From Saturday July 10th

006For the past 2 weeks we have been busy with the integration of the 7 facilitators into our the project. It is the 5th week since we arrived in St. Lucia, and our progress and achievements have been amazing.  We managed to get EC $19,000 additional financial support from the St. Lucia Social Development fund and 700 trees have been disbursed to farmers. The additional funds have allowed to increase the scope of our project by including 7 facilitators and the increasing the number of students from 10 to 35. I can now say that the objectives to educate the youth and wider community is having broad impact. The fruit of education might not be seen and reaped immediately, but our project is paving the way for future Lucian environmental leaders. An educated person becomes an asset to a community, fostering change by educating others: it is the ripple effect of education that can change behavior in a society.

Integrating the facilitators

For the past week, Neil and I have engaged in integrating the 7 facilitators to the project so that there will be continuity after we leave. The task has been both challenging and rewarding. Like any group of people that need to work together, our facilitators need to feel comfortable with each other first. Last week Saturday we had a lunch and celebrated one of the facilitator’s birthday. Neil and I gave the group some time to get to know each other while we wandered away occasionally. New friendships are being formed, personalities understood and tolerance achieved by all. The first week with the facilitators is the basis for strong leadership and engagement in the project. As Neil and I said to them “you all will be running the show while the two of us take a back seat.”

Skills Needed by the facilitators

The first session we had with the facilitators we introduced three broad topics under which we will be carrying out the student program.  These include: food security, environmental issues, and biodiversity. The facilitators will have a broad knowledge of these topics, how they are interrelated and how they relate to the objectives of the project. First we allowed the facilitators to define these words and assisted them through the process. The discussions continued with examples that relate to the daily lives of people in the valley. It helped us follow a stream of thought process to give them a rich and in-depth definition and understanding of the topics, thus creating a broad picture. In another session we looked at a sustainability analysis through the five major topics: Political, Economic/environmental, social/security, and technological. Other skills that the facilitators will gain through the training are leadership, and organizational planning.

Personally, working with new faces is a great learning experience. It is not a one way learning process, but one in which each individual learns from each other. In the same way, students can learn from the facilitators, who will be role models. We will also be working with farmers from whom all of us will learn. Even though we are trying to plant trees to achieve a bigger goal, we need to learn how we can do it best, and for me the best way is to work with farmers, youths, and the local institutions to promote the project. It is a learning process for all for a better environment and sense of community.

~ Zimm