Development experts have opined that the 21st Century is characterized by rapid and dynamic changes and complex problems including poverty and climate change among several others hence the role of international development organizations and partners are being channeled towards overcoming some of these problems.
Tearfund, an international Christian relief and development organization that is passionate about ending poverty and seeing communities flourish, is determined to include everyone, especially the most vulnerable, in its programmes. It also strongly believes that poverty is not God’s plan but that His plan is that no human being should be useless as long as he has life.
In pursuance of its vision, Tearfund Nigeria office produced a strategy to guide its operations and those of its partners in project implementation, among others, from 2021 to 2027, reports Ralph Madugu.
“Today’s event is historic for at least three key reasons; firstly, it marks the end of a phase of a six-year strategy (2014-2020) and the beginning of a new phase covering a period of six years (2021-2027). Secondly, it points to a new phase, which has shown the potential of bringing along bigger opportunities, responsibilities and heightened expectations from beneficiaries, communities and our international partners. Thirdly, it is the fact that this is the first Tearfund Nigeria Strategy launched during a once in a lifetime experience given the current context of the pandemic (COVID-19).”
Above were the words of the Tearfund Country Director, Mr. Paul Mershak, on the occasion of the 2021-2027 Country Strategy launch in Jos, Plateau State.
Delivering his keynote address that aptly captured his account of stewardship, he described the occasion as an “accountability event for Tearfund to tell the world what we have been doing in the past few years.”
Describing the occasion as “unique and historic,” Mr. Mershak emphasized that it is unique because it is the first strategy being launched during a pandemic.
He added that the event marks the end of a phase of a six-year strategy and also points to a new phase which has shown the potential of bringing along bigger opportunities, responsibilities and expectations from beneficiaries, communities and Tearfund international partners.
The Tearfund Country Director, who went down memory lane, disclosed that over the past seven years, Tearfund Nigeria engaged twelve partners in 15 states including the FCT to deliver “live saving and development interventions through the implementation of Tearfund’s twenty-nine projects.”
Said he: “In 2014, Tearfund country office in Nigeria began the second phase of its country strategy implementation, which ended in March 2020. This was followed by an interim strategy covering 2020-2021 intended to ensure that there are no gaps in programming and implementation before the start of the next phase. The six-year strategy (April 2014-March 2020) was developed after the first one ended which was developed to last for six years (April 2006-March 2012).
He added that the Country strategy deliberately developed has served over the years to guide the Tearfund Nigeria Country office and its partners in project implementation, partner engagement, resource allocation, scope of work, coverage, impact assessment and contribution to its global vision.
At the threshold of the launch of the last strategy in 2014 looking at the horizon 201 to 2020, Mr. Mershak acknowledged that there were uncertainties but Tearfund have come to agree with the memorable words of Mandela thus: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
“This is evident from the impressive outputs of the earlier mentioned partners during the period which are reflected below as follows: 6,665, 254 people (1,773,060 and 4,892,194 indirect beneficiaries) reached. In 3020 worship centres; (2,866 local churches and 154 Mosques), 252 schools (65 primaries, 107 secondary schools and 80 tertiary institutions, 964 Self Help Groups-Village Savings and Loans Schemes made up of 17,581 men and women.
Looking into the future, with a measure of uncertainty as to what lies ahead, Mr. Mershak posited that it seems an uphill task to deliver results, he however expressed optimism thus: “However, in spite of what looks and sounds like a daunting task, as people of faith we draw from Martin Luther King Jnr’s words- ‘Faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future.’
“We are confident that in spite of the diversities of turbulence that could be experienced in the external environment going forward posing a challenge to the implementation of the new strategy, we do know the one who holds the future and who has always guided us through calm and rough waters and brought us to safe harbour,” he stated.
In a brief exhortation on the topic “New Phase, Renewed Commitment: The Place of Strategic Planning,” Anglican Bishop of Bukuru Diocese, Rt. Rev. Dr. Jwan Ntwar Zhumbes, opined that a new phase presupposes the fact that there was an old phase and a renewed commitment betrays the idea that there is an existing commitment.
The cleric added that to match then a new phase, a renewed commitment is inevitable on the part of all stakeholders.
Reading from Joshua 6:1-7, Zhumbes said the Israelites were at a threshold of a new phase in their life and it came with a call to recommitment and a renewed commitment to the cause.
Said he: “The gateway to the land for which they had spent forty years in the wilderness had been tightly and securely shut because of the fear of them. To challenge and test their commitment to this call, the Lord called their leader Joshua and said to him, “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valour. You shall march round the city once each day for six days. On the the seventh day however, march around seven times.”
Bishop Zhumbes pointed out that the Lord also spelled out various strategic roles individuals and groups were to play to make this new phase of their life a reality, adding that every group showing commitment to playing its role then, steadily but assuredly took them to their desired result thereby ushering them into their destiny, the promised land.
He posited that for a new phase, a strategic plan is inevitable as according to him, it will challenge, drive and test the commitment of stakeholders, especially commitment in its renewed form.
According to him, strategic plan in a new phase stir up and renew commitment by replacing theory with action as indicators and affirmation of progress and being on course.
“It provides a well laid out road map to the destination-the goals and objectives set out. It makes for clarity of goals, defines responsibility, makes for division of labour, makes for gift maximization, stimulates initiative and creativity. It discards of arbitraries, tests commitment and productivity, enables working towards a definite answer, result or outcome, places experience in its rightful place and gives it relevance.”
In this, he added, the leader’s commitment is demonstrated by ever being ready with instructions and giving them out at the right time for appropriate actions and charged the stakeholders thus: “When God assigns, he expects results. And here we a privileged people to drive a new phase. Like a Joshua and all involved in the promised land new phase project, may we, going by the strategic plan, renew our commitment to our different group and individual roles as we work towards the birth, nurture, growth and development of a New Phase in Tearfund Nigeria. And this is only possible when commitment is not traded for mediocrity. For without a renewed commitment, a new phase will amount to no new down.”
The event brought together participants including Tearfund implementing partners, security agencies, religious organisations, international non-governmental organisations, religious leaders, benefitting communities drawn from Christian and Muslim dominated communities. Also in attendance were local non-governmental organizations.
The event featured a youth group dance drama demonstrating Tearfund programmes, presentation of a brief historical background of Tearfund in Nigeria, reports on achievements of Tearfund Nigeria from the thematic areas in the last strategy and briefs on plans in the next 6 years and a general overview of the new country strategy and base line.
Other events that featured at the occasion were testimonies from some of the beneficiaries of Tearfund progammes and projects, special prayers for Tearfund staff and partners, presentation of awards to two categories of volunteers, formal inauguration of Church and Community Advisory Committee as well as presentation of certificates to graduates of the Project Cycle Management training.
There were goodwill messages from government agencies, including Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning, State Ministries of Health and Environment. Other goodwill messages came from Christian Aid, Mennonite Central Committee, Mission 21, International Federation of Women Lawyers, Jama’atul Nasril Islam and the Christian Association of Nigeria.
High point of the occasion was the public presentation of the national brochure performed by Dr. Yakubu Joseph, Country Director of Mission 21.
It would be recalled in April 2014, Tearfund unveiled a strategy that was developed with a lot of input from partners and Tearfund staff which was the second strategy produced and was based on the corporate vision and outcomes of Tearfund and the lessons learnt and recommendations from evaluation of the first strategy and the contextual analyses of Nigeria.