Thursday, September 21, 2006

First Staff Meeting

Was GREAT! Everyone was so keen. Apart from a teensy weensy omission on my revised proposal (ie forgetting to include the overall Director) the report was received well and there was so much enthusiasm to get started and do jobs. As I am the person with the most time, I will mainly be the report writer, minute taker etc. My official job title, apparently, is Convener. Not sure what that means, I'll have to google it. Just done it, apparently it is someone who causes people "to come together formally". So what they are trying to say politely, is, as suspected, that I'm a noisy, bossy, busy-body, English Doctor! Well, at least they give me a proper name for it.

At the meeting we decided many things. The project is going to take place in a village called Keelalathur, which consists of a central village containing 180 houses and the outskirts, called "the Colony" which has 120 houses. The total expected number of villagers is therefore 1500.

Next week we will spend every evening in the village gathering data through "social mapping" which is one of several techniques in a process called participatory rural appraisal. This means that the data comes directly from the villagers. They will assess their own needs. Social mapping works as follows. The village area is divided into smaller sections, one to be tackled each day. The Rural Community Officer, who is a RUHSA staff member working within the community will mobilise several village women called animators to help us. (When I first met these women, I thought they were free-lance cartoonists and was very excited at the prospect of seeing their work - I was wondering if they Indianised Garfield or had their own Kumar and Hobbes). These animators, who know the area like the back of their hand, will itemise every house in each section and will provide us with information about the house and houseold. For example, they will give us indicators of poverty, like housing type, roof type; they will also know names, ages and details of family members and will therefore be able to say whether there is unemployment, dependency or poverty in each house. On the basis of this, we will, over the course of the week, "map" out the village and have identified the most vulnerable within it.

The next week, we then target those identified as being vulnerable and with (Tamil) questionnaires, ascertain the exact nature of their vulnerabilities and what interventions would improve their health and social welfare.

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