A healthy result

I’m just home from a long day at work. A day that had its origin several months ago during a rather stressful submission of a funding application.

As a Fundraising Advisor with VSO the whole idea behind my job is that I don’t fundraise independently, but that I build the skills and ability of my colleagues to do so. The rationale is that by the end of my year here, my placement organisation should be better placed to fundraise successfully than before. Whereas if I do the work for them no-one learns anything.

This is absolutely the best approach but it can be really difficult in practice. And this application was a good example.

When the call for proposals first came out I ran a workshop with the team to develop up potential ideas. Very quickly we settled on a brilliant project focusing on health provision for young people.

Young people in Kenya are affected disproportionately by a wide range of health issues. Almost 95% of all abortions are administered to women under the age of 24 years with unsafe abortions amounting to 35% of maternal deaths and 50% of hospital gynecological admissions in Nairobi. One third of all HIV/AIDS cases in Kenya are found among those aged 15 – 30 years old with rates of infection up to five times higher for young females than males. And the mental health of young Kenyans is markedly poor in comparison with their peers in neighbouring countries with 10% reporting that they are depressed.

Our project was going to play a small part in tackling this in an incredibly deprived area of Nairobi by constructing a Youth Wellbeing Centre, offering a safe, youth-friendly first port of call for those with concerns, heavily partnered with professional clinics in the area and with community outreach being conducted by well-trained youth volunteers.

The idea was great, all we had to do was get it down on paper (plus a bit of research, consultation etc etc). But tragically my colleague who was due to write the bid lost her sister and all of a sudden I had a deadline to meet without the first clue of how to budget for a health project in Kenya!

Amazingly the bid was shortlisted and Wednesday was interview day with the funder to clarify the project idea and check our organisation has the ability to deliver. To compensate for the un-VSO proposal writing stage, I was determined to make sure my colleague stepped up and led the interview.

Which meant Tuesday was a full day of interview prepping. I took the role of funder and grilled my colleague on the bus, over lunch, and in the office as we waited for power to return (it never did). “How is the project aligned with government priorities? How are young people involved in the management of the charity? How are you going to fund the project in the long-term so it is sustainable? What is your fundraising strategy for the match funding required? What experience of running health projects do you have already?”

My poor colleague looked shell-shocked and scared for the first hour or so. And by lunch I could tell she was exhausted. She had thought we would spend the day printing out background papers so I was really glad that we took the time to do the prep. But by the end of the day she knew the project inside and out and her answers were strong and confident.

The night before the interview I felt weirdly not nervous. I’m used to being the one on the spot but this time I was genuinely looking forward to seeing my colleague perform the next day as I knew she was well-prepared.

And it went brilliantly! We had answers and paperwork for almost everything the funder threw our way and so many people turned up to the session to support the bid, from Committee members to young people to neighbouring health clinic representatives to staff from the County government office.

But the best bit was seeing my colleague lead the session and knowing she had really gained something from the whole process.

Now we just have to wait a couple more months for the final decision…fingers crossed!




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