28 May 2012

UNICEF transition

These past few months have been very eye-opening. I have transitioned into my work at UNICEF and let’s just say it is very different than my former Peace Corps experience. I work out of an office Monday-Friday 8-5:30 with a computer and working internet. The office has a generator so even when power is out across town, we still have power and work continues as normal.

Focus in my work has shifted from the community to the donors, which has its postives and negatives. Now the concern is the biggest impact and the best way to do so is to get money from donors to implement bigger projects in more communities. So communities are still the ultimate purpose, but the office must focus on writing reports to donors and working with the Cameroonian government to accomplish these ends, instead of simply working directly with the community members. I am still unsure about how I feel about this… In April, I traveled up to the two most northern regions (North and Far North) to evaluate the status of communities having participated in Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS).

Being on the field was very satisfying, although days were packed with visiting 5-6 villages and so that did not leave much time for each place. I have made recommendations about visiting fewer villages in a day to get a more complete picture of the reality, but I know my comments are na├»ve because there is not enough money or time to do the trips this way. I wish there was some way to find a compromise. Since this trip I have been working to find a way to balance the life of a PCV and a UNICEF intern. 

How can I use the experience of the past two years being a PCV to help UNICEF projects? That is what I am currently trying to figure out. I have a lot of ideas, but being in the position I am in the office, I am finding it difficult to express them in a useful way. But my goal for the rest of the year is to figure this out and find a way for more communication and collaboration between the two organizations.

Very soon I am participating in a conference in Garoua (North Region) to build capacity with local focal points. These are the people on the ground implementing UNICEF projects. After this conference I may have a better idea of capacity of on the ground workers and thus the reality of what we are able to realize using these actors. Wish me luck with all this hard work ahead of me! I will try to be better about posting more updates.