Volunteer Experience in Bac Me
Posted Date: Monday, December 17, 2012 | Source: www.warecod.org.vn
This is a summary of a volunteer experience in the Bac Me district of the Ha Giang Province where WARECOD established the project, Community – Led Water Resource Management in collaboration with Oxfam Quebec.

The title of this project is Community – Led Water Resource Management. There are three phases of this project, and so far we are in the first phase which entails establishing “water user groups”; on this trip to Ha Giang, we established four water user groups in the district of Bac Me. Basically, we gathered people in four hamlets Ha Son 1, Ha Son 2, Phia Ven, and Na Pau and explained to them the benefits of joining these groups. Water user groups comprise of dedicated individuals of a commune that provide services to their communities, and in return, the communities provide the groups with money to carry out these services.

The aim of this project is to build a strong reputation of these groups among the community members, so that they are trusted to complete tasks for the community with dedication and quality. Once this trust is established, the water user groups can ask for more money and become sustainable, allowing WARECOD and its partner Oxfam Quebec to step back. These groups set regulations for the better use of the land and ensure that the communities are running at the best possible quality. WARECOD provides support to these groups by training them in proposal writing, so that a more formal interaction can be created between the communities and their local authorities when asking for something they need, and even provide them with the aptitude to reach out to other NGO’s themselves to seek funding for their projects (most NGO’s have special funds for such situations). WARECOD also trains the members of these groups to plan the activities required to implement a project and budget their funding to ensure all activities are financed, but above all the aim is to empower these people and give them ownership over improving their communities.

We are often told that giving ownership is the best way to empower people and thus bring about development. It is the same message portrayed by the old, yet wise saying “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime." Providing people with knowledge and encouraging them to take responsibility for what they value gives them ownership over those things, be they homes, communities, or even countries. And if one has ownership over something, their desire to preserve, protect, and enhance it is increased.

I am very fortunate to have been included on last week’s field trip to Bac Me district of the Ha Giang province. Though the trip had to be extended a day longer than expected (we had to stay there for eight days, when we originally intended to stay for seven), I was thoroughly impressed with the way the Oxfam Quebec and WARECOD staff were able to manage and complete all planned activities and training sessions with precision and even enthusiasm. For those of you who do not know, by the sixth day in the field, the tiredness and exhaustion take over and you find yourself pushing through the remainder of the time, very anxious to return home.  On the bright side, since our trip was extended, we got one day off and were able to take a lovely boat ride along the Gam River, seeing mountains and waterfalls all the while experiencing the misty rain splash our faces while standing on the boat deck. It was all very wonderful.

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