The second SDG & Me journey kicks off in April 2020; a programme that takes participants to the Gambia where they focus on personal reflection. By working together with other Dutch managers and Gambian change makers of the World Food Program, Buzz Women and Green-up have positive impact on local communities.
But why would Dutch managers go on a journey like this? Why not simply write a cheque and hope the money is put to good use? Why pay to share your expertise? Based on the knowledge and experience we gained from the previous journey, this is the reason:
During the programme the participants work in mixed teams (Dutch and Gambian) to tackle strategic challenges that the local partner organisations face. The World Food Program, for example, offers daily meals to school children in the Gambia. Rather than providing the schools with imported and standardized ingredients, they give them a budget to procure the ingredients from farmers and traders in the local community.
This kickstarted two years ago, and the process has already boosted the local economy and allowed the schools to provide food that is more diverse, nutritious and in-line with the availability of crops.
The school in Fass has, however, faced some difficulties. Their budget couldn’t cover all the costs made to provide all children with a daily meal. Sometimes there was even a two-month gap. It was instantly clear how much impact nutrition has on the productivity of school children; concentration declined, they were tired, and didn’t have the energy to finish their homework or join in after school activities.
The mixed teams met with the school committee, school management, cooks, children, farmers, and traders. Gathering enough information and input to design a programme that would be sustainable and effective for all parties involved. They were able to propose a menu for the school meals that was affordable and nutritional. It includes ingredients that are cheaper yet nutritious, in-line with the available crops and seasons, even allowing them to save money.
What about the money that was saved? The savings ensure that the children receive 34 more meals per school year. That means 34 days extra days of effective education, giving them a 20% bigger chance of becoming successful in life. This may seem like a small amount considering there are 160 school days per year, but considering they come from nothing means this is a giant leap.
The participants realised they were contributing to something bigger: reducing hunger in the Gambia (SDG 2) and providing quality education (SDG 4). During a personal coaching session Sulayman, one of the WFP staff members, said he wanted to work on a bigger scale. To help schools effectively manage their budget to provide healthy school meals throughout the year. After a good night’s sleep, he returned the next morning and said: “I really made a mind shift. Today I will call our director and discuss my ideas to scale up our programme!”
At the start of the programme a few Dutch participants were hesitant and doubted how they could be of value to the programme, but by using their common sense, empathy, result-driven mindset, eagerness, openness to work and live with the Gambians and ability to listen they helped develop a successful programme. This week is all about working together to create the best solution. That could be you in 2020!