“It’s like walking alongside someone. You are not leading them by the hand. You are finding your way together” – 2010 Mentorship Roundtable Participant
In September 2008, the Stephen Lewis Foundation brought together nine grassroots organizations from seven African countries that were doing groundbreaking work in the area of home-based care. They met to discuss innovations, challenges and effective practices in their life-sustaining work providing health care and support in the homes of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. One of the overwhelming messages to come out of the meeting was the necessity and enthusiasm for capacity building and peer mentorship. The organizations all expressed a real appetite for the opportunity to learn from the strengths, expertise and successes of other organizations – and to share their own, emphasizing that the most relevant, effective, and transferable knowledge was that which was generated at the grassroots.
Taking our lead from our colleagues across Africa, the Foundation launched a peer mentorship programme that would pair grassroots groups together to learn from and teach each other as they enhanced their community-level work and internal systems. The goal was to establish a flexible process designed specifically to harness the capacity and talent powering the grassroots response to AIDS in Africa and leverage it to strengthen community-based responses across the continent. And so was born a peer mentorship programme.
Three years later, we have Foundation staff members * in South Africa this week to facilitate the third peer mentorship roundtable. Representatives from 14 grassroots organizations – and eight African countries – are gathered in Johannesburg and today (Tuesday, January 17th) will begin a four day meeting. Eight organizations, who have been working in pairs, will be wrapping up a year of mentorship work and are meeting to consolidate and share lessons learned about the peer mentorship process as well as the deep knowledge and inspiring expertise they witnessed and absorbed from each other. Three new pairs will launch a year of involvement in this programme, detailing how they will work together, what they want to learn from each other, and what their organizational strengths and needs are.
The organizations involved in this work come from a variety of countries, community sizes and structures, and face unique challenges in their daily work. But when around a table, they bring a common and deeply-held sense of commitment, motivation, and expertise. When shared and exchanged, this collective capacity and passion can turn the tide of AIDS in Africa.
** Joanna Henry, Programmes Advisor; Idah Mukuka, Field Representative; and Felicity Heyworth, Communications Officer
Blog entry by Felicity Heyworth, Communications Officer
Felicity will blog regularly from the third Mentorship Roundtable, which is being held in Johannesburg, South Africa from Tuesday, January 17th until Friday, January 20th 2012. More information about the Foundation’s peer mentorship programme will follow in the weeks and month to follow in eblasts, newsletters and on our website.