundnuts, cucumbers, peppers and watermelons. This represents great diversity in crop selection, which lowers risk for farmers while presenting more market opportunities and value.
Raul anticipates being able to manage the Survival Skills ministry on his own at the beginning of 2017. We pray for him God’s grace and blessings as he continues to serve young men in his community and divert them from poverty.