In March 2010, Caitlin and I were driving around Khandwa district on a motorcycle desperately searching for staff to begin operations of our ambitious “Eradicate Malnutrition” program. In our heads, we had a checklist of criteria for potential new staff, mostly focusing on education levels and any experience in the health, nutrition, or NGO sector. As we drove from hamlet to hamlet, over dried streambeds and through fallow, dusty farmland, the checklist was whittled down to one item: literate.
In July of 2011, 5 of our amazing CNEs from Khandwa are now on the cutting edge of technology, helping Microsoft design their Digital Slate technology for data collection in the field. At the same time, the rest of our Khandwa team is collecting information with an application on their phones specifically designed from RMF called Commcare. After a 3 month study, Microsoft Research will publish a paper based on the inputs of our team comparing these solutions to data collection problems. It seems that my initial pessimism, as it so often is, may have been a bit misguided.
Monitoring and evaluation is often the most difficult part of any development program. It’s often an afterthought for implementers, too busy worrying about rolling out the immediate and the tangible to worry about how they’ll evaluate their work at some later stage.
It’s important that data is not something that’s just written down in a grid each month and never seen again. The strongest programs are the ones in which ground level staff find their reporting useful in their daily work. By making data helpful to ground level staff it makes their reporting in turn more accurate.
Even though RMF put a focus on our M&E from the beginning of our program, it has continued to be one of the biggest struggles in implementing our program on the ground. As our program grows we are not only constantly assessing, analyzing and evaluating our data but also try to give the same level of analysis to the processes by which we collect data.
In this age where there seems to be a tech solution for everything, many development programs make the mistake of thinking that technology will be a “silver bullet” which will fix all of their challenges in the field. The best advice we received from one of the technology experts we were consulting with when deciding which direction we should take our program was “don’t automate a broken system,” meaning that before introducing any new technology, an organization should make sure their fundamentals are solid. As we moved forward with the planning of two innovative technology pilot programs for data collection integrating technology such as mobile phones or digital slates, we also needed to ensure that the fundamentals of our program are strong and that we understand and were honest about our strengths and weaknesses in data collection.
As our project in Southern Sudan, the Juba College of Nursing and Midwifery completes it’s First Quarter of 2011, we are proud that the College is continuing it’s program with the welcome support of all the partners within the Southern Sudan Government, Ministry of Health, United Nations (UNFPA and UNDP) and all other supporting NGO’s. After the tense but succesful independance referendum was passed in January, the teachers and students were able to return to the College and continue with the second semester of their respective programs.
A full report has been published to our website here, some of the highlights are below:
The first class of Nursing and Midwifery students at JCONAM
Our clinic has moved to a new building with the sponsorship of the local authorities in San Clemente. This will new location will cost less for us to rent and manage, and brings us closer in partnership with the local health and political representatives.
Below are a collection of photographs from the official inauguration with the local mayor and other dignitaries present for the ribbon cutting ceremony. More photos to come as we get settled into our new location.
This week’s Sunday run was an intense 11 miles, with 1200 feet of elevation gain. We started out at the base of Sullivan Canyon, surrounded by towering oak, eucalyptus and sycamore trees. It was 8:30 am. The canyon was cold and misty as it hadn’t seen direct sunlight since the previous afternoon.
We’re kicking off the New Year with a bang! Today, our founder and CEO Martina Fuchs, was honored with Lifetime Network’s Remarkable Woman award. The award spotlights extraordinary women who inspire and empower others to make a difference in their communities and the world.
If you were considering donating to a worthy cause in 2010 and taking advantage of the tax benefits of charitable donations, now is your last chance to contribute!
As we look towards new efforts and projects in 2011 it is only through your generous funding that we will be able to continue our long term development projects in some of the poorest areas on this planet.
As the referendum approaches for Southern Sudan in January of next year to gain independence from Northern Sudan, our new Nursing & Midwifery College in Juba, awaits the results anxiously. Our partner at the UNFPA in Sudan sends us these weekly media summaries as everyone prepares for the voting.
SSRC approves requests to monitor the referendum (Khartoum Monitor/SUNA)
Registered voters to be announced next week (The Citizen)
Fascinating article link below on McClathchy.com about the upcoming referendum in January on whether Southern Sudan is able to split off of Northern Sudan as it’s own independant country.
The future capital, Juba, is where our College of Nursing & Midwifery has begun as part of our Healthcare Capacity Building efforts in Africa. Our school is on a temporary break right now as our students are allowed to return home to register and vote in this historic election.