Connecting local responses around the world
I always walk away from a conversation with Saeed Wame, founder and director of Namwera AIDS Coordinating Committee (NACC) of Malawi, with a new understanding. Whether he be blowing my concept of “capacity” wide open, or offering a completely new definition of volunteer, Saeed is the sort of community leader whose wisdom and humility always leaves you with much to be mulled over and much to be integrated into your work and life.
The conversation I had with Saeed earlier this month was no different. We talked about the $ value of community contributions to his organization, the challenges of the intimate factors at play when it comes to child protection, and how numbers cannot portray the true value of his organization’s work.
Saaed Wame founded NACC in 1996 with zero dollars and just a vision for his community. Today NACC utilizes a US$100,000 annual budget, operating in 400+ villages in four districts in southern Malawi. NACC has grown from strength to strength, adding programs and deepening its presence at the community level over the past 15 years. Although NACC began in response to the AIDS crisis in Namwera, its organization’s mission has expanded holistically over the years to include work in maternal health, early childhood development, and education care and support.
But it goes beyond that. NACC’s approach is, more importantly than any programmatic focus or service delivery, concentrated on enabling communities to be more resilient.
When I first learned of NACC in 2005, I was impressed by this embeddedness at the community level, evident immediately in the way they conduct field visits with donors and stakeholders. A long list of beneficiaries is retrieved at the office, the visitor is asked to select a name at random, and that is whom the entourage visits. No staging. No coaching. Nothing to hide and nothing to promote. Just here we are.
That spirit, confidence, and connectedness are evident throughout NACC’s programs. With a volunteer corps of over 5,000 [active!] people, it’s hard to call them volunteers. Rather, they are engaged and motivated citizens contributing to the betterment of their communities. As Saeed shares, “They don’t have money, but they have energy and ideas. They can offer their time.”
And this time is no small thing.
Photo by Joop Rubens