Sudan Visit: what does Practical Action mean to you?

One of the most exciting  elements of visiting our overseas offices is the opportunity to build relationships with our field staff. They are the people who implement our projects, who work with vulnerable communities, who know the women, men and children living in poverty. Our field staff are Practical Action’s beating heart.

So today my Sudanese colleagues and I spent several hours discussing what Practical Action means to us as individuals – how would we describe Practical Action in one word to someone who has not heard of us before? And how would we want to be described by our supporters, donors, partners, friends? It’s a fascinating subject because I think how we feel about the organisation for which we work is crucial to our success. If we are proud of and energised by what we do, I think it makes us better, more effective, more inspiring.

We conjured up a delicious myriad of words:

beautiful

commitment

hope

ownership

development

saviour

technology

leadership

honest

accountability

knowledge

distinguished

learning

empowerment

home

respect

well-being

excellence

inspiring

There were many more, but this is just a snapshot. The words chosen create a compelling picture of the Practical Action in which I believe.

The most moving word to me is “home”, which was suggested by Mazen, a young water engineer working in Sudan’s turbulent Blue Nile state. I asked Mazen why he chose this word, and he told me simply “for many poor people that we work with, Practical Action is like home to them, we’re like their family. We’re always there, supporting people and their communities. People trust us. If things go wrong, they know Practical Action will be there to help. We care. We’re home.”

I think this reflects positively not only on Practical Action as an organisation, but also on the culture of our Sudanese staff, which is the most generous, welcoming, warm and hospitable that I have had the privilege of experiencing.

There is a phrase in Arabic, “Al-Bayt Baytak”, which means “my house is your house”. In a matter of days I have felt at home with Practical Action in Sudan. So now when I ponder that question “what does Practical Action mean to you?”, one of my thoughts will be “home”. What will your answer be? What does Practical Action mean to you?

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