The Hard Work Begins

Hakim, Mercy Corps' local youth coordinator, and I have become like peanut butter and jelly. His patience has appeared to be unending, and I am eternally grateful. He has slowly worked with me to expand my Tajik vocabulary. But ultimately, impasses were reached, and charades was our favored option. I am still in awe that he was able to act out river bank erosion.

I supported Hakim in facilitating youth meetings in all 20 of TSEP's villages in the Shaartuz region (TSEP stands for the Tajikistan Sustainability Enhancement Program). These meetings were held to engage youth and listen to their ideas and interests about how TSEP can support their communities. Word got around about the youth meetings, and in one of the last villages we went to, 92 youth attended. 50% of the participants were filmed, below, working in small groups.
Now that the initial youth meetings are complete, the hard work begins. We have to figure out how to bring life into some of the ideas generated in the meetings.

I have learned that in development work proposals are often written by people who will not be implementing the project and proposals determine the scope of work before it begins. For this reason,there can be incongruity. Hakim and I have been working with our supervisors to determine how to best implement youth training and projects in the area of crisis and disaster management.

Since disaster in the Shaartuz region is slow moving, it has proven hard to define. The biggest crises are related to climate and the hardships of living in an environmentally inhospitable place. With this in mind we drafted a scope of work for the training local youth leaders will receive. "The training should address risk reduction, which includes how to develop and implement community surveys, methods to identify vulnerable households, and developing specific action plans on risk reduction issues. To provide youth with the skills needed to design a project proposal and to develop the project implementation plan." 

Hopefully we will be able to recruit and hire a skilled trainer that will be able to educate and inspire youth into action. From our meetings it is clear that youth are eager to contribute in a meaningful way. As my personal experience has expanded from Baltimore's East Side, Missoula, and now Tajikistan, I am beginning to believe believe this is a universal point.
Photo of Chkalov Youth at local meeting (same village in video above).  

Hakim and local youth working out the specifics of an idea.

A local leader speaks to youth about the importance of their ideas.


  1. Rock on Ali! Giving young people a voice and an ear to listen is vital...
    ...just a thought from a past message we exchanged. Have any of the projects been about providing better sanitation ? Bigger, better drop toilets with a washing apparatus perhaps?

  2. An improved bathroom at a village school could be an infrastructure project under TSEP. TSEP is set up so that communities choose what infrastructure projects they implement. For the first round of infrastructure projects villages chose to install a transformer(s), regrade and gravel roads, construct a medical clinic, construct additional rooms at schools, and dredge or build irrigation canals. The communities contribute no less than 30% of the cost to implement the projects.
    I think improved sanitation would be a great project, especially at schools, but the communities choose, not me or any other Mercy Corps employee.
    Mikey is actually working with a NGO in Khorog who are building and educating people on new latrine designs.
    Poop and what we do with it is important. Everyone knows I love a good poop conversation.

  3. Ali- it is inspiring to see the work you are doing.keep it up and never forget how amazing it is. and keep writing. these blogs = cool.