Saturday, June 7, 2008

One week to go....

Things are coming along really well for the project so far, with just a week before we leave for Senegal. All the equipment is here now except the carrying case for the laptop and a mouse. The laptop is kind of giant and heavy, but I got it with a wider screen for editing video and a bigger battery so it will last as long as possible. At least the cameras are tiny.... I'm not sure how much electricity is available where they'll be working in Senegal. I'm not going there for the actual youth and community training in Senegal, it will be Julie the Project Director from the West African Regional office, so just hoping the equipment will work out for them.

The Senegal youth training will be the same week as the Rwanda training in July, so we're each attending/supporting one country. Julie is on maternity leave right now after having her son Noe. She comes back to work on the 16th, the day that we start the plannning meetings in Dakar. She's got some really cool ideas on linking the project with some other projects that they've done. They'll work with a group of urban youth who have some training on film already and a rural group. They're going to incorporate rap and theater into the arts portion of the project, using all these different art forms to analyze and speak out about the situations the youth are facing. Working with the urban and rural groups is a way also of working out differences between those two groups and helping them connect and understand each other.

In Rwanda I will be present for the training. I'm working with Amity there. She seems very cool and works like crazy. She's found partners for every aspect of the project and they will all let the youth borrow equipment so the costs have gone way down. They are building the training together to make sure it's as valid and sustainable for them to continue on with making arts and videos after the training with the least amount of support from Plan as possible. Given the history in Rwanda and the way radio was used in the past (there is an effort to democratize radio again) and the lack of access to internet, radio will be a big part of the project. There's also a "community work day" called Umuganda where the communities get together and do just that. It coincides with the arts training in the community, so Amity's organized someone to work with the youth and community to do a mural. I'm excited about being there for all that.

The first part of the training with the communities is always really cool, so wondering what it will be like in Rwanda. It was pretty striking in Togo (see below)

Alex is here and Clare didn't get her room all the way cleaned, but oh well. He did give us that painting advice. We went to her dance recital last night and she was amazing. Then we went out to a place where they play live West African drums laid over house music. Great for dancing and getting in the spirit of things to come. We'll go to New York on Sunday. I have a meeting with someone from the 6th World Summit on Media for Children to discuss how Plan is going to be involved in the 2010 Summit in Sweden.

Next week will be busy but good. I'm supposed to be on vacation but that's probably not happening. I have to finish up a lot of things to get the Dominican Republic and El Salvador Virtual Visits posted. And we had a meeting on Thursday where Plan USA decided that we are going to move forward seriously on incorporating social media into our work. I'll be on a team that is looking into it, and I'm really happy about that. First step is meeting with our office in Amsterdam (I'll go there from Dakar on June 23) who's working on a draft plan for it, and now the US office is pledging to be very involved. Will be exciting.

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