I often toss around the word “partner” when I talk about our work. Who are these partners? How did we come to know them? Canaan Gondwe and the members of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative in Malawi are some of our partners. Moses Chibanda, director of Welfare Concern International in Zambia, is another. Our partners are individuals and grassroots organizations who are implementing the real work of Spirit in Action in their communities. Our partners are dedicated, generous local leaders. They are groups of people who are passionate about making things better in their communities, and they are already putting in the hard work to spark that change.
Perhaps you know some leaders like this in your own community – the president of the parent teacher association, the rec-league soccer coach, the soup kitchen volunteer, or the passionate leader of the local environmental group.
I first connected with our partner Samuel Leadismo, director of the Pastoralist Child Foundation in Kenya, through email. He had met another SIA partner, Margaret Ikiara of CIFORD Kenya, at a workshop and he reached out to tell me about himself and his work. We emailed back and forth. I asked him about the girls’ empowerment workshops and anti-FGM campaign that he led. I told him about myself, and about SIA’s philosophy and how we operate. Eventually I invited him to submit a grant request application for an upcoming workshop. I also reached out to Margaret to get a recommendation from her, since I was unable to visit Samuel in person. Our first email was in March of 2014 and we still email back and forth to continue to build our relationship, to understand each other better, and to follow up on the grant we gave to his organization.
We don’t just drop money into a community. The grants are part of our on-going relationship with these partners. And the partner organizations are whole, independent groups outside of Spirit in Action. For example, the Pastoralist Child Foundation is an officially registered community based organization (CBO) in Kenya. Their work is funded by a patchwork of supporters, from individual donors in the US, to other grant organizations like SIA, and local volunteers in Samburu, Kenya. We use the word “partner” to recognize that we each bring something to the relationship.
(*Read Canaan Gondwe’s presentation entitled “A partner who has walked with us side by side”)