News: Inspiring women drive change

Kevin (rear, left) and Margaret (rear, third from left) with Mana Rince (in front of Margaret), Mana Dina (far right) and OHM staff and volunteersMy role here involves working closely with the management team, in particular the Managing Director (Mana Rince) and the Finance Officer (Mana Dina), both females and founding members of OHM. The team are young, ranging from 24 – 37 years and work hard for their rural communities, training them in programs including agriculture, food and nutrition, water and sanitation, and building school kitchens. They are a very happy bunch and we have had lots of laughs together. While it is not directly part of my role, I’ve been lucky enough to visit many of the communities they support and see at first hand the great work they do which makes my time here all the more satisfying.

As with all non-government organisations (NGOs) funding is critical. While Rince has good English, the level of detail required in project proposals by many donor organisations means my technical writing skills have definitely been kept fit and well. OHM already had many Quality Assurance processes such as finance procedures, position descriptions, staff contracts, strategic plans etc. in place, so I have helped with suggestions to make them more practical to their programs.

OHM is the only local NGO still to be in operation in the whole of Bobonaro district (pop. 92,049). The others have not been able to survive more than 1 or 2 years due to lack of funding. 2012 was one of the toughest years for OHM. With the government and presidential elections, many donor organisations delayed or cancelled project funding ‘just in case’ or with a ‘wait and see’ approach. I did find that hard. We worked diligently on submissions – not knowing if/when the project might be cancelled. Some OHM staff became ‘volunteers’ themselves with others donating back some of their salary from their successful projects to enable the organisation to provide a basic allowance. I have the pleasure of working with a very committed group of people.

I have loved hearing stories from Rince and Dina about the early days of OHM and the challenges they faced in order to establish their NGO – like riding on the back of a motorbike for over five hours on an almost non-existent road, while 8 months pregnant! These inspirational stories put many of us to shame for our complaints about trivial things.

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True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice. - Martin Luther King Jr