Regina is from Zimbabwe and is currently working as HIV Media and Communication Capacity Building Adviser with Horn Youth and Development Association (HYDA) in Hargeisa, Somaliland.
What is your work background?
I was working as an Information and Communications Adviser with MS Denmark as a Development Worker. I was working with two partners on this. Before that, I was a Youth Programmes advisor with an advocacy oriented organisation called the Habukuk Trust in Zimbabwe. There, my main role was to build their capacities in information work. I dealt mainly with the Information Department building capacities on how to disseminate information, deal with the media, producing information, education and communication materials, profile-raising. It was very similar to the work I am now doing with HYDA. I am a trained journalist with a degree in Media Studies. I was a journalist for 16 years in print and electronic media. I am also a member of the British Council sponsored website called Africa Women. 16 ladies piloted the project from four African countries, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana.
What inspired you to become a Development Worker with Progressio?
When I first entered the NGO world I started with Médecins Sans Frontières - Spain as an Information, Education and Communications Officer. I later applied to MS Denmark and was introduced to the Development Worker, concept which I had not known before. I was attached to two different organisations while I was with MS. The first was Souls Comfort (AIDS service organisation whose core business was Home Based Care) where I was a Youth Programmes Advisor and the second at Habakkuk Trust (advocacy oriented organisation) where I was the Information and Communication Advisor. When I found Progressio website, I quickly saw Progressio’s approach was similar to what I had been doing before.
Is living in your country of placement as you expected it to be? If not, how is it different?
Actually there were not many surprises. My expectations were guided from the background information, though there was perhaps a bit more war damage than I originally anticipated seeing and I had not expected the poor state of the roads. I expected Hargeisa to be not too big or small. But I was not disappointed either. The style of dress was something of a shock. I know people of different cultures dress differently. The Somalis pride themselves on their culture and take exception to things they don’t like. They don’t always say it outright, but they will let you know if they don’t like what you are wearing. I was inappropriately dressed. From Nairobi onwards, I realised I was the odd one out – everyone else had long dresses. But I adjusted quite well and the people now think well of my dressing.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I am doing what I like best – I am comfortable because I am doing what I know. I have made a career of communications work. The only slight challenge here is the implementation of some of the monitoring and evaluation tools – working around it. People I am working with are very appreciative of my contribution and they take my advice. I am also learning a lot from them. For example, I did a training for the HYDA Regional Coordinators. I helped them improve their story writing skills. But I found that my original workshop methodology was not working. So after the first presentation, we adjourned for tea and one of my colleagues at HYDA suggested something else as he could see it was not working. The participants in that way became part of the training, and enabled me to carry it off successfully in the end.
What has been the most exciting moment so far?
For me it’s been the people I network with – I can see my plans flowing. I have produced a series of quarterly work plans and its good to see things turning out much as I had hoped. I did not expect it to work so well so quickly – but it’s falling into place and that is very exciting for me. Even more things are coming together – for example the profile raising, and the training. RICA (Progressio’s Monitoring and Evaluation Framework) presented a challenge for me, but in my annual workplan, I had planned to establish a baseline. Belisario (Progressio’s Programme Quality Learning and Evaluation Officer) brought the tools. But when it came to implementing, the budget was too little and I had to restrict my focus groups, but the capacity assessment of partner and the baseline all have gone well.
And the biggest lesson?
To be patient. It can be quite difficult getting used to another culture, where there is a language limitation, and timescales work differently. For example, it can be frustrating when we need to keep the website up to date for potential donors to see what HYDA is doing. Also, there are different ways of working so we need to work on organisational development issues, as well and Media and Communication.
What strikes you most about Progressio’s Development Worker model?
There are more similarities than any differences to my post with MS Denmark and it’s why I wanted to do this. It is a unique way of doing development to community and partner organisations. The community benefits from what you give to the partner. For the DW it enriches you as a person. Learning culture, language, different ways people live. I feel at home. It develops me also. That’s what is so good about it.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of becoming a development worker?
Tolerance, patience – top priority virtues. Willingness to listen and learn. Listening enables you to do things the right way. If you are not listening, you will not know the reasons that they are advising you not to do things in a particular way. I dig deep to find out why things are the way they are and then I re-strategise. We may need to do something together and then they will find a bit of commitment.
Where do you see yourself once your placement has ended?
I would like to do more development work in Africa.
Is there anything else you would like to share – that you think would be good for a potential Progressio supporter or someone interested in working with Progressio?Development work is exciting, no question about that. It is how you do it as person that varies, depending on the kind of person that you are. You do not have to be away from home to do it well, but how you relate to other people, your beliefs, how you commit yourself to the kind of work you want to do – all these count. First and foremost you need commitment and then secondly, willingness to learn from the people you are going to be working with. I have seen people get frustrated because they have their own ideas and the situation does not allow them to do things are planned. In the process of learning from the people you come up with alternative ways of doing development work. Do not make judgments – you might be surprised to find the people you are working with are not as you expected them to be.