Sunday, May 15, 2011


Sustainability...this is a word that in development work we use often.  Wilkepedia defines sustainability as "the capacity to endure".  My trusty thesaurus (that was a gift from my sister to my brother-but I now have!:), expands on that definition with words such as, "constant", "perpetual" and "continuous".  In the relief and development world we talk a lot about "sustainable projects"-donors want to know "So, how will this project become sustainable?" In other words "If you come back here in 20 years will this project still be going?" A question that all of us program managers cringe when we hear!  It's not that we don't have an answer-it's just that the answer depends on many factors; such as proper training from our staff to the beneficiary, transfer of technology, education, the beneficiaries capacity and most important the beneficiaries desire to change.

So without going any further and boring you with development theory, let's just say that sustainability is important-it is a great triumph if your project is sustainable or at least has a sustainability plan-and if it doesn't -shame on you! Kidding...

Where am I going with this...well, the SP CLP program has been 'testing' a sustainable CLP program in the Bopolu area.  What does this mean?  It means that the teachers are volunteer-they do not get paid, it means that the church has to provide gas for the generators and lights for the evening classes, it means the students have to bring their own pens/pencils and copy books.  It means the community is responsible to keep the program going.  SP supplies the curriculum and we have one coordinator who goes to the different villages to encourage them to keep going.

So how is it going?  At first, even our donor did not think it would be successful-which is understandable, you are asking people who are mostly farmers and marketers to continue and endure (see definition of sustainability) on their own with only encouragement from SP.  After almost a year-classes are still going, students are still learning and class numbers have not decreased!  Don't believe me?  Here are some of the pictures I took on a recent visit to one of our CLP sustainability classes...

One of the students of the CLP sustainability classes writing her name for us!

The Sappimah CLP sustainability class, teachers, teaching asst. and coordinators.

For this project we also let the community decide if they wanted to include men in the classes.  They have and it is a great encouragement to see men coming to learn to also help their family.  A project like this is a great illustration of the capacity of the people of Liberia.  They endured and sustained themselves through a horrific war-and now they are using that same capacity to continue the CLP program.

When I thought about this story and the definition of sustaining I was taken back a month ago as I ran the London marathon.  The words 'capacity to endure' that defines sustainability, reminded me how the SP team members felt as we ran those long miles.  I only had to endure for 5:10min.  The CLP classes of Sappimah have endured and continued for months-and will continue if they so choose maybe for years!!  I was reminded once again how people like the students of the CLP classes were the reason I ran, they pushed my to sustain, endure, continue and to ultimately finish.

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