Wednesday, November 30, 2005

VIRGINIA MUPANDUKI : No Bitterness In Her Struggle

Today I am going to do something different. I tried several ways to write this article and then decided that it had already been written by Ashoka . Ashoka is an organization whose mission is to shape a citizen sector that is entrepreneurial, productive and globally integrated, and to develop the profession of social entrepreneurship around the world.

But this article is not about Ashoka. It's about one of the Ashoka Fellows, Virginia Mupanduki. Ms. Mupanduki is the Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Adult Learner's Association (ZALA) headquartered in Harare. I learned about Ms. Mupanduki because Global Giving features ZALA's project entitled " Rural Micro-Finance for Poverty Alleviation " on its web site.

ZALA and their Micro-finance project are noteworthy in themselves, and I hope to get back to writing an article about that, but I was so impressed by Ms. Mupanduki that I wanted to really shine the spotlight on her for now. I think that hers is a very inspiring story, and I think that it is worth re-telling.

But in trying to tell Virginia Mupanduki's story, I found I could not tell it any better than it has already been done by Ashoka. So, what I am doing today is posting the article written by Ashoka about her when she was recognized as an Ashoka Fellow in 1997 and posted on the Global Giving web site.

Applause for Ashoka!

Applause for ZALA!

Applause for Global Giving!

Applause for Virginia Mupanduki!

This following article about Virginia Mupanduki may be found at: Virginia Mupanduki

Virginia Mupanduki is building up a broad national organization consisting exclusively of previously illiterate women and using the power of that organization to eradicate illiteracy, teach skills development, and create a political voice for them.

The New Idea

Virginia Mupanduki has used her previous union experience to read the political climate of Zimbabwe, where, through her powerful organizing elements, she is giving a political voice to women without money or literacy. By combining literacy training and women's empowerment, she encourages their emergence as a new political and economic base, and she is persuading the government that the women represent a constituency that has been ignored and needs to be recognized.

Virginia's "bottom-up" approach empowers women to do for themselves, thereby destroying poverty via literacy, even when government has tried and failed. Her project is thus likely to have a higher rate of success than that of adult literacy programs sponsored by the government. Her work is sustainable not only because once obtained, literacy is permanent, but also because it is rooted in the targeted communities. Usually in such cases, learned people are asked to do things for people at the grassroots level, but in this case, someone from the grassroots is using her experience to teach others how to take charge of their lives.

The Problem

The level of illiteracy in Zimbabwe is particularly high among adult women, in spite of a national campaign by the government launched in 1983 amidst great fanfare. This "top down" campaign fizzled out for a number of reasons, among them a lack of resources as defense expenditures took an increasingly larger share of the national budget.

Women in Zimbabwe are a relatively voiceless community. The added dimension of illiteracy further entrenches their lack of self-respect and dignity, which have already been eroded by negative sociocultural practices. Although women comprise the majority of farmers in a country highly dependent upon agriculture, they do not easily join unions and farmer organizations. The women who do decide to participate in such organizations are often manipulated because they cannot read or write.

Many literacy programs are developed only to address the issue of reading, without understanding the contextual impact that literacy can bring to the lives of women and other adult learners. Literacy enables these women to become empowered and reduce their dependency on others to do various tasks, even mundane ones like getting correct change after a purchase. Literacy is critical to national development by encouraging the development of useful, creative, and responsible citizens. Those women who can read and write will encourage their children to be literate. The children of literate women will know how to read the map of their minds and the country in which they live.

The Strategy

To combat adult illiteracy, Virginia began to form literacy groups of approximately twenty people each at the local level. Through an organization she founded, the Zimbabwe Adult Learners Association (ZALA), women pay a $2Z (US $.11) entry fee (which Virginia uses to organize more groups) and receive basic courses in literacy. Grades one to three are taught the first year, four and five the second year, and six and seven the third. Teachers are recruited from the government's section on Adult Education to train group members. It is here that a key innovative element of Virginia's strategy is seen-balanced interaction with the government. She has persuaded the hard-pressed government to restructure the national education budget and put resources into it. As part of this allocation of resources, the government pays the salaries of the teachers recruited for the Association. Virginia also recognizes the importance of being independent from the government to maintain credibility with the grassroots, because the government is perceived to be corrupt. In fact, the national government asked her to work for the Ministry of Education to implement this idea, but she declined, feeling that becoming involved in the bureaucracy would hinder her ability to deliver.

Virginia formed her first learners' groups in 1994, drawing from an underserved constituency-women members of the Zimbabwean Farmers Union. The Association now has approximately 20,000 members in 1,000 learners' groups spread across six provinces. The groups hold elections every three years where they elect members to a District Committee, and a Provincial Committee as well as vote for the Association's National Executive Council. At the Association's headquarters there are thirteen staff, all drawn from Association trainees. The Association's model is based on union organization.

Virginia's near term goals in Zimbabwe are three: first, to take the Association into Zimbabwe's three remaining provinces; second, to push much more deeply into the rural areas (the majority of the Association's learners groups are presently located in towns); and third, to make the Association independent of donor and government assistance by raising
capital through Association businesses, including a T-shirt company and a number of enterprises to be formed and run by the organization's members. Virginia has been approached by outside donor agencies about training people in Kenya and Uganda in her approach. Virginia's own diagnosis is that the best and most logical fit for her work will be in Mozambique, which shares a common border with Zimbabwe and is closer to it culturally. She feels that spread should begin in an environment that is as close as possible from a cultural point of view to maximize the potential for the approach's cross-border success. From what she learns helping others launch this type of effort in a country like Mozambique, she believes it will be possible to expand further.

The Person

The eldest of six children and the mother of eight, Virginia is a peasant farmer. The product of mission school education, she learned and practices the value ethic. As a young woman she went to Harare to investigate problems that farmers in her area were having in getting supplies. She set up a depot in Harare that she ran; she purchased the fertilizer and other items her farmers needed and provided a central service for farmers from her area. The farmers were quite happy with this as they had previously been cheated and robbed as they moved around town purchasing supplies. This depot remains a successful operation, even though Virginia herself is no longer running it.

She joined the Farmers Union in 1981, the first woman to join the organization. But apart from bringing women into the union, she made little headway with gaining its support for issues like literacy, which were viewed as somehow "women's issues." This experience taught Virginia that if illiterate and semiliterate women were to mobilize, they would have to have their own organization that they controlled, completely independent of the Union or anyone else, including the government.

By 1984 she was the Provincial Chair of the union and negotiated with Swedish foreign aid for a program to train women farmers in management and leadership. Her experience with the union led her to focus beyond farming, on the broader issue of illiteracy, which she investigated in the early 1990s. By 1994 she was ready to launch the Zimbabwe Adult Learners Association.

Virginia is a woman of enormous determination who does not allow herself to become frustrated when other people try to dismiss her ideas. Though she is not trying to prove herself to anyone, people know that she has struggled to learn to read and write. As
Virginia herself explains, "I don't like bullies. I don't like people making my life miserable." She uses her experience to inform and care for others so that they will not have to endure the same struggles as she did. There is no bitterness in her struggle.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

AGA KHAN HEALTH SERVICES A Comprehensive And Effective Approach To Health Care

This is the fifth article I have written about the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the programs it includes. The others about which I have written are: The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) the Aga Khan Agency For Microfinance (AKAM) .

The Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) is one of the most comprehensive private not-for-profit health care systems in the developing world. It is comprised of 325 health centres, dispensaries, hospitals, diagnostic centres and community health outlets. Among these facilities are five general hospitals, seven maternity homes/hospitals and 187 health centres/dispensaries.

Being a natural outgrowth of the Ismaili Community's health care efforts that were began in the first half of the 20th century, AKHS currently provides primary health care and curative medical care in India, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, and Syria.

And while the AKHS is devoted solely to health care, it is only one of three agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) that that are engaged in health initiatives. The other two are the Aga Khan Foundation, and the Aga Khan University. And AKHS works very closely with them both. Together these three agencies engage in the planning, training, and resource development for health care in their recipient communities and they also combine with the Aga Khan Education Services and the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services in order to integrate health issues into other specific projects. So, it is not difficult to see how the Aga Khan Development Network provides a fabric of community development services that are mutually supportive in an overall context.

The Social Welfare Department (SWD) of the The Aga Khan Health Services is located within the Secretariat of the Aga Khan in France, and co-ordinates the activities of the service companies through five-year plans, ten-year projections, annual budget submissions, and the provision of technical assistance. "They are also linked internationally through network-wide strategies in human resource development, hospital management, nursing development, and primary health care. While strengthening its institutions and the links between them, each health service company also joins government health services and other providers in building effective national health systems." Also, the Aga Khan Health Services is organized into national service companies in Kenya, Tanzania, India, and Pakistan.

The Aga Khan Health Services is also keen to reach vulnerable groups within its recipient communities. Those vulnerable groups in society, especially child-bearing women and young children, with low-cost, proven medical technologies are provided services in: immunisation, systematic prenatal care, aseptic deliveries, and oral rehydration therapy for diarrhoeal disease.

The importance and efficacy of primary health care in improving health status, and its cost-effectiveness has been confirmed by the experience with Public Health Centres within the Aga Khan Development Network. The AKHS web site states that: "Primary health care and prevention are considered as steps towards improved health status that must be linked to the availability of high quality medical care."

For this reason AKHS complements its work in maternity homes and full-service hospitals with curative services offered in institutions ranging from dispensaries through health centres as well. At every level of care, the AKHS focuses on providing services that are both needed and wanted by the community. The also pay close attention to building linkages within those systems and aims to ensure a quality of care that significantly raises local standards.

To the end of raising local standards, quality control in laboratory diagnosis, appropriate documentation in medical records, regular supply of pharmaceuticals and continuing education of nurses and doctors are some of the practices that AKHS emphasizes in its approach to institutional development.

Some of AKHS's Major Initiatives include:

- Assisting communities to develop, manage, and sustain the health care they need.

- Providing accessible medical care in modern, efficient, and cost-effective facilities.

- Working in partnership with other agencies in the development of communities and the enhancement of their health.

- Educating physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals.

- Conducting research relevant to environments in which AKHS institutions exist.

- Contributing to the development of national and international health policy.

In each country where it operates, AKHS registers a not-for-profit, non-governmental agency as a national service company. Each company has its own Board of Directors, and institutional leadership, some or all of whom are appointed by the sponsoring company, which is the Aga Khan Health Services S.A., a not-for-profit organisation registered in Switzerland.

According to AKHS: "Governing bodies and regional, community, and institutional committees are established to facilitate planning, operations, and funding activities of the national service companies. All directors serve as volunteers on an unremunerated basis. Typically, the board of each national service company is made up of eleven directors, of which nine are nationals, including the chairman. Each company board appoints a CEO who is responsible for the planning and management of all of the national service company's operations. The services, facilities, and programmes of the companies are funded through local fees charged for services, community support, international donors, as well as through contributions from His Highness. The Aga Khan Foundation assists the national service companies to seek funding and technical assistance from international and local donor agencies for appropriate development or service delivery initiatives.

Every company has a significant, on-going investment programme to develop both its management systems and the quality of its managerial and support staff. Network-wide, there is a strong emphasis on continuous quality improvement as a core organisational development strategy. This encompasses quality assurance, and preparation for accreditation either with a US-based hospital accreditation programme or the UK-based King's Fund/National Health Service accreditation process. The total quality management methodology was introduced to AKHS in 1992 and remains an important activity. There is significant investment in human resource development at every level of each national service company.

All companies also have a significant, continuous investment programme in computer-based management information systems and electronic communications. They also have a strong internal audit function. Each board has an active audit committee and every company undergoes an annual external audit. "

Because AKHS encourages an entrepreneurial approach by national service companies in all of their operations, some of the strategies for financial self-sufficiency include:

- a user charge, often complemented by other forms of community financing. The user charge is complemented by a welfare programme provision for those unable to afford the (often very small) fee; and

- in appropriate circumstances, cross subsidies are used to support community health activities that are not (yet) breaking even.

In East Africa, AKHS has facilities in Kenya and Tanzania. Those facilities provide over 600,000 patients per year with care in both rural and urban areas and they provide services in both the preventive and curative contexts.

Additionally, the Aga Khan Foundation, with branches in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, works with a variety of grantees, including AKHS, to improve the health of vulnerable population groups, especially mothers and children, and promote health services development on the national and regional levels. The Aga Khan University's Faculty of Health Sciences has joined the AKF and the AKHS in their work in health care in East Africa in the areas of professional training, especially for nurses, and epidemiological research.

The aim of the AKDN work in health care in East Africa is to assist countries in the building of effective, sustainable health systems linking different kinds of services and levels of care.

Beginning in the 1930s, the AKHS hospitals and health centres have been in East Africa. Initially there was a health centre which expanded into a maternity and nursing home in Dar es Salaam. In the 1950, maternity homes in Mombasa and Kisumu became full-service hospitals. And in 1958 in the 1950s the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi (AKH-N), was opened. That hospital is now one of the leading hospitals in the region. Today, AKHS operates five health centres and four hospitals in East Africa, including the leading private hospitals in Kenya and Tanzania.

The AKHS is committed to developing effective approaches to disease prevention and health promotion in East Africa also. In the 1980s, AKHS and AKF created primary health care projects in Kisumu and Kwale, two rural districts in Kenya. The projects have trained people in the Kisumu and Kwale communities in primary health care technologies and management, and catalysed community-based efforts to increase safe water supplies.

"In other projects in Kenya and Zanzibar, AKF is working with government services to develop tools for health sector policy design and resource allocation. AKF international experience in primary health care management and information systems, acquired through its management advancement programme, is an important resource in this area. AKF is also supporting projects, which improve the health of vulnerable groups, like women, by enhancing their socio-economic status."

As you can imagine, I could go on and on about AKHS and the AKDN, but I must end here and direct you to their web site to finish reading about their wonderful work.

Aga Khan Health Services

Monday, November 21, 2005


Okay, dear readers, I am not an engineer, but I am going to try to struggle through with this article.

[The African Technology Forum] magazine was first published in 1988 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and while the magazines are no longer being printed, articles are being posted o AFT's web site. When the magazine was published, it was published quarterly.

In addition to the articles posted on the web site, AFT states that it offers technical services in the areas of "Consulting Services," a "Professionals Network" and a "Seminar Series."

The Consulting Services program is designed to attract African technical professionals for short-term projects in Africa, while the Professionals Network seeks to link technical professional organizations in Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The ATF Seminar Series was created to provide a forum for constructive discussion on planned or ongoing projects on the African continent.

With volunteers that various backgrounds, African Technology Forum seeks to provide practical information in the area of its expertise to corporations, individuals and institutions globally. As stated on their web site, those volunteers have expertise in Architecture, Engineering, Finance, Journalism, Management Consulting, Management Information Systems, Medical Sciences, and the Sciences.

Over the years, ATF has been funded through subscriptions, advertising, consulting fees and grants. The sources of the grants have been The World Bank, USA for Africa Foundation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New England Biolabs Foundation, volunteers, and individuals.

One of the most valuable features of the ATF web site is the posting of technical articles found there. Under the heading "New ATF Feature Articles and Publications" one can find:

Basic Development and Decision Processes: Technical and Economic Analyses
by Michael Tekletsion Berhan (this article is also available in .pdf format)

How We Put Together our Own African ISP on a Shoestring
by Mark Moore and Casey Smith

Amorphous Silicon PV Panels: Are They a Good Value for the Money?
by Arne Jacobson, Richard Duke, and Daniel Kammen

Eradicating Malaria in Poor Nations: The Potential of Vector Control Measures and Vaccine Development
by Sanjay Basu (this article is also available in .pdf format)

Commercialization of Renewable Energy Technologies in Ghana: Barriers and Opportunities
by Mawuli Tse (this article is also available in .pdf format)

Engineering for Poverty Eradication in Cameroon
by Ambe Njoh, Ph.D. (this article is also available in .pdf format)

In addition to the above articles, there are also the additional "Feature Articles."

Preserving the Future for Lake Malawi
by Joshua Nyambose

Increasing Computer Literacy in Africa
by Khaitsa Wasiyo

Deforestation in Sub-Saharan Africa
by Yvonne Agyei

The Cycle Trailer in Ghana: A Reasonable But Inappropriate Technology
by Mohammed Salifu

Five Basic Steps to Finance Your Project
by Michael Sudarkasa

Finally, African Technology Forum has teamed up with the Ghana Institution of Engineers (GhIE) to publish The Ghana Engineer, the Journal of the GhIE, online. The following articles from The Ghana Engineer are published online:

The Collapse and the Ripping Off of Roofing Systems During Rainstorms in Ghana
by Ing. Samuel Addai

Groundwater: Solution to Ghana's Rural Water Supply Industry?
by P. Gyau-Boakye and S. Dapaah-Siakwan

Production Of Alum From Awaso Bauxite
by Ing. Dr. Francis Acquah, Beatrice Mensah, and Yaw Obeng

Developing National Capability for Manufacture of Activated Carbon from Agricultural Wastes
by Dr. R.B. Lartey, Ing. Dr. Francis Acquah, and K.S. Nketia (also in .pdf form)

Prospects for a Chloro-Alkali Industry Brighten in the ECOWAS
by Ing. Dr. Francis Acquah

Quality and Process Control in the Food Industry
by Pearl Adu-Amankwa

Study of the Fusibility of Some Raw Glaze Compositions
by David Tetteh

Well, there is enough reading at the end of these links to make at least some people happy. And if you are not a technical type, that's okay, because I'm not either, really. But you have to admire the amount of information that the African Technical Forum has made available to those people who are.



Sunday, November 20, 2005


S ome organizations are quiet but efficient. One such organization is the Kenya Orphans Rural Development Programme (KORDP).

This organization, like many others, works with impoverished communities that have been especially badly affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. KORDP is involved in the capacity building of the communities in Kenya it services so that those communities can better care for orphans and vulnerable children as well as spread awareness about HIV/AIDS. It takes this two-pronged approach in order “to address both the prevalence of the disease and the stigma associated with it.”

Initiated in 1966, KORDP is a non-governmental organisation that was established in Kenya “to promote community orphan care and support initiatives while contributing to the reduction of HIV/AIDS prevalence within KORDP’s partner communities in the country.”

In addition to its work in Kenya KORDP works with its sister organisations in Uganda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda to have a regional impact on the problem. These organizations come under the umbrella of Orphans Development Programme International (ODPI), a non-governmental organisation which

is registered in Canada and operates in Africa from KORDP’s headquarters.

Orphans' Development Programme International is a non-profit Non-Governmental Organisation established to promote care and support for children living in difficult circumstances , their foster families and communities in Africa. ODPI ranks as

its top priorities rendering children vulnerable to suffering in Africa to-day are HIV/AIDS and Armed conflicts. Both of these scourges are “different armies in their own right but with similar repercussions. They weaken the communities' defense mechanisms and rob families off their capability to care for their children.”

Within Kenya, KORDP works in two Districts of the Western Province and in one District in the Central Province. In the Western Province, it works in Webuye, and Kimilili Divisions of Bungoma District and in the Matayos and Budalangi Divisions of Busia District. In the Central Province it works in Kigumo Division of Maragwa District. These communities were chosen a baseline study in 1999 showed that these had the greatest need.

It is the intent of KORDP to bring about solutions by working from the top down. Central to this effort is the establishment within rural villages of early childhood development daycare centres (ECDs), which cater for children from the ages of three to six. It is also very vital to sustain these certres. These centres are so important because as many of two

-thirds of these children have lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS.

These ECDs, afford the children nutritious meals prepared by volunteers from donated food. The donations come from both outside donors and from the communities themselves. These centres also allow the children to have the opportunity to play and talk and to develop socially. With regard to their education, the children are given basic exposure to numeracy

and literacy lessons. These lessons are often crucial in enabling them to go on to receive a primary school education.

KORDP’s community nurses visit their partner communities’ ECDs regularly and check the health of the children. The organization also works closely with local governments, helping communities to access the training, funding and support that is available from the relevant ministries in fields such as education and agriculture and health.

The communities and caregivers must be able to support themselves if the are to support the young children as well. KORDP provides the necessary training and basic resources – such as seeds and dairy goats, pigs or chickens – to improve food security and enable caregivers to earn an income. Also, having an ECD to look after young children

benfits the community in that it frees the time of caregivers to engage in agriculture based income-generating activities.

Because the communities themselves decide which are the most needy caregivers who should receive the support KORDP can offer the process takes on a democratic process driven by grassroots concerns.

KORDP also provides education for the communities so that they can develop the skills they need to care for young children. This education encompasses: nutrition, health and lessons in the importance of psychosocial support. The lessons in the importance of psychosocial support are provided so that the children can be given the space to express themselves and work through their emotions. By raising the awareness of HIV/AIDS in communities, KORDP helps to reduce the stigma associated with the disease and slow its spread and thereby slow the rates of children being orphaned.

The aim of KORDP is never to foster dependence but to foster reinvigorated community which can look after themselves so that the organisaition can move its attention to a new community.

KORDP’s efficiency and effectiveness is acknowledged by its many partners, which include:

American Jewish World Service
Bernard van Leer Foundation
Embassy of France in Kenya
Ford Foundation
Lutheran World Relief
National AIDS Control Council (Kenya)
Peace Child International
Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative
Rotary Club International
UNICEF (Kenya Country Office)
World Food Programme (Kenya Country Office)

In November 2005, KORDP was awarded the Oscar van Leer Award, given every two years by the Bernard van Leer Foundation “for excellence in enabling parents and communities to help young children realise their full potential”.

You may not have heard much about Kenya Orphans Rural Development Programme and the Orphans' Development Programme International before, but take a look at their web sites, because you will be hearing more about them in the future.

Kenya Orphans Rural Development Programme

Orphans' Development Programme International

Thursday, November 17, 2005

AID TO BUDUBURAM : Many Answered The Call

Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana has gotten lots of attention in recent years, and rightfully so. An estimated 42,000 refugees from the Liberian civil war were packed into a settlement 45 km from Accra, the capital of Ghana.

In May 2003 the Population Caring Organization (PCO) was founded in response to the needs that still existed for the refugees even though the camp had been established years earlier and supported by many governments and agencies over the years.

After the rise to power by Charles Taylor, the refugee camp at Buduburam was established in 1990 to accommodate the large numbers of Liberian refugees fleeing to Ghana. In the early years, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided the refugees with individual aid and relief.

When elections were held in Liberia in 1997 that were judged by the UN to be free and fair, the UNHCR discontinued its refugee assistance at Buduburam and much of the funding for the settlement dried up. Subsequently, approximately 3,000 refugees returned to Liberia, but most remained in Ghana. During this time Buduburam settlement served as the center of the Liberian ex-patriate community.

Unfortunately, not long after the 1997 elections, things in Liberia worsened, and the refugees fled once again from Liberia to Ghana. During the latter period of the Buduburam camp the UNHCR limited its personal aid efforts to only unaccompanied minors, the elderly. UNHCR did, however fund infrastructure work within the community, making possible construction and education projects.

PCO is unique among the NGOs that work in Buduburam because it was founded by and is run by Liberian refugees volunteering their time and effort.

PCO focuses on the needs of young people because it is cognizant of the many crises that the young face when they are displaced by war and violence. PCO also feels that it is important to focus on the young because they are the ones who must rebuild for the future.

A staff of six individuals, supported by six Information, Education and Communication (IEC) Officers and Field Supervisors, develops and implements the PCO's many projects.

In order to prepare these young Liberians for the future PCO provides literacy and numerical programs to those children who are the most disadvantaged in the Liberian community. They also provide skills-training programs with the intent to help the young achieve sustainable livelihoods. Another very important aspect of PCO programs is the promotion of a culture of peace and democracy. And training in conflict-resolution skills.

In addition to these things, PCO looks to

- raise the awareness of children's rights and issues surrounding domestic violence;

- develop a clean and healthy living environment for children and their families;

- promote the physical and mental well-being of young people through sports and
leisure activities;

- raise awareness about sexual reproductive health and

- engage youth in survival and development-oriented activities.

Conflicts among the youth in the camp are resolved through the use of 14 community peace cells that PCO developed throughout the camp. These peace cells provide conflict resolution training and facilitate dialogue and reconciliation in the broader Buduburam community.

PCO also established Sanitation Teams comprised of 24 refugee men and women who clean the Buduburam Settlement six mornings a week by sweeping roads, collecting garbage, and controlling dirt.

Supported by Femmes d' Europe , PCO's Refugee Children's Learning Center provides free literacy and numerical education to children between the ages of 6 and 14 whose parents cannot otherwise afford to send them to school.

Live performances, followed by guided discussions conducted by the PCO's Cultural Troupe and Drama Group help the refugee population think about the causes of conflict in the Liberian community and transmit conflict resolution knowledge.

There is also a Skills Training Center for refugee mothers where sewing skills are taught.

A Liberian Tribal Leaders' Reconciliation Forum is conducted in collaboration with the Liberian Refugee Welfare Council. This forum brings together all tribal elders in the camp to discuss Liberia's reconciliation needs and develop an action plan for reconciliation.

In addition to utilizing local volunteers, PCO has become a partner with Global Volunteer Network that provides international volunteers as well.

PCO is registered with the Ghanaian government as a charitable NGO and is currently making plans to set up another office in Liberia, now that voluntary repatriation has begun.

In addition to PCO working to improve the quality of life in Buduburam, there is "The Vision." The Vision is a bi-monthly newspaper published by refugees living in Buduburam.

Communication for Awareness and Development (CAD), a 'Voluntary Refugee Journalists' media group' publishes the paper in collaboration with the Liberian Journalists Union, Ghana (LIJU). The publication is an eight-page newspaper that is committed to reporting human rights and socio-economic development issues.

As its Mission, The Vision is dedicated to working with journalists, social, civil and human rights organizations, local and internationally, for the empowerment of exile Liberians and Ghanaians, by education and awareness creation, through information for the protection of their rights including others.

And its Objectives are to help to train Liberian media practitioners to report on human rights, social justice and economic, as well as HIV/AIDS-sensitization, and Environmental issues. And to also help members of the general public to realize their civil, constitutional rights, and Promote good governance.

The U.S. based Unite For Sight has launched Microenterprise Initiative in Buduburam. While Unite For Sight was established to carry out a program of eye health care and education , it is pioneering a microenterprise venture in the Buduburam refugee settlement. Its pilot microenterprise program was began at Buduburam in February 2005, and it is hoped that it will serve as a model for future Unite For Sight microenterprise programs in other refugee settlements worldwide.

Unite For Sight's has committed to the Buduburam refugee community for a three-year period that will sustain its new microenterprise program that will generate income for Buduburam residents while raising funds to support Unite For Sight's programs operating on the ground.

Unite For Sight's web site says that:

"To generate income, business members will create eyeglass and sunglass cases using fabrics and threads purchased locally. The cases will then be sold within the camp and also on university campuses across North America and Europe by Unite For Sight chapter volunteers. 100% of the proceeds will fund eye care expenses at Buduburam Refugee Camp.

The initial outlay of monies for the purchase of sewing materials were supplied by Unite For Sight to the participants. Microenterprise participants will also be allowed use of the machines to generate their own personal business."

Africa Aid has presented the poverty driven problems of Buduburam to its vast network of support within the San Diego community in the U.S. Africa Aid says that "San Diego is taking responsibility for this displaced African community, confronting the ills of extreme poverty while making an investment in our nation's youth."

Through its programs Africa Aid intends to provide:

In the area of Education:

o School Lunch Programs
o School Supplies
o Teach Abroad Programs
o Teacher Training
o Student Scholarships

In the area of Health:

o HIV/AIDS Testing and Anti-Retroviral Drugs
o Basic Health Awareness Programs
o Licensing for Medically Trained Liberians

Regarding Water & Sanitation Africa Aid will attend to:

o Water Filtration and Wells
o Refuse Disposal and Sewage System Development
o Additional Restrooms at a Reduced Cost
o Irrigation Systems

And in Economic Development it will initiate:

o Microlending Program
o Small Business Development
o Export Opportunities for Africans

The Humanist Society of South Australia has lent its efforts to helping in Buduburam. And in a 2005 report, its Vice President, Dick Clifford stated that this organization was enabling up to 50 Liberian Children to be sent to school in the Buduburam Refugee Camp and sent a package of school art materials. Additionally they made a contribution to getting connected to the electricity supply to run their Computer Literacy program.

They also support The Centre for Youth Empowerment (CYE) which, among other efforts, intends to organize food packages on a monthly or bi-monthly basis depending on funds being available and has trained 32 persons in the use of computers.

Still, the Humanist Society of South Australia acknowledges that there are still many problems in the camp.

In the summer of 2005, Harvard University sent four undergraduate interns to Buduburam with the help of Saah Charles N'Tow a Liberian poet named and the Black River Project (BRP), as part of a collaborative effort with the Liberian Professionals in Rhode Island (LPRI). The Black River Project focuses on refugees' health and the organization of Liberian professionals in Rhode Island focuses on refugee orientation and adjustment to their new environment.

The Harvard University undergraduates were sent to Buduburam to provide support by working at the camp's clinic.

Many people and organizations came together to help the refugees living in Buduburam, and many were needed. I have not been able to write about all of the organizations that have helped the people of Buduburam but such a coming together of assistance should serve as an inspiration and model for others to answer the calls for aid that go out all to often all over Africa.

Let me post this Honor Roll so that you may visit the web sites of some those Organizations that have been so generous.


The Vision Online

Unite For Sight

Africa Aid - San Diego

Humanist Society of South Australia

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

BURKINA FASO & ST. AIDAN'S : More Young People Making A Difference

St. Aidan's County High School is in Carlisle Cumbria. For us Yanks and other non-Brits, a quick trip to the Atlas will tell us that Cumbria is located in the northwest of England. L'Association de Soutien al'Auto-Promotion (ASAP) is located in the Region of Piela in the landlocked west African nation of Burkina Faso.

There may not seem to be a lot in common between these two communities, but the commonality of their humanity caused them to make a connection. And through this connection the students at St. Aidan's County High School are able to help the people in the Piela Region of Bilem Purga.

This all started when a UK broadcaster by the name of Jon Snow initiated a program ("On The Line") for young people in the eight countries which lie along the zero degree meridian line to learn about each other. (The meridian deals with longitude, not latitude - so, we are not talking about the equator here.)

Anyway, a partnership was created with organizations such as Channel 4, Oxfam, the World Wide Fund For Nature-UK, Action Aid and the Central Bureau for Exchange. To help the children from the nations of Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Algeria, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom to learn about each other since they shared the same time zone.

In 1999 three pupils from St. Aidan's - Penny Ritson, Andy Lesley and Ian Rousell - began working on a project that led to the link between the school, ASAP, and ultimately the villages in the region of Piela.

The students at St. Aidan's began learning about Burkina Faso and developed a web page that provides information about many aspects of that country. They give through accounts of the location and climate of Burkina Faso, and discuss issues such as the state of the agricultural industry, education, population, health, aid, economy urbanization, village life and the environment.

In the section on Village Life, they have posted the accounts of three individuals who live in different villages in Burkina Faso. One account of daily village life is by a mother, Dayamba Puamoni and the other two are by a boy, Gayeri Yeniban, and a girl, Tindano Joyce, each.

St. Aidan's web site states that: "Fund-raising has long been a tradition at the school, and many local, national and international charities and organisations have benefited from the enthusiasm of pupils for thinking up ideas and turning them into cash."

According to their web site all forms in St Aidan's raise money for community and school projects in Piela region of Burkina Faso. Not only have the students been active, but staff, parents and the PTA have all gotten involved as well. Some of the projects have been providing wind turbines to communities, and "helping the African pupils introduce new food crops into the school garden." The project that has been described as a "top priority" is the raising of £35 each year by every form to support a student attending secondary school in Burkina Faso.

St. Aidan's has also provided matching funds for a group of women from the village of Bilem Purga to buy, rear and sell kids or lambs. Through the ASAP and funds provided St. Aidan's, each woman may borrow up to £10 for the purchase. Then these women, with the aid of their children raise the livestock. When the kids or lambs reach market weight they are sold; the women sell the livestock, repay the loan and reinvest any profit. When the loans are repaid those funds enables more women to take part in the scheme.

Through this involvement relationships have developed, networks created, funds raised, had cultural exchanges have taken place. It's a "Win - Win" situation all around.

One really should visit the "St. Aidan's - Burkina Faso" web site. It was produced by the students at St. Aidan's and well illustrates the depth of understanding gained by those students about Burkina Faso and their friends in that country. This initiative has obviously been a great benefit to the partners in the north and the partners in the south both who share the same meridian.

Burkina Faso & St. Aidan's

St. Aidan's County High School

Monday, November 14, 2005

MUSTANGH : Now, Why Didn't We Think Of That?

The story of MUSTANGH is another story of young people showing the way. In this case, it is a group of medical students from Maastricht University in the Netherlands who have initiated a program to partner with the West Gonja District Hospital (WGHD) in the Northern Region of Ghana.

To be more specific, it is a partnering between the Maastricht University Faculty of Medicine (UMFdG) and WGHD.

This all got started when an investigation was made into the possibilities of a cooperative effort between Maastricht University and a rural hospital in Ghana. This is termed as a "Twinning Project." The MUSTANGH web site says that this initiative was: "Driven by interest in Development Cooperation and triggered by the international mindset of Maastricht University."

A search was made for a "deprived hospital in need of financial and material support" that could also provide "a good educational environment for medical students to fulfil parts of their medical curriculum."

The West Gonja District Hospital (WGHD) in the Northern Region of Ghana, a needy though well managed mission hospital that is functioning relatively well was thought to meet those requirements.

An organizational diagnosis was made of WGHD and it was determined that this chould be the target hospital. The results of the daignosis were presented to both Ghana and Maastricht University and both parties became extremely interested in the potential that was shown to be possible if a partnership was undertaken

All of this was motivated by two students, Gaël Pennings and Noëmi Nijsten who initiated MUSTANGH Foundation and made possible the opportunity for Maastricht University Students to make a difference in the word by Twinning a North Ghanaian Hospital.

The mission of MUSTANGH is to "offer Maastricht medical students the possibility to do parts of their education (e.g. electives and research programmes) in a North Ghanaian rural hospital and its surrounding communities. The presence of these medical students can be seen as development assistance. To make this contribution in aid complete, it shall be expanded by financial and material support to WGDH and its surrounding communities." MUSTANGH set out to create an organisational, financial and educational structure from which they could guarantee quality and sustainability of the project.

Additionally, MUSTANGH aims to realize improvements in health care delivered by the hospital and its surrounding facilities. This will be accomplished by "providing well-coordinated financial and material donations, provided that this support meets the local needs and conforms to national and international standards." The organisation insists that the "improvements aimed at, must be as sustainable as possible." And they plan to achieve this by creating a better professional environment for doctors and nurses at WGDH, so to diminish the current braindrain towards the south of Ghana. Not only will doctors benefit from renovating the hospital and supplying the needed equipment, but Ghanaian medical students will be able to fulfil parts of their curriculum in this hospital, as well while learning to work in rural areas. This initiative will eventually result in more medical staff for the northern parts of Ghana, but in the interim the West Gonja population will receive more proper health care than was previously available.

MUSTANGH is a student run non-profit organisation that is led by a board comprised of 7 students from the Maastricht University Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences. Guidance for the student board is provided by one of the organisation's co-founders, Noëmi Nijstenm M.D., who now also functions as the board chair and project manager. Additional support is also available to the student board from a Council of Advice, consisting of professionals with expertise in different fields and by several prominent professionals at Maastricht University and in Ghana.

The decision making capabilities of the board are enhanced by a commission for PR/Acquisition. A commission for education is currently being composed. Like many other organizations that arise from a university community, MUSTANGH operates independently of Maastricht University Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences but is firmly linked to the Institute for Medical Education at Maastricht University.

The educational component of the twinning project provides manpower to WGDH by organizing an educational program for 6th year medical students. These students provide patient care, under supervision, as junior doctors in WGDH and its surrounding communities. The superintendent at WGDH acts as "external tutor" for the UMFdG / MUSTANGH students and Dr. N. Nijsten is the "internal tutor". It is anticipated that later on students will be guided by a staff member from the Department of General Practice at UMFdG.

MUSTANGH lists many reasons why medical students should study in developing nations such as Ghana. Besides the general benefits such as developing independence and problem solving skills, but there are many other reasons as well. The organisation says that students that participate in their program:

- become acquainted with a health care system in a developing country

- become acquainted with health care and its limitations in a developing country

- experience and evaluate the role of foreign medical practitioners in a developing country

- become acquainted with tropical medicine, both practically and theoretically

- practice medicine providing both cure and care

- gain basic experience in organisational tasks related to health care provision in developing countries

- as well as having an unforgettable experience in a country other than their own.

The West Gonja District, where WGDH is located, is the largest district in Ghana and is one of the thirteen administrative districts in which the Northern Region of the country is divided. The MUSTANGH web site states that Gonja's total land area is more than 2/5 of the Netherlands. The district has an estimated population of 150,000 living in approximately 318 communities. And Damongo, a town 130 km west of Tamale, serves as the administrative capital of West Gonja District.

The West Gonja District Hospital is located at Damongo. It serves as a referral centre for the health centres in the district and is run by the Catholic Church with a subvention from the Government of Ghana. Approximately 125.000 people depend on WGDH.

The hospital contains 160 beds, an outpatient department, an emergency ward, an X-ray room and a small laboratory. There is also a shortage of staff, and the state of the hospital buildings and medical equipment is far from satisfactory.

In West Gonja District there are 8 Health Centers in the surrounding communities, which have no doctors. And the students spend some of their time at these Centers.

MUSTANGH states that the "north of Ghana still is an unattractive environment for doctors to work in. A braindrain occurs; Ghanaian doctors leave the north of Ghana after finishing their education to work either in the south of Ghana or in the western world. The hospital therefore, has shortage of manpower."

The MUSTANGH web site has much, much more information about the project, the West Gonja District Hospital and a great deal of background information. But I want to spend a little time giving accolades to MUSTANGH and asking the following question:

"What is everyone else waiting for?"

MUSTANGH has shown that it can be done; and that it is an enriching experience for both the client hospital and for the students who go there to provide assistance. Many medical schools in developed nations have the ability to do the very same thing that MUSTANGH is doing. But so few of them are doing it.

I would like to make a request of the health care professionals that read this Blog. And I would like to make a request of all of those individuals who are interested in health care in developing nations that read this Blog. That request is that they send this article to medical schools and teaching hospitals in developed nations and ask them when they are going to follow MUSTANGH's lead?

Every Teaching Hospital and Medical University in the developed nations should consider following MUSTANGH's example.

Three Cheers for MUSTANGH!

Three Cheers for Maastricht University Faculty of Medicine!

Three Cheers for The Netherlands!

Read more about Visit MUSTANGH here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

SEND A COW : Why Send Milk When You Can Send The Whole Cow?

Back in Early September of this year, I wrote an article about an organization called Heifer that was founded in 1944. At the time, I thought that Heifer was rather unique. But since then I have come across a similar organization called Send a Cow.

Send a Cow was founded in 1988 in response to a plea from a Ugandan bishop. After the long civil war which left much of the country devastated, many people had lost their homes as well as most of their livestock. With few cattle remaining in the agricultural industry, milk had become an unaffordable luxury. As Send a Cow says on its web site: “The bishop had heard there were milk surpluses in the UK, and appealed to British farmers for help.”

Instead of sending milk, a group of Christian farmers got together and decided to send the cows themselves. These farmers, based mainly in the West Country believed that sending cows would help provide a long-term solution to the problem in Uganda.

When the cows arrived in Uganda in June of 1988 local church groups helped Send a Cow to distribute them to poor women. The women who received these cows also received training on how to care for the animals, and arrangements were made for low-cost veterinary services.

Send a Cow became a registered charity later that year, and by 1996 over 300 cows had been flown from the UK to Uganda. Unfortunately, when the bovine spongiform encephalopathy crisis (now I know why people just say “BSE”crisis”) hit the UK Send a Cow was forced to change our strategy and purchase all the gift livestock in Africa.

Two years later, after 10 years of operation Send a Cow launched a new programme called StockAid. StockAid targeted the very poorest people, especially those who have suffered from war, drought and AIDS in the organization’s client countries. A cow requires a lot of resources to maintain and many poor people in developing countries do not have the means to keep a cow. So Send a Cow began sending smaller livestock to their recipients. These smaller livestock included animals such as goats and poultry. In addition to varying the livestock it provided, Send a Cow began to expand the sustainable farming component of its training programmes.

In 1999 gained greater national recognition when it was chosen as one of the charities featured in the Daily Telegraph’s Christmas Appeal. This attention brought with it additional contributions which allowed the organization to expand its work in Africa and to increase its staff in the UK. While the bulk of the funding comes from the general public, additional funding is received from institutions such as the Department for International Development, Comic Relief, the Diana Memorial Fund, and smaller trusts.

Today, Send a Cow has operations in seven countries. Those are Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Zambia and Tanzania. Additionally, the organization has worked with a group in Sudan.

The gifts now provided include cows, goats, pigs, poultry, bees and fruit trees, for new and established projects. It is planned that in the future the organization will be supplying rabbits, fish and even draft oxen.

While Send a Cow works in seven countries, their web site boasts that “If you want to see how Send a Cow’s model works in practice, look to Uganda.” Uganda had been the location of their largest and longest-running programme. And it is there that Send a Cow is beginning to see the full effects of its work.

In Uganda many of the groups that were originally helped are rapidly expanding and becoming self-sufficient. They are even becoming a source for the transfer of skills in the communities where they exist.

Send a Cow now has three programmes in Uganda: one each in the east, the centre and the north of the country. A total of about 30 groups have worked with Save a Cow in Uganda. While most of the groups are women’s groups; three are groups of disabled people and is one comprised of children heads of households.

Due mainly to differences in climate there are regional variations to the programmes. Northern Uganda is arid and the farmers there need to cultivate more land to grow the same amount of food as in the south. Because of this Send a Cow has provided cows for plowing the fields. Water conservation and techniques to improve soil quality are given greater attention in the programmes in this part of the country.

Two of the groups in Uganda’s longest running projects have become very self-sufficient and no longer receive any livestock from Send a Cow. Instead, they give new members animals that have been passed on from existing farmers. Peer training techniques are also showing signs of paying off as some of the farmers are giving their neighbors training in group work and organic farming.

The benefits of these successes are spreading as well, the organization is now bringing some Kenyan farmers to Uganda to learn the same organic farming techniques. And the water and soil conservation techniques that have proven to be successful in northern Uganda have been transferred to Ethiopia and Lesotho where they are getting good results as well

Send a Cow is delighted with the way their work in Uganda is “snowballing” and they are rightfully proud in a job well done and a job they continue to do well.

I could spend just as much time talking about the separate Send a Cow programmes in the other six nations, but that would make the article too long. So, here’s the link if you want to visit Send a Cow .

And by the way, if you want to really give a meaningful Holiday Gift this season (It doesn’t just have to be for Christmas, you know.), why not visit Send a Cow’s 2005 Christmas Catalogue ?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

JEUNESSE et DÉVELOPPEMENT Making A Difference In Mali

For the past two days I have posted articles about International Service , the UK NGO that works with quite a few partners in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Today I am going to focus on one of those organizations, Jeunesse et Développement (J&D)

Established in 1993, J&D works "to empower young people to develop their potential and play an active role in Mali's development." In addition to working with urban youth, J&D works with local partners in 15 villages in the South of Mali to promote an integrated approach to community health, women's initiatives, employment, support for women's groups and marginalised children and young people, civic education and literacy.

These programs are all carried out with J&D's objectives of providing health and education and to promote reproductive health; to support and facilitate initiatives to develop income generation and to encourage the concept of citizenship.

The strategy they employ is to work with communities, community based organisations and marginalised young people to facilitate an analysis of their environment; support initiatives to improve conditions for the most marginalised groups and to ensure the durability of actions undertaken

J&D puts particular emphasis on: staff training, the progressive transfer of skills and competence along with an effective partnerships with communities, local authorities, NGOs and Associations and state technical services. They also put particular emphasis on gender issues.

While aiming for transparency to ensure responsible management of their initiatives, they realize that the local communities are the principal actors and J&D are the intermediaries whose main role it is to facilitate the achievement of the communities' development objectives.

When Jeunesse & Développement was created in 1993 and received legal recognition on 11 December 1995. From 1995 to1998 members were busy acquiring a range of experience and skills working with other organizations, so during that time, J&D itself went through a period of inactivity.

With funding from ActionAid J&D was able to start several initiatives beginning in 1999. Today, the organisation has a range of local, national and international partners and is an established and effective NGO. The office in Bamako has a team of thirteen workers, with a further 10 based in the field.

J&D has also been very much involved in introducing and supporting the Reflect approach to social change in francophone West Africa.

Reflect is an innovative approach to both adult learning and social change that was first piloted in Uganda in the mid-1990s. Since then, it has spread rapidly to over 350 organisations in 60 natins. The work of Reflect in Africa was coordinated and facilitated by ActionAid between 1996 and 2003, through a Regional Co-ordination Unit based in ActionAid Uganda and sub-regional coordinators in Mali, Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa. Currently, an African wide network called "Pamoja" and comprised of African practitioners from a wide range of organizations has now set up to further develop this work. (I hope my UK friends will forgive me for "Americanizing" the spelling and grammar in this sentence.)

More information about all the efforts of Reflect may be found at the Reflect web site as well as information on its approach, evolution, international contacts and activities in different countries around the world.

Reflect in Francophone West Africa

In 1999 Mahamadou Cheick Diarra of Jeunesse et Développement became the Reflect coordinator and resource person for the francophone countries of Africa. Since then Reflect training has taken place in Chad, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Guinea and Niger. Additionally participants from Mauritania and Cameroon have attended some of this training and Diarra has facilitated training in Haiti, Rwanda and Burundi, which are also francophone countries.

Another very exciting development is that annually, representatives of both anglophone and francophone countries in West Africa have meet together and have exchanges about their experiences. These meetings took place in Mali in 2000, the Gambia in 2001, Burkina Faso in 2002, Ghana in 2003 and Senegal in 2004. Also, a national practitioner networks are being set up in several countries as well.

Because of the efforts of J&D, Reflect circles exist in 26 villages in the south of Mali where the Reflect approach has been introduced. Participants in these communities are developing their understanding of issues such as health, civic education, livestock, agriculture, environment, micro-finance, gender issues and apiculture; as well as developing their communication skills through literacy and speaking in public.

Several of the J&D personnel are experienced Reflect trainers and the organisation is a point of reference where people can access information and contacts concerning the approach. The organization also provides English to French translation for documentary material in an attempt to make more of such material available in French. This also helps J&D to carry out an advocacy role in order to give voice to the practitioners from francophone countries in the international Reflect arena. J&D is proud of its recent work in translating and printing the french version of the new Reflect practitioners resource "Communication and Power".

More about Jeunesse et Développment's work with Reflect can be found at: Reflect and Jeunesse et Développment (This is the English version of the web site, a French version is also available.)

Another of J&D's major initiatives is "Children in Difficult Situations" - J&D's website states about Children in Difficult Situations: "This wording varies from country to country. Some refer to "street children" and others "young people in difficult situations" but its meaning remains the same. They include children and young people from 8 to 25 who have left their families and are living permanently on the street. They are poor people who can be found in public places such as cemeteries, market places, bus stations, beaches, cinemas and theatres etc. because they have nowhere else to go. They are the numerous young people full of unexploited potential who deserve education and training instead of rejection and danger and who fill our towns and cities begging on the streets. All of them have terrible living conditions. They are very often innocent victims of a system that exposes them to prostitution, sexual abuses and other forms of exploitation."

Working in partnership with organisations in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali and Togo for some years now, J&D has been able to offer young people in difficult situations health care, training, formal and informal education and support in order to facilitate their social reintegration and ensure their well-being. Oxfam GB, through the On The Line programme, has (and continues) to contribute to the efforts to improve the livelihood of these children.

ON THE LINE is aimed at emphasizing the similarities and differences of the lives of different people living on the Greenwich meridian and to share the riches and varieties of their cultures. The West Africa ON THE LINE programme has initiated exchanges among the organisations working with street children in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali and Togo. These exchanges have lead to two important meetings.

The first of these meetings was the The Accra Meeting, which took place from April 11 to 18 in 2000 This meeting followed an exploratory mission to Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Togo carried out by J&D agents and people from approximately 40 additonal organisations that work with street children.

based on the outcomes of the Accra meeting J&D proposed guide lines for a further meeting in Bamako that took place from the 17th until the 28th of November 2000.

The objectives of the Accra meeting were to enable participants from the four countries to consolidate their experience, resources and skills by sharing and discussing those experiences. The further objective was to develop ideas for the Bamako meeting and to organize that event for November 2000

The Bamako Meeting broadened the participation to include representatives from street children from the four countries. The aim of this process was to "improve access to services such as lodging, education, health care and economic independence by clarifying the current situation and strengthening the capacity of organisations working with this group." It was a futher aim of the Bamako meeting to raise public awareness about children's needs and rights and to give young people a voice to express themselves to the authorities and society as a whole. The Bamako meeting lasted nine days.

Themes discussed during both the Accra Meeting and the Bamako Meeting can be found at J&D's "Children in Difficult Situations" web page .

The Bamako Meeting ended with the reading of the "Bamako Declaration" that summed up the conclusions, suggestions and recommendations of the young people concerned.

This document was produced by the young people's workshop of which it is an integral part. It may also be found at: Bamako Declaration

There is much, much more to talk about that J&D is doing, such as The Micro Project Programme, which arose out of The Bamako Declaration's expressed need to involve young people themselves in the search for solutions to their problems. This new initiative takes a child centred approach, called "youth for youth", which aims to meet some of the needs that the young people expressed during the Bamako meeting and to keep developing that approach. There are quite a few other programmes that they have ongoing as well. But I will have to refer you to Jeunesse et Développement's web site to get more information as my promise to keep these articles short must be honored.

Visit Jeunesse et Développement and read more about the wonderful work they are doing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

INTERNATIONAL SERVICE: Redux - Setting Language Barriers Aside

BYesterday, I had to bring my article to a close without finishing what I had to say about International Services. And the reason for taking so much time with this subject it so point out that language need not be a barrier when providing assistance to communities in developing nations.

I left off after listing IS's partners in Mali. But there is a lot more to say about what IS is doing in Mali

For four years IS has worked with groups in Mali involved in supporting vulnerable children and young people who leave home to work in cities. As a result of this commitment, Jeunesse et Développement (J&D: Youth and Development en anglais) asked International Service to help establish a center for disadvantaged young people that would enable them to develop vocational skills and engage in social and educational activities.

Jeunesse et Développement is an organization that was founded in 1993, J&D as a Malian NGO to help enable young people to develop their potential in the areas of income generation, health education, and citizenship.

In what has been termed "a groundbreaking venture," J&D organised an international consultation in November 2000 to bring together street children from four West African countries and those working with them. Discussion and debate were held for nine days, after which, the young people spoke for themselves and expressed their hopes and needs for the future.

Out of this came the "Bamako Declaration" that guides the work of J&D. This Declaration calls for a better understanding of the needs of children to be heard - not only within families, but within local and national governments as well.

At the Centre established by IS and J&D there will be provided employment training classes in literacy and math as well as business management classes. Counselling and advice on services available to young people will be available at the Centre as well; along with sports and games, leisure and cultural activities and information about reproductive health.

Maximizing the potential of the Centre, the project will be conducted in co-operation with other organizations and the young people themselves will play a key role in the management.

The other organizations working on the project will come from the Bamako area and include organizations such as schools, health clinics and savings banks to gain access to basic services for young people. In addition, links will be established with local trades people who are willing to offer training opportunities. It is intended that eventually employment opportunities will also be created by the project.
There is much more to this project than I have written here, and you can learn about it at the International Services web site.


Mali is not the only country in Francophone Africa in which International service has been active. IS has been in Burkina Faso since 1978, working mainly in the geo-graphical areas that receive only limited attention from other international development agencies. The majority of their local partners are NGOs, that work with local communities in both rural and urban areas and focus on issues such as public awareness, education/training and natural resource management, as well as small business management and access to other services such as credit and savings.

In Burkina Faso, IS focuses on the major themes of sustainable livelihoods and organisational development. The main role of the IS development workers there is to support the local organizations with whom they partner. That support can take the form of technical training, or advice on institutional and organisational capacity building. This is done "to help the partners become more effective and efficient in the development work they do, and to sustain their interaction with their target groups into the future."

The IS Field Office in Burkina Faso is located in Ouagadougou. And some of their Burkinabe partners are:

Action on Disability in Development (ADD)
Focus: to encourage and support disabled peoples' groups and organisations to help their individual members become more independent and self sufficient, and enable them to participate more in the development of their country.

Association Feminine pour le Development (AFD/Buayaba)
Focus: to promote sustainable development that recognises women in society and the role they play.

Action Micro Barrages (AMB)
Focus: the construction of small dams, and it also runs credit and savings schemes for the benefit of local people in the area.

Association d'Appui et de Promotion Rural du Gulmu (APRG)
Focus: supporting and promoting rural development, to provide savings and credit, promote environmental protection, support local income generating activities, and facilitate local group development.

Association pour la Recherche et la Formation en Agro-écologie (ARFA)
Focus: the promotion of sustainable agriculture and environmental protection and it has helped set up credit funds to enable local people develop their income generating activities.

Association de Soutien à l'Auto-Promotion (ASAP)
Focus: to assist and support the local population in their efforts to develop self help initiatives through activities such as training in agricultural, environmental and healthcare issues.

Centre National de Semences Forestières (CNSF)
Focus: carries out research on local and exotic tree species, sells tree seeds and seedlings, and provides training to local people interested in the propagation, management and use of trees.

Action des femmes pour le developpement (Micro-start)
Focus: to promote women's socio-economic conditions by encouraging efficient local credit schemes for women, providing appropriate technical, material and financial support for community based activities, helping communities take control of their own initiatives and stimulate new initiatives for employment for women, and improving levels of literacy amongst women.

Association Pengdwendé
Focus: awareness raising, training, organisation, support to income generating and environmental protection activities, as well as the promotion of the rights of young girls and women.

Radio Salankoloto
Focus: a small community radio station in the capital that runs programmes which among other things contributes to local awareness raising on important issues such as HIV/AIDS.

Reseau de Communication, d'Information et de Formation des Femmes dans les Organismes Non Gouvernementals au Burkina Faso (RECIF/ONG-BF)
Focus: a network organisation in the capital concerned with the well being and status of women and whose activities include research, awareness raising, provision of relevant information, training and general support to its member organisations.

Reseau National de Lutte Anti-Corruption (REN-LAC)
Focus: to contribute to the development of an environment of morality and transparency in the management of daily affairs in the capital and other towns and cities.

Association Tin Tua (ATT)
Focus: three main areas: Basic Education, Food Security and Capacity Building. Main activities include adult literacy training and children's primary education, agricultural development with e.g. new techniques and cereal stores, and community development with capacity building and income generating activities.

IS also has a Training Centre for People with Disabilities in Burkina Faso. In Burkina Faso, IS has worked closely with a network of agencies concerned with the rights and opportunities of people, however its partner FEBAH (Federation of Burkinabé Associations for the Promotion of Disabled People) "has developed a plan to establish a Training Centre to extend appropriate vocational training to many more of Burkina's disabled people."

International Service's web site says that FEBAH is an "umbrella organisation linking about 250 smaller groups of people with disabilities." IS says, "FEBAH's aims are extensive and visionary as well as practical," and include:

- Enabling people with disabilities to make their voices heard and to actively participate in the economic, social and cultural life of the country.

- Representing disabled peoples' organisations in national and regional decision

- Making forums to ensure government and regional policies benefit everyone.

- Supporting people with disabilities with training and social support to ensure full integration into society.

The FEBAH Training Centre will provide training in appropriate skills as well as the opportunity for people to meet and mix, build up confidence and share experiences.

The people most invested in its success - the disabled people themselves - will operate the FEBAH Training Centre.

In addition to the training an awareness programme is planned to help people to understand the causes of disabilities. Because some disabilities are preventable through better health awareness this programme can help towards preventing individuals falling victim to a disability. Also, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and prejudice about the causes of disabilities, and this programme can address these problems.

Both skills training and literacy work will form the core of the Centre's programme. Skills training will include: metalwork (which encompasses bicycle and plough repair), production of kitchen and farming equipment; arts and crafts skills (which include the production of chairs, shoes and other leather items, tables and clothing). The literacy classes will be held as the Centre and will focus on basic literacy skills.

I apologize for the length of this article, but I did not want to leave out any important parts, and I did not want to carry it over to a third day.

There are two things that I would like for the reader to come away with after reading this article, and that is:

First - There are many NGOs in Francophone Africa with whom NGOs based in English speaking countries can partner. The "myth" often repeated among English speakers that there are not many NGOs in the Francophone African nations is just that - "a myth." The articles over the last two days have listed quite a few organizations in Mali and Burkina Faso alone.

Second - It is not impossible for NGOs based in English speaking countries to partner with NGOs in Francophone African nations. International Services has proven that it can be done quite efficiently. We should not let language be a barrier to providing assistance to those who need it. And if anyone would like to know how it is done, I am very sure that the people at International Services would be happy to tell you how.

So, No Excuses, Give them a buzz. International Service.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I receive a lot of email asking my why I don't write more about NGOs in the Francophone nations of Africa. Well, with the help of really great NGO in found in the UK, I think I can bring more light to organizations in at least two countries: Mali and Burkina Faso. That UK NGO is International Service.

International Service (IS), the oldest of the British volunteer sending agencies, was founded in 1953. It is a UK registered charity and was established as the United Nations Association (UNA) Trust's response to the Dutch floods in the year of IS's founding.

Not long after its creation, IS began to expand its operations outside Europe. International Service became an independent charitable company in 1998, and remains so today, though it still maintains its links with the UNA.

IS works to "promote long-term development in poor communities in the Third World by working in partnership with local organisations, non-governmental or governmental organisations or the two in collaboration." And when they say that they work with partners, they are not exaggerating. Later, I will show you a list to their partners in two regions where they work.

When the organization receives requests for skills that are not available in a local region, is responds by providing Development Workers, who share their skills and experiences with those local people in order to strengthen their efforts to improve their situation.

These Development Workers provided by IS work in tandem with individual, groups and communities to address the problems at hand. But IS believes that it is important for them to help the local communities to build capacity through increasing organisational awareness and consciousness so that those partner organizations are better able to take control of their own functions and future in a responsible manner. And so, they work towards that end in all their partnerships.

In the UK, Global Citizenship is a goal of IS. And work is done to promote that concept - which they define as "Having a sense of your role in the world and being willing to take action to bring about change towards the goal of the eradication of poverty."

IS uses campaigns, educational materials and other initiatives to promote understanding and increase awareness of development issues. The information they disseminate is based on their own information and experiences gained from the field.

International Service works continuously to increase links between their southern partners and northern civil society groups and also with other partners in the North such as academic institutions and professional groups.

While International Service works in a number of countries, I would like to focus in this article on Mali and Burkina Faso.


Since 1978 International service has been placing development workers with local partner organisations in Mali. And they usually have between 10 and 15 development workers in the field at any one time. IS sees its main priorities in Mali as being organisational development and capacity building. This is seen as a means to support the development of civil society, which is necessary if decentralisation and participatory democracy (two of the stated aims) are to be met in that nation.

Currently most of IS's Development Workers in Mali are engaged with local NGOs helping them to improve their capacity and increase their ability to better respond to the needs of varying groups. For example, by being better able to effectively make situation analyses and to better plan and set objectives, while monitoring and evaluating the development activities/processes the partners can more effectively help their clients.

Financing being a major concern of any NGO, the Development Workers often assist partner organizations in obtaining funding for their activities.

The sustainability of livelihoods, natural resources management, vocational training, savings and credit, and income generation are also supported goals of a number of partner organizations.

IS maintains a Field Office in Mali in its capital of Bamako and works with the following Malian partner organisations:

Association d'Appui à l'auto Développement Communautaire (AADEC)
Functions: education, micro-enterprise development, youth health, decentralisation and governance issues.

Association pour le Développment et l'Appui aux Communautés (ADAC)
Functions: to improve living conditions in local communities through reinforcing their technical, economic and organisational capacities with activities such as training, information, literacy and access to financial resources.

Association Action Promotion Développement (APDev)
Functions: a savings and credit project and a market gardening, nutrition and literacy programme for rural women near Bamako, child survival, the promotion of democracy and decentralization. APDev focuses on the areas around the capitol and the Cercle of Yanfolila in the south of Mali.

Association Jeunesse Action (AJA)
Functions: promoting employment training, skills training and awareness programmes in employment generation and micro-enterprise.

Association Malien pour la Promotion des Entreprises Feminines (AMAPEF)
Functions: to contribute to the socio-economic development of women by promoting enterprise initiatives.

Association pour le Progrès et la Défense des Droits des Femmes Maliennes (APDF)
Functions: women's rights, to help organise women to build their confidence to defend their rights and improve their wellbeing at socio-economic, legal and cultural levels, activities include education and training, micro-enterprise finance, information and awareness raising, support to women in difficult circumstances, as well participation in events organised at local, national or international levels.

Action Recherche pour le Dévelopment des Initiatives Locales (ARDIL)
Functions: tree-planting, support of women groups with credit and project realisation and support of two communal health centers, environment, health and micro-credit.

Conseils et Appui pour l'Education à la Base (CAEB)
Functions: to promote participatory development of local groups by reinforcing their management capacities, small business promotion, savings and credit development.

Coordination des Organisations pour la Promotion des Jeunes Travailleurs (COPJT)
Functions: a network linking 16 different organisations and offering a variety of services to young migrant domestic workers such as evening literacy classes and skills training to health care, legal advice and advocacy.

Coordination des Organismes Travaillant dans l'Assainissement et la Protection de l'Environnement (COTAPE)
Functions: 20 member groups working in the field of garbage disposal and wastewater management in the city of Sikasso.

Group d'Appui Environnementale Walia (GAE - Walia)
Functions: to reinforce local capacities within natural resource management, family health, environmental protection, and educational infrastructure.

Group de Recherche et d'Applications Techniques (GRAT)
Functions: to promote sustainable development in both rural and urban contexts, applying appropriate technologies for using available natural resources, co-operation and collaboration between different groups involved in development, and exchange of information, ideas and experiences, technical and institutional support to locally initiated development projects; action research, development, adaptation and promotion of appropriate technologies; support for professional training; organisation of workshops, seminars; and developing and maintaining a documentation centre.

Jeunesse et Développement (J&D)
Functions: to empower young people to develop their potential and play an active role in development, to promote an integrated approach to community health, women's initiatives, civic education and literacy and introducing and supporting the Reflect approach to social change in francophone West Africa.

Radio Wassoulou
Functions: a community radio station whose programmes focus on mother and child health, school attendance (especially among girls); improving the status of women; preserving cultural heritage and traditional knowledge; encouraging people to exercise their civic rights and responsibilities; improving the capacities for good governance on an associative and communal level; and profitable agricultural production techniques.

Centre de Formation Sabatisso (SFS)
Functions: to support the improvement of local skills in the construction sector, offers training programmes covering among others math and French, building design, work regulations and practical construction skills to young unemployed and school dropouts in the Bamako region.

Stop Sahel
Functions: include sustainable agriculture, environmental management and women's credit, savings and income generating activities.

My, my! Look at the time. I've run over my limit already and I have even finished the first half of what I want to say about International Services. So, it looks like I will have to direct you to their web site; but I am also going to try to continue this tomorrow as a two-part article. Maybe even a three-part article. But you have to admit that International Services has found plenty of partners in Francophone Africa. And for those of you who are looking for partners in Mali or Burkina Faso, it might be a good idea to make contact with IS.

Now, if you can't wait to hear more about International Services, for to their web site at: International Services; or you can wait until I finish writing about this Great organization tomorrow or the next day.