small foundation with a big impact

new board, new guidelines

17-12-2015
The end of the year offers a good opportunity to look back, as well as to look ahead to the future, especially now that we are welcoming new board members. We asked the old and the new chairman to comment.
  • What is the most important achievement of the past few years? Matti: “We have created a fairly stable organisation, which of course has its problems, most of which are minor, but where almost 350 children lead healthy lives and achieve excellent school results. As perfectionistic Westerners, we have a tendency to focus on the things that go wrong, but every time we visit we see a few hundred cheerful children: the Happy Watoto! Mission accomplished.”
     
  • Are there no concerns? Matti: “There are continuous concerns, but all of them are solvable. The managing board is closely involved, and weekly discussions with the management and our advisor on location (Marjolein de Rooij) about all kinds of issues ensure not only that there is a high degree of control over operations, but also that we are making great strides towards the professionalization of the organisation.”
     
  • Can you provide a few examples of this? Dick: “Without going into great detail, there are the annual training sessions for our managers, and individual courses where necessary, performance appraisals, a system of very modest bonuses, and we are implementing IT systems. These are just a few examples.”
     
  • It all began with an orphanage, but now there are also paying students at the school. Dick: “Of a total of almost 350 children in our homes and at school, approximately 90 do not board with us; they go home at the end of the day and they pay school tuition. These are not the most deprived children, but they are certainly not well-off. It is important for us to have paying children at the school, because it ensures a more diverse student body and helps to cover the cost of running the school. It is a first step towards becoming less dependent on Western support alone.”
     
  • What are the managing board’s greatest challenges? Dick: “The managing board has two main responsibilities. The first is to ensure that the local houses and school are well managed so that the children can pursue an education in a safe and healthy environment. We employ a total of 60 local people, who for the most part carry out their work to our full satisfaction."
     
  • Has the crisis made fundraising more difficult? Matti: “Fundraising in general is becoming more difficult. The government is less and less committed to development aid, and as a result, more and more charities are becoming dependent on private financing. There is less scope for fundraising. We have to work harder, develop new networks and explore new sources of funds. This justifies the appointment of a managing board member whose main responsibility is fundraising.”
     
  • What should be the focus of attention in 2016? Dick: “There are a few focal points. This year direct sponsoring helped us to get the irrigation system in our gardens up and running. However, we are still not satisfied with garden harvests. Improvement is necessary and achievable. With the help of external experts, we hope to make great strides, which should lead to better and cheaper food.
    In the upper classes we intend to introduce a sex education programme.We think that this should be part of a complete school education. 
    We also intend to start local fundraising.”

     
  • Is there money available for this in Tanzania? Matti: “That is what we have to find out. There are examples of projects that were able to raise substantial local funds. For 2016, we have set a modest target of 2.5%. 2016 will be a learning year, during which we will explore the possibilities and gear our organisation to them.”
    We also continue to carry out a fundamental discussion regarding our dependence on Western financing. It is substantial at present because local income is limited to the tuition fees paid by some of the students. This dependence must be structurally reduced, partly by setting up a local fundraising programme."

     
  • You put a lot of time and energy into this. What motivates you? Matti: “Every time I speak to the children and see how well they can, and feel free to, express themselves in English, I think to myself ‘they’re going to make it’, and that it is a great feeling!’
    Dick: “Once you have actually been there, you know exactly why you are doing this. It is just something you have to experience. It is so concrete, so tangible. It is a privilege to be involved.”
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