Though public health has quickly grown to be our largest sector here at YSI, the organization was originally founded upon the goal of community development. Each session, the community development groups work on projects ranging from community data collection, to conducting in-depth interviews with community members. We use these interviews to create a case profile about an individual’s life. Completed case profiles are submitted to our Board of Directors along with the community development team’s recommendations for a plan of action, which could include scholarships for children to go to school, a monthly budget to help cover food costs for a family, or even funds to begin a small business.
In January of 2016, Francis Schulze, leader and participant observer; Emily Adelsberger, interviewer; Caroline Mountain, participant observer; and Gordon Smythe, participant observer, interviewed Nadege, a twenty-six year old woman living in the rural fringes of Léogâne.
Nadege had previously been hesitant to work with us, as our interviews to build case profiles can get quite personal. Despite this challenge, we were able to gather a wealth of information that will assist the Board of Directors in managing her case in the future. To help make touchy subjects feel less intrusive, we always make sure to be aware of the questions that we are asking, explain why we are asking them, and be respectful in doing so. One of the most valuable things that our interviewers can do in these scenarios is to talk directly to the interviewee. While we communicate through our translators, making eye contact and speaking directly to the interviewee helps the conversation to feel more organic and respectful.
Along with most of the people we work with, Nadege’s case needed to be revisited and updated. Nadege was first interviewed in January 2015. Her interviews were quiet, and it was sometimes difficult to obtain information from her. Even so, the findings from that expedition became the basis for the transitional assistance grant program. This grant program provides funds for people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and begin to build a future by starting a small business, giving them more time to focus on their job, or simply having food for their family. It became evident to Kevin that Nadege’s relative lack of vocational training was not conducive to issuing another startup grant (for a business) as soon as she was taken as a case. Nadege was presented with a contract, written in Creole, at the end of the January 2015 expedition that promised to pay for her oldest child to attend school, deliver 40 USD worth of food to her family monthly, and cover the costs of vaccinations and primary care for every member of the family. Contracts such as these are a common result of the work that the community development team does. These contracts ensure that the grants provided to each of our cases are used for their intended purpose. For example, if someone is given 200 USD to start a business, we will ask them to document how that money is spent and they make a profit, so that we know our grant has been used effectively and can assist with any challenges that arise along the way.
We had to revisit Nadege in January 2016 due to some changes in case management strategies. In this follow up interview, our community development team walked to Nadege’s home and was immediately impressed by her hospitality. While she is often reserved in conversation, she expressed gratitude and respect for our interviewers. When the interview began, several children, a young woman, an older woman, and a middle-aged man began watching the interview with curiosity. The onlookers were distracting, so we decided it was best to cut it short with the promise that we would continue in a more private environment another time. Later in the expedition, Nadege was approached by our team for a second time and asked if she would like to complete the remainder of the interview at the YourStory compound-- and she did.
The community development interview process can be tedious and challenging, but after hours of conducting interviews, compiling notes, wrapping-up reports, and making recommendations for each case, the interviewees are presented with real solutions to the challenges they face in daily life. Because of the in-depth interviews and tangible aid provided through YSI's community development teams, people like Nadege are able to focus on building their futures.