TO EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED – BY DALIA MEHIAR

 

Only two more weeks left in beautiful Rwanda. In a surprising turn of events, the bulk of my work starts now.

I met with my supervisor to discuss the new and adjusted work plan. Might be ambitious at this stage, I was thinking. He smiled reading my expression and raised both eyebrows in affirmation as Rwandans do.  “You can get it done.” He paused then added: “with many liters of coffee!”

I am working this summer with the M&E team at Global Communities Rwanda as they prepare for year 3 of USAID’s five-year Twiyubake Program, also known as the Improved Services for Vulnerable Populations (ISVP) Program. The goal is to improve the resiliency of at least 50,000 vulnerable households in 12 districts within Rwanda by facilitating access to health and social services, and supporting households in adopting economic strengthening activities. Twiyubake boasts a strong community empowerment approach which is achieved through working with civil society partners, recruiting local volunteers, and collaborating with the Government of Rwanda.

From my field trip to Kamonyi district; interviewing a program beneficiary and a case management volunteer.

One of my main responsibilities has been to analyze baseline data collected for the first two cohorts of beneficiaries through the Household Vulnerability and Graduation Assessment (HVGA) tool. The HVGA aims to measure vulnerability in target households across a variety of indicators closely linked to program intervention areas. Each household is assigned a tailored care plan of services, based on its specific needs, with the goal of graduating from the program within two years. In the second part of my report, I am developing clear-cut measures for the categorization of household vulnerability and proposing recommendations to improve both service delivery and monitoring of household progress towards graduation. My work will help inform Twiyubake’s planning process for FY18 to adapt the HVGA framework for accelerated results, and identify households ready for graduation next year.

Evan, Joe, and I at the Kimironko market.

I hit my first serious challenge early on; the numbers were not adding up. As I examined key program indicators, it became clear that numbers reported for assessed households were not accurate. After relaying my findings to my supervisor, we worked together to clean data from each district and identify the sources of error. On the first round of checking, we found duplicate values, missing data, and various other miscalculations. He proposed to look deeper through reports and provide me with updated numbers when ready. Since starting the data analysis process was on hold, I had to adapt my plan quickly and find another relevant task to tackle.

The time I saw a baby gorilla.

This was a good opportunity to start planning my visits on the field. I narrowed down the districts to visit, designed questionnaires on service delivery for both case management volunteers and beneficiaries, and prepared a list of sampled households. Conducting these visits was rewarding and vital for my understanding of the implementation process of the program. After having learned about Twiyubake through in-office meetings, workshops with partner organizations, and written materials and reports, being on the field showed me the other side of the coin. Meeting with both volunteers and beneficiaries in their homes was a valuable experience. Through conversations regarding the successes and challenges of service delivery and firsthand observations of program activities, I was able to collect more information and develop a preliminary set of recommendations to propose in my final report. This experience was the first of its kind for me. I loved being on the field! The rural parts of Rwanda are breathtaking; the people are kind and welcoming; my brain was processing incoming information fast; it was all new and thrilling and exhausting in a good way.

Enjoying a the view of the crater lake (and a muffin) from the top of mount Bisoke volcano.

Cleaning the data turned out to be more challenging than anticipated. My supervisor had to work on other projects on the field and asked me to continue the process. I must admit that it has been somewhat daunting, especially because I’m past the halfway point of my internship and will need to make progress on my final report fast. But hey, I did hike the mount Bisoke volcano so I think I got this.

GHD power posing.

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