Montag, 24. November 2008

4 years after the tsunami. a circle of learning in South India

On december 26, 2004 an unprecedented natural disaster had devastated the livelihoods of countless coastal communities in South Asia. People all over the world responded to the tsunami with a wave of solidarity. In Switzerland, the media through its NGO "Swiss Solidarity" (Glückskette, Chaîne du Bonheur) collected more than 200 million CHF for relief and reconstruction projects. 4 years later, time has come to evaluate how the solidarity funds were used and how the people in need have been supported in building a new livelihood.

In South India, the funds of Swiss Solidarity were channeled through Swiss NGOs and their Indian partner NGOs. Together they had supported and implemented projects in several coastal villages in favour of more than 3200 families. This year, Swiss Solidarity mandated a team of Indian experts to evaluate the entire program and to present the findings to the involved NGOs. The major emphasis of the evaluation was on mutual learning. What can the partners learn from each other by sharing their experience and reflection? What can be highlighted as good practice? What are the gaps that would deserve special attention in the future?

The findings were presented in a workshop near Trivandrum early November 2008. I had the chance to be there as the workshop facilitator. It was a beautiful experience, reconnecting with my Indian past after so many years and being part of a learning circle where all the participants engaged in genuine exchange of knowledge, values and aspirations. Together we considered the different quality of the achievements, in terms of their physical and social sustainability. We reached a high level of agreement that the social aspects of reconstruction such as participation, community involvement, empowerment and accountability should always be at the center of our concern.

Before leaving we gathered again in a circle, symbolising the basic form of the learning community. Participants responded to my question "what do you take with you" and I concluded with the words "I take with me the power of this circle - a strong potential for partnership that can take us beyond the narrow framework of a reconstruction project".

geri baobab

A short version of the evaluation report will be made available by Swiss Solidarity.