Mission Partners

The ordination (part 2)

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One might expect that the official, long holiday break from Bible College might have offered a break from hectic activity, something that could be termed, ‘holiday’. Dream on! 

When I last wrote a newsletter, at the end of May, the 3-year Theology students were about to sit their final papers, set by the Anglican Province of Tanzania.  As Peter was sent off driving and translating for all the different groups of visitors to the Diocese, I was left to administer the papers, amongst the tension of both students and teachers.  The 2-year course students were sitting their exams at the same time, so I had some supervising and marking of papers to do as well.  Peter was back in time for the Graduation service and celebration meal, but as the 3-yr papers had to be taken to Kongwa for marking, we didn’t know the results until a few weeks later.  I must say that we were amazed that 10 out of our 11 students passed their Certificate of Theology.  There was much rejoicing!  Bishop Given was thrilled too, and has plans for the top students to further their studies; the others will be placed in parishes of the Diocese.

A group of eleven 17  year olds and three teachers from Bishop Justus School in Rochester arrived to help with building projects in the village of Chemba.  Their school has sent different teams for three years now.  The local children adore them.  We have a World Heritage site only 45 mins drive from Kondoa, at a place called Kolo.  Peter and I accompanied the students to have a look.  Massive rock formations and rock paintings there have been estimated as at least 20000 years old, through carbon dating. 

It is seen as a very spiritual place by the locals, especially at one site where there is a large ‘room’ under a massive rock.  It can only be reached by slithering through on your stomach!  Not one of us cared to try that!  The guide said he had brought many people there to pray to the gods for things small and big, such as to be elected into Parliament!

In the middle of the school’s visit, Peter and I were required to go on retreat for two days before his ordination to the priesthood, on July 16.  This was at Chemba this year.  There were just three couples involved: John and Christina, Amos and Joyce, and Peter and Chris!  John, Amos and Peter had all been ordained as deacons last year, and found worthy by the bishop to be ordained as priests this year.  Sunday’s service was a huge affair.  The school students who were present, reckoned that it was 6 hours long!  There must have been at least 8 choirs from surrounding villages, Kondoa and Chemba itself, and each had prepared a special item for the day.  The large church was packed out.

After one day back in Kondoa, Peter had to travel again, this time to Korogwe, in the Tanga district. It is a long drive, and he decided to bus to Dodoma then join in with others destined for the same meeting of principals of Bible Colleges.

In the meantime I was expected to be part of a Mothers’ Union leaders’ meeting gathering in Kondoa from all over the Diocese.  As I am now a Mama Mchungaji, basically meaning a pastor’s wife, I am expected to turn up to all these meetings.  If they are as long as that one was (3 – 11:30pm), I might start becoming creative with my excuses.  One thing that did excite me was a discussion about children’s work.  It was noted that all Muslim children are expected to go straight from school to classes about the doctrines of Islam, but we Christians don’t have even a mid-week children’s class.  Do we not think it’s important that children get a good grounding in the Scriptures, they asked? Most Sundays there is Sunday School, but there is little organisation to it.  Please pray that the passion expressed in that meeting, will be turned to action, so that we can disciple children to be strong in their faith and their knowledge of God’s Word.

The Bible College students, both the new 3-year course and the 2-year course, are expected to arrive by August 6.  The first week will be an orientation week, then straight into lectures.  Please pray especially for the new students, as they get used to study and a new environment, and for their families coping at home without them.

Please pray for Bishop Given as he will be going on Sabbatical leave from half way through August until December.  Pray also for continuity of support for the Bible College financially.

Peter spoke at our Saturday morning fellowship today on Hebrews chapter 11 verses 1,2 which are well worth reflecting on:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Christchurch Cambodian Evening

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Join Anthony and Anne McCormick for an evening celebrating all things Cambodian, complete with Khmer cuisine, entertainment and an update from folk who have recently returned from Cambodia. Saturday 5 August 6pm at St Christopher’s Church (corner Avonhead Rd and Coniston Ave). 

Tickets $25 per adult (family price available).

Tickets available from Anne (ph. 022 457 6924), the NZCMS Office or St Christopher’s (Office hours 9am-2pm Mon-Fri).

If you’re planning on coming, please respond immediately as the caterer needs to know final numbers on Thursday morning.

Summer in Albania

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Summer has arrived in this part of the world, and our daily temperature is usually in the mid 30°c, which changes the way life happens here. Our daily routine at the moment often includes an afternoon siesta, and more time meeting with people in coffee shops for a drink. We are currently making a list of people we haven’t seen in a while so that we can meet them for a coffee and a catch up while life is less busy.

Team. Some of our team members are now on Home Assignment and all the kids are off school for over two months. This means our team meetings take on a different feel, as they are more often like family outings together. We are yet to get together this summer because last week we were all away together with the Kosovo and Bulgarian missionaries for our annual ‘Prayer Days.’ This was a time to focus on deepening relationships, studying scripture (1 Peter) and praying together.

Community Centre. In our last newsletter we told you about the new vision that the pastor, Erion, has been developing regarding beginning a community centre called “Ethos” in the main church building. The vision has developed. There is now a venue for youth to go to learn, or practice, their English, learn a musical instrument, or just to hang out together with other Christians. With a short term team they have also begun to make some contacts. Pray for the centre as it develops. 

Main Church. With the development of the community centre, the main congregation has now begun meeting in the building where the church plant is based (the majority of the congregation actually live in that area), and a new leadership team is being set up to oversee and lead the main congregation as the pastor’s main focus will be on the community centre. Some people are struggling with the change as it was done quickly, and without a lot of time for consultation. Our role has developed to support and work with the new leadership team, who are largely unprepared for the task ahead.

Outreach to Poliçan. Murray, Bujar and Genci have begun regular weekly visits to Poliçan with the aim to develop a number of small Bible study groups.The first Bible study group met last week, and it was a positive and encouraging time.

 

“Can I talk about rubbish?”

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We’ve been busy, but it’s been a good kind of busy. Our sewing enterprise continues to take shape. We’re hoping sales in New Zealand and Australia can help us keep the prices affordable for the local market, thereby contributing, even in a small way, to reduced rubbish and carbon footprint. We’re approaching food banks in NZ about whether they’d accept our re-usable cloth sanitary pads if donated for those unable to afford disposable pads (apparently topical there right now). Let us know if making such a donation interests you or a group you know. Email office@nzcms.org.nz if you want to hear more.

Hearing about our products, our girl’s teacher invited one of us to be the “creative parent teacher” on the theme of “women’s empowerment” to celebrate the birthday of a famous campaigner for girls’ education. “Can I talk about rubbish?” she asked. “Of course,” he replied, “the main thing is that you’re a woman.”

So began our series of presentations: “Living with rubbish”. Where does rubbish go? What animals are affected? What happens when you burn it? All novel questions, it seems, around here. Promoting the three “R” (reduce, reuse, recycle), we discussed alternatives to buying heavily packaged takeaways, which left parents and teachers in the audience challenged to change their consumption habits. “This is really important,” said one parent, “everyone should hear this”. After three years of living with the overwhelming reality of the rubbish around us, it is deeply satisfying to share meaningfully about this.

We’ve done the presentation five times now, including in our neighbourhood. As well as a platform to promote the products, it feels good to celebrate our rubbish-picking neighbours as eco-heroes. Without them, our city would have 30% more rubbish to deal with! Unfortunately, they are often regarded as dirty, impolite, unhealthy bottom-feeders. “They’re actually richer than many of the legitimate citizens of this area,” the local government official tried to tell me, “squatting for free, paying no tax. They can just go home to their houses in the village.”

Such discussions have been informed by my part-time study. This semester’s topic was “climate change, justice and sustainability.” One of my first assignments was to write a letter to people back home about my convictions about climate change. You can ask for a copy by emailing office@nzcms.org.nz. I’ve also written an essay regarding “Rich Christians in an Age of Climate Change” with some thoughts for the church here, and another essay on climate change risks for our rubbish-picking neighbours and local perceptions and priorities to adapt to an increasingly uncertain future.

New wheels for Dianne

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We’re delighted to share that our big item of praise: a new set of wheels! Its a “new” but not new diesel Toyota 2.5E Innova, the 2010 model with 7 seats (with removable seats), only 61000 kms on the odometer and it’s had only one owner. Other than one slight mark outside, it’s pretty much immaculate. So we are very happy.

I asked Obet to put it on a rise outside our Home of Love and Compassion so I could take a good photo. At that moment some of the children from the Children’s Home arrived from school, and they were excited to be in the photo. And Melany our Social Worker happened to also arrive with Gelai, our little Cerebral Palsy child. They had just brought her new set of wheels as well – a stroller!

This means we’re now set to fetch you from the airport when you visit! In fact, we’ve recently been able to pick up a team from the airport using this car for the first time: a group from St John’s Rangiora.. And what a great time we have had with them over National Disability Month. (Plus its really nice to just be with kiwis!)

Let me tell you a story

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Last time Mama Miriam, 40, was pregnant, her baby died at birth. “A” was determined this time would be different.

Every week, a dozen pregnant women gather with A and her team-mate. They talk about nutrition, foetal growth, breast feeding and other revolutionary ideas. They even practised putting condoms on cucumbers. (The bananas were too ripe). They usually finish with some stretches and A checks their blood pressures.

She noticed Mama’s blood pressure was high. “It’s happening again” said A, remembering last year’s tragedy. “You must go to the clinic as soon as possible”.

A local midwife did a quick ultra sound and estimated her pregnancy at six or seven months, and the baby only 1kg. The government clinic agreed that keeping her blood pressure down for the next two months was going to be important. “But your case is too complex for us here” they said. “You need a letter from Social Services to get free treatment at the public hospital.”

Thankfully Mama has been diligent with her documentation, and is one of the few people in our neighbourhood with an official identity card, somehow obtained for her unofficial address. She even managed to get a letter out of the local government representative to show she was ‘poor’. She remembered smugly: “He was asking me for money, because I’m not in his official area, but I just kept silent, and he gave it to me anyway.” Her own husband was ill, so she had waddled her own pregnant self to about four different public agencies on public transport getting the right signatures.

Knowing time was precious, Mama and A gathered all her documents and set out early the next morning for the Social Services office. It turned out that Social Services wasn’t at the location the clinic said it would be. So where is it? “It’s close” a bystander said. “That way I think”. If you’ve ever experienced an Asian megacity then you know how unhelpful such vague directions can be, with roads rarely signposted, buildings unnumbered, and houses and offices mashed together in an impossible pile of human enterprise.

The goose-chase that followed took them (via other loosely associated government offices) to a home for street kids and the homeless. The place was oddly empty except for a group of uniformed men hanging about smoking. A well-meaning social worker visiting from out of town took pity on this odd pair: a blustering foreigner and a heavily-pregnant, one-eyed woman from the dump. He personally escorted them in his car to the correct location, some 6km from the original destination. The office was entirely un-signposted and set back from the main road behind other buildings.

It was right on the start of lunch break. Several staff were sitting at desks staring determinedly into space. Not leaving. Not even eating. Just “on break”. Incredibly frustrating to watch! The walls were covered with notifications of missing children. Who would ever see these posters? They recognised the faces of two kids from our own neighbourhood (who, we found out later, were actually being held in a police cell for begging in front of a fancy supermarket).

Then the break was finally over, and getting the letter was surprisingly fast. They wrote the date wrong, so twinked it out and typed over it, wondering among themselves how many other letters that day they had dated incorrectly. “Just take this straight to the hospital, and they’ll take care of the rest”. Good news, finally! They returned home, exhausted but satisfied, A ignoring the neighbours tut-tutting for leaving her own baby for so long.

Mama and A made time to tackle the hospital two days later, A worried about the possibility of preeclampsia. Upon registering, they produced their precious letter. “The date’s been tampered with!” the staff informed them. “We can’t accept this!” In despair, A tried to explain that it came like that. Another staff member rescued them: “Actually you don’t need this letter at all. Your supporting documentation is sufficient.” So their well-earned letter was discarded. Good to know!

The biggest surprise was still to come, however. After a 3hr wait, Mama finally received her free consultation. “You’re dry,” the doctor declared after the ultrasound. “The water’s gone. You’re lucky you came today, because the baby needs to come out, now!” It didn’t help that A’s phone battery died, but she was able to borrow a charger from another patient and call me. The father, still unwell, visibly deflated when I informed him. He carries the burden of providing for four other children, and no doubt the grief of last year’s stillbirth. And now the prospect of a tiny prem baby added to the mix. Another of our team-mates was able to give him a lift to hospital, and his wife made sure the kids were properly fed for the next few days.

The baby was born that night by c-section at no cost to the family.* To everybody’s amazement, she was 3.2kg! A healthy weight, and breastfeeding fine. “What miracle is this?!” we all asked ourselves. And then… “how incompetent is that local midwife at reading ultrasounds?!!” (We’ve had a lot of bad experiences with her, but our neighbours keep using her).

In hindsight, Mama remembers some fluid discharge the night before, but as it didn’t come with pains, she thought nothing of it. By the time we were at hospital the baby was already in distress and would not have lived much longer, though her mother didn’t realise. Maybe the same thing happened last time. But this time, our intervention saved a life, and for that we are all so grateful to God.

The news spread in our neighbourhood. A few days later, a man stopped me on my way home from teaching English. “It’s so great what you guys did. Usually nobody offers more than a bar of soap from the nearest shop. But taking someone to hospital is no small thing.” (From our experience I have to agree). “And you care, even if they are a different religion.” he said. I tried to explain that Isa teaches us to love our neighbours as ourselves. In the current climate of fear and intolerance, it seems that more of this is what’s needed.

 

*PS In another baffling twist of bureaucracy, at the moment of birth, the baby was classed as a new patient and therefore not eligible for funding (and the mother prohibited to leave) until the correct documentation was produced. Thankfully our team-mates and the father did this part of the leg-work, visiting all the same government officials again, only this time for the baby.

Encouragement in Albania

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We had three months travelling around New Zealand at the start of the year, beginning  in Auckland and going as far south as Dunedin. We especially enjoyed getting to know our grandchildren a bit better. It was also such a pleasure to be in New Zealand when our son Shaun proposed to Tiana. They plan to get married on the January 6, so we will be making another quick trip back to New Zealand for the occasion. 

It has been very encouraging returning to our church in Tirana, Albania, after three months away. Here’s some of those encouraging things:

New people. One of the first things we noticed was quite a number of new people that weren’t coming to church when we left. One family has moved to Tirana from Berat and are now living in our area, and have joined the church. Another woman lives near the church and recently became a Christian. The thing that we noticed most about her is how hungry she is to understand the Bible.

Bible study groups. Our Bible study groups continued while we were away, and both groups finished Book 1 in the Life of Christ series we began studying with them before we left, and now they are now ready to move on to Book 2. A new Bible study group is going to begin with the new church members.

A new vision. Erion, the pastor, has been praying about a new vision to develop the main church building into a ‘community centre.’ Here in Albania there’s not a lot for young people to do, so the vision is for a centre where they can go to learn or practice English, learn a musical instrument or just to hang out together with other Christians.

Outreach to Poliçan. Erion took the men to visit Poliçan regularly while Murray was away. They continued to build relationships with the group the men were meeting with, and Erion managed to develop some other relationships as well.

Welcome to David and Anne. Soon after Féy returned, our ECM team in Albania welcomed a new family from Germany. David, Anne and Leonora stayed with us for their first month while they found and prepared an apartment. David is a psychologist and Anne a midwife. A lot of people in Albania suffer from a lack of hope, both for themselves and their country. David and Anne’s vision is to use their training in connection to the church to help to develop hope. Their desire is to invest in youth and young families to help them practically, as well as help them find a new home in Jesus. For the next year or two, their focus will be on learning Albanian as they prepare to serve here in Albania.

The backyard farm

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It is not quite June yet but the beginning of the month will be really busy with special visitors, students’ final exams and graduation, seminars and village visits.  Life rolls on, sometimes too fast to keep up with!  I’m sure many of you find it the same.

A big vote of thanks to those who prayed for rain, even though the usual rainy season (that wasn’t) was officially over. We enjoyed a full month, (mid-April – mid-May) of the beautiful stuff, and consequently, crops are thriving around most of Kondoa area. God is amazing!

Bible College, Ordinations & Visits

At Kondoa Bible College (note the updated status!), all is quiet between meals. It is Study Week. The eleven survivors of the three-year Theology certificate course are reading through notes and nervously anticipating questions. Their provincial exam papers in Old Testament, New Testament, Theology, Church History and Pastoralia have come through to Peter via the internet, complete with many mistakes which have had to be rectified. The exams run until June 2. Please pray for the students in this stressful time, and for Bishop Given as he decides on placements for them.

The six 2-year course students are now halfway through! They are a bright, enthusiastic group, even though only one has been to Secondary School. They have completed my course on Teaching Methods. Their final assignment was a 20 min teaching slot and they did really well; most of them included some form of drama which pleased me. My cousin Linley, from Christchurch, NZ, asked if I could make use of flannelgraph pictures to which I responded enthusiastically. She has been sending packages regularly through the post, and I have enjoyed working out ways to use these, especially in teaching children. The students were in awe of it!

July 16 is the date set for the ordination service, at which Peter is due to become a fully-fledged Anglican priest! We had expected that the first woman to be ordained in this Diocese would be included, but it seems that that will have to wait until next year.

As Registrar, I have to oversee all the papers set for the 2 year course and collate all marks for all students, so life is a bit chaotic at present. I have also got involved more with Mothers’ Union things. Last week we went visiting two women who had recently been bereaved, and just as we arrived I was asked to give the “word” of comfort (i.e. a short sermon!). God is proving so good though, in giving me the words to say, and it seemed to hit the spot for many of the women there!

Early this month we welcomed 11 visitors from East Tennessee: lovely people, most of whom had never before set foot in Africa. During July, a large group of secondary school students and teachers from Kent, UK, are due to arrive. And this weekend, Andrew (our vicar from Rangiora), John (a member of the parish and a technical whizz), and Steve, a vicar from the West Coast, are due to fly out to Tanzania. They will have a full-on ten days leading healing and deliverance seminars in different villages in this Diocese, as well as working out the best ways to help with building projects.

We are still waiting for Peter’s book on Grief to be finished at the publishing press. Someone is still “working” on the cover! It’s an exercise in patience.

The Farmyard

We live in a veritable farmyard. Apart from the ever-multiplying chickens and ducks, there are cows and goats, wild dogs and … snakes, two of which hoped to set up shop in our lounge. I’m thankful that Peter was around to dispose of them both times! In our garden mice, frogs, chameleons and snails (one I measured at 21cm) abound, although we haven’t seen many tortoises this year. Our cat, Kelele, spends a lot of time outside, waiting for a feast to appear, for our roof is home to pigeons, bats and lizards.

Unfortunately, a mongoose is also active in our area. It broke into the chicken coop which had housed a small brown hen. We had been gifted with her from a village visit the previous day. We came home from the College to find it hacked to death and gutted. We were quite upset by that.

Peter had an unusual experience the other day. There are nests of swifts in our carport. Peter, just walking through it, realised he had, literally, “a bird in the hand”. It had just flown into his relaxed hand, and almost as suddenly, with a swoosh, flew out again!

NGO part 2 – Why all the trainings?

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Three of our staff came into our office after a week long Malaria training. After they raved about how wonderful the training was, I asked them a question. “What is one thing you are going to change, or improve at your Health Center after the training?” Even after prompting and trying to give them ideas, we couldn’t come up with anything. Not one thing. Eight of our staff were there for a week. 320 working hours. Our staff already treat malaria really well. They didn’t need a training on malaria.

The problem

Of all the issues I’ve had with NGOs, meetings and ‘trainings’ is the issue which which has driven me the most crazy, and provided the most hilarity. Don’t get me wrong – trainings can be a core part of NGO work, I run them myself! Just last week Marie Stopes needed to teach our staff how to insert family planning methods, and it worked really well. Often though trainings are a colossal waste of money and time, and more importantly devalue learning by putting barriers, or distractions in the way. I think this is so important, I’ve created my own ridiculous jargon phrase ‘learning distraction’ to emphasise the point. Maybe it can be new NGO speak!

I have so many problems with trainings and meetings, but I’ll limit myself to 7, no… 8.

1) Allowances for participants. Allowances for transport, accommodation, day allowances. ‘Big men’ turn up for 30 minutes to get a wad of cash, reinforcing harmful cultural stereotypes. As well as wasted money, it’s a learning distraction. How can you concentrate on learning when you are waiting for more money than you have seen in weeks? Friends have told me that they sit there all day planning how to spend their 50,000. At one meeting there was nearly a riot when allowances were less than expected. 30 minutes was spent discussing the situation. It was telling when a participant said “this training will be useless if we are not facilitated properly.” In the minds of the participants, I think he was right. At another one day meeting, I was handed 150,000 in allowances, plus a 8 gig pen drive “from the American People.” All 40 of us were. You do the math.

2) Lack of important and practical material taught in effective ways. Material should be evidenced based, with experts, or at least people knowledgeable in their field teaching new information or skills. Models and frameworks are tossed into the ether, never to be used again. Material is often not taught in effective ways that will be practically useful. Much time is also wasted on inefficient group work, which is often a mix of sharing good ideas which most people already know, and reinforcement of bad ones. I’m all for participation, but it needs to be well thought through.

3) General Opulence. Meetings are held in the fanciest hotels. Food is fancier than local wedding food. Everyone is given wee books and pens (and sometimes pen drives!). Bottled water is given on demand. This makes trainings and meetings into a status symbol and I think contributes to a space where people are trying to impress each other, rather than learn together. A huge learning distraction.

4) Meaninglessness of resolutions and action points made. Of the 10 or so meetings/trainings I’ve been to, almost none of the resolutions made have been carried out. So far I’ve been elected onto 3 follow up ‘committees’ that have never met, and never will.

5) Paying the people organising the meeting extra money on top of their salary. Why do you pay staff extra to do something that should be part of their regular job? This just encourages NGO staff to hold unnecessary trainings to fill out their wallets as well as their time.

6) Wasted person hours. Half a days material covered in 2 days. Two days material covered in a week. For our malaria meeting 320 hours of quality patient care were taken from us, for next to nothing gained.

7) Unnecessary attendees. People who only speak Acholi at English meetings (happens at most meetings I’ve been to). Random local government officials who have nothing to do with what’s being discussed. ‘Big Men/Women’ who hijack the meeting with speeches and other agendas.  Having unnecessary attendees present causes random off-topic discussions bringing yet another learning distraction.

8) Use of unhelpful NGO jargon, which muddy the waters and provide yet another learning distraction. Much NGO speak has become a quagmire. People all know vaguely what the word means without being able to pin it down. There is also straight confusion, where the speaker means one thing, and the listener hears another. ‘Volunteer’ for example to the western ear means working for no pay out of the goodness of you heart, while to a local listener can mean quite a well paid job! Here’s my NGO-Speak Bingo game I use at meetings to entertain myself. I’ll generally win within the first 30 minutes of the meeting.  I’m not the only one who thinks this is ridiculous.

NGO Bingo Facilitation Mobilisation Implementation Empowerment/Empowering Sensitisation Capacity Building Stakeholders Governance Girl Child Scaling Or Scale up ‘Volunteer’ Accountability ‘The field’ Gender Balance Resilience High-Impact or Impact

 

Solutions

Lacor Hospital (the biggest mission hospital in Uganda) has a great solution. They don’t let any staff go to trainings and meetings unless they absolutely have to. And it works really well. When I asked a hospital boss why they don’t allow their staff to go, he said. “Trainings are usually 100% useless and they waste time. Why should our staff go?”

When we do hold trainings, here’s 8 ways to make them better

Don’t give allowances. The exception perhaps, is an actual refund of public transport costs for people who don’t live in town. If you’re doing a training in the village, people already live there. If you are training educated people, most of them live in town so no transport is needed Hold a lot less trainings. Many don’t need to happen. A classic category which are often unnecessary are “stakeholder” meetings, where the NGO invites government officials, religious leaders, community members etc. to tell them about the project in their neighbourhood. They achieve very little and can even add barriers when officials inevitably suggest more meetings, or use the opportunity to add unnecessary bureaucracy to the project. I was really impressed that a hundred-million dollar maternity project we’re working with had zero stakeholder meetings. They talked with us, trained our nurses and then started. Invite only people that are going to benefit directly. Target carefully. Don’t invite people who only speak Acholi if you are going to hold the training in English. Don’t invite big people just for the sake of it. Invite people who will be keen to learn, and have a lot to gain. Get Experts and top quality presenters to take sessions where you don’t have the expertise. Spend your money here, rather than on other areas of the training. Don’t just get your NGO staff to cover topics that they are not experts in. If you’re going to do it, do it properly. Hold meetings and trainings in more austere locations. The District Council hall in Gulu costs only 10,000 to hire. Many trainings and meetings could be squeezed into NGO offices. Hold shorter trainings. Can you do this in one day rather than two? What material is less important that you can cut? Can you remove the morning or afternoon tea break? Serve Beans and Greens with Posho and Rice for lunch. Why should every meeting have 2 kinds of meat? Make the thing less about the lunch and more about the learning. People will still appreciate a free lunch (eventually, after they get over the meatless disappointment J). Ban the Jargon words (start with the bingo table) which can’t be used by trainers or participants. Be specific, use real life examples. Give people a list of words at the start of the training that they aren’t allowed to use. Make it fun by rewarding people who notice when the banned words are used.

NGOs part 1 – Pay your workers less

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I don’t usually preface, but in this case it may help people dislike me less. I believe that NGOs go about much of their work the wrong way in Northern Uganda, to the point where some of them may do more harm than good. I’m writing a series of blogs on where I think NGOs are going wrong, and how they could fix it. These here are opinions. Informed opinions after 4 years operating amongst NGOs in Northern Uganda, but opinions only.

Abandon Ship

Last year, one of our best nurses left one of our rural health centers. With no warning and without telling anyone. It was the 3rd nurse that year who left for an NGO job. We rushed to replace him, but it put the only remaining nurse there under a lot of stress, and I’m sure patients weren’t cared for as well in the meantime. Our replacement wasn’t as good. I didn’t hear the nurse who left again until 6 months later, last week. He came to apologise for leaving abruptly. He said he felt really bad about it, that he had let his fellow staff and the patients down. He’s a great guy and it was good to catch up and reconcile everything. When I asked him why he left for the NGO job, he looked at me as if it was a stupid question.

“The money was too much, of course” Too Much Money?

So why is it bad to pay Ugandans a lot of money in NGO jobs? Surely you pay them as much as you can afford to help them and their families get by in a poor country. Unfortunately, its not that simple. There are at least 3 enormous negative effects of high NGO salaries.

1) High quality workers get lured out of sustainable, productive service provision jobs (health work, business, teaching etc.) and into the NGO sector. It’s a local brain drain of epic proportions. In one case this became so extreme that the run-down government hospital wrote to anNGO asking them to stop stealing their nurses! Most of the best minds should be innovating and leading the society from institutions and businesses that will continue serving people indefinitely. Instead the NGO sector is overloaded with the best educated and most capable, while the cogs which drive sustainable progress creak and come to a halt.

2) The distraction of huge NGO salaries means that workers don’t concentrate and get stuck into their current jobs. Many workers have a legitimate ‘grass is greener’ syndrome. People are ever on the look out for that ‘Golden Goose’ job which pays 2 or 3 times as much, even if the NGO job only lasts 6 months. You wouldn’t believe how much time and effort local people spend thinking about and applying for NGO jobs rather than getting on with their current work.

3) High NGO salaries wreck the aspirations of young people and skew the entire education system. When you have a deep, honest conversation with people at university about what they want to do, very few have serious aspirations to help their country, or bring people out of poverty. What they really want is a cushy, high paying NGO job. People should have a heart to start productive businesses, teach at schools, be nurses at hospitals. To work within the system to create lasting change. When we advertised for a job managing our Anglican church health centers, I was expecting degrees in public health, or at least administration. But no, over half of the 80 applicants had a degree in “development studies”. What even is that degree? A ticket in the lottery for a bloated NGO job. Another phenomenon is that many people want to be ‘drivers’ so they  earn more than teachers or nurses by driving NGO workers around. Bizarre.

So why do NGOs pay too much? From talking to a bunch of people about it, these are some of the reasons (again add your own!)

1) The donors back home just don’t understand local salaries 2) NGOs have a budget which they need to spend, and salaries is a way of spending it. 3) NGOs rely on local NGO workers to suggest/decide on salaries – perpetuating the cycle 4) Wanting the best worker possible for their job (not OK, see below) 5) Wanting pay equity between local and Ex-pats (White guilt plus healthy instinct)

The Solution

The good news is that we can solve this problem almost overnight! Here’s how.

Pay the market rate for your staff. Find out what the local market rate is for teachers, nurses, lawyers or whoever else you hire. Ask for the salaries for similar positions among business people, government and private not for profit enterprises (Church Run) and add no more than 10% to that. Not pay Ex-pats much more than you pay locals. Wanting equity between local and expat workers is fantastic, but the solution is not to increase the local salary, but lower the Ex-pat’s! This reduces the tension to have to pay locals ludicrous salaries to match. If Expat NGO workers can’t handle being here on close to local salaries, then I don’t believe they should be here. It should be a sacrifice to work a place like Norther Uganda, a big one. Awesome hard working, caring Ex-pats will still come work for your NGO, even if they are paid less. Be prepared to not hire the ‘best of the best’ with a reduced salary. Why should NGOs get to hire better workers than the government, buisnesses, or mission hospitals? Realise that your work is not usually more important than what everyone else is doing. Be comfortable with hiring good workers, even if they aren’t the best. You’ll still get good workers, don’t worry!

Then spend the money you save on salaries on…. whatever you think is best! Hire an extra worker, sponsor more kids to school, drill more boreholes. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Feel free to disagree, comment, agree, ask questions, disagree or whatever you please.