BBL FACILITATOR: Daina Damba - MamaDi
I have been working with community development and training for more than two decades. I started at Operation Joseph in Zimbabwe and I have been with SocioTech in South Africa for almost 9 years now. Looking back over it all, I realise that creating real and positive change not only takes time (and requires ongoing support) but also that change itself is a layered state. It is not something that can happen once and be done with.
The people we work with often grow from knowing very little about growing vegetables into being small subsistence food gardeners, and then small businesses selling, and then hopefully moving out of their small comfort zone into building bigger businesses and developing markets that leave a legacy for generations to come. As a facilitator, you have to start with the basics, and when you see that they are flying high with that, you have to change to meet the level to which they have risen. We go little by little through training how to sell and how to manage finances and personal budgets and so forth. You must gradually adjust over time. It’s a journey.
One of the things that I like about the way we work at SocioTech, is that we have the freedom to really be with people, and through that to facilitate lasting change. We have the privilege of going with people on that journey. Not just to rush in and then go again, but rather to really build relationships of trust. For years after the training is finished, we facilitators are only a phone call away and our support is for as long as people want, because we are like a family. They can call at any time, and they do!
"...selling and creating business, is also about developing confidence."
It can’t be rushed, because change happens in people’s lives in so many ways and means different things to different people and different communities at different times. Often it means multiple things all happening simultaneously. Journeys that are about improved nutrition are also about health and spirituality and emotional growth, and a journey that is about selling and creating business, is also about developing confidence. It is all those things working together that makes for meaningful life change.
I worked with a woman who was a diabetic and soon after she started to garden and eat from her garden she went to the hospital for her medication. The doctor said to her: “what has happened?”, because she was so much healthier. While she was growing vegetables, her health was changing, and so was her confidence and her financial status. Everything all together was making for a life change.
"Bringing people together is part of what we do... "
One of the most significant forms of change I see over and over again in the SocioTech journey, is about building community trust. South Africa has a difficult and painful history and, in many cases, that has broken trust between neighbours. People often do not feel that they can rely on those around them. Our way of working requires neighbours to work together to erect the tunnels. We build from household to household, all those families come and help each other, and in doing things for and with others, that starts to create real networks of support. Helping each other and coming together to love thy neighbor. Once those networks and relationships of trust exist, a person can say ‘I have to go away for a few days, please water my garden’ or ‘please protect my property against thieves’ and with those kinds of mutually supportive relationships, many things that were once impossible become possible. Bringing people together is part of what we do and I just glorify God when I see it happen.
A beautiful example of how SocioTech builds trust and community networks is the Phinda-Phinda concept. It is a very generous mentality built into our way of working. Phinda-Phinda means that when one person gets trained they train three other people, and in that way it keeps going round. When someone is successful, their neighbours and friends come to them and say ‘how are you doing this?’ and they share what they learnt.
Because of God, we are a family, and those networks that we build in these families of trust and love, are what make quality lives possible. I get such joy from being part of that broader family. I love it when people I don’t even know telephone me, asking SocioTech for support. Before I know them, they know me through my work. I don’t know them, but they are already my sisters and my brothers in the fight up from poverty.