I am delighted to be here with you, to celebrate the conclusion of an activity that has meant so much for AVSI Foundation.
Sustainable Comprehensive Responses for Vulnerable Children and their Families, in short SCORE, has represented a crucial experience for AVSI, as it embodied on a uniquely large scale the AVSI experience and method, projecting it to a new level, responding to the challenges of the changed development context.
First of all I’m pleased to draw your attention to a simple list of specific aspects of this project, then I would like to present how it mirrors our idea and method of development. An idea that we are proud to consider not only innovative, but also really correspondent to the authentic need of the human being.
The SCORE Project is significant to AVSI as a whole, not only in Uganda, for:
- the method which embodies a vision
- its cost-effectiveness and sustainability
- the consideration of the great value of the woman inside the household
- the conviction that parents are the best protection for their children and necessary for their growth
- the importance of the step by step process
- listening and assisting are key activities
- all beneficiaries, despite their vulnerability, represent a potential resource
- maintaining a strong and reliable data collection system including baselines, routine/regular program data to be used for project decisions
- its multi-sectoral approach
- opting for a resilience/capacity building model over a “hand out” approach
- it is a response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic impact on Uganda; deep commitment to mitigate this impact and ensure that children and youth can fulfil their human potential despite the presence of this disease.
- allowing each family to respond and engage when they are ready and not forced by rigid timelines (for example households would graduate when ready, not when the clock ran out)
In project implementation, AVSI uses the following approach which reflects our values:
- To start from the value of the person, who is never defined by the circumstances in which s/he lives
- To consider the person always in his/her family and community context
- To do with: accompany and let ourselves be accompanied, recognizing that we all share the same human experience
- To involve all stakeholders: encourage the participation of beneficiaries, providers, partners, donors, and the private sector
- To learn from experience and capitalize on the lessons learned.
I will focus my remarks around these points while relating them to the experience we have had in SCORE.
1. To start from the value of the person
The person is the center of any development program and the purpose of every project. Each person involved in SCORE (as a beneficiary, as an implementing partner, or as a staff member) is seen as a unique, unrepeatable being. The responsibility of every one is called upon, by promoting freedom to choose interventions and strategies, in full respect of this uniqueness. Over 34,000 households were encouraged to take the driver’s seat in determining their destiny, while at least 50 implementing partners and over 200 staff are spurred to go past checklists and to use their sense of judgment to devise strategies to facilitate the transition of beneficiaries out of vulnerability.
2. To consider the person always in his/her family and community context
Every person in his/her community represents a potential resource, no matter how vulnerable he/she is or believes to be. Often development practitioners tend to equate vulnerability to the person and see nothing else besides this. Using the AVSI method, recognizing that we have many resources in the program participants made all the difference. AVSI innovated on a household development plan – a tool which takes stock of these resources and aims to enhance the synergy of every action with whatever resources can be found in the household. The principle of effort sharing is always the backdrop of every project activity. The household members’ irreplaceable importance as first lines of protection and response to the challenges that lead to vulnerability is stressed by the project’s family-centered approach. While we have been deeply concerned about each of the 208,000 individuals we have engaged in different activities, we were equally interested in the family unit from which they thrive. We provided a tailored response to each individual family while recognizing their own contribution towards their development.
3.To do with
AVSI Foundation through the SCORE activity operated in partnership with firstly USAID, from whom the resources to operate were obtained, the ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development and several other related ministries. AVSI also worked with more than 50 implementing partner organizations, research institutions, the media, other agencies, different local governments and importantly, in collaboration with every household. These partnerships provided a great leverage that have not only enabled us provide a quality and comprehensive package to program participants, but also extended our organizational relationships.
A story as example Through these kinds of relationships for instance, a 7 year old child, Johnson, born with a congenital birth defect, from Sheema district, was able to undergo a corrective surgery in the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital in India during an annual bladder extrophy conference. Johnson who had lived with this condition for 7 years has since recovered and is starting to lead a normal life. Working with Mbarara Regional referral hospital, the annual conference discounted surgery and covered transport costs and USAID’s resources that covered living costs, Johnson has had a life changing opportunity.
Similarly, what started off like a single relationship with USAID on SCORE has since grown into various collaborations in different countries and most recently to the Graduating to Resilience activity in Kamwenge which builds off all the great learning from SCORE.
“Doing with” means also doing with the households: this is the key to sustainable change in their condition. It is how the families appreciate that they are subjects and not objects of their destiny.
4. To involve all stakeholders
SCORE worked with and through the Civil Society, counting a few dozen local implementing partners, promoting association and participatory interaction of people in farming groups, savings groups, parenting groups, life skills groups and many others. The right of every person to freely associate and to take actions or start-up business activities is a powerful drive towards better civic and democratic life. SCORE was able to engage with at least 1,615 village savings and loans Associations (VSLAs) with 37,200 members and was able to train and accompany them to save USD 3,889,055 from nothing. Today, we are proud that the average saving per person stands at USD 108. This is testimony to the power of people and intermediate bodies once meaningfully developed.
5. To learn from experience and capitalize on the lessons learned
Not a single actor within the SCORE project “knows it all”. SCORE is an important learning opportunity for everybody, staff, partners, beneficiaries. All members of the SCORE project learn and grow professionally, join forces and resources, and ultimately achieve better, more sustainable results.
We all have learnt and SCORE has become a point of reference for other projects, not only in Uganda, that are starting using the method as a model, (the new project Kamwenge e.g.)
Therefore, while it’s with both mixed feelings that we are closing a profoundly successful 7 year activity, I would like to reiterate mostly the pleasantries and to recognize the immense learning opportunity we had with SCORE. I thank the US Government through USAID for this opportunity and I also thank the Government of Uganda through the ministries and local governments for a great collaboration. Lastly, I thank the AVSI staff who have been at the helm of this project and the program participants who risked their freedom to be a part of SCORE.
As I end, allow me reiterate AVSI’s continued commitment towards promoting the dignity of those individuals at the last mile.