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One of the distinctive things about the way All We Can works is the priority we give to building the capacity and skills of our partner organisations working with local people in some of the world’s poorest countries. We believe where the need is greatest, so is the potential so we work hard to identify partners that would benefit most from our support. For many of our partners All We Can is the first international organisation they work with. They can be community-based organisations, churches and even inspired individuals who understand local problems and are passionate about solving them but don’t have all the resources they need to achieve their vision. One way we support this development and learning is through partner to partner learning.
I recently travelled to Cameroon to participate in an exchange of experiences between two of our partners: Community Development Volunteers for Technical Assistance (CDVTA) from Cameroon, and Voluntary Action for Development (VAD) from Uganda. During this trip, I also visited Nkong Hill Top Association for Development (NADEV), in Buea, South West province.
The exchange of experiences between CDVTA and VAD was funded through the Partner to Partner Learning and Networking Fund (PPLNF). The aim of the PPLNF is to enable the different organisations to share their experiences, learn about solutions to problems that have worked in other contexts, and develop more effectiveness in dealing with the issues they face in their own settings. The objective of this exchange was to help both partners acquire more knowledge about planning and implementation of advocacy programmes at community, district and national levels. In 2013, CDVTA visited VAD in Uganda to learn more about water and sanitation provision. This year was the turn for CDVTA in Cameroon to become host.
The five day programme was very dynamic. It included meetings with CDVTA staff in Bamenda, traditional rulers, groups of elderly people in Oku and Mbessa, representatives from the local and regional government and a convention of elderly people in Belo. Every day was an adventure, full of surprises, learning, amazing landscapes and interesting conversations during the long road-trips across this hilly and green area of Cameroon.
The VAD team in Cameroon: Daliah Nabunnya, Christine Sempijja, Charles Mudhumba and Alex Bogere, enjoyed the visit from the beginning until the end. Every event was an opportunity for learning. Back in Uganda, their mission would be to integrate more effective evidence-based advocacy approaches into VAD’s programmes. During the visit, one of the things that surprised them the most was the power of community mobilisation and how elderly people can stand for their own rights.
The CDVTA team showed their passion and commitment to the elderly’s cause in every single event. The convention, attended by more than 4000 people in Belo, was an opportunity to see CDVTA in action. The ‘mamas and papas’ were the centre of attention and CDVTA staff and volunteers found a number of ways to make them feel like it was their special day. The march of the senior citizens groups was the highlight of the day; hundreds of happy men and women displayed their typical costumes, songs, dances and products. There was a laughing contest that put a smile on everyone’s face and reminded us that it does not take much to forget about your problems for a moment and find comfort in the little pleasures of life.
At the end of the week, both CDVTA and VAD expressed their appreciation and gratitude for this opportunity. For VAD it was great to see how CDVTA was bringing citizens and leaders together. They also learnt that age is not an obstacle to realising every person’s potential. All We Can believes that our local partners know and understand the communities they work in best. Their commitment and compassion means that, more than anyone else, they are best placed to unlock the potential in their communities. This exchange visit encouraged partners to share and value their own experiences. To me this visit was proof that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things!
Valeria Llano-Arias is the Advocacy Coordinator at All We Can. She has been researching and working on international development and environmental issues for over ten years. She is passionate about cycling and enjoys learning more about communication for development and social change.