Interview: Mawut, Tet en Tut
In Gambella, on the Friday afternoon we speak with the three guys who accompany us during our stay in Gambella. Where founder Manyang Reath Kher does his work for the organization form the US, its Maiwud, Tet and Tut with the three of them who are the driving force behind the local implementation of projects in Gambella. The boys themselves have relatively good lives in Gambella. They all finished their education at university. Maiwut works for a local employment agency, Tet working for NGOs in the refugee camps in the area, he studied psychology. Tut has a private company that sells sugercane and is working on an auto-import business. With this background they are all aware that they also have to contribute to their community. That they must do something for the people who have a lot less, those who may have had less luck. We speak about HHS, the positive impact that NGOs can have for the region and the negative image that many Africans conversely also have people from the West.
An interview with Humanity Helping Sudan (Tet, Maiwud and Tut) :
I General Information
a. Can you shortly describe the genesis / history of the Humanity Helping Sudan-project?
Maiwut: Manyang is the founder of the organisation. He was one of the so called Lost-Boys. In the beginning of this century he left South-Sudan because of the war, en fled to the USA. He was then 18 years old. To give something back to his people, he started the HHS-organisation. The organisation really got its final form around 2012. At that point, we started to join en do the local work. I (Maiwut/M) got into it first, I knew Manyang a long time before he went to the USA. Tet en Tut joint not much later. We do the groundwork in Gambella most of the time. Manyang visited us two times since the real beginning, in 2012 and in 2014. Those visits is when the most work can be done. Manyang can see everything and make decisions. We do the preparations and the implementation of the decisions we make together with Manyang.
Besides us, there are few more people that help us here in Gambella. The group consists of seven people in total. We're still quite small-scale in Gambella, not everybody knows us yet. But we try to get bigger, all the time.
b. What has the impact of the project since then, on the target group and local community and surroundings?
The impact of our work is still small. Look for example at the chicken project. Chickens and eggs are expensive here in the region. HHS donates chickens to a number of families, allowing them to take care of their own livelihood. If all is well the chickens remain a source of income and thus life for those few people. The money they earn on selling eggs makes sure the children of the family can go to school. We try to give people the means by which they can make their own living. But on a small scale.
The people we help always are the people who have the least in our community. The people who really have no grounds to exist anymore. Sometimes we know these people from the community in person and sometimes they introduce each other. We then discuss among ourselves who will be helped now. Manyang must then also be consulted because he ultimately determines who and what is to be done.
But we immediately see that more is needed. With regard to the chickens, for example. There are birds of prey and dogs that remove these beasts as they roam freely around the house. So we have actually have chicken coops to give to thoese people. Only than can they also grow their livestock.
In the beginning it went quite quickly, the impact for those people was big. You then want to do more for more people. But the fact that Manyang is in the US is not always easy. The communication is not good and the quantity is not as fast anymore. A lot of people do not get exactly what they need anymore. It is sometimes difficult to see.
c. What has motivated you, personally, to start your development project?
Tet: we were all motivated to go one step further to help the community. It is our own community. We want to provide people with the things that we can do ourselves: livelihood, education, a job. I would even quit my job to work for HHS full time if that was possible. But I must also have to live.
For me it's a personal thing. Me and the boys had a good education, are relatively in the upper class in Gambella. Here we need to give something back. I myself may be doing well, but the community must of course also benefit from it. That feeling we all have very strong I think.
Maiwut: of course you constantly see people around you who are less able to stand. We want to help them, together we are one community. But not all people with are interested in what else is going on. It really needs to come from within yourself, from your heart. What you do with In2Afrika is a bit on the same level, I think; come all the way from Holland to help people here. That shows that it also comes from within yourself. What we do and what you do is not so different. It is looking beyond your own happiness.
Tut: I joined HHS in 2014, as Manyang for the second time was in Gambella. The problems I saw were mainly financial. People just need a small chance: with chicken you can sell eggs, you can earn some money, and you can live. It's that easy! Take our agriculture project. Our soil here is very fertile! Give people the opportunity to get to work. Sometimes that is all that is needed. That insight was my personal motivation. But I also see that a lot of people are not ambitious enough! They simply prefer to work with the government, do not think big, will never start their own business. While that has brought me just as much! It is a mentality difference and I want to convey this at HHS.
d. What is, according to you, the strongest point of the project?
Tet: That is the fact that we ourselves come from the community that we try to help. We come from that community, we really do know what's going on and what is and is not necessary. Who can help people better than us?
e. What is, according to you, the biggest challenge / point of improvement for the project?
Tet: A big challenge of a practical nature is that, at the moment, there is no HHS's Office. This could be a central place where we can gather and discuss both. On the other hand the people who need our help than can come to a permanent place, they know where to find us much easier! This of course has to do with the next point, because the other big problem is budget. We want to do so much, but sometimes we do not have the resources.
Another thing that is still difficult, is communication. Internet would be a good way to communicate with our founder in the US, but internet is very scarce in Gambella. Calling is also very expensive. Because communication with the US sometimes has difficulty walking, we are left with questions here in Gambella. What about the finances of our organization? Is there money for new projects? Are their more people in the US that affect our organization besides Manyang? These are important questions for us!
II. Development (aid) - north / south relations
a. What is your idea on development?
Tut: this means different things for us. But we keep our idea especially small and simple. When you teach people to fish, they can earn money. When you give them the resources to keep chickens, they can make money here. This for us is development. These are all ways to move forward steps in life. Development is giving a small thing for people to put them in the position to make a big thing out of it.
When Manyang came in 2014, he was talking about a school. He wanted to rent a house to start a school there. This is also development. We give children education, so they can move forward. Agains, a small thing to make a big thing out of it. The little thing may therefore be material, but it can also be given in the form of education.
Tet: Development is all about change for us, whether it be on an individual or community-wide level.
b. There is a lot of Western organizations starting development projects in Africa. What is your general vision on this development-aid?
Tet (works for several NGOs in Gambella): NGOs do not really work here in the community of Gambella. They focus primarily on the refugees in the camps that surround the city. ZOA had worked for a while in the community, but they now focus mainly on the refugees as well. What they did was for instance the creation of a center where youth could gather and activties could be set. But that's gone now. They focus primarily on the refugees.
But we don't get much attention from small-scale Western organizations. In2Afrika is definitely an exception. Large organizations focusing on the camps, small organizations we see almost never here.
Tut: But that may not be bad! This gives very a lot of space for the people themselves to do something. Moreover, the work that NGOs do for Refugees have the ability to create jobs for people of Gambella! Indirectly it so delivers something for the people of Gambella. But for Western organizations our community is so obviously not a priority. Most attention is paid to the refugee camps
c. What, according to you, are the main pitfalls / challenges for Western organizations that want to develop other / foreign communities?
Tut: Like I said, sometimes the work done by NGOs in the region creates work for the people of Gambella. That of course is awesome! Although often they also work with people from the West itself. It creates therefore no possibilities for the people here. Moreover, it is often the case that when they hire people from Ethiopia, these are often the people of Addis, not the people here in the community! That is bad for us, it adds nothing anyway! Why is someone from the capital, more capable than anyone here from the region?
Maiwut: Big point is that what we are concerned about people from the local community to be hired! Local people can do as good a job as the people from the West or the big cities. It has to do purely with experience in your work. If you never can get that first job, you will never build experience.
d. What, according to you, are the main pitfalls / challenges for African's that want to develop their own communities?
If we compare ourselves with Western organizations, it is mainly the resources that are often lacking. We really know what and where we could create some improvement in Gambella. But the resources are simply not there. This sometimes causes for major disappointments. People get discouraged, there will be no change. For that kind of thoughts we must be very careful.
e. The In2Afrika Foundation takes the civil society as main principles, in which small scale and local practice are the two most important principles. What is your opinion on our startingpoint?
Tut: We had already talked about the local aspect of things. When local people commit them, when they work together, they form a group, and they can also provide development. Especially the local aspect we find most considerable. In our community there is for example a supermarket. Here the local people can sell their stuff. It gives people a chance to make money. We do think that the aspect of cooperation is very important here! The people here often work together. Divide a piece of land, grow together, oust together, sell together. Thus, together can do more than alone. For Gambella we would add the factor of cooperation.
III. Image of Africa
a. What is, according to you, the current prevailing Western image of the African continent?
Maiwut: we sometimes see people who come here from the West and sometimes have a positive and sometimes a very negative image of Africa. But we don't think a lot about it, our image is not our first priority, you see?
Tet: there are quite a few Western investors who invest here in Gambella. They buy a lot of land. I think this provides a lot of opportunities in the future for the local people, and that's important.
b. What's your opinion on these images?
Maiwut: People from the West do sometimes think that there are certain thing that we Africans cannot do ourselves. And that's not okay, because this is not true, and besides that very negative.
Why do they think this? That's a very good question. Perhaps also because the people are just very different! But the Westerners who do not come to our continent or country, they know nothing, and they remain ignorant! It does not matter that we are different, but these people base their negative image on nothing at all. That is really what is bad.
Tut: Here in Africa, we see the people of the West. Many of these Western people see that much goes wrong on our continent. And that poor part gets the upper hand in the image, I think. But fortunately we do also see that it is getting better. You come to visit us, all the way from the Netherlands, other people come. There is progress, I think.
But Africans also look negatively to people from the West! Some people in our community have a very one-sided and negative view of white people or Westerners, whatever you want to call it. They were repeatedly disappointed because they expect immediate changes. This afternoon we were with you at the well. Then a woman came to us. She said; 'More white people come to us, to take pictures. But they go away and nothing happens at all. I do not need those photos taken anymore, nothing changes. " So our people do not have a really positive image of Westerners sometimes either.
c. How should this image be changed?
Maiwut: Of course we can change this! But it is important that you know people. Know their goals, understand someone. Only then can you change your image.
When you return to the Netherlands, you can tell people how it is here. It's all about understanding, knowledge, information on how it is really here. At this time, people all have a certain image of each other, but from a distance.
People here, as said, also have a very bad image of people from the West. Even of you. You come here to take pictures, record things. But why is nothing changing? These people can not wait for the long term. And that causes confusion. Their negative image of people like you will not change quickly.
d. What does the Humanity Helping Sudan-project do to create an image of the project and of the African continent in general?
Purely our help changes the image though. Especially for the people here, who are supported by us. People know that Manyang is in the US. Through the help they get, they have a better image of the West. But it also creates disappointments sometimes, when help is not fast enough or not enough changes. That is very difficult. But it seems that these people can not really worry about the image that the continent has in the West. Not that it is not important, but it is not a priority for them. What we have to image? We must have work, we need have opportunities! The people don't really care about image, most of the time.