Connecting local responses around the world
As I wake up in Dimapur, Nagaland, after the best two days of rejuvenating CLCP that we had in the nearby Maova group of villages, it is time for a quick reflection on what we soaked in before other waves of incidents wash away impressions of the last two days from the shores of our minds.
Having done a couple of Knowledge fairs before, I had expected something similar, but what I saw and experienced made all my previous knowledge fairs seem like mud-water! I learnt yesterday that you could have a great knowledge fair, but the competence process in the community after that could be nothing or at the best lukewarm. On the other hand what happened in Maova by comparison is you have an unplanned, free-wheeling, and very flexibly-structured knowledge fair, but the quality of participation by the community guarantees that it will only be waves of competence that will spread out from Maova village, long after the facilitators have left for their homes.
To start at the begining: the very journey to Maova village was a feast for the senses. After the raod snaked itself through low hills and rolling plains, we burst upon the invigorating smell of ripening paddy basking in never-ending rice-fields swaying to the gentle breezes in the late autumn sun. Munching on organically grown pine-apples, that Rituu had bought loads of, completed for us the titillation of all our senses! Discussing my favourite topic, namely the numerous advantages of CLCP over Targetted Interventions, with Joma who was sitting next to me, was the feast for my mind.
The welcome banners that greeted us at the New Maova village, the numerous new sign boards directing us, the fresh repairs to the roads, the clean green villages with not a speck out of place, the freshly white-washed spacious community hall built by Assam Rifles, with its cute green-painted windows, brand new plastic chairs, and the largest banner I have ever seen; the anganwadi (creche) which was done up so much it looked as good as new, the all new stalls put up for the knowledge fair on the edge of the ground by the side of the hall, behind which ran a gurgling stream, only showed the painstaking preperation that the community had long been doing in anticipation for these two days.
After a welcome brunch at the Maova Church, we gathered quickly in the community hall where we introduced ourselves in the customary competence fashion by stating our names and the location from which we came. Aided by stalwarts like Father Joe, Sanghamitra, Maii, Rituu, Joma, Sana, the sessions rolled out well. The first one was where all of us in small groups had to tell one short, signifcant incident, or experience, thought, or happening, that made a great impact or change in our life, or in someone else's life that we knew of. Thus in the next one hour, I picked up five more stories to the one on Pimjai that I recounted to the small group that I belonged in.
After a sumptous and tasty lunch we did a panel where a representative from each of the small group presented to the whole floor one story selected by the group with a couple of learning. GB, the village headman and an epitome of simplicity, recounts how Maova village was reduced from a flouriishing clan of hundred houses to about ten houses a decade ago, by a bloody strife. Then, with their own resources, they had over time rebuilt the community. Consequently, the village got a Government Middle School, that soon became a High School, a Church, a spacious football ground, the community hall, while the ten families were strengthened up to the present hundred houses knit strongly together by a common love and bond for their village and all its people. GB concluded that today, the arrival of CLCP teams from as far as Bangalore, Delhi, Mizoram, Manipur, Assam, and the many far-flung districts of Nagaland, was beyond his wildest dreams, and therefore the zenith of their achievements. Later, I privately disagreed with GB, saying that we who had come to his village were just ordinary human beings like any one else from his village, and therefore we did not deserve all the special attention, and treatment!
Jahanbi, makes her appearance at the village late due to an indisposition that she was recovering in the morning. The audience warmly welcome her, after Fr. Joe introduces her. Meanwhile, Ankita her sister had more than made up for her by way of contributions to the discussions.
Next, representatives from other small groups presented their selected stories. Thus, the gleanings of the best strengths from some of the members of the community, was begining to shine on the listeners. Slowly, helped by the facilitators, the audience found out the effects of appreciation in revealing strengths, in increasing motivation, and the wonders that motivation could do in terms of achievement. At a leisurely pace, the deft hands of the facilitators steered the discussions to other components of CLCP's Ways of Working (Wow) and ways of thinking. To me this natural flow styled by Sanghamitra was inescapable. Thus, in such a natural fashion was the concept of SALT introduced to the day's new comers.
Obviously, what followed was the SALT visit, made after sunset, so that the village folk would have enough time to be back after the day’s work of harvesting paddy in the rice fields. We split into three groups, one going to Maova, New Maova and Khaibung villages respectively. There is a half-hour delay in our New Maova group as we assemble at the New Maova church, but the audience has not come cause some how they were not informed. Frantic efforts to get the church mike and loudspeaker alive are of no help. Finally, Thinga the church leader rings the church bell as we suggest. Therefore, we start our SALT visit discussions with a motley crowd of hardly seven people.
As time goes on with us mentioning the various things we found appealing to us in the village, people trickle in to fill all the rows in the church. Jahanbi and Thinga help me in trying to enumerate with the audience the evidence for the inherent and innate resilience that New Maova has. Accordingly, they recount how they had accessed various Government schemes for income generation, in agriculture, livestock, health, and infrastructure. In addition, the village people narrated that while the local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) built the New Maova church, it was the community itself the built the Maova church. Subsequently, we learn that it took an year for the people to complete the task of building the church. Thoughtfully, I ask the audience how much the land value and church building would be today. Thangin and a few others estimate it to cost around Eight hundred thousand rupees. Thus, it dawns on us that the village has the potential to generate resources of around eight hundred thousand rupees in a year. Some one adds that the amount generated would depend on the cause, and so the church being close to a majority of the village population, there would be more funds generated.
Presently, the wife of the village headmaster states her dream of the village becoming a good town in about ten years. With a good road, probably with the help of the Border Roads organization, this last village in Dimapur district would be closer to becoming a town. I suggest a community radio to help in this transformation to a town. Others chip in with their suggestions to strengthen and flesh out with sketchy details, this common dream.Soon, it is time for us to leave, and we wind up with a quick After Action Review (AAR). Dinner over, we retire to unknown homes and sleep.