Friday, May 3, 2013

Our Annual Report 2012

In the interest of transparency, here is the full copy of our 2012 Annual Report. 

Robertsport Community WorksAnnual Report 2012

1.         Resilience and Sustainability
2.         Our Core Programs
a.         Job Skills Development
b.         Small Enterprise Develzopment
c.         Conservation Projects

Let us start by thanking the Community Board and our Project Leaders, especially Sam Brown, Matilda McCrumada and Prince Karneh. Without their leadership, none of this would be possible.
2012 was the first calendar year that Robertsport Community Works Directors Elie and Nate Calhoun spent no time in Robertsport, Liberia. It was a test of the organization’s management and systems to see whether the work done in the community since 2009 was, in fact, sustainable.
We are both happy and proud to report on the status of our core programs, on our strong partnership and co-programming with Surf Resource Network, and on our plans for the future.
We value your input and your continued support for our vision, our values and the difference we’re having in the Uptown community of Robertsport, Liberia.

Thank you.

Elie Calhoun
Director of Programs and Communications
Robertsport Community Works

1. Resilience and Sustainability

Creating projects with very little seed capital has been at the core of Robertsport Community Works programming since RCW management took over campsite management in 2009. Constraint is another contributing factor to program design in rural Liberia, and our Project Managers are encouraged and trained to create solutions out of minimal resources. Collaboration has been key to creating a program ecosystem in Robertsport in which development and community empowerment are part of the local dialogue about tourism.

Our programs continue to create jobs for the community in the growing tourism economy of Robertsport. Tourism needs to continue for those jobs to be sustainable, but program resilience has created those jobs to be flexible and adaptive.

Despite our distance from Liberia, we are constantly testing our ideas about development and iterating better ways to create an economic benefit in Robertsport that builds resiliency. Whenever possible, because of our ecological values, we try to build conservation aspects into our programming and to build ecological education into all that we do.

2. Our Core Programs

Since physical presence in Robertsport was not possible for Directors Nate and Elie Calhoun during 2012, the RCW Community Board and Project Leaders made most of the significant on-the-ground operational decisions amongst themselves. Quarterly calls were supplemented by visits by the new Business Manager, a position that was created to restart The African T-Shirt Company so that its net income could fund RCW projects (more information below).

Workforce and Small Enterprise Development

The RCW Directors test out programming ideas, training methods and innovative approaches through human-centered design.

All in all, the challenges that kept the Liberian arm of The African T-Shirt Company small continued to hamper the efforts of our Business Manager. We are moving the t-shirt operation to Dakar, Senegal, so that we can personally oversee the systems and build a stronger business. Profits will fund both RCW and the local Senegalese association Sahel Vert. The Business Manager position is also transferring to Dakar, where it will be part of fundraising and communications responsibilities for a longer-term volunteer.

Judging by the experience we had with running The African T-Shirt Company in Liberia, we think that it's a good model for a social business and project-specific fundraising. It's also a good community outreach mechanism, because we end up talking about and wearing the t-shirts, which generate attention and interest in the expatriate community.

The Sewing Co-op remains a strong focus of RCW programming, and part of RCW's focus on small enterprise development and women's empowerment. In fact, we have been recruiting for the position of Co-op Project Coordinator for over a year now, recently creating a new strategy and shortlist of potential candidates.

At this stage of the project, we're looking to get the co-op checking and sending email and the Mama Liberia brand a wider, more reliable market. Most small business projects in Africa and around the world don't make it past the founders' absence. This is a challenging time, and we're actively recruiting and fundraising for a new position -- that of Small Enterprise Program Director. For more information and to hook us up with good people, email Elie. We’ll need someone to spend considerable time living in Robertsport and offering business training to the women.

Technology and Innovations

Education-focused technology for development programs exist in both Robertsport Government High School and the youth center run by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. As Internet technology becomes more available through smart phone penetration and affordable Internet cafes with semi-reliable electricity, we look forward to including an ICT component to our ongoing programming, particularly around professional e-mentoring and mobiles for workforce development.

Nearshore and Marine Ecosystem Conservation

Back in 2008, when the RCW Directors first visited Robertsport with the guidance and support of RCW Board Member Magnus Wolfe Murray, conservation of the waves and the forest in Robertsport was high on our list of NGO priorities.

As RCW Director of Partnerships and Operations, Nate Calhoun, works more and more with permaculture and innovative ecological design for community resilience, our focus on Robertsport's ecological conservation remains central to our continuing and evolving mission.

The year 2012 was the last year that RCW received start-up program funding from the Dutch foundation, Surf Resource Network. Thanks to Sabine at Soul Surfers Foundation, we were able to provide start-up equipment and seed funding for three years of beach clean-ups.

In 2011, the beach clean-up project leader was Abraham (AB) Fahnbulleh, with Miriama McCrumada organizing and preparing the shared community meal for the volunteers. AB created management issues with his authoritative style, with contrasted with our plans for our projects and programs and with our ethic of community work in general. All in all, he was not a good fit for leadership in RCW projects, and by the time Miriama was able and empowered to lead the clean-up, momentum had dwindled.

At this point, we are transferring project knowledge and leadership of the monthly community beach clean-up to Surf Resource Network. We continue to advocate for a sustainability model that asks Robertsport tourist lodges to pay $10 each per month for the beach clean-up service, as just $40 per month runs this program and provides visible results in a cleaner, more attractive Robertsport Beach -- a clear environmental and economic win for the community.

We're proud that the Robertsport Community Campsite, on private land, continues to function and attract business despite the prevalence of other more comfortable, drier options. We continue to fund $100 of routine campsite maintenance every 8 to 12 months, and the campsite continues to provide part-time but regular income to two young men in Robertsport. Our Project Leader, Prince Karneh, has proven leadership and management ability, and has learned to interact graciously and professionally with visitors. We would like to increase his responsibilities, as detailed in our Sea Turtle Rescue plan below.

Long-term, RCW Directors hope to work together with the Board of Advisors and other RCW supporters and stakeholders to create a Conservancy on the campsite land, and to cede control of the conservancy to a Community Trust with ecological stipulations. We hope to develop a permaculture demonstration site on the property, with examples of bio-intensive tropical food systems appropriate for the nearshore ecosystem.

Thanks to potential partners and the guidance of marine scientists and conservation professionals, we have redesigned the Sea Turtle Rescue Project to include three phases: basic sea turtle rescue with Robertsport and Sembehum fishermen, beach rescue and a hatchery, with "turtle patrols" from the border of Cape Mount to the Sembehum border. An ambitious goal, and one we will share more of as the project plan and fundraising budget solidifies.

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