By Laura Cook, Communications Manager for All We Can
Derwal is the Amharic word used in Ethiopia for partnership. It simply means to do things together. It’s a straightforward concept, but a crucial one to All We Can, the relief and development organisation rooted in the Methodist Church of Britain. All We Can operates through investing in partnerships because it believes that this is the most effective way to achieve long-term sustainable development and transformation in some of the world’s poorest communities.
In October, All We Can brought its partners from nine countries around the world together in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to discuss what partnership means, to plan together, to participate in training and to share learning with each other. There were over 70 delegates at the conference including three staff and board members from current partner organisations, plus church leaders from four countries who are engaged in helping their churches respond to the needs of local communities.
Most of All We Can’s partners are local organisations led by inspired individuals who understand local problems and are passionate about solving them, but don’t have all the resources they need to achieve their vision. All We Can does not simply fund their projects but comes alongside these partners to support them to fulfil their mission. This includes assistance with organisational development, financial and governance systems, staff skills and finding additional sources of funding. We believe that stronger local partners will have a greater long-term impact in the communities they work in.
The aptly named ‘Walking Together in Partnership’ Conference enabled participants to share their work and impact with one another, to engage in tailored training that will improve the way their organisations operate, and most importantly to look together towards a future with All We Can that will benefit those they serve in communities affected by poverty.
One delegate, Francis Njuakom from All We Can’s partner CDVTA in Cameroon, said: “It was such a great opportunity to participate in the Walking Together in Partnership Conference and learn new skills, knowledge and strategies which will extensively enable us to move our work forward in Cameroon. This conference was such a God given opportunity for us to take stock of the past, learn from our mistakes and prepare for a better future.”
The conference began with moving speeches delivered by well known Ethiopian women’s rights activist Salome Tadesse and Chief Executive of All We Can Maurice Adams. Salome Tadesse reminded delegates of the importance of looking beyond the statistics and remembering the individuals that they serve in the communities they work in. She said: “We should remember that every person is an individual in their own right. They have their own dreams and aspirations. They have their own hopes for their future and that of their children and their families. Perhaps they come from a situation with difficulties and challenges but they are also still whole human beings as we all are.”
Later in the week, inspiring workshops were led on issues including governance, organisational development, leadership and monitoring and evaluation. There was also an entertaining celebration of partnership, culture and global connections with a special dinner where each guest wore his or her national dress. At this dinner celebrated long-distance runner Haile Gebreselassie spoke movingly about his own story. He passionately explained; “I am happy to speak to you all today as I know All We Can is here for the people of Ethiopia. Many athletes leave the country they are from when they become successful but I felt it was important to stay here and to do what I could for the country I am from. I love the people of Ethiopia”. He encouraged delegates, saying, “To do all we can, we need three things: a goal, discipline, and hard work.” Everybody was moved by Haile’s humility when talking about his own success and the down-to-earth manner in which he greeted everyone.
Conference delegates were also able to visit the work of two of All We Can’s local partners in the country, ADHENO and SUNARMA. It was a unique opportunity to see the way these partners support the people they serve in central Ethiopia through bee-keeping co-operatives, agricultural training and the protection of forest areas. Visitors were able to ask questions and it inspired many of them to think of new techniques or strategies that they could try upon return to their own communities. There was also the chance to sample some delicious Ethiopian honey made by some of the individuals involved in one of the projects.
The conference served as a timely reminder of our interconnectedness with others around the world. All We Can’s values of justice, solidarity, respect, inclusion, collaboration and service were reflected time and time again in the stories of the amazing work of our global partners. These small local organisations, which are tackling poverty in their own communities, said they went away from the conference renewed and refreshed. The leader of one organisation, ERDCN from Nepal, summed up the experience well:
“We had a precious time during the conference. It was wonderful to be together with the All We Can team and partners from different countries. We gained a lot of experiences from different partners, it was a great opportunity to learn”.
All We Can looks forward to continuing to walk with its global partners towards a future where ever person’s potential is realised and communities are no longer held back by poverty or injustice.
Find out more about All We Can at www.allwecan.org.uk