When I lived with my family for a while in a mission hospital in Zambia in the early 90s we were very obviously still in the post-colonial era. The relationship between many of the locals and ex-pats was formal and deferential. Many Africans were restricted by the behaviour norms of those days and unwilling to express opinions or take initiative, or expect to make management decisions. I felt it was difficult to look people in the eye and feel a willingness to straight-talk. To some extent this may still be true of those with the longest memories, but I believe that amongst younger people there is now a wish to take hold of their destiny.
But there is a burden of dependency on overseas aid which has lingered and makes progress slow. Without encouragement, it is too easy to continue with the status quo.
Maybe beneficiaries fear to fully state their case because they worry the tap risks being turned off. At HATW, our behaviour, as well as being mainly about encouraging, needs to be exemplary and not paternalistic. We must develop and maintain transparent partnerships where we are open and honest both in our dealings with one another, and our wish to share responsibility to do the very best for the children in our care.
Local partners carry the responsibility for the day-to-day functioning of their project. They also need to have the will, the skills and the confidence to present their detailed costed plans for future development and funding needs to a variety of local and overseas agencies. And we at HATW and potential donors need to trust them to do it, confident in the knowledge that applications are honestly prepared and that the supporters’ intentions will be honoured. This takes time and much effort, but is what a real partnership is about. It is a well-known fact that learning is not a one-off, but a life-long process. We all need to keep up to speed – training in management and administration are key and a significant part of capacity building.
As partners, I believe we need to ensure that we all have a shared vision, with the knowledge, the confidence and the skills to take things forward together. Many children’s lives depend upon it!