When I left my house this morning, I knew only that I was going to write a story about a Capacity Building workshop given by Flying Mission. My first question exposed my ignorance. "What is Capacity Building?" I asked Mercy Leshome, the workshop facilitator. "Capacity Building is helping an organisation, or even an individual, become self-supporting and income-producing with skills it already possess, and by teaching new skills", she said. In this case, Mercy was teaching Basic Tools for Managing Finances to volunteers from Home Based Care Groups and HIV/AIDS Support Groups. "Flying Mission wants to help them develop their projects", she added.
These 18 volunteers, from all over southern Botswana, are the grassroots workers of organisations that provide hospice care and emotional and spiritual support to persons affected by HIV/AIDS. Nursing, cooking, cleaning, and providing companionship are their strengths. Handling finances is not. And this has caused problems for these volunteers in the past. Some of them thought that a quotation was the same as an invoice. Some confessed to being completely intimidated when it comes to finances, to the point that rather than request project funds for project expenses, they pay out of their own pockets — something they can’t afford to do. And others stated that accounting to donors for money spent is very stressful. Mercy covered topics such as How to Open a Bank Account, Income vs. Money Spent, The Components of a Cheque, and Petty Cash. She gave them tips on how to avoid fraud and how to cover themselves by keeping proper records.
One of the volunteers raised her hand. "Please, can we do this workshop again, and next time for a whole week?" she asked. Mercy, taken aback, wondered if she hadn’t done a good job of getting the material across. "Not the same lessons", clarified the volunteer. "I want more. Cook us ’til we’re roasted!" She raised her hand again later. "Most of these things we didn’t know", she said. "I’m feeling very fat today, because now I know what I’m doing. Before, when people asked me questions about finances, I couldn’t answer. This is very good. I like it!"
At the end of the session, I asked about their projects and was shown some displays at the back of the room. One of the Home Based Care Groups has a sewing/quilting/fabric painting project. Another group knits hats, scarves, and bags. I saw some handmade jewelry and pots. "Where are these products being marketed?", I asked. "Do you have stalls at the shopping centers?"” "No", said one of the volunteers. "We just sell things at our workshop."
I have some good news for them. Mercy is going to "cook them ’til they’re roasted!" She will be making follow-up visits to each of the projects. Those who are still struggling with managing their finances will receive further instruction. Those who are successfully using these basic tools for financial management will return for another workshop – on marketing!