Last year set a strong foundation on which OVP will continue to expand. We grew our team and challenged current staff to hone their skills and expand their knowledge. The Community Action Program cultivated strong community leaders in development and the first project cycles came to fruition and met multiple communities’ self-identified needs. The successes among the participants in the NOW Program pilot demonstrated the efficacy and impact of the program. Stories and results from the pilot showed us that women built financial literacy skills, achieved their personal financial goals and were empowered to use their voice in their homes and in their broader communities.
We were able to capture our success and outcomes by revamping our Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) strategy. We focused on participatory methods like Most Significant Change, which allowed us to engage deeply with our partner villages. Most Significant Change (MSC) allows us to collect stories of OVP-supported change and further involve program participants and community members in our evaluation and learning process. Through MSC and other participatory M&E tools, we were able to collect and see both the quantitative and qualitative outcomes of our work. Throughout last year—comprised of so many firsts—OVP used this information to continue to refine our model and programs and increase our impact in partner communities.
Musa Gangha, a Community Action Coordinator that joined the OVP team in May 2016, shared, “I have so many highlights of 2016, but the greatest highlight for me was working with communities to solve complex problems in the local context. These solutions are simple if they are locally-solved and use the knowledge and skills that exist within the community.” Musa is looking forward to “continuing to work with willing and open-minded CAGs (Community Action Groups) who are eager to solve problems together with their communities. I am not only looking forward to working with the new CAGs but also those in the communities where we are currently working as they undertake new projects this year.” After individual and group reflection on OVP’s growth and accomplishments of 2016, the entire OVP team is inspired to take on plans for continued impact and thoughtful growth in 2017.
This new year will see the expansion of OVP into four new partner villages beginning first this year with the Community Action Program; Makka and Madina in January and Lalehun and Bandajuma in April. An expected 48 change agents will be trained by OVP as community and development leaders in each villages’ Community Action Group (CAG). They will join our current 109 change agents that propel our partner villages toward community visions of unity, resilience and well-being. One of these change agents is OVP’s new Project Officer, Philemon Senesie. Philemon was a Contact Tracer during the Ebola outbreak; he responded to cases and traced a victim’s contact with others in order to limit to spread and intensity of Ebola. Also an active member of Grima’s Community Action Group, Philemon joins the Community Action team as the first Community Action Group member to be hired in a fulltime role with OVP.
The number of OVP-supported projects across our 13 active partner villages will also increase in 2017. OVP will continue to train and empower village CAGs in the planning, design, and implementation of ten new projects. The nine projects that were carried out in 2016 will continue to be finalized and monitored throughout this year. We are already seeing that new projects will also be implemented in new areas. In 2016, all partner communities prioritized projects in hygiene and sanitation, and the Community Action team spent the year undertaking improved latrine and kitchen projects. This year, however, partner villages are identifying new priority challenges (including lack of skills trainings and clean water) to address in their next projects. The OVP team is excited to take on the challenges that come with navigating new project areas and the first second project cycle in the villages of Gbeka, Grima, Mamboma, Majoe, Ngolahun and Yandohun. We are confident that 2017 will be a year of innovation and learning hand-in-hand with our partner villages.
The NOW team is also preparing for another fulfilling year empowering women to plan and manage finances, practice skills in communication and decision-making and use her voice within and beyond household walls. One hundred and twenty (120) women will participate in the NOW program this year across the six villages of Majoe, Ngolahun, Yandohun, Kigbai, Maloma and Pejewa. In addition to facilitating the curriculum in these new villages, the NOW Coordinators will provide ongoing support to the 98 women who graduated from the program last year. By continuing to check in with these participants, the team will be able to track the successes and challenges experienced after women’s graduation from NOW. Coordinators will be working in three partner villages each this year and are taking on much more responsibility as the NOW Program grows and continues to improve! The NOW team and OVP leadership will also collaborate this year to explore ways to build on and improve the Program.
To meet the demands of expanding in to new villages and continuing to support and train more NOW participants and CAGs in new and diverse projects, OVP’s team will also grow. We are bringing on new members to our staff, including new program coordinators, field support staff and a specialized Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Technical Associate. These new staff will join our inventive and motivated team and we are looking forward to welcoming them to our ever-growing Sierra Leone office!
We expect 2017 to be another year full of growth and learning—within and beyond our office’s bamboo fence. We will continue to adapt and implement innovative methods to monitor and evaluate our model and programs so that we can continuously learn alongside our partners where and how we can improve. We are looking forward to another year of expanding our presence, distinguishing our model and working towards sustainable and equitable development by fostering change from within our partner communities.