Discussion with stakeholders and Practicum community:  reports and reflections

Date:          May, 2017

 After having discussion on the purpose of the practicum project and the relevance of the intended outcome and impact having the potential to empower targeted communities to create open defecation free environment as well giving the capacity building opportunity for both health workers and communities to learn the application of new approaches (SEED-SCALE) which would be used as a tool for guiding the implementation process clearly convinced both the district health office and Health center officials to officially  confirm their partnership and collaborative support for the successful implementation of the practicum project at Yeshere Village which located under the catchment area of Wererber Health Center. Cheha District Health Office Head, Mr. Mesfin Alemu clearly stressed that: “if we successfully implemented this project, we can build the capacity of our community to enable them to mobilize local resources for the construction and utilization of latrine to decrease transmission of sanitation related diseases. In addition, our health workers and extension workers can learn new knowledge through actively participating on the implementation of the practicum project. The knowledge and experiences gained can help health workers to further scale up the intervention to another neighboring village. These are what I am expecting the contribution of this project to our communities and staffs.”  Yes these are among the key impacts of the practicum project to the targeted communities and partners in addition to enabling me to graduate from Future Generation University.


          Cheha district Health Office Support letter for Practicum Project

Similarly, WererBer Health Center, which is responsible for routine implementation and follow up of basic health services, also officially confirmed in written letter to assign health workers who will be trained on SEED-SCALE approach which enable them to facilitate the implementation process according to SEED-SCALE principles and approaches.

  Jointly discussing and carefully analyzing the existing socio-cultural contexts, Yeshere Village was selected to implement the practicum project. Previously, I was selecting Buchach village for implementing the practicum project. However, both Cheha district Health Office and Wereber Health center preferred Yeshere village for the implementation of the practicum project due to low coverage of sanitation facilities and the more prevalent practices of open defecation which created a conducive environment for the prevalence and incidence of sanitation related communicable diseases. Accordingly, I have agreed to accept the idea of the district health office and Health center head concerning the selection of Yeshere Village for the implementation of practicum project. Therefore, jointly discussing and agreeing on the selection of Yeshere village was the first important step for intiating partnership with the local government structures which would be further strengthened at the grass-roots level with the active participation of targeted communities at Yeshere village. Then I went to Yeshere Village to discuss with village leaders and community members with the aim of clarifying the objectives of my practicum project and to get their consent and permission.  Before I went to the selected community, I had communicated to Mr. Hassen Mohammed (an influential community volunteer from demonstration Village) to go to Yeshere village and to facilitate discussion meeting with influential leaders and other community members.

 As you see in the following pictures, the communities were gathering on their usual place (Jefforo in local language) and awaiting the arrival of me for the joint discussion. Here it should be clear that the community members were already having enough information from their neighboring demonstration centers villages (which created Open defecation Free environment) and celebrated officially with the presence of higher political leaders, foreigners and influential cultural leaders on Feb 2/2017. Accordingly, Yeshere village community members also want to create open defecation free environment like the demonstration center villages. This is the biggest motivation that encouraged the community leaders and members for participating on the inception meeting facilitated for discussing how and when to start the “practicum project” having the objectives of scaling up sanitation intervention from the neighboring demonstration center village (Ambirte village) to Yeshere Village. It’s this mutual benefits that brings together the community, Government officials and I (as implementer) to establish joint partnership and team work for mobilizing local resources and energies for the successful implementation of the Practicum Project.


           Picture #1: Driving to Yeshere Village Community on May 19/05/2017

 On the discussion meeting, I have clearly presented the “objectives of my Practicum Project” which is scaling up sanitation intervention from the neighboring demonstration center to the intervention village (Yeshere Village) using SEED-SCALE principles and approaches in order to create open defecation free environment to improve the health and living conditions of all residents of Yeshere village residents. The community will benefit from the decrease in the incidence and prevalence of sanitation related communicable diseases through saving medical costs(incurred for treatment), time(wasted for caring patients) as well as increase school enrolment and improved nutritional up-take of children otherwise undermined by worm infestation due to open defecation.  In addition to the information gathered by the communities themselves from the success of demonstration centers; these concrete benefits further convinced the targeted communities to actively participate and work together to change their community by declaring “Open defecation free environment” as is achieved by the demonstration center villages. The discussion was hot and I was trying my best to use the opportunity in order to put the community on the right truck and lay the foundation for the starting of the Practicum Project.

  I have further asked participants with the aim of triggering them “for thinking inward-looking” for searching successes in their community. “From where you get this “Jefforo (it’s their cultural symbol)” on which we are comfortably sitting and running our meetings? Do you have any success to transfer to your child? “The communities did not understand that the Jefforo was the success stories of their grandfathers’ hard work. But everybody knows that the Jefforo is a cultural symbol of the Gurage People besides having multi-purpose functions: for running community meetings, wedding ceremonies, death time, as main road, etc. But the Jefforo was contaminated and polluted by “shit” due to open defecation and even there it was having smell of “shit” at the time of discussion. This forced participants to “feel shame” and further triggered them to re-think the importance of the intervention to change their village situation.  I have purposely guided the discussion to trigger and motivate them to actively participate for implementing the project to change their environment and life.


                Picture #2:  First entry meeting facilitated at Yeshere Village on May 19/05/2017.

  Concerning if they have any success stories to transfer to their child, participants mentioned nothing. But, I emphasized “it’s a good opportunity for the village residents to declare open defecation free environment which would be their most important success stories to transfer to their children.” All of the meeting participants become well aware and build consensus on the importance of implementing the “practicum project” which is having the objectives of achieving 100% sanitation coverage in Yeshere Village which further enable to declare open defecation free environment.

 The community meeting ended by establishing “community committees” having seven members (3F & 4M) who will be trained and empowered to work closely with the three-way partnership for effectively leading the successful implementation of the intervention. The committee members were selected on the basis of their good leadership abilities, good behavior, having trust and respect by all members. Detail roles and responsibilities of “Community committees and partners will be identified and demarcated when the actual implementation starts.


               Picture #3: Brief discussion with selected “Community Committees”

   With the selected community Committees, we discussed to strengthen communication and information exchange until the actual intervention will start soon. They were eager to see the change of their community which is the vision of all the village members, that is declaring open defecation free environment which has a powerful message of “proud, confidence and “yes we can do it”” as it happened in their neighboring demonstration villages.

 I am really impressed by the motivation and initiatives of Yeshere community to change their village benefiting from the outcome of the “practicum project”. I have gotten official conformation letter for all the necessary partnership and support from Cheha district health Office and Wereber Health Center for successfully implementing the practicum project.

    Despite having all the necessary partnership and collaborative support from the local government structures and targeted communities; however, I didn’t get organizations that are willing to provide the minimum required fund (capacity building cost) for the successful implementation of the “practicum Project.” Doe to this reason, I didn’t able to move forward with my practicum project which aim to document the success stories and achievements of the implementation process and sharing the results to colleagues through posting it on Mehara and presenting to local government structures to guide future similar interventions in the area.


             Prepared and submitted by: Assefa Mulatu

             Date: May 31/2017