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The Value of Peer Learning Visits

"Learning is always rebellion. Every bit of new truth discovered is revolutionary to what was believed before" – Margaret Lee Runbeck

Peer learning refers to learning with and from fellow peers without any implied authority to any individual, based on the tenet that students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their peers. For the past five years, we have come to appreciate the peer-to-peer learning approach in our programs as youth are more comfortable learning from and discussing certain issues with their fellow youth.

In terms of our organizational growth and development, we have also employed the peer learning approach to improve our work. As a youth-led organization, we treasure knowledge sharing because it gives us a chance to build our capacity and improve our program approach. In May and June 2018, members of our program team, Clare and Gloria, travelled to Kenya and Rwanda to learn skills and techniques from other community-based organizations (it was also the first time that they had ever been on an airplane!)

We invite you to learn more from Coach Clare and Gloria’s experience from their peer learning visits in Kenya and Rwanda!

(Photo: Members that attended the Spark MicroGrants Facilitation Workshop in Rwanda)

In May, with support from the Segal Family Foundation, our Director of Programs, Clare Tusingwire, conducted a peer learning visit to HEART Africa and Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) in Nairobi, Kenya. HEART Africa serves women and children in critical need and promotes youth empowerment. The Women Equality Empowerment Project (WEEP) is one of their projects that empowers women living with HIV/AIDS, especially those who have been widowed or abandoned, to enable them to maintain healthy and self-sustaining lifestyles to support their children and break out of the cycle of poverty. The women in the WEEP make mosquito nets which they sell and give back part of the profit to HEART Africa to support other women as an in-house income generating activity. Clare explained:

“I was deeply inspired by the immediate and more lasting improvements to women’s challenges, such as providing nutritional and dietary needs and livelihood income generating skills.”

(Photo: Coach Clare with some of the women under the HEART WEEP project)

Clare was also inspired by the HEART Africa Lodge and gift shop, which was the organization’s social enterprise. She said:

“As you build and grow an organization, it’s important to think of sustainability in terms of self-sustenance beyond the external funding support. The HEART Africa Lodges are a good inspiration.”

This approach is similar to Girl Up Initiative Uganda’s social enterprise, Mazuri Designs, and Clare’s learnings will feed into building up the business.

During her peer learning visit, Clare also made a visit to SHOFCO which is an example of how the growth of an organization is possible in an urban slum area, in this case of Kibera in Nairobi. She learned that deepening organizational activities within a given area of operation is very key and the effect automatically trickles down to the neighboring communities.

(Photo: Clare before ending the SHOFCO office in Nairobi, Kenya)

When reflecting on her experience and main takeaway lessons for her Kenya peer learning visit, Clare explained:

“With a clear vision, hard work and commitment to transparency, an organization can resiliently grow and stand the test of time. Innovation is key, a sense of doing usual things unusually and new explorations, should always define us!”

Just a month later, Clare was back on the airplane, this time with Gloria Komukama, Program Officer of the Adolescent Girls Program. With support from the Issroff Family Foundation, Coaches Clare and Gloria participated in a facilitation workshop organized by Spark MicroGrantsin Rwanda. It was their first time in Rwanda, Gloria’s first time being on a plane and Clare’s second time which was exciting. The journey to Musanze was a great opportunity for them to meet different organizations to share knowledge, experience and solve challenges around facilitation techniques.

(Photo: Clare and Gloria on their flight to Rwanda- Gloria's first time on an airplane!)

The focus of the training was understanding different facilitation techniques and how they are applicable in different contexts for community members. Since we are moving away from theory to practical in today’s world, people learn by doing. Spark MicroGrants emphasized that role playing is one of the best ways to effectively engage a group of people. It is also one of the approaches our coaches are already using to reach out to both girls and boys. Gloria and Clare found the workshop to be very rich in knowledge as they attained new facilitation techniques such as: agenda setting (involving participants in developing the agenda, rules and regulations of the training session) and role playing (including distributing roles among the facilitators to break the monotony of the same facilitator), which creates ownership and trust among the participants in the community regardless of their abilities.

(Photo: A community member illustrating a role play about team work)

At the Rwanda workshop, Clare and Gloria also got a chance to learn how other organizations in East Africa are working in their communities. As they met other participants from various organizations, they shared valuable knowledge and experiences. They also understood the challenges that other organizations are facing and identified solutions based on their own experiences with programming, especially for adolescent girls. For example, our team shared GUIU's tools and skills to encourage participants to share their stories without creating a very emotional environment, how to lead trainings for young girls that creates impact, and how to make facilitation fun.

Gloria explained:

“During our sessions, we share our own stories to set the pace for emotions among participants and we emphasize that everyone’s story is safe and valid to be shared. The approach of using age and gender appropriate icebreakers, for example, the HUG YOURSELF icebreaker, makes facilitation fun and reminds girls that they matter and can be whatever they want to be.”

Our team greatly appreciated the opportunity from Segal Family Foundation and Issroff Family Foundation to join a bigger community of changemakers and share experiences and learn from other individuals doing great work in their respective communities in both Kenya and Rwanda. We look forward to more opportunities to learn and share knowledge, skills, and expertise!