2017 Gathering Report

Quakers in Britain

Quaker Africa Interest Group

2017 Gathering Report

Saturday 28 January, 2017 at the Priory Rooms Meeting, Birmingham

Friends attending: Colin Bartlett, Jessica Bishop, Gretchen Castle, Elizabeth Cave, Kendal Clarke, Ann Floyd (chair), Elaine Green, Andrew Gregory, Margaret Gregory, Bryn Higgs, David Jones, Alick Munro, Bryan Osborne, Deana Owen, Hazel Shellens, Cherry Stainforth, Lee Taylor, Martin Wilkinson,  Jean Wilcox, Myrtle Wyatt

Our Gathering was framed by worship at the beginning and end.
National and global updates

1. A video report from Churchill Malimo, Africa Section Secretary, on the follow up from the 2016 World Gathering, and current issues for Africa Section

Gretchen Castle, General Secretary of Friends World Committee for Consultation, introduced the video.

Churchill spoke about:

•    His role as Executive Secretary – how he seeks to make himself ‘available’ to family and the communities he is involved with;
•    The forthcoming Africa Section Triennial in Rwanda in late March 2017. This has the theme: ‘Stop crying: God has an answer’.  He spoke of the many, well recognized problems in Africa.  There has been a group going round Meetings to try to understand better the issues they confront – they will report progress. He asked any well-wishers to consider giving financial support to help African Friends get to the Triennial;
•    Young Friends: after the World Gathering, Africa Section has appointed a two-year coordinator to support youth activities and better communications. There will be a YFs get together in August 2017;
•    How does Africa Section try to connect with the rest of the Quaker world? He mentioned the 2016 Swarthmore Lecture given by Esther Mombo and Cécile Nyiramana; the African Friends – including young Friends – who went to the World Gathering; the young Lesothan Friend who attended the QUNO Summer school;
•    ‘keeping creating smiles’: his view that African Friends are on the path to a spiritual revolution, more effective nominations process and new leadership and increasing peace work.

Gretchen Castle, Marisa Johnson (Executive Secretary, FWCC Europe and Middle Section) and Ann Floyd are all going to the Africa Section Triennial in March 2017. Ann is hoping to deepen and refresh her understanding of the Section and its witness, and to feed this into the work of the Quaker World Relations Committee and its input into Yearly Meeting Gathering, as well as acquiring more material for Quakers in the World.
We agreed to put a call out on the QAIG/QWRC network for any funds to support African Friends who would like to go to the Triennial but are prevented because of lack of funds.
Members were urged to let Churchill know if they had plans to travel within the Section (www.fwccafrica.org) on Quaker-related work – malimo2003@yahoo.co.uk

2. QPSW work in East Africa: Bryn Higgs, East Africa Programme Manager, QPSW

Bryn reported to us on his 2016 visit to Rwanda and Kenya and in particular on how ‘Turning the Tide’ (TtT) is developing as a powerful peace building movement, primarily led by Africans. He began by telling an inspiring story of change at a personal level in one woman’s relationship with a stepchild after reflection brought about by the course.

Bryn offered us two models:

A. Galtung’s triangle, which classifies violence in three forms which support each other:
o    direct, physical violence;
o    indirect, structural violence, often through unequal power
o    cultural – the aspects of a society’s culture that are used to justify and legitimise violence;

B. The Movement building canvas (thesocialchangeagency.org) which helps identify the shared values/purpose, the actions and incentives and the enabling mechanisms
TtT is being used in schools, women’s and community groups to support personal change and help focus on groups working on common issues – for example water problems in the slums in Nairobi (www.quaker.org.uk/our-work/our-stories/addressing-water-injustice-in-nairobi).

The Turning the Tide programme in Kenya is starting to work to take its non-violent campaigning to the next level, helping groups to share their experiences and techniques, and exploring the possibility of linking them together to bring change at a structural level.

3. Update on the 2016 Swarthmore lecture, focussed on peace building in Eastern Africa: Ann Floyd

Ann reported the disappointment that one of the two lecturers, Cecile Nyiramana from Rwanda, had, at the last minute, been unable to be with us. This had placed a great burden on the other lecturer, Esther Mombo from Kenya, who had to speak for both and to read many words she had not written. Nevertheless she had delivered a hard hitting lecture which challenged us all and gave much food for thought. Those who attended the ‘meet the Swarthmore lecturer’ session at BYM, and/or the follow-up weekend at Woodbrooke, had been inspired and moved by Esther’s presence and witness.

Ann told us that DVDs of the lecture by Esther Mombo had been sent to all LM clerks. As well as the lecture itself, the DVD also includes a discussion between Woodbrooke Director Sandra Berry , and Esther. The lecture is also available in book form, and online (https://soundcloud.com/swarthmorelecture)

4. An update on Quaker World Relations Committee work: Ann Floyd, Clerk, Quaker World Relations Committee

Ann Floyd reminded us of QWRC’s remit:
o    Enriching understanding between BYM and Friends worldwide
o    Engaging Quakers in Britain on Quaker issues and concerns around the globe.

Since QAIG 2016, QWRC has discerned and planned progress on four key messages for Britain YM from the World Gathering in Pisac, Peru: sustainability; encouraging younger adult involvement; recognising and valuing diversity; promoting intervisitation.

QWRC has:
o    continued with the QWRC email network (sign up via marleens@quaker.org.uk)
o    held the first Forum, bringing together reps of BYM committees with international aspects to their work
o    given a number of talks to Quaker groups around the country
o    followed up on the Quaker Recognised body discussion at QAIG 2016 – QAIG should be registered this year
o    reflected on the 2016 Swarthmore lecture

Plans for the future include:

  • a joint project with FWCC, focussed on sustainability
  • Fostering intervisitation between BYM and Friends worldwide (virtual and face to face)
  • Taking opportunities to interact with Quakers in Britain on Quaker concerns around the globe
  • Having a strong ‘world presence’ focus at YMG 2017

o    welcoming  and involving international participants, including hosting four Friends who would not otherwise be able to join us;
o    Involving our guests in workshops and ‘special interest meetings’ to bring their experience to BYM
o    A Worship session in programmed mode
o    QWRC presence at groups Fair: including information on projects supported by QAIG members

  • Strengthening Intervisitation


Work in Africa

Quaker Congo Partnership: Margaret Gregory

Margaret reported on several encouraging developments:

a) the Legal Status of CEEACO
CEEACO is the Yearly Meeting for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their legal papers dated back to the time when DRC was Zaire, and so were thoroughly out of date. There were also considerable difficulties caused by the former legal representative being unwilling to accept the new democratically chosen leadership team. The new legal rep went to Kinshasa in May and returned in October, with a complete set of new papers and having established four new Quaker meetings, including getting land grants for them. They have wonderful plans for the work they want to do, establishing agricultural smallholdings and training children and young people at risk, also caring for widows. All this embedded in the most spiritual letter I have ever received. They are looking for help!

b) Water
The big achievement for Quaker Congo Partnership has been the successful completion of stages 1 & 2 of the water project at a cost of £70,000.  Three springs up in the hills have been tapped and the water piped 7km downhill to a holding tank and the distributed to 12 standpipes at the hospital and round the village. This means that there will be a standpipe within about 100m of every house. As a result there has been a significant reduction in the number of people being admitted to hospital with water-borne infections, it is easier to maintain hygiene in the hospital, and a considerable saving of time spent looking for water. The project was planned and managed locally without any western NGO input. Care was taken to place the water points close to the house of someone who would look after them. A number of local people are receiving maintenance training.
Stage three is to provide showers, washbasins and two additional toilets for the hospital. Cost £8,000. Quaker Congo Partnership have continued to support the three original projects, and gets quarterly reports on the work done and how the money has been spent.
Centre for Peace Education and Psycho Social Assistance (CEPAP)
This group was called Trauma Clinic Peace Garden. The new name is a mouthful but does describe the work done – paying the school fees and providing ‘youth work’ support for vulnerable young people, most of whom have lost at least one parent. Those being supported come from a number of different villages and include young people of different ethnicities. There is also trauma recovery work with adults.

The support to the hospital means that paying about half the wages bill, supporting the purchase of pharmaceuticals and some equipment and maintaining the 4wd vehicle, ambulance+. The hospital needs new equipment including an operating table.

The microcredit project has some difficulties as perhaps 25% of the women have not been keeping up with repayments and this is of considerable concern locally. The project is being reviewed. It is very popular with the women.

Friends of Hlekweni:  Lee Taylor, Clerk, FoH

Lee reminded us that Friends in BYM have supported work in Zimbabwe for over fifty years; it was a sad loss when the Hlekweni training centre closed in 2014 (although it has now re-opened as a project of the Zimbabwean Teachers’ Association) – and a challenge to a charity  called ‘Friends of Hlekweni’. After discernment, and heartfelt pleas from Zimbabwean F/friends (‘do not forget us’), Trustees are now focussing on four areas – most common and familiar to those working in other charities in Africa:

•    Support to five primary schools in and around Bulawayo, including extensive feeding scheme support over the past year;
•    Funding the Zimbabwe Secondary Bursary scheme;
•    Encouraging and funding peacebuilding work, including Peace Clubs in schools (based on Mennonite experience), AVP and combatting domestic violence;
•    Getting resources into schools and to Zimbabweans we work with (books/laptops/mobile phones/knitted teddies and pencil case, etc.)

Friends of Hlekweni works closely with Zimbabwean Quakers, Central and Southern Africa YM and Bulawayan partners.

Lee outlined the current challenges for the charity:
•    Contextually, the situation in Zimbabwe: drought, currency crisis, recent VAT imposition on common foodstuffs
•    The slide of £ against $: FoH purchasing power has declined by 20%
•    Raising funds and changing communication strategy (takes a lot of effort)
•    Is there going to be an ongoing call for feeding schemes? If so, what will the impact be on the budget; it is difficult to raise money for ‘disaster relief’;
•    Embedding the peacebuilding work
•    Balancing Trustee visits with work here
•    Working with local Quakers and with partners
•    Succession planning for FoH Trustees
•    Maintaining focus whilst being open to new needs


Group discussions

1.  Quaker charities working in Africa group report

The group considered common threads, hurdles, successes, challenges and potential opportunities for collaboration.
We noted the leaflet produced by QPSW on key points for groups working overseas: do we all meet these?
It was clear that there was indeed much to share, and we considered how best to do this: would a password-protected area on the QAIG website work be of use?
Are we competing for scarce resources and attention (especially with Quakers)?
What support might we get from Friends’ House staff, e.g. on more-professional communications, displays, websites, etc.?
We agreed that we all needed inspirational stories and a clear visionary ‘strapline’ to be effective in fundraising.
How best might we involve younger people in our work and those from the countries we work in?

We brainstormed ideas about fundraising, noting:

•    The QPSW booklet on Quaker charities;
•    NCVO’s support on funding opportunities (see www.ncvo.org.uk/practical-support) and training;
•    Rotary, Round Table, Moose International, Soroptimists, Women’s Institutes
•    Aviation without Borders (www.aviationwithoutborders.org)
•    Crowdfunding

Most small charities apply for relatively small grants – but would it be more effective to pool efforts and go for a large grant from the big funders (e.g. DfID, Red Nose, Children in Need, Elton John Foundation etc.)?
We noted that some grant givers offer matched funding.

There is experience and expertise on getting resources out to where we work in Africa – helpful airlines, getting space in containers etc.
There are other organisations such as Book Aid International (www.bookaid.org) and Computers for Africa (www.computers4africa.org.uk) which may be better operationally; we would need to provide funds to cover costs.

We also noted that the Charity Commission and NCVO offer valuable training on being Trustees – we were given a report on risk and safeguarding issues.  It is useful for us to share this kind of information.

2. Intervisitation group report

Ann Floyd introduced the issues in her earlier talk:

  • Each of us has, or has had, links with African Friends

o    perhaps visiting them face to face
o    perhaps meeting them here, sometimes hosting them
o    Perhaps interacting ‘virtually’ (newsletters, emails, Skype…)
o    Perhaps fundraising to support their/our work

  • What motivates us to ‘intervisit’ in these ways?
  • We value it – but why?
  • How could we (QWRC, QAIG) help others in BYM ‘intervisit’?
  • What would be the value of increasing such intervisitation?

The group had had a wide ranging discussion. In worship sharing at the end, people spoke of the key messages for them. Among these were:

•    A parallel with the story of Ruth; your friends are my friends, your people are my people. She had not lost her roots, she had been enriched.
•    The powerful experience of home groups in international gatherings, where different perspectives could be shared in a safe setting. There might be scope for virtual home groups too.
•    Enabling a small group of maybe six visiting Friends, linked with a project, to spend some time together at Woodbrooke (or another venue).
•    Britain as a nation might be drifting into isolationism. British Quakers don’t need to follow suit. Now is the time for us to reach out proactively.
•    We could create a ‘pilgrimage’ for visiting Friends.
•    it would be good if we could communicate more spiritual depth than we tend to do.
•    we could be more organised about bringing visiting Friends into regional gatherings, such as in the Northwest (where the closeness to 1652 country could add additional value).
•    we need to recognise the need to prepare ourselves for interactions with Friends from different traditions: how we speak, how we communicate our own depth, our genuine selves.
•    travelling minutes are a wonderful way of introducing ourselves: how about including the phrase ‘making f/Friends with you’.


Participants liked:

•    The ‘well balanced’ agenda, and well managed technical/admin arrangements
•    The video from Churchill Malimo, and asked for similar contributions in future about African-led Quaker work
•    The QWRC presentation which helped the understanding of the context in which QAIG works
•    A more congenial room

We would like the group to be more diverse.
We hope that there will be feedback to Africa Section on the meeting.

Suggestions for future meetings included:

•    Videos/clips from Friends in Africa Section
•    A better understanding of the work of US Friends in East Africa
•    Written introductions beforehand?
•    Inviting Quaker Quest to help us think about how we present ourselves/come across as British Quakers meeting/working with Africans

Next meeting: we agreed to meet in early February

Booking made at Priory Rooms for 3 February 2018.

We discussed the possibility of moving the venue around to attract more people …. However, Birmingham remains the most convenient.

Feb 2017

Participants/Meetings/group/country most involved with:

•    Colin Bartlett, Milton Keynes LM – South Africa
•    Jessica Bishop, Johannesburg MM and East Barnet – South Africa and Zimbabwe, Friends of Hlekweni
•    Gretchen Castle, General Secretary, FWCC – the world!
•    Elizabeth Cave, Ealing LM, North London, Rwanda, Growing Together (www.ealingquakers.org.uk/growing_together_in_rwanda.html) and AGLI Peace Trust (www.africangreatlakespeacetrust.org.uk)
•    Kendal Clarke, Leicester LM – Malawi
•    Ann Floyd, Jordans LM, clerk QWRC, Trustee African Great Lakes Peace Trust, QPSW overseas peacebuilding committee, Quakers in the World (www.quakersintheworld.org)
•    Elaine Green, Bury St Edmunds LM, member of QWRC
•    Andrew Gregory, Manchester LM, Treasurer, Quaker Congo Partnership
•    Margaret Gregory, Manchester LM, co-clerk, Quaker Congo Partnership
•    Bryn Higgs, East Africa Manager, QPSW
•    David Jones, Milton Keynes LM, southern Africa
•    Alick Munro, Kingston LM, member of QWRC
•    Bryan Osborne, St Neots LM, Gambia, Lisa Kent Trust (www.lisakenttrust.org)
•    Deana Owen, Bridgend LM, Zambia, Friends of Monze (www.friendsofmonze.org)
•    Hazel Shellens, Huntingdon LM, Congo and Kenya, Quaker Congo Partnership and Child Rescue Kenya (www.childrescuekenya.org)
•    Cherry Stainforth, Watford LM, East/West Africa, Zimbabwe
•    Lee Taylor, Milton Keynes LM, member of QWRC, Zimbabwe, clerk Friends of Hlekweni (www.friendsofhlekweni.org.uk)
•    Martin Wilkinson,  Westminster LM, formerly QPSW, Uganda
•    Jean Wilcox, Weston super Mare LM, Zimbabwe, Dabane (www.dabane.org)
•    Myrtle Wyatt, Weston super Mare LM, Zimbabwe, Dabane

Three other Friends who were prevented asked for information to be given on their work:

Dorothy Crowther, Keswick LM, Sierra Leone, Dorothy Peace Centre (www.dorothypeacecentre.co.uk)

Bronwyn Harwood, Lewes LM, Kenya, Green Olive Trust (http://greenolivetrust.co.uk)

John Lampen, Stourbridge LM, Uganda, Hope Project (www.hopeproject.co.uk/The_Hope_Project)

QAIG finances

As of 20 February 2017, the following is a statement of QAIG’s finances.

There was a cash balance of £205.59 carried over from 2016.
The cash collected from members at the QAIG Event on 28 Jan 2017 came to £348.00.
This was made up of a charge for refreshments and a suggested donation for the costs of the Interest Group (advert in The Friend, room hire etc.).

The Priory room hire and refreshments came to £276.00.

A one-off amount of £34.65 was paid out to Colin Bartlett for postage for a  printed letter to members without email addresses, asking if they wish to remain on the list.

The current cash balance is £242.84.