If you work directly with communities, either as a community mobilizer, data collector, programs coordinator etc, then you should read this.
Up until now, I never had a glimpse of how challenging locating communities could be despite my numerous visits as a worker in the development space.
Usually, a member of the team would have done the background work that makes it easy to locate and arrive at the community without having to paranbulate in circles.
But for this particular visit, no previous visit had been made, we only had a contact person who was to stand at the given landmark to guide us into the community.
Vests/trousers on and boots worn, we were set to be on the field. We were able to navigate our way to one of the fore descriptions given by the contact person. Not with some super powers of course, we asked people by the roadside.
Although we were certain to be on the right path but couldn’t locate the landmark our contact person (whom I would refer to as Mrs E) gave us.
Then, we called. She asked us to locate a burial ground. Hahaha….don’t be scared. We asked passersby and bikemen and even that was so hard due to the language barrier. We had to keep describing with gestures. I remember my team lead described this way: “person wey die, where e dey sleep” while striking his neck with a finger to give further clues😀😀😀.
We kept making calls to Mrs E for better descriptions but it wasn’t helping matters. Somehow, we went past the burial ground and found ourselves somewhere else. We called Mrs E and asked again for descriptions and of all landmarks, she asked us to locate a casket shop. Are you thinking what we were thinking? Why do the landmarks have to do with the dead? For a second, we hoped we weren’t going to a community of the dead. Lol.
Thankfully, that was much easier. Right in front of the shop, we found Mrs E and her two young boys exhausted, obviously. Did I mention it took us over 40 minutes searching for the landmark to meet Mrs E?
This funny experience inspired this article. And I would be giving a few hints on locating communities during first visits or out reaches or projects.
1. First, ask for prominent landmarks like Churches, schools, billboards. For instance, we found a very popular church which could have been a better landmark and would have saved us the stress, time and of course, fuel. Emphasis on ask. The contact person might not mention but you should ask.
2. Next, have enough fuel. So you don’t get stranded while parabulating should incase there isn’t a filling station closeby.
Extra tip: drive in your car or get a private car. Hired/public motorists might not have the patience and might even charge exorbitantly beyond your budget.
3. If you don’t speak the major language of the community, it will be great to have someone bridge the language barrier for you.
4. Please, have enough airtime. Hahaha. You would need this to keep on with the calls. Don’t rely on getting airtime from roadside sellers as you might not get and then, don’t also rely on bank recharge as the network might not be strong enough.
5. Place minutes on distances. This one is very vital. When your contact person says, “that place is far from where I am saying”. You need to ask about the definition of what they call ‘far’. For instance, we told Mrs E we were somewhere and she said we were far from the description. We drove for barely a few minutes thinking we couldn’t have reached the place. Instincts told us to call again and voila, she said we had passed a long time.
Let us know how helpful this is for your next visit. Do let us also know of other tips that have worked for you.