“Hit the ground running”

As a Crisis Corps Volunteer (part of the US Peace Corps) I was sent back to Thailand to help with the tsunami recovery efforts. Before my departure Peace Corps sent out a press release which stated:

“The three resource development volunteers will be working with local governments to determine where the greatest need lies and identifying resources to help the local communities. They will also put together a local staff to insure progress will continue after the Crisis Corps team departs.”

So essentially we were to go into a government office, work with them to determine needs, develop a program, find funding and resources, implement the program, and ensure that it was sustainable – all of this in the span of just six months – there would be no extensions.

How long would it take to develop a program that solves a problem in your own community?

Would a six month program be successful in your own city? Imagine if a stranger were sent to your community from an aid agency boasting that they were going to solve a community problem. How would your community react?

This posting is from a journal I kept as a Crisis Corps volunteer working on the tsunami recovery in Thailand.

Boats are “sexy”Donated boats - Thailand - photo by Saundra Schimmelpfennig

Boats have become the “sexy” projects of the tsunami recovery.  Go onto the web site of most aid organizations and odds are that somewhere they will talk about boats.  Some days it’s seems as though you can’t turn around without running into another organization working to give boats to villagers.

Don’t get me wrong, boats are very important for these coastal villages.  They are also extremely difficult for the average villager to replace because, as a general rule, they cost around 120,000 baht (to put this into perspective, as a crisis corps volunteer I would make about 96,000 baht a year, and our salary is based upon local wages).  This means it’s almost impossible for villagers to replace their boats on their own, especially now that many of their livelihoods have been destroyed.  So boats are desperately needed.  But there is a growing belief (unsubstantiated because of the difficulty of collecting data from the multitude of aid organizations) that there will be more boats in this area after the tsunami than there were before the tsunami.  There is also a fear that some people may well receive 2 or 3 boats.