I’ve been asked to share this job announcement for the position of Partnership Manager with the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, a project of the Clinton Foundation. Based in either Peru or Colombia, you would be reporting to the Vancouver-based team. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for a more business-oriented person to expand their field of interest, and try something different. Please let me know if you’d like to apply.
ABOUT THE CLINTON GIUSTRA SUSTAINABLE GROWTH INITIATIVE: The Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (CGSGI) is an initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation that works in partnership with the private sector, governments, local communities, and other NGOs to increase the scope, scale, impact, and sustainability of social and economic development efforts in areas where poverty is widespread. Established in June 2007 by President Bill Clinton and philanthropist Frank Giustra, CGSGI focuses on alleviating poverty in the developing world through market-driven development that creates jobs and increases incomes, and by strengthening factors that enable economic growth such as health and education.
The Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (Canada) is an affiliated, but separate, organization, based in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
The Manager for Partnerships will work with the CGSGI (Canada) team to develop, implement, and monitor new and existing in-country partner relationships. S/he will also work closely with CGSGI teams in Peru and Colombia, and ultimately report to the leadership of CGSGI (Canada). The Manager will be resident in either Colombia or Peru, with frequent travel between the two countries. CGSGI is currently developing programs in Mexico; other duties may be added as needed commensurate with CGSGI’s partnership goals and objectives there.
PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES • Work closely with CGSGI teams to develop and implement CGSGI’s Partnership Strategy.
• Achieve CGSGI’s partnership goals and objectives by identifying, researching, and soliciting potential partners in line with both the Partnership Strategy and specific programmatic needs articulated by the New York, Bogota, Lima and future CGSGI offices.
• Ensure timely communication between and among CGSGI (Canada), CGSGI teams in Peru and Colombia, and existing and future partners.
• Serve as a link between the in-country and CGSGI (Canada) offices for information that the Vancouver team needs for its own partnership development activities (e.g. outlining different opportunities for corporate engagement with CGSGI programs beyond funding, such as in-kind donations of products/services and know-how transfer).
• Will assist in the planning and execution of fund-raising efforts in-country. • Contribute to the maintenance of the corporate partnership database. • Assist with any additional tasks as needed.
A writing sample may be requested as part of the interview process.
The Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (Canada) is proud to be an equal opportunity employer.
No phone calls please.
We wish to thank all applicants for their interest. Due to the large volume of applications received, it is not possible to acknowledge receipt of each application; only selected candidates receiving serious consideration for this position will be contacted.
Seriously. No time! That’s what Henry, our program manager, says 27 times throughout the day: “But, Pen! No time!” And then he laughs his head off. It cracks me up.
The last 10 days or so, we have been running around Monrovia meeting as many people as we can, making sure events don’t fall through, keeping programs and staff on track…. Or at least, we’re attempting to do all these things, more or less successfully. Given the constraints (Christmas season madness, bumper-to-bumper traffic jams), I think Henry and I are faring pretty well. Among other completely random things I have been doing, I had to explain the difference between 1.5 and 0.25 to one of the cooks for the School Nutrition Initiative today. She thought that “1 1/2” meant “half of a half” – oh boy. It’s not easy, especially when you have “no time.”
Last Friday was the official launch of HapFam, the Center for children with disabilities. It was really wonderful to see the children wearing their uniforms for the first time, looking so happy and proud. Attendance was good, and even though not as many NGOs and agencies showed up as I would have liked, I was glad to see that many parents came. The director of the rehabilitation division at the Ministry of Health and the president of the National Commission on Disability both spoke during the event, and highlighted the fact that in spite of the challenges people living with disabilities face, they are still full of potential and can contribute in the home, in the community, in the workplace. Because of the stigma associated with disability (“crippled”, as they often say here), these children are often rejected by even their own families, and I think that for these parents to hear from these two gentlemen – themselves physically disabled – was a step towards creating more acceptance.
Today, thanks to the super efficient and friendly Arwin at Journalists for Human Rights, a TV crew from Love TV (a Liberian media org) came to do a piece on HapFam – I’m particularly excited about the recent media coverage they’ve gotten and happy that people across Liberia (well, those with access to a television) will be able to see the incredible passion, enthusiasm and hard work that the staff at HapFam are putting into making their Center a model. If you haven’t yet seen my recent photos of the HapFam children in their own school, wearing their new uniforms, you can view them here.
I’m off for a final upcountry trip tomorrow morning, which I’m really looking forward to. It’ll be great to get away from the hustle and bustle of Monrovia and learn more about what’s happening in these often overlooked parts of Liberia. Unfortunately, neither of my awesome Guinean drivers will be joining me on this trip. A new guy, James, is who we’ve been assigned by the car rental guy – let’s hope he is even half as cool as his French speaking, gentle counterparts. Better, less frenzied updates upon my return to Christopolis this weekend (Christopolis, according to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s autobiography, was the other potential name that settlers were considering for what became Monrovia. If you had to chose between naming your capital city after J.C. or after U.S. President James Monroe, what would you pick?)
Over the course of the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to contract the services of a very efficient, punctual and polite taxi driver, a man whose name is Chemon. Chemon is Liberian, but spent 10 years living in Guinea during the civil war, where he perfected his French – we often chat in “Frenglish”, my first language. Part of the reason I’ve begun working with him is that transportation in Monrovia is an absolute nightmare, and I’m weighing my words.
The only form of public transportation available here are shared taxis – four people in the back, one in the front. You line up on the side of the road, and wait until a taxi with a free seat stops to pick you up. Now, there seem to be unspoken rules about the order in which people get a ride – a few times, I stopped to wait for a car where several other people were waiting and I was the first one to get a ride. Most of the time, however, people get ahead of me and I end up waiting inordinate amounts of time. Our projects are about 30 min outside Central Monrovia, in a very busy area called Red Light. It’s a popular route, and there are always massive amounts of people waiting to get a ride in both directions.
Unlike most NGOs here, The Niapele Project does not have its own vehicle, and when we need to accomplish several missions during the day (a meeting in Red Light, going to pick up or drop off something downtown, another meeting half way), it’s just not feasible with public transportation. Of course, I could just settle for accomplishing less each day, but given my limited time in the field and the fact that it’s not really my style to work slowly, I struggle for some time to balance my sense of urgency and the realities of getting around.
The solution to this problem is to “charter” one of the little yellow shared taxis for the day – for (generally) $5/hour, you can have your very own yellow taxi to take you wherever you heart desires. That would be great if it wasn’t for the fact that $5/hour for 8 hours is $40/day, and I don’t have the means to afford that. So, until I met Chemon, I either chartered a taxi when I really neeeded it, or just accepted the fact that less work would get done.
In addition to the qualities I first mentioned (efficient, punctual and polite), I am also Chemon’s only expat client, and he charges me very reasonable rates for the day – as long as I pay for gas ($40 to fill the tank, once a week), I can give him $5, 10 or $15, depending on how much I use his services during the day. So we’ve developed a really good working relationship, and, thanks to him Henry (Niapele’s program manager) and I have really boosted our productivity.
Chemon just left for two weeks, but he left his beat up little yellow taxi with one of his friends, so that I didn’t end up in a transporation conundrum again. Because of the time he spent in Guinea, Chemon is buddies with many Guineans here in Monrovia – an apparently tight-knit community. Yesterday, I met Chemon’s friend, my new driver, a gentle Guinean man named Harouna. Harouna took me around all day yesterday, and because “Christmas Season” is suddenly in full swing in Monrovia, we were faced with much traffic, and much time to chat.
I woke up yesterday to the news that Dadis, the junta leader in Guinea, was the victim of an assassination attempt by “renegade presidential guards”, an attack allegedly masterminded by one his aide de camp, Lieutenant Aboubacar Sidiki Diakite (“Toumba”). There is no radio in our beat up little yellow taxi, so I asked Harouna if he had heard the news. He hadn’t, and when while I was updating him on the assassination attempt, he was visibly distraught and kept saying “C’est grave, c’est tres grave” (“It’s serious, it’s very serious”.) He echoed a feeling that I heard from Chemon, which is that Dadis had the courage to take over the leadership of Guinea because he was emboldened by Burkina Faso’s president, Blaise Compaore (“C’est grace a Compaore que Dadis a pu s’asseoir”).
Apparently, Compaore provided the airplane that carried Dadis to Morocco, where he is apparently seeking treatment for his wounds and undergoing medical tests. Meanwhile, according to the African Press Agency, “ECOWAS [reiterated] its call for the immediate establishment of a new transitional authority and the holding of credible elections in the first quarter of 2010 without the candidatures of members of the CNDD and the Prime Minister.”
The ECOWAS statement contradicts what Compaore, the ECOWAS-appointed mediator in the Guinean crisis, called for recently: that Dadis should remain in power for 10 months, and that he could run in the election provided that he step down from the government four months prior to the plebiscite.
The situation in Guinea is extremely volatile, and Dadis’ departure leaves a power vaccuum – while his 2nd in command is left in charge, the potential for a counter-coup and a descent into violence are very real threats.
I’ve mentioned it before here, and my new Guinean friends as well as many people here in Liberia share the belief that Compaore’s appointment as mediator was a miscalculated decision on the part of ECOWAS. Of course, many people here have a tainted perspective of the regional body, due to the perceived failure of the ECOWAS mandated peacekeeping mission in Liberia in the 90s (ECOMOG), which some believe contributed to fueling or at least prolonging the conflict. Compaore is also known to have supported Charles Taylor, in return for Taylor’s participation in the assassination of Thomas Sankara, the young progressive leader in Burkina who Compaore replaced.
It’s been really interesting to catch glimpses into how Guineans and Liberians feel about the crisis in Guinea. As Louise Arbour of the International Crisis Group recently wrote, the potential for regional destabilization should not be underestimated. Many people here fear that a crisis in Guinea could have repercussions on its fragile, recovering neighbors. For instance, should Guineans begin to flee their country and take up residence as refugees on Liberian or Sierra Leonian soil, it would create tensions around the availability of jobs and resources.
Perhaps the stability of West Africa doesn’t seem like a priority – the financial crisis, the recession, unemployment, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, swine flu and what will Jon and Kate + 8 do next take up all the available “worry space” in people and policymakers’ minds. I’m not usually a fan of overused aphorisms, but “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” comes to mind.
That’s what “Malaya” means in Kisii, one of the 16 languages spoken in Liberia, and is also the name of the organization which The Niapele Project sources crops from for the School Nutrition Initiative. I spent a couple days up in the Bong Mines area, where Malaya is located, to learn more about their group, how they function, as well as the broader community. Megan visited them a couple of times over the last 6 months, and everything I heard from her and from Henry, the Niapele program manager, about Malaya and Bong Mines community sparked my curiosity.
So Clem, Henry and I left Monrovia early Saturday morning and began the three hour journey that separates Bong Mines from the capital. I’m not exactly sure how many miles there are between the two places, but I’m fairly confident that the whole trip would take maybe no more than an hour and a half if the roads were in better condition. At some point, about an hour outside Monrovia, there is a turn-off from the main road onto the “Bong Mines road”. It’s not so much a road as a treacherous muddy path.
Once we reached Bong Mines, Henry started telling us about how beautiful, lively and rich the town was. He points in various directions: “these were roads”, “these were big houses”, “there was the church”. All we saw, however was this:
We met up with the leadership of Malaya and were almost immediately back in the car to go visit some of their farming sites. Now, when I think “farm”, I imagine a relatively well-defined piece of land, recognizable as a a place where crops are growing and in some sort of organized manner. We drove through the bush, on tiny, beat up trails for about half an hour, passing some rice fields dotted with all sorts of trees and other random plants growing amongst them. We stopped in the middle of a trail, and walked the rest of the way to “Joe David’s Farm”, where Malaya was given 5 acres to exploit. There, we met with some of Malaya’s farmers and an agronomist who walked us through their newly acquired land to show us their seed multiplication activities, their vegetable farm nursery and a rice field. The latter two did not exist 6 weeks ago: (unfortunately) Malaya farmers used the “slash and burn” technique to clear this piece of jungle to make it exploitable for their farming activities. Hard to blame them for using slash and burn, given that it’s the most cost and time efficient way to make land available to grow crops. Anyway, I was really excited to hear that the Malaya farmers had been in touch with the nutritionist from the University of Liberia we contracted for the School Nutrition Initiative, and had been advised by her to diversify their vegetable crops. Samuel, Malaya’s senior technician, was explaining the nutritional benefits of the various vegetables they were beginning to grow. All the farmers agreed emphatically that it was important for them to include more fruits and vegetables in their diets – even if it’s not really part of traditional Liberian fare, even though it’s more expensive to purchase than rice/beans and the like. The general feeling was that Liberian children would grow stronger and people would fall ill less regularly if they included more vitamins and nutrients found in this type of produce in their diets.
While Malaya began in 2007 as an organization focused on women, the scope of its mission and its activities have expanded over time. At first, Malaya’s main activity was to organize “susu”, which is essentially a community-based savings system. Each week, 72 women contributed a sum of money (ranging from less than 1 USD to 4 USD), and one of them would take the entire pot home – this allows the women to have access to enough money to pay for their children’s school fees, pay outstanding bills or start up a micro (micromicromicro) business venture. In fact, during the first round of susu, each woman contributed money and a bar or a carton of soap each week – soap which was then resold by whoever took the pot of money/soap home that week. So thus began Malaya. Henry found out about this community through his work with WFP a few years back, and when Megan and him investigated the possibility of sourcing crops for the School Nutrition Initiative from there, we became Malaya’s first business opportunity.
Aside from susu, Malaya had also been hoping to generate funding from the sale of cash crops, but had only been able to sell a small portion of their production to market women in Monrovia – not exactly a sustainable or reliable market for these farmers. The challenge for Malaya is to generate enough profit for the community-based organization to realize its vision of rebuilding their community. And the Bong Mines community, once rich and vibrant, is in need of serious reconstruction.
After visiting Malaya’s rice/vegetable farm, we drove around the former town of Bong Mines, towards the communal rice fields. Thanks to our spacious Land Cruiser, we were able to visit the community with several older gentlemen who regaled us with stories of what used to be Bong Mines.
“This used to be the golf course”
“This used to be the shooting club/cricket club/ so-and-so’s house/such-and-such business, etc.”
Again, all there was to see were skeletons of former buildings, peeking through a dense jungle. The men were telling us about how the community would be a place for expats and rich executives to come spend their weekends or vacations, about how wonderful and happy life was at the time. The older men we were with were working for the Bong Mines Company, a German firm which was mining iron ore – they were not miners, however, but held various mid-level managerial positions. As we were driving through memory lane, I was reminded of trips I’ve taken to South East Asia or Egypt, where I visited old ruins of ancient civilizations, swallowed by conflict and time. It felt as though we were bearing witness to some lost golden age – but instead of decades or even centuries, the destruction was total within just a few years.
We finally emerged into this huge plain of rice fields, which are shared by the Bong Mines community. Individual members of Malaya are able to exploit pieces of this land, and Malaya itself has some rice in these fields which seem to extend beyond the horizon. We reached what was apparently the end of the road, where the plantain farm is located. Again, I was trying to understand what they meant by “farm”, because really all I saw were a bunch of plantain trees haphazardly dotted across the landscape – dense in some places, scarce in others.
We ended the day by driving through what used to be the heart of the Bong Mines Company operation – the actual mining sites, as well as where the company’s offices, warehouses and other infrastructure was located. I think, here, the pictures speak for themselves:
It was surreal to drive through what clearly had been a properous, dynamic area, and is now a complete wasteland. In one of the photos above, you see some men near one of the fallen structures. They are scrappers, who are slowly taking apart the giant steel structures and selling these scraps to companies or on Monrovia markets. It reminded me of the stories of young Bangladeshis whose job is to take apart the carcasses of massive derelict ships. According to our guides, scrapping is one of the main economic drivers of the Bong Mines community nowadays – and, indeed, most of the trucks we saw overturned on the road leading from Bong Mines to the main road linking to Monrovia were apparently carrying these scraps. Coincidentally, as of last week, the Bong legislative caucus placed a moratorium on scrapping activities – a decision which is apparently not very well accepted at the local level.
With some googling around, I was able to find a few images of what Bong Mines used to look like. These photos are really a testament to how much was lost during the conflict.
In December 2008, China Union, a Chinese mining company, was awarded a $2.6 billion contract from the Liberian government to rehabilitate and operate the site. At this time, though, the firm has not fulfilled its financial obligation and has yet to make its first payment to the Liberian government (who had been counting on this particular revenue stream for its budget.) In addition to the obvious benefits to the Liberian economy, the 1 million ton a year project has the potential to lift this community out of poverty – however, given Chinese companies relatively disastrous track record in human rights, I wonder what will happen to the people of Bong Mines. The 3,000 jobs slated to created will be a real boon for the area, as there are so few economic opportunities today. I hope the Liberian government will hold China Union to strict standards of operation – from what I’m told, though, the government seems to have very little pull with this firm.
At some point during our drive through space and time, when we were going through a vast, empty field towards yet another part of the plantain farm, one of the men in the car with us noted that we were driving through a mass grave site. I didn’t hear this – Clem did – and no one commented on it. Every other utterance during the whole day had been emphasized and re-emphasized, told in various different ways, but this one fact was muttered and almost went unnoticed. Here are Henry and Anthony, smiling in this very field:
What a reality check.
We continued our drive through the mining area, and again, reached the site of a plantain farm. We were in the middle of nowhere in the bush, surrounded by wild vegetation. Sure, we could see plantain trees here and there, but nothing that even remotely looked like a farm. I asked Anthony how the farmers even knew which trees belonged to them, and how did they keep track? He explained that during the war, people in Bong Mines were planting crops haphazardly in the hills around the town – instead of having a concentration of crops in one place, which would have become an easy target for rebels. To this day, most of what the Malaya farmers refer to as their “farms” are these wild, jungle farms, which span an unknown amount of land and comprise an unknown number of crops.
Later in the evening, sitting down with the Malaya leadership in a guest house near the clinic built by a German NGO, we went over the organization’s structure, its systems and tried to understand how they operated. After the conflict was over, Malaya’s founder, Finda Francis, saw an urgent need for the community to organize and begin a “war on poverty” (the organization’s motto). With not much more than a huge amount of compassion and generosity, and a talent for bringing people together, Finda, along with Anthony and a few other community members, created Malaya in 2007. The susu scheme was successful for a couple of years, and Finda intends to do another round of susu in the near future (each round lasts about as many weeks as the number of people participating, since each needs to have a turn in taking money home). She explained that while Malaya started with 72 members, currently, the organization has about 40 to 50 active members – women who take part in the susu scheme and also contribute to the farming activity for Malaya.
Finda and Anthony explained that when The Niapele Project first came to Bong Mines, some of the women of Malaya had hoped that we would bring money, that we would give things to the community – but that’s not what we’re doing. Instead, the best we can offer as a small NGO ourselves, is to provide them with a sustainable market for their crops (we’re buying about $1,000 worth of food from them monthly.) For a couple dozen women, though, they felt that as war survivors they deserved to be given charitable handouts. While I’m sure that the community and Malaya would benefit from material and financial donations, I’m also really convinced that they have the power to make it all happen for themselves. They don’t need “help” – they just need encouragement and support, and the confidence that they can help themselves better than anyone or any organization can help them. Moving forward, we’ll most likely expand the scope of our work with Malaya in this spirit – helping them connect with new markets, assisting them in strengthening their financial management systems, particularly with regards to how they track their expenses, how to effectively manage their profits, etc.
Malaya has an incredible amount of potential – its leaders are smart, educated and have an endless reserve of energy and drive. Its members are committed to lifting their community out of poverty, and creating the foundations for a bright future for their children. I left Bong Mines genuinely humbled by the community’s resilience and strength, and I’m looking forward to my next trip there.
Tuesday was declared a holiday in Montserrado county – the most populated county, where Monrovia is situated – in order to allow voters to go to the polls to elect a senator to replace one who died this past summer.
The prevailing feeling is that the election is more of a referendum on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s ruling Unity Party, and George Weah’s opposition party, the Congress for Democratic Change. Indeed, this was the first election to be held in Liberia since the 2005 presidential election – some of the people I spoke to said they didn’t vote because they felt their politicians to be rather complacent, and not really working towards the much touted “New Liberia“. Others, on the contrary, are waist deep in political debate – Glenna Gordon writes:
I don’t remember hearing about a senator dying, or plans for elections, but all of the sudden a few weeks ago the streets were plastered with political posters. People were wearing brand new tshirts stamped with candidates faces and logos. My favorite slogan was, “You know it works.” Pick up trucks with megaphones seemed to be talking about politics instead of the usual cell phone promotions or amplified public drunkenness.