Greetings everyone, I am Raphaële Vauconsant, the new face at World Vision France, joining last April as Head of External Relations. From my base in Paris, my mission is to raise the profile and repute of our organisation in France. My role is mainly media-facing, and my focus is to bring the work of our teams around the world to the greater attention of the general public and our strategic partners.
A few weeks after joining the ranks of World Vision France, I had the chance to participate in a trip to our programmes in Senegal. Delphine Saulière and Jacques Bonnet, members of our Board of Directors, Camille des Boscs, our Executive Director and Alexandra Fouilloux, Head of Programmes, were also present for this field visit. The five of us spent a week criss-crossing Senegal, meeting World Vision staff along the way and seeing something of our programmes running in the regions of Kaffrine and Tambacounda. On our travels we were fortunate to be in the capable hands of Diegane Ndiaye, Operations Director at World Vision Senegal.
Our arrival in Dakar was wonderful - the agreeable temperature, the smiles of the Senegalese and the sea breeze were all very welcoming. However, the mild thermometer readings in Dakar did not prepare us for what Tambacounda had in store for us.
After a day in Dakar, where we had the opportunity to meet the World Vision Senegal teams and have lunch with Thérèse Diatta, World Vision Senegal Advisory Council Chair, our party got on the road to Kaffrine. After a presentation by Seydou Damba, Programs Manager of Kaffrine - Mbirkelane Cluster, on the Area Programme (AP) in his cluster, we went on to meet the communities. This first experience of encounters with children and their families was very poignant for me. In Mabo, we were able to talk with some saving groups members as well as with teenagers carrying responsibilities in the Local Child Protection Committee. We also dropped in on a Toddlers' Hut.
These different meetings made me aware of the realities on the ground, the living conditions of local people and above all the dedication of World Vision Senegal staff. I was very moved to see the commitment of the World Vision Senegal teams and their determination to be a force for good. Helping the most vulnerable children is the primary mission of every member of the staff, and their zest for achieving this goal is unmistakeable. Facilitators are on very familiar terms with the families and children of the programmes on which they work. They are the most up-close to the communities, understand their needs and contribute to their well-being in this way.
After Mabo, we took to the road again towards Tambacounda and spent three days in the Netteboulou AP. After conversing with Joseph Diedhou, Programs Manager of Tambacounda Cluster and his team, we had the chance to meet the members of the Disaster Risk Management and Prevention Committee, and visited a grain bank. We also had the opportunity to talk with the women running the Dar el Salam health centre and to take part in a solidarity circle for pregnant women. Finally, the village Kids Club welcomed us at the school and delivered a presentation on the awareness-raising activities that they have begun to carry out in the area.
As in Mabo, the visits in this AP were very rewarding both professionally and emotionally. The work in the Tambacounda cluster is at an earlier stage than in Mabo, so it was very interesting to see the differences between the two APs and to observe that the dedication of the teams is equally as strong, whether at the outset of a development programme or mid-process.
This part of the trip was special for me because I had the chance to meet the child I sponsor myself, his family and his community. We were received like royalty in the village of Ibrahima, my sponsored child! It was very touching to see the whole community gather around us and celebrate our meeting with songs and dances. I am getting emotional all over again today, thinking about being able to see Ibrahima and chat with his mother. Our rapport has been changed forever, and whenever I write to him from now on I will have such a clearer picture of the way he lives and the people around him.
I returned to France with a deeply-held conviction that the work being done in the field has a major impact on the local communities that receive help from World Vision France. So much more than just supplying equipment, the teams pass on real-life skills to the people. Skills that they will one day use to make themselves completely autonomous. The dedication of the teams was very striking and we could feel the strength of the will among the staff to make every day count towards improving the protection of children. The work being done is remarkable! All these encounters have given me greater resolve to shout from the rooftops here in France about how much the efforts on the ground actually do improve living conditions for the most vulnerable, and that our responses to the most under-privileged families are in fact highly practical.
This first visit abroad was very enriching and I am delighted to have started with Senegal! It is important that we can see the how development programmes are put in place and how our activities impact on children. As a communicator, my remit to raise the profile of our organisation finds its entire rationale in this. I think it is vital that journalists have the opportunity to meet the people concerned in our programmes, face-to-face in their APs. Discussing with communities is the best way to understand the unique work that World Vision has set in motion.
I hope to be able to work with World Vision Senegal again soon and return with strategic partners from France, so that the high quality of the work you do as a matter of course every day may be known far and wide!
By Raphaële Vauconsant, Head of External Relations World Vision France