For this blog series I am going to describe my team’s experience working on our team project with several different communities in Saint Vincent. Throughout the series I will describe 9 different aspects of how we have worked with these communities:
- Working with established community groups.
- Reaching out.
- Goals for working with the groups.
- Public outreach.
- Forging friendships.
- Working together: evaluating our success.
- Plans for the future.
- What we have learned so far.
Working with established community groups
For our major project here in Saint Vincent, my team has been planting trees. So far we have planted over 1500 trees and vetiver grass units throughout the North Leeward region of the island. Our focus for planting has been in 5 communities: Chateaubelair, Fitz Hughes, Petit Bordel, Rose Bank, and Rose Hall. While the main objective of our project has been to plant trees, the most important part of our project is the people.
The point of the project has been not just to plant trees in these communities, but to plant trees with them. To do this, we planned to work with an already established community group from each village.
Why choose to work with community groups as opposed to individuals or even establishments like schools or governments? First, working with a local group to plant trees would likely result in a higher chance of survival for the trees. In two months we’ll be gone and the students who remain will be busy working on various other projects. Trees need care. They need to be watered during the dry season and they need to be maintained once they start to get big. Also, sometimes they need protection from “thieves”—goats and sheep—who will strip them bare. Our hope was that these groups would help us plant the trees and then they would take responsibility for ensuring their survival.
Second, we needed access to the communities that we would be planting in. To go into each village without any knowledge of the areas or the people would be completely pointless. The purpose of planting trees in these communities is to benefit the communities. How could we possibly know how to do that without any sort of input from the people we hope to benefit? In order for these planting actions to really be successful we needed people to tell us what kind of trees they would like to have planted in their villages. We also needed help to figure out where to plant the trees so that they would be as useful and beneficial as possible.
Lastly, an established community group is already organized! The people are accessible and you know that they are interested in and (hopefully) willing to do community work because they are already doing it. Also, when you work with groups you are more likely to reach more people and the impact of the project will be greater. When working with community groups, the aim should not be to create new groups. Instead, it should be to find existing groups and to help them become more efficient and sustainable in what they do. As a team, we felt that this should be the real focus of our project. We didn’t want to just plant trees, we wanted to empower these groups through the acts of planting trees.
In part 2 of this blog series, I will describe how it was to reach out to these community groups. I will also introduce the goals that we had as a team for working with each group. Thanks for reading!
Sara, Climate Compliance Conference Team #14