Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SPA Grant Project

SPA stands for Small Project Assistance. Peace Corps Paraguay receives a bit of money each year from USAID to give out as grants to volunteers who solicit them for sustainable projects within their respective communities. Once all the money has been used the volunteers who want a grant have to wait until the next time when money arrives.

I decided to apply for a SPA grant with the association that works with the community and cultural center that is located in the train station. We had done a needs assessment with a German NGO called, GTZ, and our number one, two and three needs were illumination, bathroom and chairs. I thought to myself, hey we have the opportunity to access some money why not try.

So after three months of filling out the grant paper work we were ready to turn it in. It was quite the process. First..I've never written a grant and having to do it in Spanish for the first time was hard. Second..Paraguayans don´t like to do paper work, so it was like pulling teeth for them to come over and help. Third...Once we got the money EVERYONE wanted to be involved and change the entire project for their personal likings. That was really hard for me. Ony about half of the association helped write the grant and do the research for the budget on what the project would cost.

Well once we had the money a few issues came up. The people who would be installing the lightning wanted more money for labor, people from the group wanted more lighting here and there, well why not just build a modern bathroom instead of fixing up the latrine? We had received the exact amount of money that we asked for. There was no room to budge. I don´t know if it was my fault and that wasn't clearly stated in the beginning or if the people didn't understand the concept of a budget and that's why we needed a list of ALL the materials we would need for the project before hand to be able to make a list of all the costs. But luckily the president is a very smart woman and put the money in the cooperative so not just anyone could go spending money.

Literally two days after we had the money I made it my personal mission to buy the chairs. The train station had about 8 chairs making it hard to have meetings, classes or any other event at the station. Cynthia and I went into Villarrica and bought 45 beautiful plastic chairs. In the budget we had gotten the price for 50 but after 2 months of waiting for the money the prices went up. But we still got 45 chairs.

Next the lighting guy (who upped his labor 300 mil), Julio and I went to Villarrica to buy all the materials that would be needed to redo the entire lighting system of the train station. The association wanted to fix the lighting because there was the problem of low tension in the station due to the neighbor being a carpenter and every time he used his machines the lights would turn off and on inside making it impossible to use the computer. Second there were two lights in total out side that worked making it hard to have activities at night. So we made a whole new line of electricity which is now apart from the “house” part of the station where the people live and have their workshop.

We had decided to fix up the old latrine that has 4 stalls instead of building a modern bathroom. That was an essential need because whenever there are events held at the train station there was no where to use the bathroom, very unsanitary. The bathroom was cleaned, floors were fixed, painted inside and out, New doors were put onto every stall and locks installed.

Also in the budget we put in a printer and acrylic white board which were bought. We left those to be the last things bought due to a rise in cost in a lot of materials so we wanted to make sure we had enough money.

Since we've bought chairs, installed the lighting and fixed up the bathroom, night meetings have been arranged to be held at the station, we've had cultural events without having to rent chairs saving money and new courses are now being offered. The train station is a beautiful place and a key part of the history of San Salvador. Just a little bit of sweat and hard work paid off.

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