Transition Between Education Program Managers
Times are a-changing here on the ground in Kuria. The newest round of agriculture seed/fertilizer loans were distributed this week, an increasing number of farmers are bringing their maize harvest into the granary to sell, and the newest rotation of foundation team members arrived at the beginning of this week! Needless to say, we are all very busy preparing for all of the growth and change that is taking place in the seed project. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Education Program in particular has been undergoing a lot of new changes recently.
Perhaps one of the most exciting new developments in the Ed. Program came with the arrival of Thomas Hong, the newest Education Program Manager from the states. Thomas and I will be transitioning the education program for the next three weeks. During that time I’ll be filling him in on everything our education team has been doing over the last six months, he’ll be getting to know the great group of people we work with on a daily basis, and we’ll be brainstorming ways the program can be improved and modified in the coming months.
I must say, the prospect of sharing the entirety of my experience here on the ground over the last six months with someone completely new to the project was pretty overwhelming at the beginning of the week. On the first day Thomas and I were walking out to the field together, I wasn’t sure where to begin. I remember when I first had arrived in Kuria I had felt constantly torn between wanting to ask a million questions at once and wishing I could just sit in silence to passively observe and absorb my new environment. Now that I am on the other end of transition as the one on the way out, I feel a new tension. I am eager to talk about the future trajectory of the project, but at the same time I feel the need to share every detail of my past experiences on the ground with my new captive audience.
Luckily, I have had a lot of help from the Education Team in balancing these two impulses throughout the week. Francis and the Education Coordinators eased us into smooth transition of the project by accompanying Thomas and I to most of the schools in the area, eagerly introducing him to folks in the community and explaining the turnover process of foundation team members (the American staff) to teachers and parents. In addition to introducing Thomas to the community, Francis (Education CDC Manager) has led the way in explaining the development of most of our programs over the last six months.
To my surprise, I think that listening to Francis’s explanations of our work thus far has been as much of a learning process for me as it has been for Thomas. Although Francis and I are in constant dialogue about the successes and failures of our work, this transition period provides a unique opportunity for us both to reflect on our work at a macro-level. Furthermore, it has allowed me to really step back and compare my interpretations and understanding of events with those of Francis and our Kenyan staff. By listening to someone else relay a complete version of program developments from beginning to end (i.e. teacher trainings, the founding of the teacher cooperative, the development of the priority point system) I have gained greater clarity, not only on their perspectives as members of the team, but also on the way Francis and the others have processed the challenges and triumphs we have faced so far.
As it became increasingly apparent what a uniquely reflective and productive period this was for our team, I thought that this could be the perfect time to have our first formal team brainstorm. Thursday morning we did just that: our team critically evaluated the effectiveness of all of our program areas and then spent an hour brainstorming ways we can strategically modify and adjust our project’s approach to addressing the issues of extreme poverty through education in the future. By the end of our brainstorm session I felt completely revamped about our work here on the ground. We hashed out some great ideas for the future (more to come in next week’s blog!).
I’m ending this first week of transition with a new excitement and appreciation for how our program and team is developing. As I prepare to leave the project in Thomas’s hands I feel like I’ve gained a clearer understanding of the unique ways each member of the team has been working over the past six months and how they are approaching the challenges of the future. More details to come next week!