The sustainability of project why has been foremost in my mind since the very day it all began. many options were tried, tested and rejected. Some had a longer life shelf than others. Some though doable were found to be not practical, others had scant returns. From our cloth bags almost 4 years back, to planet why, it has been a long journey.
But as we inched forward, I realised that sustainability did not mean securing funds alone. It also entailed passing on the mantle to a new order, one that would and should emerge from within to give the word empowerment its true meaning. We had to reinvent ourselves.
A lot of resistance came our way as no one was really willing to take responsibility. Every one preferred following orders. But the real litmus test of the model we set out to create lay in its ability to move be steered by the very team that held it together, albeit under the benevolent eye of a ageing lady.
For some time now a hesitant question had been doing the rounds, barely voiced but often though: what after Ma'am. Actually I wish people would scream it loud as it is a very real one. And I would like to see it reworded as who after Ma'am? And the answer I would like to hear is: us!
And though it was not quite said of formulated or even understood, the first step towards that day was unconsciously taken last week. During a meeting called to discuss are now almost legendary precarious financial situation, an idea was mooted by one of the team members. To save rent money why not approach the local councillor as apparently the first floor of the local community centre was apparently available. I initially recoiled at the very thought. It brought back thoughts I did not want to recall. The building he was mentioning held too many dark memories. And yet when I look back on those days, it also was the springboard to our freedom. So was this divine justice at play.
I also remembered that when the said building was being erected I had strongly held that being a community centre built with public funds, it had to be steered and managed by the community. When we had applied for it, it had not been in the name of our NGO but in the name of a community residents association. So was it not time to redeem that pledge. Things were coming full circle. Life always does.
Hence a plan was drawn. A posse of our staff - those who live in that area - would approach the councillor and make a bid for the building. And it is they who would subsequently decide to ask us to run selected activities in it. To some it may look a rather convoluted approach. Actually it is the first step to the empowerment I always longed for. The day when project why will be truly community steered had dawned.
Matters are still under consideration and there are many slips between the proverbial cup and lip, but I am confident we will ultimately overcome. The us I sought has come to life, now we need to nurture it and help it grow.