I actually think I’m winning. It’s definitely not a solo effort, but after these last couple of weeks, I feel I’m really achieving something here.
Late last year, I was elected (unopposed, mind you) to be Vice-Chairperson of Swaziland’s HIV and AIDS Consortium, otherwise known as SHACO – a network of organisations working to tackle HIV/AIDS. SHACO is not exactly known for its get up and go (hence being elected unopposed), but I felt it would be good exposure for my organisation, so I took on the role with the intention to give SHACO a bit of a kick up the backside. Naturally, once the working year had recommenced, I contacted the Chairperson and hassled the Secretariat to organise a meeting and set some actions for the year. To my surprise, this idea was met with enthusiasm, as well as comments of praise at being proactive, and a request to crack the whip even harder (which I politely agreed to do).
On the same day, Gone Rural boMake was invited to attend a review of the UN Development Action Framework. Again, this presented a great opportunity for GRb to get known by the major funders, so my Supervisor and I headed along. Little did we know our organisation would get a mention for the success of our mobile clinic (clearly that advocacy work is panning out well), but as I was standing in the coffee line I made a few nondescript mumblings about social determinants to the man next to me, who promptly gave me his card and demanded I call him to set up an appointment. So I did. It turns out he’s the UN Resident Coordinator for Swaziland – the big guy – the one with the super nice office on the top floor, as I found out when I met with him last week. If we can continue to foster this relationship I can only see good things in GRb’s future.
Then, last Sunday, I headed down to our rural groups in Lavumisa with Myles Mumford, another amazing Australian volunteer. We were there to record our artisans singing traditional songs about life as women in Swaziland. Not only is the album to be a fundraising tool for my organisation, but it was hoped that the singing (and hopefully the playing of this song on radio) would boost their pride, sense of identity and empowerment. The women were there in force, dressed in traditional dress, and after two hours of recording they were enjoying themselves so much we couldn’t get them to stop. When they finally did stop, one of the ladies stepped forward and performed some poetry that she had written about our organisation – it was a complete surprise, and a moving one at that. Finally, as I was leaving, the group leader came up to me to hug me and tell me that she loved me. I think these are fairly promising signs that I’m on the right path.
I started work the next day on an absolute high, thinking that life couldn’t get much better. My first task of the day was to facilitate a session with staff to develop a Child Protection Policy for the organisation. To be honest, I expected the staff to nonchalantly agree with whatever I suggested. To my surprise, and absolute pleasure, they hotly debated the points and added incredibly intelligent suggestions of their own. Apparently they were still discussing the policy in the tearoom at lunchtime!
Directly after the meeting, I was called into the office to open an envelope. Having no idea what it was about, I was a tad excited to read that our organisation had been awarded a grant. This was not just any grant, but a grant that Tegan Mumford (another amazing Australian volunteer) and I had spent weeks writing and tearing our hair out over Christmas. I will unashamedly add, and boast, that the grant was awarded without any provisos or requested amendments. It was an EU grant. It was a grant that would enable Gone Rural boMake and Save The Children Swaziland to expand a very successful and sustainable savings, microfinance, business development project for two more years. What’s more, it is worth €150,000 (1.5 million Emalangeni). This may not sound like a lot, but to put it in perspective, this grant alone, which is for a single project, is worth more than our organisation’s total annual budget. In addition, it’s from the EU, which opens up a whole lot of credibility and future funding opportunities. In short, it means we’re playing with the big boys now.
And playing with the big boys, we are. The invitations to attend government and UN planning sessions don’t seem to stop coming. More organisations, international and local, seem to want to partner with us. Yep, I definitely think we’re winning.