Sunday, February 7, 2010

CAMP's Crusade

There are three taboo subjects for blogging; (i) work, (ii) love life and (iii) size of your appendage (or boobs).

Maybe there should be a phone in vote to gauge popular opinion, but as I live in a one party state, what is good for the president is good for me. Thankfully, for you and more so for me, I will hold blatant disregard for the former: work.

So after nine months of working under the VSO mantra ‘Sharing Skills and Changing Lives’, in the Tajik Non-government organisation CAMP Kuhiston, what gives?

CAMP Kuhiston was the brainchild of a Swiss university, who with the best intentions, created a local environmental training organisation. After five years they abandoned ship, and left CAMP to drift in the sea of development. Remaining on board were a skeleton crew, four training modules, several capable trainers, a stove design, and an office set up, but on boarding I also discovered, a bad reputation, a couple of inept staff, a director drowning in expectation, and no new donors on the horizon.

So, what gives after nine months? Well, actually understanding the above! On paper it is easy to clarify and provide theoretical solutions, but every time you turn over a rock there is snake waiting to bite you. The list of issues is exhaustive, and is applicable to many other organisations in different settings, but in Tajikistan transforming a non-competitive soviet style organisation into a sustainable entity that can survive in a new market economy is a perpetual challenge. There are many re-occurring issues, these include the employing (and keeping) competent staff on average salaries, preparing onerous reports in three languages, understanding and complying with the suffocating tax laws, second guessing donors desires, introducing the concept of networking, advertising and marketing, developing new products, and undertaking pitiful contracts to prove capability and so on............... and on................and on.................

However, the CAMP yacht has now turned with the tide, and is waiting for the donors to blow into her sails. So what turned the rudder? The captain became a little more focussed and self-assured, employment of a couple of competent deck hands, some engine maintenance and modifications, emblazoned marketing on fresh sails and catching a little financial breeze.

However, CAMP is still a fragile vessel that sails in heavy seas. Calmer waters are around the next headland with the next wave of European funding, but the ‘solo’ sailing will only occur in the years ahead when Tajiks are funding Tajiks.

I am half way through the placement and we have only tackled the first part of the mantra, ‘Sharing Skills, now we are awaiting the spring thaw to embark on the second part of the journey, ‘Changing Lives’.

For an on board tour:

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