Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Lusekelo Simwela
“What have you learned since your last Fortnightly Questionnaire?” says one of the questionnaires that we take every once in a while. This question is interesting to me as it helps me look back on the activities I have been doing and draw positives from them. Since the next questionnaire is in ten days I figured I should share with you one of the biggest lessons I have learned. When I was asked what factors would negatively impact the timeline of my upcoming shallow well project, I said “an inactive chief” as one of them.
The reason I said this was when we had a meeting to discuss the project, the chief was late to notify his people. He also sent another person to represent him at the meeting. This led to a low turnout. His “inactiveness” also made it hard for the project committee assigned to the project to successfully do their duties. On top of this when asked by others about the project he denied its existence. This led to issues with some members of the community who thought the project was not going to happen.
This put me in a weird spot. The community members wanted us to remove him from the project entirely and they stopped giving him updates, others wanted us to report him to the senior group village head man some even to the TA. I thought about it, and realized that even if we remove him from the process, we will still need him at a later point. He may actively try to block progress of the project and if any disputes arose, where would we take the matters to?
So I went to his home, something I hadn’t done before. I used the committees to communicate with him. I did not bring up the issues that I had with him, I however updated on every aspect of the project and why it was important that we needed to work together. I presented to him some of the issues the project was facing, some things we as a community needed to discuss to go ahead with the project. He ended up suggesting a meeting, the venue and when to hold it. He came to the meeting, he was matter of fact one of the first people to show up. He spoke energetically and passionately and vowed to punish all people who did not participate or break the rules we discussed at the meeting.
The lazy inactive chief became one of the people who will help the project become a success. I learnt that sometimes all we need is to talk to the people, involve them and accept their help. If this is done they will support whatever it is that you want to accomplish.