With all aid and development work there comes the question of whether it yields any benefit, changes anything in the short or long term, makes things better for people. These issues are extremely essential to us here at Dispurse and we try to constantly update and optimise our activities to have as big an impact as possible.
We are meeting with one of our staff, our eyes and ears on the ground, Isabel Carranza, who grew up in Hedemora, but has lived in France, the USA, South America and now in Gothenburg, to understand a bit more about the benefits of our work.
“Hi Isabel, you’ve been on the ground in South America off and on since 2011 and naturally have lots of experiences you can recount, but first please tell us a little about your background.”
“Hi, I grew up in Dalarna. My dad is from Spain, so I had contact with Spanish even as a child. I became interested in languages at an early point and went on to study them, and I worked as a teacher of Spanish and French. I have also worked as a tour guide for Swedish travel agency Rosa Bussarna (“Pink Caravan Sweden”) and that perhaps sums me up very well – I like to travel, meet people, try to understand the world around me and, if I can, contribute to some form of learning.”
“Sounds like a good grounding for evaluating Dispurse’s work on the ground. What do you encounter in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia?”
“I encounter wonderful countries with open and friendly people, lots of contrasts and beautiful nature and culture. With regard to schooling and learning, there are huge numbers of people in poor areas who cannot read, write or do arithmetic, which makes them highly vulnerable and leaves them excluded from society and the democratic process in these countries.
“Some of the places I have visited a lot are mountain villages where the people are more isolated and live according to old traditions. Many people there may be slightly wary of outsiders and it is more difficult at first to make contact. In other parts of Latin America, above all in slightly more dangerous areas, it can be a harsher and tougher environment. The positive thing is that people are generally really friendly and open, and once they understand why you are there, most of them are very happy and grateful for what we are doing.”
“You have been round several locations in South America, what were you doing?”
“I helped to organise things on the ground with our test groups and introduced them to our app. After that I was dealing with their feedback from the testing, the pedagogical aspects of the app such as the structure of exercises, manuscript and translation.”
“The app has now been beta-tested and developed over several years, with good results, and version 1.0 is ready to be distributed on a larger scale. What do you see happening with the people who have completed the education process and does it create any benefit?”
“We have tested, modified it, tested again, refined and tested again on around 400 students, with good results. It is now time to launch our education process for approximately 25,000 students over the next few years, preferably women. What you clearly see is the joy and pride when they quite suddenly realise that they can read, write and do arithmetic. They are growing as people.
“However, they don’t always immediately understand the benefit. These are women who have grown up in villages with a very high level of illiteracy, and they don’t always know how to make use of their new knowledge. But when you chat to them and the knowledge has had time to sink in a little, then they begin to see the benefits.
“The benefit that they see themselves in being able to read, write and do arithmetic is first of all being able to help their children with school work. And it is also important for them not to be cheated when selling their goods. Almost everyone is involved in some type of selling; they sell crops, handicrafts or other items on the street or at markets, for example. Finally, it is also important to many people to be able to read the Bible. Most people in Latin America are religious and it is an important part of life. Many people from poor communities have not been able to read the Bible or other religious texts and hymn texts for themselves, but have simply had to listen to priests or others reading to them. Now many want to be able to do this for themselves.”
“But Dispurse has no religious affiliation?”
“No, not at all. We work on educating people, and then they can make their own choices. However, we work together with churches and organisations to reach out with our concept.”
“You have now described elements of what the individuals themselves perceive as benefits from the learning, but if you look at the benefit for society or the countries, what do you think that is?”
“Wow, a big question, lots! Health will be improved, agriculture will be improved, understanding of finances and the importance of saving will improve among the poorest communities; hopefully the knowledge may also lead to development of their sources of income, e.g. sales, and thus yield improved finances for individuals and society.
“People will dare to have their say and be part of society, which will mean better democracy in the long run. There are cases of political parties going out with buses and fetching people specifically to vote for them in exchange for a basket of vegetables. They have no clue what they have actually voted for. There is much that can and will be improved.
“Understanding for themselves the importance of education also makes it easier to communicate this to their children, that education is important, and then the level of education throughout the country is boosted and society makes better use of its human resources.”
“Thank you, Isabel, for this interview and we hope you will be back again to tell us more about specific projects.”
“Thank you, and see you soon!”