Working with the Communities Part 2

Welcome back! This is part 2 of a short blog series about my team’s tree planting project with several communities in Saint Vincent. In part 1 I described our focus on working with community groups rather than individuals or institutions. This time, I will delve a little deeper into this process. I will first describe how we came into contact with each community. Then I will outline our team goals for how we planned to work with them.

Reaching out to the communities

Reaching out to these community groups was in some cases very easy and in others more difficult. We wanted to first just have a meet and greet with each group. This was so that we could introduce ourselves and the project and learn about each group’s purpose.

Once we’d made contact with each group we set up a meeting. In each meeting we had the opportunity to present our ideas about the tree planting project and to get feedback. This was a crucial part of each meeting because it was their first impression of us and our project. In order to do this successfully we needed to be organized and we needed to be enthusiastic.

The other objective of the initial meeting was to learn about the groups. We wanted to know why they formed, what they did, and what their objectives were.  We learned that one group, the Petit Bordel Community Outreach Group, wanted to organize community events. Their goal as a group is to empower community members through events and projects. The United Legacy of Empowered Development Organization from Rose Hall is a group directed at youth. They focus primarily on sports and community projects. Their objectives are to empower young people and to keep them active. The third group that we met with was from Rose Bank. It is a large group of mostly young men. They participate in things like sports as well as cultural activities like drumming.

We had successful “meet and greets” with three out of the five groups that we had determined to work with. Two of the groups were not so easy. In one case this was because the group was not very active or organized. We struggled to establish a meeting with them. When we finally had a meeting, it did not lead to much activity with the members beyond that. With the other group it was a matter of bereavement. We decided to give them space and to allow them to reach out when they were ready.

Goals for working with the groups

As I mentioned above, our initial meeting with the groups was very important. Our highest hope for this project was that it could be used as a tool for empowerment. In order to accomplish this, we set some goals for how to engage the groups. In our meetings we wanted to communicate these goals to the group members.

The first point we made was that it was important to us that we formed relationships with these community members beyond the project. We wanted to forge friendships. We hoped to do this by spending time with them doing fun activities not necessarily related to tree planting.

Playing sports is one of the ways that we have worked to build our relationships with community members”

Our second prerogative was that we wanted to do this project with the communities, not to the communities. We communicated that we wanted these groups to be involved as much as possible. This meant not only in the planting actions but also in the development stages of the project.

We also stressed that we wanted them to use us. We went into the project fully aware of the abundance of resources that we have as RVA students. Most of the groups have little if any sort of funding, tools, or access to information. Some do not have their own meeting space. We were blunt about our desire to be a platform upon which these groups could thrive. We have the grant, we have access to the trees, the nursery, and the tools. So, we really wanted these groups to maximize their benefit by taking advantage of all of it.

Lastly, we wanted them to feel comfortable taking over the project and making it their own. The hope was that they could carry on the project long after we were gone. Or that they would be able to implement their own tree planting projects without the help of RVA.

After we reached out to the community groups, we needed to think about how to reach out to the public. In my next blog, I will describe our experiences with public outreach. This will include how we were successful, and what kind of challenges we met. Until next time…

Sara, Climate Compliance Conference Team #14