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The Practice of Partnering: Bringing Quality Programming to Burundian Refugees in Tanzania

Sara-Christine Dallain and Kelsey Dalrymple

At a time when the world is experiencing the highest levels of displacement on record, it is critical for NGOs, large and small, to create dynamic partnerships when responding to and addressing the complex needs of refugee communities. According to UNHCR, there currently 65.6 million people around the world who have been forced from home. Among them, nearly 22.5 million are refugees and over half of this population is under the age of eighteen.1 Against this background of simultaneous protracted and escalating conflicts, and within a system in which NGOs are often forced to compete for resources, there is an immense need for implementing organizations to work together to leverage resources and expertise to comprehensively address the needs of refugee children and youth globally. Plan International Tanzania (Plan) and iACT, two international organizations, together, are doing just that.

Through a combined use of resources and expertise, Plan and iACT realized that we could enhance the impact, efficiency, and effectiveness of our education and youth empowerment work, eliminate the duplication of efforts, and generate results that could not be achieved by either organization operating alone. Mid-way through our partnership, we reflect on our achievements and learnings.

Background & Context

In April 2015, political violence and insecurity forced approximately 400,000 Burundians to flee to neighboring countries.2 Currently, over 350,000 Burundian and Congolese refugees are residing in three refugee camps in the Kigoma region of Tanzania. As of March 2018, there are over 193,000 refugee children and youth residing in the three camps3, with severely limited education, recreational, and social support services. While approximately 78% of school-age refugee children are enrolled in primary school, only 3% of refugee children and youth are enrolled in secondary school and only 21% of young children (ages 3-5) are enrolled in pre-primary school.4 These populations are particularly vulnerable to protection risks and are in need of healthy and inclusive educational and recreational activities that build resilience, strengthen social-emotional skills, and promote tolerance and equality.

Plan has been working in Tanzania for the last 26 years and has been operating in the Burundian refugee response since 2015, delivering education, child protection, and youth economic empowerment programming. In late 2017, Plan was operating seven child-friendly spaces (CFS) in the Nduta and Mtendeli refugee camps where early childhood care and development activities were being delivered to refugee children ages 3-5. However, there was a steady decline of student attendance in ECCD classes and general participation in the CFSs. This was due to a variety of factors including: a lack of training and professional development for ECCD teachers, resulting in low enthusiasm and energy in the classroom; low community-outreach activities for the recruitment of participants; and a lack of clarity on the value and impact of ECCD among refugee parents and the wider refugee community. As a result, Plan began exploring ways to improve its ECCD programming to boost enrollment and attendance, as well as enhance the quality of learning and development for children.

Additionally, at the end of 2017, Plan was delivering multiple programs for refugee adolescents and youth in the refugee camps, including: vocational skills courses, life-skills training, and recreational programs. However, Plan was regularly receiving requests from beneficiaries for more organized sports activities for both boys and girls, particularly football/soccer. Recognizing that providing positive and healthy activities to keep adolescents and youth engaged is critical for preventing this population from engaging in risky behavior, Plan began looking for innovative program approaches that were inclusive, gender sensitive, and blended both sports and life-skills building.

This is where iACT came in.

Partnership In March 2018, Plan and iACT formed a dynamic partnership to improve the quality of Plan’s ECCD activities for Burundian refugee children ages 3-5, as well as address the gap in sports programming for refugee youth in the Nduta and Mtendeli refugee camps.

In April 2018, iACT and Plan teamed up to bring the Little Ripples program – a refugee-led, culturally relevant, and innovative early childhood education model that trains refugee teachers to improve the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development of refugee children – to the Nduta and Mtendeli refugee camps. With financial and logistics support from Plan, iACT staff traveled to Tanzania to train Plan’s ECCD teachers in the Little Ripples program approach. Forty teachers were trained between the two camps, and the training provided teachers with an overview of: what Little Ripples is, child development, program values, organizing learning spaces, play-based learning, positive behavior management, emotional literacy, reading and storytelling, health and hygiene, mindfulness, and daily activities-scheduling. Plan’s ECCD teachers are now accredited Little Ripples teachers.

Since launching the partnership, Plan’s ECCD registration numbers have more than doubled (approximately 2,700 students are currently enrolled), teachers are happier and more energetic, and children are excited to come to ECCD lessons.

“After [Little Ripples] training, I gathered my brothers and sisters and I told them about what I have been learning in training about peace, helping, and sharing.” —Renovat, Plan ECCD Teacher, Mtendeli Refugee Camp

Refugees United Soccer Academy coach training, Tanzania. Photo: iACT

Upon completing the Little Ripples teacher trainings, iACT and Plan also launched the Refugees United Soccer Academy (RUSA) – a program designed to provide a safe environment for youth to learn about teamwork, leadership, peacebuilding and health, while advancing their soccer skills – in both the Nduta and Mtendeli refugee camps, for children ages 12-18. iACT delivered RUSA training to 32 refugee men and women between the two camps. During the training, participants learned the fundamentals of soccer, as well as drills, skills, and games to develop soccer skills of novice to advanced players. From each camp, iACT selected two male and two female coaches to work together in pairs to implement the RUSA program in their community. Plan is funding and managing each Academy and supporting coaches through weekly check-ins, monitoring activities, and the provision of incentives. As of June 2018, nearly 200 children and youth are regularly participating in the program.

“I love football [soccer] and I want to be a coach because when I play, many problems go away…as a coach, I’d like to change the bad memories of children in my community.” —Irene, 18 years old, new Refugees United Soccer Academy female coach for Mtendeli Refugee Camp.

Following the implementation of iACT programs, training, and curricula, Plan will provide ongoing funding, facilitation, monitoring, and evaluation. iACT will conduct ongoing technical training and consultation for Plan staff.

Learnings Efficient and Meaningful Impact The Plan-iACT partnership has provided the opportunity for iACT to expand its reach and impact, efficiently and meaningfully.

iACT has been designing and implementing early childhood education and sport programs with Darfuri refugees across 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad since 2012. Seeking to expand its impact and share its program models, curricula, and training, iACT strategically decided not to establish in-country offices or staff in other refugee contexts and instead offer its program expertise and resources to organizations already established and implementing programs in refugee camps, such as Plan. Already, partnering with Plan has demonstrated that this type of approach:

  1. eliminates duplication of effort and organizational in-country overhead;

  2. deepens the impact of other organizations doing good work; and

  3. frees up more resources to directly support refugees.

Large agencies supporting smaller organizations Plan International is one of the largest international organizations working in the field of education in emergencies and humanitarian response. In emergency situations, it is often these large agencies that have the resources and capacity to invest in donor relationships and to secure significant funding to deliver services and programs to affected populations. However, this often results in smaller organizations, with lower capacity, losing out on funding opportunities to test and implement new and innovative program approaches. The rhetoric and practice of the humanitarian sector is now shifting to support a more partnerships-based approach, whereby large international agencies use the funds they are able to generate at the global level, and either sub-contract to smaller or more local organizations to deliver the services and activities, or partner with smaller organizations to test new approaches and implement new programs at scale. The latter describes the partnership between Plan and iACT. Without Plan’s funding, iACT would not have been able to support the Burundian refugee crisis in Tanzania. Additionally, without iACT’s Little Ripples and RUSA program approaches, Plan would have continued to struggle to expand its reach numbers and improve its quality of programming. This practice of partnering in the humanitarian sector provides a space for smaller organizations to research, test, pilot, and develop new and innovative program approaches to increase the diversity and impact of humanitarian services.

Cross-cultural Communication that Changes the Way Program Results are Occurring The impact of our partnership includes the very way in which results are occurring. We are not the only main drivers of outcome; rather, through our combined resources, results are manifesting because of the initiative and self-led work of the refugee beneficiary themselves.

For example, upon completing training and selecting two men and two women to serve as the coaches and leaders of the Refugees United Soccer Academy, Plan and iACT connected the new Burundian coaches with existing, veteran Refugees United Soccer Academy coaches in refugee camps in Chad, with the use of WhatsApp, a free and simple smartphone messaging app. What resulted was a cross-cultural exchange of information and advice for program implementation and leadership—something neither organization would have been able to do had we not joined efforts. Veteran coaches in Chad were able to provide new coaches in Tanzania with specific ideas on how to manage the daily activities of the program, reach more children and youth, and work with the community to recruit and involve girls in the soccer program. One of the coaches in the Mtendeli refugee camp said he is taking the advice to increase the number of girls participating in his Academy: “Already we have more than 300 youth in the camp, but only 57 are girls. It’s a challenge but we are talking with Chad coaches for this. According to me, being able to communicate with other coaches in the world is a big chance. We use WhatsApp and I’m getting more knowledge because of it.”

Conclusion Plan and iACT will continue implementing the Little Ripples and RUSA programs in the Nduta and Mtendeli refugee camps through the end of 2018. If additional funds can be secured, the programs will continue and expand throughout 2019. It is hoped that the Burundian refugee ECCD teachers and RUSA coaches will continue communicating with their fellow refugee colleagues in Chad for continued learning and support. It is also hoped that that they will continue teaching and coaching using the practices, principles, and values they learned in their recent trainings long into the future. Plan and iACT look forward to continuing to work together and will keep exploring new ways of partnering to support quality programing with refugees around the world.


Help iACT continue to do what it does best:

Support refugees in the forgotten corners of the world through soccer and preschool.

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