Most organizations have staffing challenges. But for a Kenyan based NGO, finding and training the right people in rural areas was more challenging than most. With an eye towards the most valuable work they do, this organization has found some creative and empowering ways to educate staff and provide services.
Below is an interview with Santiago Perez, the founder of the Community Alliance Network, CAN.
1. Please describe your overall goals?
Our goal is to reduce instances of Sex and Gender Based Violence in rural Kenya by providing access to legal and medical support to survivors through our Prevention Clinic.
2. What are the barriers to doing this?
Because of the remote location of our intervention, much of the national talent found in cities like Nairobi and Kisumu is unavailable to us. In addition, most of the communities we work in are not reachable by car, by mass media other than cell phones. This has led us to come up with an innovative informational supply chain in order to allow for rapid mobilization of resources on behalf of our clients.
3. How is this information disseminated?
Part of the reason our work is in such demand is that key information that those threatened by violence need to know, such as what protection they are entitled to and how to navigate the legal and medical system, rarely reaches remote rural areas. Few NGOs in Kenya are able to effectively reach the rural areas, and police and government are conspicuously absent.
Understanding the difficulty of disseminating information through technology in this setting, we adopted a community based approach that has been the cornerstone of our success. When we started the program we mapped all the major communities in the region, and recruited 1-2 Community Monitors from each. The team announces their involvement with the program at their local baraza (village meetings).
A monitor communicates and receives instruction from the clinic via cell phone. When emergency action is required, the monitor receives funds via a mobile phone payment system for transport, medical attention and police filing fees to ensure the client receives what they need quickly. This is crucial in a region where access to hospitals is often cost-prohibitive and where villages are difficult to reach with speed befitting an emergency situation.
4. What services do you provide your staff?
We have instituted a rigorous, long term training program for our staff. All of our staff on the ground are Kenyan professionals, sourced through local universities and community groups. Both they and the community members who act as first responders to instances of gender-based violence are taught how to inform the survivor about existing options, when to seek emergency medical support, how to ensure proper documentation takes place at the hospital for legal purposes, how to report the crime, provide counselling etc.
Because of this capacitation, we are currently considering partnering with an outsourcing service provider, like Samasource, to help our staff supplement their income by doing legal processing work for legal firms abroad and thus benefit from the growth in jobs through global sourcing in Africa.
5. How do you organize your staff?
We have adopted a hub and-spoke process. The spokes are the surrounding network of Community Monitors hailing from a wide spread of communities in the districts we serve, which function as “sensors” for detecting sex and gender based violence in their communities. These information sensors feed information to the hub, our Gender Based Violence Prevention Clinic in Shinyalu Village, which then feeds resources and direction to the monitors to allow them to act effectively. All of this is overseen by our staff and Board in North America through weekly VOIP contact and quarterly progress reviews.
6. Please describe what happens when a survivor is brought to the clinic?
The survivor receives psychological counseling, and is informed as to further options. Staff assist clients in everything from seeking resolution through dialogue, seeking intervention by appropriate authorities (Land Commission, Children’s office etc.), or seeking arrest for and the investigation of the accused. In the latter case, the full case preparation for court hearings is prepared through assistance of the clinic. In addition, the logistics of getting client and witnesses to the courts is arranged on behalf of the client. All at no charge to the survivor.
7. How do you recruit and what are the advantages of your structure?
All of the staff and volunteers on the ground who make this possible were hired locally, and received the entirety of their training in this area through our program. We believe the structure of our grassroots information supply chain is innovative as it allows us to serve a large, hard to reach and underserved region with a small staff.
We are of course, always looking for partnering organizations to help us increase our impact, both social and economic. Feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Santiago Perez is the Founder and Financial Officer of the Community Alliance Network (CAN), an international nonprofit that helps survivors of gender based violence in rural Kenya by providing legal, medical and psychological support so they can attain justice and long term healing. He is an Entrepreneurship Counselor at the SBA’s Midtown Manhattan Small Business Development Center. email@example.com