By Alex Tanoto, Class of 2020 and Project Daya External Liaison Head
The December holidays draw near and for some, this means family time, travelling overseas to sample foods in places near and far. For others, it means new adventures in remote islands with clear waters and actual sea-life.
But for members of Project Daya (Overseas Community Involvement Project [OCIP] Batam), this break means another opportunity to visit the friends that we have made in communities less fortunate. And we always do our best to plan for a good programme.
Project Daya team in Peduli Bangsa, Batam, Indonesia, October 2016
Having committed to making four trips a year, we’re in a constant cycle of planning, executing, reviewing, reflecting and planning again.
Barely a week after we had come back from our last trip to Batam in October, we were already starting the process of planning for our December trip by reviewing what had just occurred. These after action reviews (AARs) involve all Project Daya members, and are where we hash out what went wrong, what went well, what new things we uncovered and how we could build upon this trip for the next.
After the AAR comes the core group meeting, where the three of us who form the administrative hands of Project Daya sit down to set the deadlines, overall direction and goals for December based on the AAR. With these set, everyone in the project, both those able and not able to make it for the trip in December are split into different committees. One week for preliminary proposals, two days for the core group to review them, and three weeks for sub-committees to flesh them out. And so, by about 14 November, six weeks after we’d just returned from Batam, we were theoretically ready to go back again.
Ensuring impact while writing our proposals involved a lot of creative thinking, sharing of experiences and taking note of feedback. Committees are deliberately formed with both Year 1 and Year 2 Project Daya members in each. This means that the committee benefits from the knowledge of Year 2 members of what has been done before and worked, as well as the relatively fresh outlook from the Year 1s. Internal reports and a review of what had happened in previous trips are also available for perusal. As a result of this, for our December trip, amongst other things, we’re doing something that the villagers in Mangsang have long requested for – an Indonesian-friendly cookbook of healthy recipes.
The next thing we do as a group to help our project succeed is what we term “Cohesion”. Cohesion is a day where all project members assemble and committee heads present the finalised proposals to everyone. Feedback is given, manpower is set and everything is further refined and clarified. Some things are scrapped, strengthened or de-emphasised to better meet our goals.
Cohesion is also a time when we conduct dry runs for unique programmes, such as holding “mock stimulated-patient” sessions to test the practicality of surveys, or practise skits and songs to teach, just so that we have fewer hiccups during the trip itself. Logistics in terms of props are made and packed, such as the giant cardboard teeth set and name-tags, which were used to teach dental hygiene in July 2015.
L-R: Project Daya team assembles for Cohesion day; and the team's oral hygiene programme in action in July 2015
After this, all that’s left is to get ready for the trip itself. Buying ferry tickets, insurance, getting first aid kits and vitamin C tablets, MFA registration, informing parents, administration and touching base with our partner in Batam, the NGO Peduli Bangsa. All this is done at least one week before the trip itself, so that there is ample time to deal with any last minute emergencies.
We also begin fundraising to cover the cost of materials used to make props for our trip by collecting orders from family and friends for kueh lapis bought from LaMoist, a famous commercial and non-affiliated cake franchise in Batam, as well as various homemade cakes made by a small bakery that also works with Peduli Bangsa in Batam, which we resold with a small mark up.
All in all, for Project Daya, what goes into making a successful trip is a lot of thought, feedback and cooperation. By mixing together what we’ve learnt from going to Batam so frequently, what the villagers themselves tell us and our own personal and very varied experiences – we aim to create new programmes each time that the villagers will enjoy and hopefully learn from. Does it get tiring, having a timeline that means constantly working on the project? Yes. But we think that a successful trip, measured in outcomes long after we’re gone, is worth it.