Thursday, February 24, 2011

A little background

Less than two decades ago the world watched as genocide unfolded in Rwanda. In less than 100 days almost 800,000 thousand Tutsis and Hutu moderates were killed by the Rwandan Military and Hutu militia groups. Mass murders, as well as rape, were strategically used to devastate Rwandan society. It is estimated that almost all females who survived the genocide were victims of rape. Not only did the effects of this sexual violence impact individuals and communities directly, generations not present for the genocide now battle the indelible stigma of rape and mass murder.

In the wake of the atrocities that took place in 1994, Rwandans have found ways to cope with the all too recent violence, but there is still much healing to be done. As Spark Microgrants continues its projects and facilitates community building in Rwanda, it is confronted with the lasting effects the genocide has created in Rwandan society.

As a member of Spark, one of the issues I find important to address is the lack of women in leadership roles within their own communities. There are many factors that have led to a disparity, based on gender, of power in the public sphere; though this result is not simple to address, it is something that should be brought into balance.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How to labels posts, plus new resource tracker!

I'm excited about launching the new Spark Advocates blog!  It's going to be a great way for advocates to share their experiences with each other, and for others to learn about the community-led projects underway.

First of all, check the new tool for Advocates to keep track of good resources (articles, websites, maps, etc.)!  The link's over there in the side bar  =>

Also, we're planning to integrate blog posts into the main Spark MicroGrants site, so visitors will see the most recent updates in the Current Projects section.  That feature will be automatic, but for it to work it's important to follow some specific guidelines for applying labels to posts.  The labels we're using are as follows:

Project Labels:
  • Advocates
  • Bukomero-Animals
  • Karambi-Water
  • Huye-Economic
  • Ruhango-Electricity
  • Musanze-Food
  • Wanteete-Education
  • Kawempe-Sanitation
Content Labels:
  • Update
  • Background
  • Resources
  • Event
  • Fundraising
  • General

Each post should include 2 of these labels; one from each lists.  That way both content and project are identified (notice the labels at the bottom of this post)  

Youth Activism

At the beginning of January Spark started to work with an HIV association in northern Rwanda. Similarly to the other HIV associations I’ve met with, this one is made up of an older generation, people who have already had kids. We were discussing the problem of youth activism and care for preventing and treating HIV when the group volunteered to form HIV youth clubs. At the end of January we showed up to the fifth meeting with the association, only to be greeted by a group of around 22 youth. Members of the youth group are not currently in school but showed their eagerness to be involved in a project as well as to start writing and educating. In the next meeting they showed up again with enthusiasm and ideas for activities to educate and test youth, raise awareness and decrease stigma. They proposed ideas including educational dramas, songs and dancing events. Last Saturday they told us they have started writing poetry about HIV as well as their drama. Both the youth group and the HIV association are eager to get their projects going and both have expressed immense frustration with stigmatization in the region. They said that their love for family members and friends who are positive are driving them to work to stop it.
Our facilitator, Belicia, has grown immensely through the process, speaking louder and feeling more comfortable with leading discussions and planning with the groups. In the coming weeks both the association and the youth group will be finalizing their project plans. The association will have a two-step project. They are proposing to carry out a sensitization campaign in partnership with the clinic in eight communities across three sectors. They will educate, provide free testing and support, hand out condoms and provide personal stories to each of the eight villages. After the campaign finishes they will receive funding for and implement an income generating project for the association. They have mentioned farming mushrooms or potatoes.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Spark's current efforts in Rwanda and Uganda

Spark's recent focus has been on community development projects in Rwanda and Uganda.  Sasha Fisher has been working with communities in these countries to plan and coordinate projects.  These projects are addressing needs that were identified by the communities themselves.  Continue reading below for a list of current projects and descriptions.  You can also find out more about the current status of these projects and the communities that are implementing them on Sasha's blog.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Spark advocates have a blog!

Spark MicroGrants is a new model for helping communities put their ideas into action.  Working in partnership with local facilitators, Spark helps guide communities through a structured proposal-development process and connects them to the funds to make it happen.  It’s about enabling the community to define their own problem, design their own project and carry out the work for it – a simple idea that can start lasting change. 

Volunteering as an advocate is a great way to get involved and contribute to these community-led development projects.  Check out the main Spark MicroGrants site for more information about the organization and current grant projects.