Report from Scott David Meyer, Master in Peace and Conflict Transformation, University of Tromsø – Project 200601873-16
The generous financial support from the Centre for Sámi Studies and SEMUT was used for transportation to Nicaragua and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, USA as well as the expenses incurred at these locations while conducting my fieldwork. The support enabled me to conduct interviews with donors and recipients of the South Dakota Lutheran Church’s foreign aid programs and experience first hand how their aid programs work. These finding will culminate in a thesis analyzing the reasons for supporting a foreign aid program using South Dakota’s support of Nicaragua and the indigenous community in Pine Ridge as a case study.
My original hope was to research the effectiveness of South Dakota’s involvement in Nicaragua in meeting the needs of local Nicaraguans, taking special note to see if certain groups such as indigenous people received less support. My research however changed while in the field because safety was compromised. Instead of focusing just on Nicaragua, I decided to return to South Dakota and explore the Lutheran Church’s relationship with the Lakota people in Pine Ridge. I decided to use interviews with donors from the Nicaragua program and compare the reasons people support the program in Nicaragua with the reasons people support the Pine Ridge program. This proved to be an interesting comparison because the Nicaragua program seemed to have energy, momentum, and support while Pine Ridge was losing momentum and did not seem to be succeeding.
Collecting the interviews involved transportation to Managua, Nicaragua where I experienced the Nicaragua program first hand and had informal conversations with Nicaraguans involved in the program, both recipients and people working for the church. While in Nicaragua, I stayed at a small bed and breakfast near the church facilities and ate meals at a nearby local restaurant. After returning home, I traveled to Pine Ridge where I lived for one week. There I talked to donors of the program, people who worked for the program, and individuals from the community to get their impressions of the partnership. Additionally, I was able to be with a group that was visiting Pine Ridge to see what activities donors do in Pine Ridge. After my visit to Pine Ridge I continued doing interviews with donors both by phone and in person in a variety of places in South Dakota. After conducting all the interviews, I transcribed and analyzed the contents. I am currently using the data to test a variety of theories that attempt to explain why people might engage in a program such as South Dakota’s support of Nicaragua and Pine Ridge.
I hope to publish my findings in a relevant journal and will make the thesis available to both the South Dakota Lutheran Synod and the University of Tromsø. I hope that my findings will help improve the aid programs with Nicaragua and Pine Ridge. Hopefully it will also provide insights and advice to similar foreign aid programs. I hope to present my findings at the South Dakota Lutheran Synod-wide Annual Meeting during the summer of 2007 and will apply to present my findings at the 2007 World Peace Forum to ensure that my findings are disseminated to coordinators and donors of the program as well as other NGO workers and people interested in improving foreign aid. I believe my research will help show why people support aid programs and will shed light on what may encourage or discourage this participation. I would like to thank the Centre for Sámi Studies and SEMUT for helping me in this endeavor. The funds were well used and greatly appreciated. I trust that my final project will do justice to your support.