“What really makes something achievable? Is it determination, money, a shared goal? You could argue that all these things are worth their weight in gold. But this August it struck me that the most under-valued element of all is the power of partnership.
As the person responsible for forming partnerships between Raleigh International and businesses, I find that “partnership” is an over-used word which is often sold short in terms of its true value.
It was only when visiting Raleigh projects in the earthquake-hit region of Gorkha, Nepal, that I saw how powerful and necessary partnerships are to bringing about lasting change. I visited a project team of 10 diverse and inspirational young volunteers on Raleigh Nepal’s first Expedition programme. The volunteers had made swift progress in a matter of weeks, with 9 houses being well on the way to being constructed as part of the rebuilding programme.
What quickly became evident to me upon arriving in the hill-side community of Chapthok was the number of individuals involved in making this exceptional work a reality.
The “Buwah” (father) had given up half a field of his maize-growing land in order to construct a shelter for the Raleigh volunteers to sleep in. He also worked with the community and Raleigh’s project partner, Goreto, to facilitate discussions over which households should be re-built first. It was a very emotive issue and one which the Buwah and Goreto were instrumental in handling so well. The community members themselves should be given huge credit. Not only were they supportive of those chosen to receive the first houses (often the lower Dalit caste, and always those with infant children), but they also worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Raleigh volunteers during the construction.
I felt that this particular symbol of partnership was one of the strongest on show. Raleigh is not an aid agency, but a sustainable development one, and it was good to see another Raleigh project partner, Build Up Nepal, supporting the local community to learn the various techniques required for house-building. Engineers such as Aashish Gautam demonstrated just how collaborative and important Raleigh’s local project partners are in delivering our projects successfully.
The bonds of partnership were particularly tight within the ‘host families’ of the Raleigh volunteers. The volunteers shared meal times with the families, allowing friendship and respect to grow. This also gave volunteers a deeper understanding of the challenges facing the communities such as limited access to safe, clean water.
Two other essential partners to this amazing project were the brick-making entrepreneurs and the project funders.
Build Up Nepal have loaned out compressed earth brick-making machines to coop enterprises in these earthquake-hit communities. The entrepreneurs then work collectively to produce earthquake-resistant bricks, which are then purchased by Raleigh and Build Up Nepal to construct the new houses – creating a new livelihood for the entrepreneurs, but also supplying the much-needed bricks in order for the houses to be re-built.
Which brings me on to Raleigh’s fantastic funders. We have various donors, but I will give special mention to our two corporate partners who are supporting our Nepal programmes specifically. RedSofa London are funding places for Nepalese Host Country Volunteers to take part in Raleigh – crucial to build soft skills and leadership, and to give them an edge in what is a terrible jobs market. BNP Paribas (Suisse) SA are partnering with Raleigh for 3 years to support our work in Nepal, and this year are generously supporting the delivery of crucial sanitation infrastructure and hygiene-awareness raising in these communities, as well as funding Host Country Volunteers too. Thanks to RedSofa London and BNP Paribas (Suisse) SA, Raleigh is able to deliver impact to the communities of Nepal.
The final group who demonstrate the importance of partnerships is our Raleigh volunteers. They’re incredible, energetic, collaborative, caring, enthusiastic. One of the Project Managers, Tara from Nepal, had come to volunteer because he wanted to help his country after the earthquakes, despite being unemployed and needing to find a livelihood.
An amazing volunteer called George told me that he believed “Individuals change lives, but teams change the world” and after what I saw in action through the framework Raleigh Nepal has created, I feel nothing could be more true.
Long live partnership!”