The Building Blocks of Development

14 Nov

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When I first met Madam Marta and Madam Francesca, two of Kpandai’s strongest leaders, I asked each of them independently what support they most required.  Both of them are primary school teachers and they both responded that they need tactile learning toys for their students. 

Thus began one of my side projects over the past few months.  I wanted to come up with a toy that could be manufactured locally and that might represent a business opportunity for a local entrepreneur.  After soliciting feedback from several friends back home, I settled on simple wooden blocks for the initial project and engaged a local woodworker named Joseph (above left) to make a trial set for Madam Marta’s pre-school class (above right). 

I wound up paying Joseph the equivalent of $15 to help make this first set of 35, but Madam Marta should be able to purchase future sets from him for under $9.  Joseph and I are now working on a second type of block set with different sizes and shapes to trial with the children as well. 

Here I am introducing the first block set to Madam Marta’s class: 

This week I also had some really inspiring news on another one of my side projects.  The District Director of Welfare (Joseph) came to my office on Thursday and told me that several disabled people had come to register with the District Assembly following our screening of Emmanuel’s Gift (see Projecting Change Kpandai – Take 2) and that a previous dormant Kpandai Association of People With Disabilities has decided to start meeting again. 

I had the privilege to attend their meeting on this past Saturday morning.   The group is pictured below and to the left.  For those of you who are interested, there is more info on how the meeting went in my attached audio post.

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As for my MoFA work this week, my Director and all of the managers were in Tamale for a meeting, so I endeavored to get out to the field as much as possible to attend farmer group meetings with the Extension Agents.  Farmer Groups are the basic building blocks of my office’s work and I learnt a lot attending three meetings with three groups in different stages of development.

The picture on the right above is of a new women’s group in Katijeli that has just formed and completed their first card of the Agriculture As A Business (AAB) curriculum on Wednesday.   The group has strong leaders and seems unified, so I think their prospects are good!

A common theme with the Pre-School, Association of People With Disabilities, and the Farmer’s Groups, is that they are all facing business challenges that  support and training would help them to tackle:

  • Pre-School: Madam Marta is trying to make her Pre-School a viable business so that she can buy more materials like the block sets and she hopes eventually to be able to earn enough to open an orphanage. 
  • Association of People With Disabilities: the executive spoke primarily about their goal of helping their members to develop skills and start their own businesses to create economic empowerment.
  • Farmer’s Groups: the groups I met with this week and the groups I have met in the past all speak primarily of marketing and business related challenges as opposed to technical farming challenges. 

Based on all of these experiences, I believe that EWB’s efforts towards helping develop business skills is well placed, as these skills are certainly an important building block of development.

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2 Responses to “The Building Blocks of Development”

  1. Lynn November 14, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    I love the block workshop!

  2. Penny November 16, 2010 at 5:09 am #

    Mark

    What a great idea. Helping a member of the community create a product that is needed and now you just have to market the product locally and globally. You are making a big difference in this community in just a short time. Fabulous!!! The blocks could be packaged in cloth bags with draw strings that women could sew and sold to people in the city as well as getting a website outlet for people to purchase globally. We need to come up with some other ideas for classroom materials. The Montessori educational system has lots of materials that could be duplicated for the pre-school at low cost. Check out the websites for suppliers of Montessori school supplies.

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