The DP Foundation: Two Ladies who Make a Difference
Dinah Falala and Phoebe Sandi believe that "if you want change, you have to stand up, assume a leadership role and work for that change." Here in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, these two Zimbabwean women continue to work for positive social change through their DP Foundation, established in 1994. Arising from the ashes of the struggling years of post-independent Zimbabwe, Dinah and Phoebe created the DP Foundation in response to the needs they saw in their children, their neighbors, their church, and their community, particularly those in Matabeleland (who suffered the most from the after effects of the war for independence).
The DP Foundation seeks to address the needs of those below the poverty level in Bulawayo. The DP Foundation's theme for the three years to come is "Rebuilding a lost community through counseling, information sharing, mentoring and enhancement of skills." Dinah, Phoebe, and their staff developed this theme in recognition of Matabeleland's poverty, imbalance in resources, and government neglect, particularly of the Ndebele community. In its literature, the DP attributes some facets of poverty to Zimbabwe's colonial past. "The inertia currently crippling the lower echelons of Zimbabwean society is a direct result of the missionary syndrome, which caused communities to always live in anticipation of handouts from either the state or some other philanthropic entity. There is thus an urgent need for the mobilization of communities..."
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In order to mobilize the youth community in Matabeleland, Dinah and Phoebe came up with the idea of Youth Advisory Coordinators (YAC's). These coordinators are made up of youth aged 15 to 30, who work and serve that same-age target population with the idea that "there was a means by which they [youth] could receive counseling in an environment where they would not feel belittled or feel misunderstood." Since so many youth suffer from abuse, sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS and HIV, peer pressure, and drug abuse, the YAC's receive special training in basic counseling skills to provide fair, factual, and supportive information to their peers. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.
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I attended a YAC general meeting (they're held every two weeks) at the head office on Herbert Chitepo Street in Bulawayo. Brenda, the president of the group, and Sikhumbuza had hurried to fetch me at the internet cafe and we all rushed in the taxi to the DP Foundation office downtown. Brenda explained that they had instituted "late fines" of $3 Zimbabwean: if YAC members were late to the 2:00pm meetings, they had to pay up. It worked, and most of the 14 people, also between the ages of 15 and 30, who attended today (including Hebron, Clemence, Alvin, Sharon, Brenda, Sihanyisiwe, Thembeni, Walter, Mduduza, Mildred, Sibhongisilse, and Sikhumbuza) arrived on time.
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If you are not making the progress you would like to make and are capable of
making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined.
Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment
to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile, predetermined personal
--on the wall in the DP Foundation office (all quotes by Paul J Meyer)
We opened with a short prayer -- something that I had not yet seen as the starting item of business for a group -- and then settled around the table for the two-hour meeting. I was treated to a behind-the-scenes look at a young organization trying to set down guidelines and objectives for its coming years. Zimbabwe is currently in the process of rewriting its constitution, and the DP Foundation, as well, had recently committed to writing down all the bylines and rules that would help the organization function smoothly. The impetus for writing down the constitution came partly from the opportunity to earn funding from UNICEF to help with the foundation's efforts.
DP Foundation Mission Statement:
To eradicate poverty in Zimbabwe through a comprehensive integrated
community development program that uses the psychosocial approach.
To be a player in the alleviation of poverty in the marginalized groups in
society comprising of youth, women and children in urban and rural areas.
To be the leading regional agency in psychosocial counseling and economic
empowerment of the marginalized and vulnerable groups, with special emphasis
on youth, women and children.
To provide quality and professional service to our various stakeholders,
including our client base, donors, trustees and other complementary players.
The group as a whole spoke primarily in English, although when people got heated up or had a point they really wanted to make they spoke in their own tongue (The DP Foundation allows speakers to communicate in any of the three main languages: English, Ndebele or Shona). The process was very consensual: when someone had an idea, he or she felt free to speak out, or if someone had criticism, everyone listened to his or her suggestion and participated in an agreeable solution. The YAC's came up with seven main objectives for their new constitution, aims that would fall under the DP Foundation's objectives but focus on youth needs:
- To engage in health promotion, extending to broad psychosocial and environmental issues
- To promote and encourage youth cultural exchange programs locally, regionally and internationally
- Career guidance
- Identification of job opportunities through the DP Employment Agency
- To provide both spiritual and psychological peer counseling to youth
- To conduct relevant research, issue publications, and develop an information base
- To promote and publicize youth rights and gender awareness
Help with disabilities, anxiety disorders, stress and depression,
substance-related disorders, unwanted pregnancies, loneliness, phase of life
problems, geriatric counseling, grief and loss, psychosomatic disorders,
relationships, nutrition therapy, occupational problems
Help with gender abuse or neglect, identity disorders, life-threatening
illnesses, estate management, benefits claims, child maintenance, behavioral
problems, relationships, religious or spiritual problems
Children and Adolescents
Help with learning disorders, communication disorders, reproductive health
(including adolescent sexuality, abortion, STD's, family planning,
contraception, infanticide/baby dumping), rape, sexual abuse, physical
abuse, emotional abuse, substance abuse
Help with pre-marital counseling, mood disorders, matrimonial problems,
sexual dysfunction, adoption and foster counseling, separation/divorce,
alienation or denial of conjugal rights, communication, infidelity
These are big goals for a small group, but the energy in the room was positive. Quotations and brightly-colored posters adorned the walls, and the group chatted and laughed often. Brenda helped provide a focus to the meeting, writing items on a large pad of paper and encouraging members to speak, saying, "Come on people, we can do this."
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Having grown up Ndebele in Matabeleland (in the 1980s), Brenda has a personal involvement in the issues surrounding the DP Foundation's mission. One of her questions to the group as a whole was, "Are we offering something to the community or finding out what they need?" Part of the challenge of running a grassroots group is really making sure that you're addressing issues and fulfilling needs, rather than just spinning wheels and not providing a relevant service.
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Dinah Falala, who was in the office after the meeting, explained that the YAC's are "looking for the hows, whys and wherefores today." This constant refining of their focus is attracting attention. In addition to the UNICEF grant, Brenda and five other subcommittee heads, who meet every week, are working on training protocols and a new project proposal to gain funding from the National Affairs office, which backs grassroots-level groups like DP Foundation.
If you'd like to contact DP Foundation:
DP Foundation, 12 Herbert Chitepo Avenue, Bulawayo
PO Box 1768, Bulawayo
Although I didn't get a front-line look at the work YAC's do for community youth, I was inspired and rejuvenated by how a dedicated group of youth, under the leadership of two strong ladies who believe in their power to positively affect their world, can truly make a difference.
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