The above story is the story of the Samsara Foundation. My role in this and the lessons I learned from this period are now next.
The Samsara Foundation in Thailand was carried out by two volunteers: Ratana who was responsible for communication with the schools and the Provincial Department of Education organized the production of furniture for all facilities and arranged the organization of 250 clean water installations and 90 solar energy projects. I was responsible for project management, fundraising, contact and reporting to the donors. Together we supervised all construction projects.
It was great to work in the beautiful mountainous environment of Mae Hong Son province. It was fantastic to be able to work with all those school directors and teachers at the mountain schools. Many of the lessons I have learned are described in the book “Getting Children to School” but for me personally, some important principles of working remain.
In development work, projects must match the local situation, the local needs, but above all what they can handle locally. They, the target group, must be willing and able to handle the project.
Sticking to one thing is an important guideline to get projects realized. If you want to realize a project at a school, concentrate and limit yourself within the decision-making structure of education (Ministry of Education-top-to-school-bottom). Then don’t also do a health care project. Then you have to deal with the decision-making structure within health care (Ministry of Health-top-to-clinic-bottom).
Preventing loss of face is often interpreted by Westerners as “you have to admit a lot” “you have to be careful in approach”. I tend to disagree. You must be clear, precise and principled in the quality requirements of the project, in the project timetable and in how the money is spent, not to mention the result to be achieved. That’s what your sponsors demand. That’s what you stand for. It goes without saying that this must be in line with what is locally possible. But after that, a deal is a deal, and a contract is a contract. Never be weak. Preventing loss of face is how you resolve conflict. Do not corner people, never criticize where the lesser and the superior are present in the hierarchical line. Avoid conflicts by anticipating, and knowing the local situation, such as the presence of materials, prices, circumstances and hierarchy. Doing your homework, transferring knowledge, and training people to work together. That’s half the battle.
Finally, I would like to commemorate my deceased soulmate Manus, who has always supported me, also in these fourteen years of work for the Samsara Foundation, and who also took on all the photography of the projects, which was so important in the reports to the sponsors.