Arusha Project

The Grant Program
September 3, 2009, 7:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of our projects this summer is a grant program to which our partner organizations apply to fund their project.  The grant program is new this year and so far has been a great success.  We began with a call for proposals and invited local organizations to participate, then conducted a seminar on how to write the proposal, a bidder’s conference to ask questions, and finally received the applications. The volunteers were then assigned in pairs to represent the organizations with project proposals best aligned with our mission statement to promote gender equality and sexual health.  The volunteers were then instructed on the information they were expected to collect to clarify questions or discrepancies within the project proposals. Each site visit is different, some last only a half an hour, some for 3 hours with varying amounts of welcomes, translations and clarity.

I accompanied Mya and Kathleen on one such site visit to Kituchabamo, a vocational school in Kijenge, near Arusha town. Awaiting our arrival was the entire school, students, teachers and most of the administrators.  We sat down in the office for introductions, and were told that the students were ready to be interviewed first.  Mya and Kathleen weren’t expecting to interview the students, but because they had waited for us we felt obliged.  We filed into the classroom with the 40 students sitting at their desks and about 6 teachers and administrators standing on the sides-all trying to translate and clarify the resulting confusion. Language is sometimes difficult here, as most everyone speaks Swahili except in the rural areas, and those with higher levels of education and those who work with foreigners speak varying levels of English.  The staff was a bit shy in translating, so although they could speak MUCH better English than I could Swahili, I ended up helping to translate a bit, which also perhaps added to the confusion.  Through this mixture of translations, Mya and Kathleen asked the students what they thought the most important needs of the school was so as to contrast that information with what was listed on the grant application.  The proposal focused on building new classrooms, increasing the number of teachers and materials. The students identified three major issues: insufficient number of teachers, classrooms and especially the lack of supplies. Also school fees were a major issue, for many of the students couldn’t afford to go to secondary school, which is more expensive, and come from economically disadvantaged families.  This was also partially addressed in the grant, for it included a stationary stipend that would in tern reduce the student’s fees.  There was some apparent confusion about what the grant entailed, and why we were asking these questions, so we reintroduced ourselves and explained the grant application process and how the volunteers would be representing their project to the board of trustees (Tanzanian heads of our partner NGOs).  The students looked satisfied with our explanations and thanked us.  They also mentioned their struggles even with daily survival in addition to school fees (80,000tsh, ~ 61USD), and were interested in having a playground or sports facilities.  These last requests were outside the grant proposal, which the school’s director mentioned and clarified again for the students.  The questions and translations continued for about an hour, after which we took pictures together and the students were dismissed. 

After interviewing the students, the teachers and administrators gave us a tour of the school, and then we all sat down in the office to go over Mya and Kathleen’s questions.  The biggest questions centered on an evaluation process, how exactly they would measure the effectiveness of this project after it was completed. This was especially difficult to convey both due to the language barrier in addition to the concept itself, it seemed they weren’t very familiar with the evaluation process.  They also clarified questions regarding the budget because some salaries were larger in the project budget than the organizational budget, the later expected to include the project budget as well.  After completing their list of questions, we asked the staff if they had any questions for us, which they didn’t.  We then agreed to meet again a few days later so they could have some time to create an evaluation process and reorganize the budget.  Overall the experience was incredible to learn about the inner-workings of this non-profit, as well as to see the passion and commitment they each had to their work.  It was truly educational and inspiring.


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