I travelled around the South Eastern provinces of the country three weeks ago on a visit that brought me into contact with both small and large non governmental organizations doing work in Zimbabwe. The real purpose of this visit was to establish the actors involved in early childhood programming and to visit some of the projects they were implementing. Before leaving Harare, we made sure that we had contacts in each and every town we were visiting so that we would hit the ground running as we arrived in each place. This proved to be a good plan as we were able to visit a host of organizations doing great work in Zimbabwe.
There were tow striking observations that I made though that really got me thinking about the role small organizations are playing. The first observation was that a lot of small organizations and by small I mean those that had less then 10 employees with about 30% being volunteers, were the ones that were carrying out the work. It seems odd hey but my colleague and I were really shocked because this you would easily think that the big organizations with big staff complements would reach out to the vulnerable communities. Shocking as it were we enjoyed being in the company of the Directors of these organizations seeing their programs and talking to the beneficiaries of the programs, the grandmothers who are being part of a food security program, the youth being given income generating activity skills and the young girls living at risk of HIV infection being given training. Really I was impressed by what I saw as these small organizations were busy at work not worrying about the salaries they need to pay at the end of the month or the office rentals. One director said, Patrick, God knows what we are doing and He is in charge.
In doing our rounds in the rural areas we saw several big 4x4 trucks emblazoned with logos of other "big" ngo's would zoom past us and at one point I wondered out aloud where these were headed and was told ahh these guys that is what they do here, just driving up and down. In fact I was challenged to phone one of the Program Directors of this big organization, but his phone was unavailable and when we got to Harare, I looked for him only to be told he was attending a conference in Switzerland.
We got back to the fun capital Harrrrare with a mission of visiting each of the "big" organizations to ask them whats going on? but we were overtaken by events as my colleague and I got busy with our own work and organizational activities. As I mentioned when I started blogging, we are going to have some gloves off conversations s I also seek to talk to some of our friends involved in these big organizations. They need to be accountable to donors and not hide behind their fingers and not do the work.
As you can see, my heart is with the smaller organizations as they reach the people at the bottom end of the food chain and can identify with their needs. This is what needs to be done, not to have high walls and large security teams that scare away people who have come to seek assistance, protection and direction.
Until next time, happy reading.