Kia ora koutou, my name is Jo Wieland and I’m a Programmes Specialist* at Tearfund. What’s a Programmes Specialist, you ask? Well, we have the privilege of holding the relationships between Tearfund and our local partners around the world, encouraging them, connecting them up with other partners, and providing insights, expertise and thoughts.

It’s not all travel and fun though! Day-to-day stuff looks a lot like sitting in front of a computer, answering e-mails, having Skype calls at odd times and reading through reports, numbers and stories to make sure our projects are all on track.

via GIPHY

I have a Masters in Development Studies which helps inform the work I do, but theory and practice don’t always mesh! It’s both a challenge and a joy to figure out the practical implications of this work and make sure we’re doing it in the best way possible, causing no harm. I love learning about different ways of doing development, and seeing what works in one context but may not work in another. It’s a profession of problem-solving; the constant pursuit of change for the good. Sometimes it’s messy, conflicting and hard but through relationship, and an openness to explore, learn and have your perceptions unravelled, it can be the best job in the world (no pun intended).

At Tearfund we organise our projects into five causes: Protect, Empower, Restore, Nourish and Sponsor:

Tearfund NZ partners with local organisations doing aid and development in five causes: Protect, Empower, Restore, Nourish and Sponsor. Photo of a programmes participant from around the world, from each cause.
I’m involved in the Protect cause, which focusses on anti-trafficking and exploitation (check out our webpage to see more about it). We have five partners in five countries in Protect.

Homes of Hope in Fiji is one of those partners, and I visited them recently to check in on their project, talk about the challenges, change any project plans if needed and assist with gathering information for reports. I love this part of my job! A melding of theory, practice and relationship get thrown together. Skype calls and e-mails are fine, but there’s something special about sitting with people, sharing experiences, and bantering over a cup of coffee.


Who is Homes of Hope Fiji?

According to the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, the South Pacific is one of the most dangerous places in the world for young girls to grow up in. Homes of Hope is a committed group of (mostly) Fijian staff who run a residential facility for young women and girls who are victims of, or are vulnerable to, situations of forced sexual encounters, sexual exploitation and violence. At this facility over one hundred people are given the time and space to begin their journey of healing. This can look like trauma-informed counselling, ante-natal care classes, or learning farming techniques to make a living when they return to their community.

Homes of Hope has just opened up a bakery, and as someone who got to sample the banana bread every day, I see great things coming from this! The team also do awareness raising and training around issues of forced sex to challenge negative stigmas and encourage positive behaviours in parenting and partners.

Photo from Homes of Hope Fiji, a woman and four children walk down the road beside a playground happily holding hands.


What does Homes of Hope do?

I spent five days with Homes of Hope. Some of the time was out visiting people. A lot of the time was spent around a big table outside, looking across a Fijian jungle filled with green as far as the eye could see and the sound of bird song in the air. Despite its romantic impressions, most days still involved writing up reports, reading through documents, and checking e-mails when I could find a Wi-Fi connection! Ah the life of a ‘devkid’**.

On one of the days, I went with social workers on visits to women who had been involved in the programme. It was such a great glimpse into the lengths that the team go to, to regularly encourage people on their journeys of healing. The ability to sit with them and hear their stories, struggles and challenges, and also hear the changes that have occurred, the steps forward, the steps of acceptance, is a true highlight of the work that we do.

Homes of Hope Fiji Social Workers Seki and Ono. Tearfund NZ blog on a day in the life of a Programmes Specialist

The social workers also partner with communities where people in Homes of Hope have come from, to ensure they’re set up well for returnees to reintegrate. The social workers give updates on how their family member is getting on in the programme, talk through things they can do in preparation for them to return home, and are sometimes just a listening ear, providing support and advice as they navigate this new life stage. As I mentioned earlier, Homes of Hope do a lot of work around raising awareness. For example, they challenge negative cultural and social norms, like blaming, stigmatizing or placing fault with those who have been sexually abused. Instead HoH seek create a culture of freedom for young Fijian women and children from the cycles of forced sex.


Who does Homes of Hope work with?

Two women we met had been through the programme at Homes of Hope and are now in stable jobs, taking care of their children, connected in with their families, and accepted by their communities. Both these women shared about the transition from HoH back into their homes, and how sometimes that was scary, hard and a bit much. However, both were also keen to come back to HoH and mentor other young women or girls who had been in a similar situation to themselves. They want to pass on what they’ve learnt, the challenges they’ve had to overcome, and stories about how they’ve done it.

What a great testament to the work and community of Homes of Hope, that those who have gone before wish to return and be part of others healing and journey.

*Jo has since moved on from Tearfund NZ (but is forever part of the Tearfund whānau!)
**A person who studies Development

 


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