While I worked as an agricultural extension agent in the Peace Corps, I lived in a constant state of fear of bringing certain doom to my farmers’ lives. We worked in collaboration to improve agricultural practices with ‘sustainability’ as the goal. This required experimentation, so we were encouraged by our trainers to use discretion and experimental planting plots when attempting new methods, in the hopes that any failure would not bring financial ruin or worse to a family or community. The likelihood of failure was even greater considering I usually had little to no idea what I was doing. I had many project ideas, but I had to approach them carefully and with the expectation that everything would go wrong.
From my first week at Somali Community Services Coalition, I realized that we needed a new website. The page was disorganized, a lot of the material was irrelevant, and didn’t reflect the current state of our organization and programs. The problem was that the page was controlled by an outside IT person who was difficult to contact and who said that we would be unable to make the changes to the website ourselves, leaving us paying for a service we could not fully utilize. I had no idea how to make a new website. After doing some basic research, I built a practice page and slowly started to become confident that I could handle the process myself. I talked to my ED and told the IT person I wanted to start and complete the process of changing website hosts in the next week, and then waited to hear back from him. A couple days later, I wondered to myself, “Why hasn’t that organization responded to my proposal by the response date…?” Another day passed, and I thought to myself, “Why have I not received email in three days?” Then, I began hearing my coworkers grumble about not receiving any emails. Then text messages begin coming in about our website being down. I felt the tinge of panic in my heart when I finally realized what had happened. Before communicating it to us, the IT person had removed the website, and in doing so had left our email non-functioning. This would have been a problem anytime, but it was particularly bad timing since we were in the process of recruiting volunteers and participants for our summer education program, and I was indirectly responsible for the hindrance of this. I had inadvertently salted SCSC’s fields.
After countless YouTube videos, several miscommunications, many ‘WTF’s, and staring at numbers whose meaning I still don’t understand, I was eventually able to set up the new website and re-start our email. SCSC now has a website that is fully functional, up to date, and able to be utilized by the organization for less money than we were paying for a professionally managed website before. I believe this will further the sustainability and autonomy of SCSC as a whole.
My experience in Peace Corps taught me many things, but I think the most important was reinforcing the notion that there cannot be any success without risks. It’s important to approach things in a well thought out manner, but things will always go imperfectly, especially in the small, resource limited, CBOs, that VISTAs often work in. I failed to make an important consideration and we didn’t have email for a week, but better done imperfectly than not done at all. After all, I didn’t starve a village.
Our new website is at somalicsc.org