Building Partnerships with Donated Aeroplan Miles

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The Foundation’s Field Representatives are at the heart of our work to deliver resources directly into the hands of the community-based organizations responding most effectively and determinedly to the global AIDS epidemic. Their routine travel – facilitated by donated Aeroplan Miles – to visit SLF partner organizations across the African continent turns the conventional donor/grantee relationship on its head. Here, some of the Foundation’s Field Representatives share their expertise on fostering partnerships in contexts as diverse as rural Tanzania, peri-urban Zimbabwe, and the hearts of major cities such as Addis Ababa and Kampala. This is all done with the generous support of individuals who donate miles through the Aeroplan member donation programme! 

The SLF’s Field Representatives Weigh In

Ghana Matolengwe: “The Foundation is an organization that is very passionate about people’s circumstances, especially poor people, especially people who are infected and affected by HIV & AIDS. It’s an organization that wants to make an impact, albeit in a very humble way. The nature of this organization... is that it wants to have a dialogue with people, it wants to engage with people. And through that engagement, it learns about people’s circumstances. It learns about how people need to be taken out of those circumstances. I want to stress the word engagement. The Foundation is at the forefront, but it does not leave people behind. It’s an organization that listens to people. I’ve noticed this working with other agencies: sometimes there are emerging needs, emerging circumstances, pressing circumstances. The SLF encourages people to come up with those emerging needs... and to come up with solutions. It does not dictate to them. It’s a collaborative exercise.”

Ruth Ochieng: “I’m honoured to be part of the team of visiting representatives who go out to see the community-based organizations (CBOs) supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation. And these organizations are not waiting for someone to give them instruction. They look at the situation as it is, and they plan together... and if you have the opportunity to interact with any of these programmes, these small CBOs, you will wonder why the world hasn’t taken their approaches. From my perspective, the most important thing is walking with the infected and the affected. When you look at dealing with any problem, you should be dealing with those who know it best.”

Winnie Sseruma: “It is so important for people to open up and tell you how things really are, rather than putting up a front and telling you what you ‘need’ to hear. And with our visits we are able to put them at ease. We are able to say: ‘If we don’t know what the challenges are, what the uncomfortable truths are, then we can’t really help you the best way that we need to.’ So it’s not about asking to find fault; it’s about asking to support you in the best way possible. And now when you go out there and say, ‘I’m a Field Representative from the Stephen Lewis Foundation,’ people’s faces light up. And that’s beautiful to see because it means they know that the Foundation has their best interests at heart.”

Allan Muhaari: “For me it’s always about power. And the grantee/donor relationship is typically skewed because the power is held by the donor. So many funding partners sit in ivory towers, make a decision about the areas they want to fund and say: ‘Write proposals to us and respond to our agenda.’ So it’s always so refreshing to see an organization like the SLF work with communities and set the agenda together, responding to the local issues and the local context. I think that’s revolutionary.”
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