For many years Workaid has sent volunteers on trips to see the projects in action. It is a great opportunity to get feedback, see the impact and where things can be improved. In recent years we have noticed a theme emerging in the visit reports on the disparity of technical knowledge between groups.
It mainly relates to sewing and knitting machines where skills can be very specific to one machine type, or a particular use e.g. dressmaking or jumpers. Recipients don’t always know how to get the most from their machines or what basic maintenance can be done to keep them working efficiently. It is not so much a lack of knowledge, but a need to share that knowledge
Volunteers share their skills
Over the last couple of years Workaid has been looking at ways to ensure that every piece of equipment we send out delivers the maximum benefit it can. In response Workaid has started to send volunteers with relevant expertise to run seminars alongside local trainers. In 2015 Judi & Bryan Fisher and Keith Irvine travelled to Tanzania and in July 2016 Chris Hillier and his wife Sue spent two weeks in Fort Portal & Kasese in Western Uganda running seminars for representatives from different projects.
These seminars have a dual function; the Workaid representatives can give technical support on the use and basic maintenance of the machines and the project leaders can exchange experiences and potential solutions between themselves. Many group leaders have started these projects in response to a personal or local need. Many are in quite isolated communities, therefore the opportunity to meet others in similar situations and trade ideas can be invaluable.
Eryeza Kasiringi, affectionately known to us as Kas, arranged eight seminar days in two different areas of Fort Portal and Kasese, Uganda in July 2016. Two representatives from each of thirty different projects were invited to attend the workshops. They were asked to bring with them any knitting machine they were either trying to do something different with, or that had a problem, so that Chris & Sue could help.
The opportunity for improvement
The issues that came up were quite varied, however many came down to simple maintenance errors such as over-oiling, lost or missing items and instruction cards / manuals. Sometimes the solution can be very simple, for example in the past we have attached manuals to machines with packing tape, not realising that at customs the tape is being cut for inspection! A simple change of practice in Chesham and the problem has been solved. Other issues are a bit more complex. The shortage of experienced instructors in an area means that machines are not being used to their full potential. Workshops like those held in both Tanzania and Uganda can start the process of sharing information and skills between groups to the benefit of all.