During the planning process of our ministry here we decided early on that any project we would implement would be two things reproducible and sustainable. You might say those are the ‘core values’ of our development projects here in Arequipa. Of course our reasons for doing this type of ministry are based in our beliefs on the ministry of Jesus and our duties as his followers, but when seeking to start a new project we always check the project against those core values; reproducibility and sustainability. Our simple definition of these two points is that we do not want to execute any project that can- not be sustained/continued/maintained by Peruvians or reproduced/copied/multiplied by those same Peruvians. Oversimplified? Yes. Important? Absolutely.
So what does this mean for our projects? It means that as we brainstorm and plan a project we are seeking out resources for those projects that are either donated by local agencies, loaned by those or other groups, or can be obtained for a very low price. Networking is a vital part of the mission of ICDU and what will allow ICDU to exist after we gringos have returned to the U.S. Groups like the Rotary Club here in Arequipa and the Ministry of Education have partnered with us to open up libraries and throw back-to-school parties for the children of our neighborhoods. A network of supporters in the U.S. has allowed us to offer a no-interest loan service to Peruvians allowing them to improve their business endeavors without bankrupting themselves. These partnerships, and those we are seeking even today, will ensure that ICDU is around for years and able to provide the help that these communities need as they better themselves. Without them reproducibility would be impossible.
Sustainability is a little harder than reproducibility in my opinion. To ensure the long-term viability of ICDU and its projects, we must be diligent in seeking out the right people to put in charge. It does us no good to spend time and resources on a project if the people we leave in charge are unreliable or unmotivated. To date, we have had some successes and some failures in this department, the best examples coming from our library project. We currently have four libraries in operation. Three of these libraries are functioning at a pretty high level. One of these, Porvenir, is doing so well that those in charge are having kids events and bible studies every week and have also started a jardín (pre-school) during the week. Interest at these libraries is high and the ladies in charge are enthusiastic about providing a place for the kids in the community to spend their time doing something productive. The fourth library is not going so well. This is partially due to the location and the apparently lower interest level of neighbors, but there is a marked difference between the lady in charge and those in charge of the other libraries. As always, those in charge set the tone for whatever it is they are leading. Hopefully with a little bit of effort on our part we can encourage her and that library location, but it makes the point. I believe if we were to cease all contact with the libraries 3 of the 4 would survive due to those in charge.
Good planning and a well thought out project are equally im- portant factors to the sustainability of a project. Without proper planning we’ll miss something important that hinders the growth of a project. Or maybe we’ll come up with an idea that looks and sounds great to us only to later realize that it needed too much capital from us, the rich white people, to duplicate. Having Peruvians like Alfredo, with his years of ex- perience with the Peace Corp, is incredibly helpful. They are our sounding boards and refiners. They help us jump through the required hoops and sidestep those which would only delay us. Most importantly they already have a good idea of what is needed and even better ideas of how to achieve those needs. Not long ago, Greg and I were out at El Naranjal with Alfredo talking about future projects (like installing latrines) and cam- paigns (minor medical) that we might undertake together and Alfredo shared this neat idea with us. He mentioned that there is a group that will provide a family in need with a pair (male/fe- male) of animals (guinea pig, rabbit, chicken) at no cost to them under one condition. Once those two gifted animals repro- duce they are to return a specific number of animals back to the organization so they can gift them to others in need. What an ingenious and simple idea! That family can keep breeding the animals to provide a source of income or food. Hopefully we can implement this naturally sustainable and reproducible project in Naranjal soon.
While we want to stick to our core values as we move forward with ICDU it is important for us to remember that there is still a place for those one-time donation projects. Obviously our desire is to do projects that have a long lasting benefit to a community through long term projects but there will be times that a large one-time work will be appropriate. The water well project at Naranjal is a good example of this. We helped them obtain a basic need, fresh water, that they were unable to get on their own. Hopefully we will have the wisdom to make good decisions like this in the future.