Our newest Cluster recently launched in Monze, Zambia. Here, its initiator NASILELE SINYAMBO tells us why he thinks imagination, creativity and innovation are vital for creating long-lasting and community-owned change.
Tell us about yourself. I grew up in a rural area of western Zambia called Kalabo district, and completed my secondary education there. In my working life I’ve trained youth and women in entrepreneurship skills, and in starting their own businesses. In 2002 I started my own business running short computer courses, and business courses.
You developed an interest in community health as well didn’t you? I did, yes. I became exposed to the realities of broken health conditions locally, and realised there's a close link between poverty and poor health. I saw that sight and eye problems don't receive adequate attention; nor did major issues like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. I’m not a health professional, so I started partnering with specialists, and conducted outreach to bring health services as close as possible to rural communities.
You now live in the town of Monze in southern Zambia. What strengths do you see in this community? There are good opportunities here. Zambia has an abundance of natural resources like good soils and water resources. There are also many young people and women who are strong and knowledgeable – this could be harnessed to help accelerate community development. We just need to unlock it through training, skills and information-sharing.
What about local challenges? Unemployment and knowledge gaps are both a challenge - they undermine the social and economic fibre of the population. Also, many people still expect the government or an NGO to bring them development, independent of their own effort. There are poor health conditions like malnutrition, a lack of sanitation and hygiene too. And because of poverty, many young women fall prey to prostitution, early marriage and teenage pregnancy, which compromises their health.
Are there any other challenges? Yes, despite the abundant natural resources and human potential, most people in the community are tangled in a social-economic web of poverty. Even if the right mindset, skills and knowledge are put in place, there can still be one missing component of development: financial resources, to provide equipment, or services.
How did you find out about Arukah Network? Well I was looking for an organisation that can help us address poverty and health issues in the context of empowering community members with knowledge to address their livelihoods and health at the primary stage. I met Elvis from Chisekesi Cluster, and he told me about Arukah Network.
And what did you think? It felt like a prayer answered. I learned how Arukah helps communities improve their own social, economic and health skills through networks around the globe. This approach is in line with my aspiration - as a platform to share ideas, knowledge and skills as well as finances to help stimulate community involvement for lasting development.
You've now bought together local people in Monze to start a Cluster (pictured left) - what do you hope to achieve together? We want to break the cycle of poverty by working with communities to help youth, women and the most vulnerable, to develop life skills training and livelihoods. These skills include tailoring and designing, bricklaying and plastering, home management and catering, carpentry and joinery, agriculture, and mechanics.
That sounds great! Yes, we want to transform the mindset to move from dependence on government or external support, and to stir imagination, creativity and innovation among the community members - to see that development starts with them if they can come together.
And what reaction has been there so far to the Cluster? People had mixed reactions, but then Zoom meetings helped introduce them to people in the network, which encouraged them. Some community members have a stereotypical way of thinking that NGOs ‘give’ money. Arukah’s approach is the other way round: it starts with using the community’s strengths. A sense of ownership is needed in every community member, so that they see a project belongs to them and that each of them is accountable for its maintenance and care.
What gives you hope in your community? The commitment of community members. We hope to accelerate participation and interaction between the policy makers (governmental, traditional leaders, or NGOs) and the community through functional groups at local, national and global level. We all want to create long term community awareness and advocacy, and turn round the mindset of the general populace from dependency syndrome.
That's wonderful, Nasilele. Thanks for speaking with us!
Learn about the Cluster that inspired Nasilele here.