Tuesday, February 28, 2012

End of Day 10: $2005.00

Yay!  Thanks to a generous $20 donation, the total amount donated is now over $2000.00.  That is awesome!  Thanks for your continued support.  Please continue to help however you can!  Think $5 is too little?  Think again!  Every little bit helps get closer to the goal!  Check out how you can donate too!  Or, check out these upcoming fundraising events if you would like to help out by going to one (or more) of them.  As always, please feel free to email me if you would like to help organize a fundraising event, have an idea, or just a question for me.

The Applebee's Dining to Donate flyer is now available online please remember to bring a copy of it when you come out to eat on 3/19!

The Zumbathon flyer is also available online and there is now a Facebook Event page so send it to anyone that might be interested!

Remember, 100% of the money being donated is going toward sustainable development in rural Ecuador, with the primary focus being construction of a community center that will also act as a sister neighborhood center to Madison, Wisconsin's Meadowood Neighborhood Center.  I imagine that some of you that are stumbling upon this blog and fundraising initiative for the first time are still wondering why you should care, or why it is important to help.  So, over the next few days I plan to provide more details on goals for the community center and beyond (including more details about why the connection to the Meadowood Neighborhood Center is important), and hope you will share in my enthusiasm and consider donating.  I am also hoping you will feel compelled to ask questions for anything you might want to hear more about.  Don't be shy!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been volunteering my time and money to help get this initiative going, as it has been something this community has been trying to do for a long time, but as with many worthwhile projects, financial resources were not readily available.  I became intrigued by the enthusiasm the community first shared at a town meeting, but was cautioned by some that the request for assistance not simply be a hand me out, and also to be sure that this really was something community-led.  So, I talked with the president and others in the community about how we could help out.  I even met with the mayor and he seemed excited about this initiative.

But, the true test came with what happened after I returned to the US.  Communication between the US (or the rest of the world) and this community is not easy.  It is 45 minutes by truck (of which there are two truck owners in town who charge 50 cents one way to the nearest town) or 35 min walking to the road plus additional 30 minutes to the closest town where you can then pay a dollar an hour for internet (if it's working that day, and it is often spotty).  In a region where people are fortunate if they have work, and, if they do, are likely earning about $8 a day for 10+ hours of work, the bus fare plus internet fees are nothing to ignore.  So, when the president continued to make efforts to get to the internet to discuss ideas and plans over gmail text chat, or borrow a cell phone from someone, or use a cabina or pay phone to call me so I could call back, I knew that there was something unique here.

It became clear to me through these continued discussions that the community wanted this center not only for basic human services, but also as a way to continue with the community's ideas and momentum in order to provide for sustainable development in a grass-roots, community-driven way.  Not as something another group or outside agency was telling them was how it should be.  And, based on my varied educational background and connections to different individuals and resources, I have been volunteering my time and money to help get this initiative going.  This will definitely be a lifetime commitment on my part, but I view myself as largely working in the shadows, gently nudging an already burgeoning community-led initiative for sustainable development.

This initiative can be viewed in part as an asset-based community development.  This strategy for community-driven development has been used in both urban and rural communities in North America as a method counter to the typical "needs-based" approaches used by governmental and non-governmental agencies.  This approach works by enabling or empowering already existing assets within the community in order to assist communities in driving the sustainable development process themselves.  The theory is based on the idea that social assets and social capital can be extremely powerful in enabling community development where financial capital may be limited (for more information, check out Mathie & Cunningham, 2003).

While the community does not have money to put into this initiative, they do have several assets, including donated land.  The center will be built on land that a family in the community donated for that purpose.  The location of the land is ideal, as it is in the center of the community and not far from the primary school.

View from slightly above the donated land, looking down toward the primary school

Another asset the community has is talented builders who will be able to help with all parts of the construction of the center.  Additionally, the president of the community is friends with an architect, so he is assisting with design plans for free.  And the list of non-financial assets goes on.

Using a "bottom-up" approach to development is likely to be much more sustainable than alternate approaches of many NGOs (Altieri & Masera, 1993).  And, these community-based initiatives can lead to income generation for the community, that is done in a way that is sensitive to the culture and the environment of the area (see Ruiz-Ballesteros, 2011 for example).

More on this in later posts.....  Please feel free to ask questions!  And, thanks again for your support!!

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