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Are you a partner, donor or beneficiary?

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Tim West (photographer), Grace Quansah (Methodist Development and Relief Services volunteer) and Mr Addison (local coordinator) in a field in Ghana. 

A few years ago, Tim Dunwoody from Irish Methodist World Development and Relief (WDR) was standing in a field in the coastal area of Ghana, West Africa. He was there as part of his work, visiting a scheme being managed by Methodist Development and Relief Services (MDRS) and farmers who were planting new strains of coconut trees to replace ones that had been devastated by a killer virus. In that one field, there were donor organisation staff, donor supporters/volunteers, staff from the partner NGO and beneficiaries, the farmers, all ‘doing their thing’. A nice illustration of working together to improve things.

However, Tim felt there was something about his description of the people in that Ghanaian field that made him uncomfortable – three words to be precise. The words were ‘donor’, ‘partner’ and ‘beneficiary’. In the traditional view of international development, a donor gives funds to a partner (typically an organisation) and the partner then carries out work to improve the lives of beneficiaries (typically the materially poor). This paints a rather one-way flow in the system; from donor to beneficiary. It does not describe good development practice well nor, indeed, the reality of what is happening.

Instead of suggesting we look for new more inclusive alternatives for these terms, Tim offers another option; one that they at WDR, try to embrace:

Firstly, all in that scene are partners. Partnership is about people with common values gathering around a common task in order to see it achieved. True partnership speaks of equality and equity. The Ghanaian farmer, MDRS coordinating staff, WDR volunteers and staff are all of equal value, aiming to reduce poverty, improving lives and gathering around common values such as justice, compassion and solidarity. Together, they can each achieve more than they would on their own.  Another point to make is that WDR partners with people, not organisations.

Secondly, all are donors. The donor has usually been assumed to be the group that provides the financial input for a project. But money is not the only input required for successful development. WDR supporters may have the money to buy new coconut seedlings but they probably do not have years of experience in farming in southern Ghana nor the connections with local landowners in order to obtain new tracts of land. Each partner can donate what they have.

Lastly, all are beneficiaries. This last claim may seem harder to justify. A beneficiary is the one to receive the positive changes brought about by the work. The farmer grows new trees and harvests the coconuts. It is clearly the farmer and his or her family that is benefitting. There is no benefit for the supporter who contributes to the fund or the staff of the supporting NGO. Right? Tim would say wrong.

For example, being part of this wonderful WDR network of people has huge benefits for Tim personally. He gets a huge sense of satisfaction by being involved in something that is good and successful. As someone with a Christian faith, he is able to fulfil his obligation to help the materially poor. He also gets an insight into other cultures and lives – a very enriching experience. Others who contribute from the ‘Irish end’ and yet do not proclaim any form of faith, will also get huge satisfaction and fulfilment from partnering with people across the world to make that world a better place. The staff of NGOs, like himself, earn a living and they also see their own communities progressing thanks to their efforts; surely a heartening and uplifting experience that does the soul good. These are all good things received and so Tim would suggest that everyone is a beneficiary, admittedly in very different ways.

The full text of the article will be published in the Methodist Newsletter in January 2019.

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Beautiful Brokenness – CHW 2018

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‘Live long enough and brokenness becomes a part of your story.’ This simple observation, made by the writer of a feature on Castlewellan Holiday Week 2018, goes some way to explaining why many folk found this year’s theme of Beautiful Brokenness so helpful.

The main speaker for the adults was Patrick Regan who co-founded a charity named Kintsugi Hope ‘to provide safe and supportive spaces for those suffering with mental and emotional health difficulties’.The name of the charity reflects the concept of ‘beautiful brokenness’, expressed in the Japanese art form, Kintsugi, in which cracked pottery is repaired with seams of gold, making a one-of-a-kind feature of the mended object.

Coming in October Methodist Newsletter are first-hand accounts of a hope-filled week where people discovered ‘treasure in life’s scars’.

 

Patrick Regan  (Photo: Methodist Newsletter)

 

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In the September issue of the Methodist Newsletter, Elizabeth McWatters, President of the MWI, tells of a trip made by some children to a play park in Sri Lanka where she had been working.  The children came from different backgrounds and live with many disabilities that make life difficult for them.

At the play park, the children got very excited when they heard ‘Michael, row the boat ashore’ being played. They didn’t know the song, but every time ‘Hallelujah’ came up they clapped their hands, danced and sang. Those on the big wheel soared up and their Hallelujahs rose heavenward with them. Special children praising the Lord in their own way.

‘Hallelujah’ is a great word and one of the few that cannot be translated into another language. Everywhere in Christian company ‘Hallelujah’ is universally understood. Its meaning is derived from Hallel, which means praise, and Yahweh, the highest name given to God. Every time you sing or say Hallelujah you are declaring God’s greatness and that he is worthy of our praise.’