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Arukah's Story: Reflections From A Co-founder.

Dr. Nick Henwood is Arukah Network’s Co-founder and has been a trustee since we registered as a charity. At the moment, he is moving on to become an ordained priest at the Church of England. As he leaves, he reflects on Arukah’s history and highlights some of the things that inspired him during the journey. He also shares about his new role.

Can I take you back a couple of decades when Arukah Started. Could you share what the process was like?

I spent 9 years serving as a doctor in Nepal with my family. We returned to the UK in 2004. When I came back, a friend linked me up with Ted Lankester. Initially our passion and focus was on how experienced expatriates could harness and share their knowledge about community health. We met with others with similar interests and launched what we called Community Health Global Network (Referred from here as CHGN). However we quickly shifted our focus from getting and sharing knowledge from expatriates as we realised afresh that there is a pool of knowledge and experience within local communities all around the globe.

Months later, Ted and I began linking up with people in Kenya and arranged a first Cluster meeting in Kericho in 2006. We didn’t know much back then and were seen as another NGO that would supply financial resources, rather than a network where people could work together. And so we struggled a bit.

Back in the UK, Ted and I met every month in London to form a website and seed the idea of sharing experience between clusters. The Uttarakhand Cluster was then formed in 2008 in north India and quickly became a strong Cluster where skills and resources were shared between local health organisations.

As time went by my involvement shifted from practical implementation to becoming a trustee when we got registered as a Charity and eventually changed our name to Arukah Network.

Interesting! What stood out to you in this entire process?

At the beginning of what was then CHGN, a mutual friend of Ted and I named Ian Smith shared with us that communities have the capacity to make decisions, to care for each other, to act together and to change themselves. That was refreshing because oftentimes we assume that a community needs external help to achieve anything. And that’s where the powerful idea of SALT visits came from which begins with identifying and hearing stories about the strengths of the community.

In your time with Arukah, what have been some things that have encouraged you?

I have enjoyed being part of an organisation with people that are gentle with each other, open to learn from one another and encourage each other.

The most powerful thing I saw was what happened in Uttarakhand. There were about 20 different organisations that stopped competing with each other and started collaborating. The local government then called on them to work together to lead on smoking cessation in the whole state! It was encouraging to see how the collaboration brought forth change.

Thank you for sharing. What’s been a challenge you faced?

The key challenge we faced was that people misunderstood who we were. For example, the group in Kericho at the time thought that we were an NGO that had come to provide finances. This caused the group to lose its way. I am glad however because in due time, new leaders who were willing to collaborate came together and formed the present Kericho Cluster.

A lot of people still think that we are financial providers and reach out to us with that expectation in mind. It’s a call to gently share who we are and what we believe.

You are moving on to being an ordained minister. Could you share how your journey started and what you hope to achieve for the church?

Thanks for asking! 18 months ago, I attended a conference and, on impulse, went to a session about becoming an ordained minister. We sat round a big table and I asked the facilitator what the difference was between her, an Anglican priest, and the others of us, who were ordinary believers. We all loved Jesus and were serving him, I said. She paused and then said that it was about obedience to a call, and being prepared to be placed where you don’t want to go and ready to serve God in ways you may not have chosen yourself. In that moment, I knew that God was telling me that I needed to explore that.

I hope to support, motivate and encourage church members as they know God’s love, and serve other people.

That’s wonderful, Nick. Any last words for the network as you step out?

The key is softness of spirit and being ready to learn from each other. So often we (especially the West) make the mistake of assuming we know what other people need. The opposite is much more life-giving. Let’s learn the way of humility and say, “I’d love to learn from you.”

Thank you so much, Nick. Weappreciate the valuable work you put in to developing Arukah over the years. All the best in your next season of life!

Listen to another Co-founders story HERE


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