The Samoa Challenge II was going great. I felt so proud of the women in my village for being so enthusiastic about the project. So many women were showing up and being engaged in our conversation.
I showed up for my third meeting about an hour early, surprised to see even more women around the committee house. It made my day. I quickly set up by hanging up my materials, putting out the scale for women to weigh themselves and record it on the chart, and headed right outside where a volleyball net was being set up.
The reason why I arrived early was because I had to send something to Dana, and the easiest way to send something from village to village was on the bus. I knew the bus would come within an hour’s time and I did not want to miss it. So I waited watching volleyball next to the road. I was so excited to see people playing sports in the village, since months ago sports had been banned. I felt like I had a huge victory from this health project already.
Finally, I handed the package to Dana’s bus driver, and headed inside the committee house. It was about the time to start my class. I sat next to one of the women who is a leader in the village, and explained to her the grant application I had for her. As promised, I brought the form, and told her they have to have someone help me fill out the form, and explained the different parts of the application. After answering many questions, I think I had her understanding a little.
Then, the bombshell was dropped.
“I am sorry Lili, but we are done with your health project.”
“What? Why?” I asked.
“It is too far to walk to.”
“What about the people that are close by, can’t they come to the meetings I hold?”
“No, since it is too far for us, we can’t do it.”
“Well, as promised, I brought the grant application for one of the projects you are interested in. I have more to do when we finish this one. If you help me complete my health project I will help you do this.”
The argument went back and forth. I kept offering to do more and more of the grant applications they wanted, if they would willingly come for the next 7 classes. Finally, all they would have to do is help me with a carpenter. I reminded them, if they help me, I will help them. But if they don’t help me, I will not help.
The decision was made, there would be no health project, and I would only help with the grants by giving them the different applications. I was not happy with this decision, after I spent hours not only preparing for the health project, but hours researching the different donor organizations to see about grants. It felt like it was all for a waste. In a way I wanted to still help them with the grants since I put so much work into it. But, then I would just be giving in, and I felt they would use me as a workhorse for my last year of service. (I really am busy as it is!)
I tried one last plea. Since all the women are here today, can we do one last lesson here. “No,” I was told. A child helped me take down my materials and I packed up my bags in frustration. “Don’t be mad at us,” I was told as I left. I was very frustrated.
Throughout the next week, different women were approaching me to ask about our next class. I sadly had to tell them that others decided the program was finished. They also looked disappointed. It is really sad because in my village it is all or nothing from the women. As soon as some of the top women decide they do not like something, that makes whatever they are working on finished. This way of doing things allows you to get a lot done in certain situations, and in others, such as the health project, nothing done.
I talked with some of the project coordinators to think of solutions, and we came up with some ideas of smaller scale ways to get the project done, but it appears as though I will not be able to get my village to complete the entire project.
So with only a few lessons in, I have to say good bye to the Samoa Challenge II. I wish all the other volunteers luck with the women in their villages.