Welcome to CENFACS’ Online Diary!
08 May 2019
Post No. 90
The Week’s Contents
• “Quadranscentennial” (Q) Year and Project – In Focus on 09 May 2019: Act No. 2, Volunteering Story of CENFACS since 1994
• All in Development Story (AiDS) Telling Series – In Focus between 08 and 14 May 2019: Serial No. 2, Needs Assessment Stories
• Afforestation Stories: Making your Story Top Headline of our May Stories Chart
… and much more!
~ Q Year and Project – In Focus on 09 May 2019: Act No. 2, Volunteering Story of CENFACS since 1994
This week, we are keeping you engaged with the second Act of the “Quadranscentennial” Year and Project – the Volunteering Act – by telling you our voluntary story since CENFACS began.
This story has never been told or written before. It is a non-fictional story as it is about what actually happened. The story, which is about the experience of CENFACS in volunteering, is not a brand story. It is not written in inverted pyramid technique as we are trying to remember what happened in a chronological order rather than in order of importance.
After reading this historical account, there could be hope that readers will realise that volunteering is deeply rooted in the purpose of CENFACS of relieving poverty and hardships. Although the story itself is not a brand story, volunteering is one of CENFACS’ brand assets as we could not have been able to harness the change of what was and is needed unless we included volunteering. In this respect, volunteering became part of our brand story.
To get the full extent of this story, read under the Main Development section of this post.
~ AiDS Telling Series – In Focus between 08 and 14 May 2019: Serial No. 2, Needs Assessment Stories
Our AiDS Telling Series continue this week with needs assessment stories.
In our first serial of stories, we dealt with accounts related to the discovery of the problem of for example destruction of lives. The second serial, which starts today, will cover the needs assessment stories.
Knowing what decimates lives, one can now assess the needs and volunteer for those assessed needs. The stories that we are expecting for this second serial are those of voluntary work done in the area of needs assessment, of determining and addressing needs and gaps between destroyed conditions of life and the wanted conditions to renew lives. It is about volunteering in need identification.
To donate your story, please contact CENFACS.
~ Afforestation Stories: Making your Story Top Headline of our May Stories Chart
You can donate stories of forestation and reforestation. The tales could be a personal experience of growing or renewing forests and forest life again. Additionally, they can be of renewing habitats for wildlife and of help to reduce global warming for example.
If one has such personal story to donate and help renew lives and is willing to share with CENFACS, please let us know. You can submit your story to make the top headline story of our May Stories chart.
To donate or share your forestation or reforestation story, please contact CENFACS.
~ The IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) Global Assessment Report as a great example of May Stories
Two days ago, the United Nations published the IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Nature Report, highlighting the needs for restoration and protection of nature with species threatened with extinction. It is an account of the consequences of mankind on the nature.
Nature report is a great example of an assessment story about the needs that should be met to the up keep of the nature in unshakable existence. There are areas of this report that speak about forest and deforestation; topics which are in tune with CENFACS’ May Story telling theme.
So, the UN Nature report is a perfect story that tells us what is happening with the nature as a result of human behaviour and how grave the situation is. This is as well another wake-up call so that we can do something to help renew or rebuild the nature before it is too late. The report has shown that there is an increasing need, better urgency to do something to save the nature from extinguishing.
For further information about the IPBES report, go to:
~ Q Year and May Stories Month
We are in CENFACS’ Quadranscentennial (Q) Year (2019) and May Stories Month. We can try to “quadranscentennialise” our poverty relief and life renewing stories. In other words, we can ask ourselves the stories we are telling today about for example climate change or nature, how they can be relevant in 25 years. Likewise, we can question the telling stories of renewing lives of today, how sustainable, learning and helpful in changing lives so that 25 years later the same issue of poverty does not reappear or disappear forever.
In the contrary, we can look back the stories that we were told let say in 1994 (25 years ago) about for example the impacts of climate change and how we can relate to them to our life today. “Quadranscentennialise” our stories in this way before telling them helps us to give our stories their real historical values, weight, context, meaning and robustness.
To enquire and or bring your input to the relationships between our life renewing stories and times, contact CENFACS.
• Volunteering Story of CENFACS since 1994: the Volunteering Act or Act 2
To make an idea that works, it requires that the creator(s) of this idea does (do) some work for it to work or put it more specifically deliver the aim and outcomes of the creation. Work can be paid and or unpaid (voluntary) or even both. This is what happened with the idea of CENFACS.
In the case of CENFACS, as it was not set up for financial gain, the first way of working was to volunteer for it in order to help it achieve its aim and objectives. This is how our voluntary work started. This altruistic philosophy or way of working in our journey in trying to make helpful difference in the lives of others has continued until today.
In that volunteering journey, there were episodes that led to various models of volunteering and made us to donate our time for other good and deserving causes. There were some factors that came into play in our altruistic journey, just as we could not achieve anything (for example doing fundraising or running an event) if we did not have some players or figures as the following will reveal.
• • Volunteering episodes
There are three episodes in the Volunteering Story of CENFACS which are as follows:
The first episode, which is between 1994 and 2002, is the volunteering story of CENFACS as an informal organisation but a forum for discussion on economic issues faced by Francophone Africa.
The second episode, which is between 2002 and 2012, is the volunteering story of CENFACS as a formal organisation in the first growth decade of CENFACS.
The third episode, which is between 2013 and 2018, is the volunteering story of CENFACS as an international advocate for poverty relief and sustainable development.
The above episodes are linked to the phases of development of CENFACS as a voluntary organisation. Indeed, CENFACS moved from an informal organisation (forum for discussion) to a formal charity and to an international advocate.
However, if one takes volunteering alone as a department or function within CENFACS it has experienced eight successive developments in its volunteering scheme, All in Development Volunteers, as the following shows.
• • Volunteering developments and models
They were different evolving trends in the way people and organisations volunteered within and or CENFACS which included: the single-handed volunteer, two-volunteer model, board members volunteer structure, CENFACS’ membership volunteer, recruited UK-based volunteers, overseas volunteers, Africa-based Sister Organisations volunteers and permanent volunteers.
1/ Single-handed volunteer (Sole volunteer)
This is the first way of volunteer characterised by the founder of CENFACS voluntarily working from home on CENFACS and Francophone African issues at the start of CENFACS.
2/ Two-volunteer model
As two hands may never be enough to work on this kind of project, one volunteer joined in 1995 to deal with the complexity of the Francophone African matter.
3/ Members as volunteers
As we were and are still working on poverty relief, we wanted those who were the most concerned with the issues we were dealing with to get involved. So, we expanded our volunteering scheme to bring more our members into our volunteering arm.
4/ Board members as volunteers
In 2001, CENFACS elected its board members who fully volunteered in the running of CENFACS. In 2002, All in Development Volunteers (AiDV) scheme was created as a way for volunteering for better lives.
AiDV aimed at helping CENFACS to work in association with local people to develop sustainable initiatives. It had the following goals: providing volunteers to enhance the work of CENFACS and to support board members’ work, to help promote CENFACS’ vision, mission and values; as well as to meet the needs of all our stakeholders (including users, funders and development associates). The aim and goals of AiDV continue until today.
There was a time when we were to hire venues to meet work and run general meetings at sporadic places and locations. This was the time all the board members realised how challenging was to volunteer for a charity which tried to punch over its weight, a charity with very limited resources and which tried to achieve something beyond imagination.
We all were jugglers as we were juggling between making our respective families’ ends meet and helping our communities to meet their needs; juggling to get the balance right between voluntary (unpaid) work and family life; juggling between voluntary (unpaid) work and paid work for some for us
5/ UK-based recruited volunteers
Running advice and training projects in the UK has meant for us to recruit more volunteers not only to work alongside advisers and trainers, but also to support us in administration, fundraising, research, advocacy, events and other areas of office management.
6/ Overseas volunteers
Although we set up some basic projects and programmes in the UK (to deal with the needs of the community living in the UK) as we were and are registered in the UK, our area of operation was and remains Africa, in particular but not exclusively Francophone Africa.
As we were and are still working on Francophone Africa on poverty reduction, our volunteer scheme became popular. It was at the time CENFACS was member of BOND (British Overseas Network for Development), the UK network for organisations working in international development. A part from UK volunteers, we had overseas volunteers from African countries and other countries (like Poland, France, Spain, Canada etc.)
Many of them mentioned how happier they were to volunteer for CENFACS as we made them get involved with the real development work and files rather than asking them to make tea and coffee only. We could remember for example how we got involved in 2005 in the Make Poverty History campaign and in exhibiting on the day of this event under the BOND umbrella.
At time, we were using Mavis Beacon (an application software programme that teaches touch typing) to help volunteers build on their typing skills in order to complete their administration tasks within a reasonable amount of time.
7/ Africa-based organisations volunteers
To know how life looked like in Africa where we worked, our Africa-based sister organisations and their local people had to volunteer to inform us and provide inputs for projects and programmes in the process of planning and developing projects and programmes. They volunteered and continue to volunteer in working in alliance with CENFACS to develop sustainable initiatives.
8/ Permanent volunteers
Like in any organisation people come and go. However, there are those who sometimes choose to stay longer. These are the permanent volunteers who keep CENFACS running as it was difficult for people to get paid for whatever they do in the charitable context. The permanent volunteers are the backbone of CENFACS.
• • Volunteering experience of CENFACS to other organisations
We did not only recruit volunteers for ourselves. We also volunteered outside CENFACS. The following are the examples of CENFACS’ outside volunteering experience.
a/ CENFACS (through its Chair) volunteered as a founding member amongst other founding members of the current Croydon Black and Minority Ethnic Forum (Croydon BME Forum).
b/ CENFACS (through its Chair) volunteered as a board member of the African Diaspora Voices for Africa’s Development (ADVAD)
c/ CENFACS (through its Chair) volunteered as a member of the London Safeguarding Children Board
The above are just amongst the milestones in the volunteering experience of CENFACS to donate our time for good and deserving causes. This giving has helped for the creation and the development of these organisations or structures aiming at improving lives.
• • Volunteering in fundraising applications
Most of fundraising applications and campaigns were run by AiDVs. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes they failed to secure the funding we need for the good causes we were and are applying for.
We could remember once we failed in our funding application. We met the grant-making trust’s staff dealing with our failed application and got a feedback from them explaining us that the reason CENFACS did not get the funding requested is because we were not specific in our application about our users.
We thought that saying in the application that we work with Francophone Africans, this would go against us. We only said we work with Africans. The grant maker told us that working with Africans was vague. We should have been a bit more specific and why we did not say we work with Francophone Africans. We learnt from this past mistake.
There were factors that influence this volunteering development especially in the last ten years.
• • External and internal factors or influencers
They included the following: location, service, economic, technology, climate change and the EU exit discussions. Let us see how these factors impacted the volunteering development within CENFACS.
a/ Locational factor
Being located in the UK, CENFACS expanded its volunteering function to provide some basic services in the UK for the tiny community of Francophone Africans leaving in the UK and minority ethnic people. This led us to recruit volunteers and organise our All in Development Volunteers scheme to cope with this demand, these users. We did it while retaining our primarily area of operation, the Francophone Africa.
b/ Training service
This was about the various training courses we ran which resulted in us recruiting additional volunteers to cope with the needs of providing training. These courses included:
√ Free Employability Training (3W) in 2004 to help French-speaking African unemployed refugee women living in Croydon with job searching skills
√ Basic Skills Development (deBASICS) in 2005
√ Project for Sustainable Skills for Employment (PROSSE) in Croydon to support unemployed multi-deprived women in 2007
√ Basic Skills in Health and Social Care (BSHSC) project in Croydon in 2008
c/ Economic recession
The 2008/9 global economic recession pushed us to rethink the way in which we volunteered as CENFACS was forced to curtail some of its services including its place to work. The recession put enormous pressure on CENFACS and its volunteering ability and scheme. We had to down size the number our projects and programmes as well as rethink another way of volunteering without losing grip on the business of poverty relief.
d/ Digital technology
The digital technology has changed the way we work and volunteer by making us to use less paper. This affected the way we volunteered as well as it pushed us to find a new and innovative way of volunteering such as using mobile phone devices, social networking etc.
For example, between 2014 and 2015, we added our voice to the global conversation about the transition from the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals by using digital means or doing what we called smart volunteering.
e/ Climate change
Being an organisation working on the development of sustainable initiatives, CENFACS strived and continues to make sure that in whatever we did or do we leave less carbon print or legacy. This included in the way we volunteer and the themes we choose to volunteer for. This was and is still reflected in some of the campaigns we ran such as our Climate Talks Follow-up project.
f/ EU exit discussions
Since (2016) the discussions about the possible exit of the UK from the EU started, these discussions have affected some of the plans within our volunteering scheme. CENFACS’ All in Development Volunteers scheme had to adapt with economic transition which has already started since 2016 and managed this scheme with the uncertainty of the last two and half years.
• • Volunteering story makers or players
The story makers of volunteering story are all the AiDVs. However, like in any organisation, especially organisations run by volunteers, there are always people who would make sure that the interests of the organisation are protected and are above all both in bad and good times. Amongst these persons in CENFACS is the founder, Celestin Tshilenge.
In every story, there are characters or players. The main character in CENFACS’ volunteering story is the founder of CENFACS, Celestin Tshilenge. The playmakers were and are volunteers. Despite naming these figures, we should not forget our users, funders and other stakeholders without their contribution we would not be able to develop CENFACS’ AiDV scheme.
Without specifically talking about all the makers, we would reminisce about the Volunteer Centre Croydon, especially as it is about volunteers matter in this communication. We could remember some of the volunteering sessions and meetings we attended in the mid-development of AiDV scheme at the Volunteer Centre Croydon. We could also acknowledge the information, guidance and advice as well as supporting resources handed to us. We should not forget the opportunity they gave to us to exhibit in one of their high profile events in the Croydon Whitgift Centre. All this enabled us to develop our volunteer policy, programme and projects.
By the way let us precise this. All in Development Volunteers (AiDV) scheme at CENFACS is in-house service. We did not and do not provide volunteers to other organisations, but we recruit volunteers for our own needs. On the contrary, the Volunteer Centre Croydon provides volunteers to organisations looking for volunteers.
• • AiDV legacies
Volunteering at CENFACS is an opportunity to enhance one’s capacity and skills, network, discover new ideas, explore new terrains, and gain new insights into life by sharing skills, experiences’ and knowledge with others. It is also about reaching out to the needy communities.
We had a volunteer with a Bachelor of Arts in Law who really was good to such an extent that she had a typing speed of 45 words per minute. Before she came to volunteer for CENFACS, she struggled to find a job. Everywhere she volunteered in big organisations, they could not let her put into practice her graduate skills. They only confined her to boring tasks like checking mails, making tea and coffee etc.
During the time she was with CENFACS, we got her involved in writing policies, procedures and processes; while also doing other routine office work. She got an interview with an American law firm in the City of London and we supplied her reference. She got the job and left us with a big thank you. She was over the moon how she could achieve with CENFACS something which was almost impossible for her to achieve with others.
We had another case of a person who volunteered in administration and development for CENFACS. This is what she said:
“Thank you CENFACS for helping me by giving me an opportunity to empower myself through an administration and development voluntary position.”
• • What the volunteering story of CENFACS tells us in the end
Although the volunteering story of CENFACS does not say everything about volunteering within CENFACS, it does however provide to readers and supporters some understanding on the volunteering episodes, models of volunteering, volunteering legacies of AiDV so far, volunteering influencers and volunteering makers of CENFACS.
Volunteering was central and continues to be a key function in what CENFACS did and does. This is for various reasons which include the following.
As Yunus and Weber (1) put
“… human beings are driven by selfless motivations as well. The existence of countless charitable institutions supported by personal generosity demonstrates this…An altruistic motivation is still required to make charity possible”. (p.XVI)
So, selfless or voluntary support can help not only to address poverty and hardships issues, but can also help tackle the flaw in theoretical arguments what paid or unpaid work can or cannot do.
The volunteering story of CENFACS has shown that it is possible to deal with the issues of poverty and hardships as well as reconstruct our theoretical structures in resolving the problems of poverty and hardships.
Beyond the problem of theoretical construct or mindset, there is this practical argument which is as follows.
It was and is not just possible in our history and development to conceive to pay for the labour for everything we did and do to help reduce poverty. One can think of the impacts of Rwanda genocide in 1994, the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Cyclone Idai in Southern Africa this year. It is not just possible to pay for everything to fix those issues. Someone should voluntarily offer themselves to do something for not-taking money to help for example the victims of genocide, Ebola virus and flood disaster.
The above is the volunteering story of CENFACS since 1994, the “Quadranscentennial” aspect of CENFACS’ Volunteering since it began, which we have tried to tell the essential of it. However, if there is anything does need clarification or further development, please do not hesitate to contact CENFACS.
Before you leave, please read the following notice.
For the purpose of the new general data protection and protection of the AiD volunteers, we would like to inform you the following:
⇒ Some dates related to this story have not been revealed
⇒ Names and details of people who volunteered for CENFACS have not been revealed as well.
⇒ Places and times they volunteered for CENFACS have not been disclosed.
We have made this precaution to protect the integrity of AiDV scheme and our volunteers. Also, like any organisations people come and go at CENFACS. To reveal any information related to them, we need to seek their permission. However, if anybody wants to enquire about any of the pieces of this story, they are free to make their enquiry.
We trust and hope we would understand our position on protection matter.
Thank you for your readership!
(1) Muhammad Yunus and Karl Weber (2010), Building Social Business – The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs, PublicAffairs, New York
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