small foundation with a big impact

visit report October 2015

07-11-2015
During the last weeks of October a delegation of managing board and supervisory board members visited our projects in Tanzania. It was a very successful visit, and we returned home in a very positive mood. All parties concerned, including board members and management, are highly motivated, and there are clear signs that progress is being made. All that work has not been in vain! Matti Emondts, Fred Arp and Dick Molman represented the managing board during the visit, and Margreeth Brokking and Maria Lauret were present on behalf of the supervisory board. Sponsor Frans Bosch, our advisor in Tanzania Marjolein de Rooij, and Anja Molman, guest and sounding board, also took part in the visit.

The official part of the visit included welcoming new members to the Dutch managing board and to local NGOs. Matti Emondts handed his chairman’s gavel over to Dick Molman. Fred Arp took over from Jan Priester as treasurer of the Dutch managing board, and Marjolein de Rooij took over from him as member of the managing board in Tanzania.

While official side of things is very important, it is of course not the real heart of the matter. The children are what matter most. And they are doing well, very well indeed. Our children’s homes and school are in great shape: they are clean and well-organised. The staff is also reasonably well organised, in terms of both quantity and quality. And the children themselves? They seems cheerful, happy and healthy. Healthier than in the past as a result of recent improvements in their diet.

Most of the credit for this goes to our staff. Approximately 60 people now work in our organisation. All of them – from director to security guard, teacher to gardener, cook to social worker – are locals. It was a wonderful moment for us when, during the board meeting, each of the members of the management team gave a presentation about his or her focal point. They may have been reading from a paper, but they wrote their presentations themselves in English, even improvised where necessary, and answered questions from the board. Not an easy thing to do in front of a large ‘important’ audience. We were extremely proud of them, especially since staff development is an important part of our mission.

Marjolein’s arrival in Arusha in May of this year was an important step in terms of cooperation between the Netherlands and Tanzania. Marjolein serves as an advisor to the board and to local management. She acts as a bridge without interfering with official reporting lines between the director and the managing board. This enhances the quality of the operation, and lightens management’s operational load. Another important part of Marjolein’s work is the creation of a local fund raising programme, and ensuring that it becomes an integral part of the organisation. Of course local fund raising has an immediate financial impact, but it also fits in with our goal of gradually making our projects less dependent on Dutch and German financing alone. We hope to report our first revenues next year.

Another important aspect of the October visit is the annual assessment of the financial situation for the current year, and drawing up a budget for the coming year. This is course about money, but even more importantly, it is about our principles. For example, what do we ‘need to have’ and what would be ‘nice to have’. Our finances are simply not adequate to cover ‘luxury’ requests, especially since we strive to manage ‘the African way’. This is more manageable, and more sustainable.

We also discuss matters such as which children should be regarded as deprived, how the intake of children can be managed to take account of this, how much tuition we want to and are able to ask, and which children we would like to continue supporting during their secondary education. These are the fundamental issues that make the work of our foundation so fascinating, and enriching. The same applies to the role of our social worker. A number of members of the delegation accompanied her on a few of her home visits. These confrontational visits will have surely eliminated any doubts about the value of our efforts. The work we do is essential.

With respect to finances, budgetary discipline is improving all the time. We have an adequate administrative system, a professional bookkeeper, a new accountant and even an auditor’s statement for the 2014 financial year. We now have sufficient insight to conclude that the money is being well-spent, and in a reliable way.

In conclusion, I offer an example of the kind of thing we discuss with management. A few years ago we acquired a large piece of property in Lerai, near our school in Ngorika, which is used as a sports field and vegetable garden. There has been a great deal of discussion about how sport can be integrated into the curriculum. Questions include whether this should happen during school or only after school hours, who should supervise, whether everyone, or only a selection of students, should participate. Should it only be football or other sports as well, and can girls participate too? There are also questions regarding the type of vegetables grown in the garden, and whether or not it is cheaper than buying them in the market. What should be done with surplus vegetables during school holidays? What about the cost of irrigation? The list of questions is long, but the discussions are great fun.

In the end, what we hope to do is to provide children, most of whom are underprivileged, with a better future and more opportunity. We do so by providing high-quality education and a caring environment. We accomplish this by using our limited means as efficiently as possible. In the Netherlands we are continuing our efforts to secure financial support. Because without it we cannot succeed. We remain very grateful to our sponsors and donors: thank you! During their visit the managing board definitely managed to top up their motivation and inspiration. We are ready for the challenge!
 
Dick Molman
10 November 2015
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