Tearfund’s ministry is about creating positive impacts in people’s lives but this would not be possible without the generous support of Kiwis.  Your donation is not just about how much money gets to where it is needed, but the level of positive change it creates.  I want to present impact through the lens of stewardship, and asking the question: “so what?”

 At Tearfund, being a good steward means having three-way accountability:
  • To the people and communities we serve – ensuring we deliver the support that meets their needs and goals.
  • To our supporters – demonstrating that the resources we are entrusted with have been used wisely and achieved positive results.
  • To our peers and partners – being accountable to professional standards that ensure we deliver high-quality work with integrity.
  
 Winston Churchill once said, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”. Being a good steward compels Tearfund to look at the impact our work has on the people we seek to serve—it asks the “so what?” question. Let me share an example.
  
 After the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal in 2015, I was involved in a project that rebuilt 1,312 homes, after over 600,000 homes, 5,000 schools and 1,000 clinics and hospitals were severely damaged or destroyed. The project focused on “building back better”—incorporating earthquake-resilient construction features that would keep families safe. It also made sure that houses had adequate ventilation for good indoor air quality, and that families had access to a safe and hygienic toilet. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the project is that homeowners were trained and built their own homes, with neighbours helping neighbours.  In the process, they learnt new skills.

After-the-7-8-earthquake-in-Nepal,-I-was-involved-in-a-project-that-rebuilt-1,312-homes-(1).jpg
After the 7.8 earthquake in Nepal, I was involved in a project that rebuilt 1,312 homes.
   
Understanding the impact of this project meant moving beyond counting the number of families with new homes to uncovering a much richer story of what process and the outcome meant for the people involved.
  • Waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea reduced dramatically as families had toilet facilities and were aware of hygiene measures. The municipality was declared free from open defecation.
  • Respiratory illnesses improved, as houses had better ventilation from moisture and cooking smoke was vented outside.
  • Children were aware of how to stay safe when an earthquake strikes
  • Community relationships strengthened as people worked together to rebuild and divisions between different castes reduced.
  • Women, elderly people and those with disabilities were active participants in the rebuilding process and society began to recognise their abilities and contribution more.
  • Most people opened a bank account for the first time in their life.
  • Employment opportunities were created for young people who would have otherwise migrated abroad for low-skilled employment. 
 By asking “so what?” we get a much more rich view of the impact that our projects have on the lives of the people we seek to serve. We can learn from the intended or unintended changes that our projects bring and gain insights about how we might be able to address problems in new ways, increase positive impact, or address areas that did not go well. Ultimately, the biggest mistake we can make is to not pay enough attention to learning from the work we are doing.

The-project-focused-on-building-back-better-which-meant-incorporating-earthquake-resilient-construction-features-that-would-keep-families-safe.jpg
The project focused on building back better - which meant incorporating earthquake-resilient construction features that would keep families safe.
  
To understand the impact of our work, we ask people. We interview the teacher, religious leader, chief, nurse or government officer. We find out through focus groups with communities, surveys of households, and informal discussions. We welcome and address feedback and complaints. We observe, monitor and compare areas where we are working with other areas. We seek out the voices of the vulnerable and marginalised that are always there but may not always be heard. We take heed of the ideas and solutions coming from the people we seek to serve and then back them to make the changes they seek for their communities.
  
We must move beyond describing the work we do, to answer the bigger question—“so what difference does this make in the lives of those we serve?”

       

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