Great Talk from David Damberger on Learning from Failure, enjoy. David was also in Zambia a few years ago.
Tag Archive: speech
The following was the speech I gave at the Second Annual Wine and Cheese for the Engineers Without Borders – Ryerson University Chapter in an attempt to capture the experience.
“Tomorrow, we get back to work.” That’s what Israel said. He was a man not much older than I. We sat beside a tree, near the village of Kalanje. His home village in Eastern Zambia. The sun was high behind us and the earth beneath him was moist.
Just a few days earlier he organized a very successful promotion event. He was promoting his new business as a community based agent. We were surrounded by hundreds of farmers. They were all from the surrounding villages. He was promoting all the services he would be able to provide them. Israel was trained by one of our partners, an organization called Production, Finance and Improved Technologies, or PROFIT for short. And, in their 4×4’s they brought with them representatives from the Zambian agriculture industry to this event. These representatives were Israel’s business partners.
After the event, the farmers and vehicles left. Israel and I made the 1 hour bike ride back to his village. I was told that our path was a shortcut…
Agents, like Israel, were trained by PROFIT. They trained them to be knowledgeable in both crop & livestock management and trained to increase access to farming inputs like higher yielding seeds and products to prevent livestock disease to farmers in rural communities.
We asked PROFIT how I could help them. My role was three-fold.
1. Support PROFIT directly. Provide them with some feedback on their training and share any other findings that could help their work. But primarily I would help them with transferring ownership of the agent networks to the private sector.
2. To do that I would be embedded in one supplier, a local Zambian company. Working with their staff and management, I would work on programs that can improve their support and use of these agent networks.
3. To inform our work with staff best, I lived and worked with their agents to get an understanding of their business and what challenges they face in supporting farmers in their community.
So, as I lived with Israel we kept riding our bicycles. Meeting and talking to farmers day, after day trying to better understand how Israel can better serve them.
My work would bring me to live with Israel in his village and then leave for weeks to later return. What I enjoyed about returning to Israel’s village was the ability to see changes. Subtle, changes towards a better quality of life.
A brand new mill, with a new roof covering it. The once untamed ox, now plowing the fields calmly. The skeleton of a new pen that will be used to spray their livestock to prevent disease. A growing stack of record books filled out by Israel showing that his business was booming. Whenever I was excited to see these advancements, they would smile back. “Pang’ono Pang’ono Anthony” bit by bit.
But, I want to return to that promotional event he ran.
When it was over,and PROFIT’s vehicles headed back to town, little did I know at the time that they picked up Israel’s daughter who was at the local clinic. She was taken into town to the hospital where she would receive the treatment. Treatment for, what we would later find out was, malaria.
When Israel and I finally arrived at Kalanje Village, the sun was already setting. After a quick dinner, he then told me he was going into town to see his daughter. On his bicycle he set off on the 50km journey.
I awoke the next morning by a knock on the door of my hut. When I opened it, Israel’s brothers walked in. They simply said, behind a fake half smile, “We received word that the chap has passed”.
A few days later we were surrounded by dozens of people. All from the surrounding villages.
We watched in silence as the women sang, and the men laid Israel’s daughter to rest. We sat beside a tree, near the village of Kalanje. His home village in Zambia. The sun was high behind us and the earth beneath him was moist from tears. He then turned to me and said, “Tomorrow, we get back to work.”
Years ago I first heard the expression that “development is difficult”. I now know, the resilience it requires. Development is indeed difficult. But in Engineers Without Borders… on this team, we commit to serving those in need.
On this team we know development doesn’t come about by handing out free t-shirts & shoes or simply building schools and drilling wells… We know it’s about investing in people. On this team we deny the assumption that a world free of poverty, a world of opportunity is just a fantasy… we Dream big, and work hard to make it a reality. A world of opportunity, it’s the biggest challenge we face.
It’s a job for you, me, and everyone who considers themselves a member of the world community… anyone who considers themselves a global citizen.
“So. tomorrow, let’s get back to work.”