Friday, March 9, 2012

What have I been Doing?

Hello everyone! Moshoeshoe Day to honor the king is approaching! Carol canned peach sauce with the bare necessities, the leaves are dropping off the trees, and it's been in the high 60s at night.

Now what has Shane been doing in the Mountain Kingdom?

I have been working with Snake Park and Tourist Information Center, the Child and Gender Protection Unit, and Prison. So far I have been assisting with a lot of planning and proposal preparations.
My primary assignment is at the Snake Park and Tourist Information Center. The projects there include: finishing the parks buildings and reptile cages, support group development, and martial arts school. The park requested a volunteer to build the business capacity of the organization thereby making it more appealing to donors. My supervisor and I have written a strategic plan and activity plan to guide the activities of the project and increase donor confidence. Í do not know if I'll ever have the opportunity to do that type of work again but it was very interesting. There is also work being done to budget for activities and monitor cash flow. Now were are focusing monitoring and evaluating the project progress monthly for park records and report to donors.
My supervisor was awarded funds in the past. However, it has been a few years with no substantial support. He invests his own funds to keep things running and Snake Park also gains revenue from about 20 weekly visitors. When I arrived at this site in August he had a large proposal to be submitted to the Lesotho National Development Committee. We have since revised it many times and hope to travel to the capital city of Lesotho in a week to present, negotiate, and submit the document. Wish us luck!
The Snake Park has a few noteworthy branching organizations one of which is a support group called "Face Your Fear" serving 150 Orphans in the mountain villages surrounding our camp town. My supervisor and I are working with four newly recruited youth (high school graduates) to do the same project planning as was done for the Snake Park. The difference being we had a small team and a proposal has already been submitted. The donor did a followup visit while I was there and was very optomistic after seeing the support groups preparatory work and formal planning. They are awaiting a waiver from the US Congress to aprove the purchase of agrigultural related materials with the grant money. The representative said, "We cannot tell you that you will be funded; But, you will be funded." So we are excited for the positive statement and the chance to continue building a good reputation as a community based organization. A good reputation means more donor support.
The specific aims of the support group are admirable. The Director (my supervisor) and the Board of Directors (elders in the neighboring villages) will have planned to create a dairy, piggery, farm fields, school unifor sewing, and chickens. The kids will learn from their elders everything from seeds and babies to taking the products to market. The orphaned children will work with these teachers daily to care for the plants, animals, and sew uniforms. The kids will get food rations and uniforms as well as learn to sell products. This is a cool project and I am excited to help build the capacity of the organization.
The last noteworthy Snake Park project is the Face Your Fear Self Defense Academy. I have contributed more to the development of this project than the others but it was still very much a collaborative effort. My supervisor, like me, is a martial artist. He has been teaching a group of Basotho for many years and holds a Third Dan Black Belt in Shodokan Karate. So, we decided to make this programming a formal part of the Snake Park project.
The plan is to first get the necessary materials (mats, heater, affiliations, etc...) and use a temporary facility. We have written a proposal to get all of these things and will submit it next week. The funds are awared through Peace Corps and should be available in less than six weeks.
In the meantime we have improved the training environment. I would show you pictures but the camera is MIA. Classes were being held outside on the rocks and exposed to the elements. Now we have a roof with one wall (we are using the partially built restaurant), cardboard makes the concrete soft..., and we covered that with a "tarp"(heavy duity waterproofing paper for house construction). This winter we hope to move into the basement hall of the local mission. Next year the plan is to build an academy that will be convertible into the Snake Park Conference Hall. I have been researching straw bale construction in order to provide superinsulation and reduce heating costs. Any advice would be well received.
This is what I have been doing with my primary project. I have also been working at the Plice Station and Prison. Not much has materialized at the prison. So, I'll avoid writting anymore about that activity. However, the Child and Gender Protection Unit or CGPU has been a progressive project.
The CGPU visits about 24 schools per year and teaches kids about their rights, abuse, and women's rights. I proposed adding the Fight Like a Girl (FLAG) training, which I am certified to teach, to their current course. FLAG has been used at schools successfully for years in the states and it is something I can contribute that they would never have access to.
The CGPU/FLAG project has been a fun learning experience. So far we have compiled a formal proposal including a survey of 100 high schoolers and interviews with local stakeholders, cost benefit analysis, and feasability study. The previously mentioned martial arts academy at the Snake park will be the partner organization with weekly FLAG classes. The instructor, assistants, and students will have the option to travel with the CGPU to present to kids around the district. We just received approval from the district commissioner of police and are awaiting the arrival of funds in order to proceed with purchasing the neccessary materials for FLAG classes.
I have a lot of projects going right now and some smaller activites but those are the big ones.

We hope this post finds you all happy and well!

Shane and Carol

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