Mike told me that he took a leave from his University studies to work on Afghanistan OLPC project. At the same time he started his own company PAIWASTOON Networking Services Ltd. To learn more about Mike, click here http://discover.aiesec.org.af/pages-whatvisitorssay/mikedawson.sxw.html
First time he came to Afghanistan was 4.5 years ago. Even though he had to leave his comfortable life, friends and family, he is glad he did it as he has accomplished something here. See more: http://blog.freifunk.net/2010/freifunk-afghanistan-deployed-five-cities
Polyachka: What do you think about volunteering and international development?
Mike: International development in general is not working well in most places. The amount of resources being spent is huge, but the outcomes are not sufficient. Things get done very slowly and in ineffective ways. It happens because many people don’t know how to accomplish things in foreign countries. Short term consultants come and they may feel good about what they to, but unless they understand how it works, their efforts have minimal effect…
Polyachka: I agree. They lack local insight and they are not personally responsible for the outcomes
Mike: You have to have a local NGO be on your side , to work with you…
Mike: The other thing is to work in these sorts of environment, dealing with local customs and traditions. There is a different work culture, you constantly have to check and motivate people to do well
Polyachka: How do you achieve that?
Mike: We make sure everyone has specific tasks and they have to put their work on the network drives on-time…
Polyachka: What about teacher’s resistance?
Mike: The bottom line is teacher’s confidence… How your get it is your problem, but it should be culturally appropriate. In our case we provided 6 day teacher workshop and then identified 7 teachers who were very enthusiastic and gave 6 more days of training to them. Those seven became the experts and “the go to” for others.
Mike: If you don’t have resources to give teachers training, then they don’t have confidence.
Polyachka: What kind of volunteers are you looking for?
Mike: Various. There is no language requirement, but we always are looking for volunteers with good skills and good attitude. We need people who can prepare manuals for teachers and check them for quality and many other things… We need programmers, fund-raisers, legal and educational professionals, etc.
Mike: With help of volunteers we can achieve so much more here. If we do it right in Afghanistan , it could be replicated anywhere in the world.