Developing Partnerships between Tanzania and Scotland

Description: twende logo grey.jpgTwende Pamoja is a family of partnerships between individuals, communities, parishes, dioceses schools and places of learning in Tanzania and in Scotland. The fundamental purpose of Twende Pamoja is to promote the development of a global vision in the context of relationship. There are now 36 schools and 6 communities involved in partnerships, which began over 30 years ago.

Partnerships with communities in different parts of the world

We are living in a world that is changing very fast.  In particular we live in a world in which our lives are influenced by what happens in countries far away from our own. It is essential that we are prepared for this future, that we become adaptable, informed and fully prepared for life in a global society. 

Partnerships with communities in other parts of the world can make a significant contribution to the development of our faith and our understanding of cultures, customs and lifestyles of different nations.  Partnerships can also help develop an appreciation of diversity and respect for other cultures, a sense of what is unjust and how it can be challenged, and an understanding of how the local and universal church is inter-connected.

Experience shows that there are significant benefits from partnerships between communities. These relationships can bring challenges and need careful planning and an understanding of the complex issues involved.

Beginning relationships

The most important aspect of starting a partnership is being clear that this is a parish partnership, not a partnership between individuals, or a one off project.  It is most effective when the whole community participates from the beginning and everyone is clear about the purpose of the link.  As it will take time and commitment from everyone, it needs to become part of the parish planning. When a link is first made, it may be advisable to plan one project initially, to find out how the two communities can work together, and have similar aims within the partnership.  It can happen that communities can mistake partnership for sponsorship and be looking for a different kind of relationship.

Sustaining and developing partnerships

Evidence shows that the most successful community partnerships develop when there are strong working relationships and mutual understanding between everyone involved.  In such relationships leaders are clear about what they expect from the partnership, and regularly review what they are doing and plan the next steps.  A partnership agreement, which outlines expectations, can be a very good starting point.  This would outline the activities each community would commit to, for example exchanging of information, sharing of life and faith, cultural exchange, and joint community projects.

Good communication is essential, and communities should have realistic expectations of each other and how they can communicate. Email contact is ideal, but not all parishes have access to computers and the internet.  Mobile phones can be used for messages, but are not ideal for joint developments and sharing ideas. Communication is not simply about sending messages, but it is about understanding and sharing what each community can contribute to and share with the other.

Patrnership Steering Groups

The greatest benefits from partnerships come when communities are involved in joint activities.  When partnerships develop very well, there are limitless possibilities that can be explored. It is recommended that each community should form a small Steering Group to work to develop the relationship. This group should work closely with the Parish Priest, Parish Council and community leaders and organisations.

The Steering Group should:

Community Visits

Exchange visits can enrich a partnership, deepen understanding and help communication between communities.  Key to their success is ensuring that the outcomes from the exchange benefit the whole community – not just those participating.  This should be embedded in the planning.  Visits are of most value when the groundwork in establishing a partnership has been achieved, and relationships are already strong.

Practical Support between Communities

The most effective partnerships have, first and foremost, relationship at their centre.  Partnerships based on the idea of ‘benefactor’ rather than ‘friend’ or ‘partner’ may reinforce rather than challenge stereotypes and limit real community partnership. However, within the context of mutual respect, and an attitude of “we can help each other and bring different things to our partnership”, there may be times when practical support can be appropriate.

The economic difficulties experienced by many individuals and communities needs to be acknowledged. It is a fundamental part of the gospel and the vision of church that we should support each other in direct and practical ways and that those who have more should share generously with those who not have access to the same resources. Once a relationship has been established practical support may be both appropriate and a necessary response. Families help each other.

It is important to recognise that there are many things that communities in both countries can offer to each other as part of their relationship as well as direct material support.  The offering of hospitality during exchange visits and the sharing of each other’s expertise and experience, for example, are some of the many things, which cannot simply be measured in economic terms and yet which are pivotal to the mutual relationships between communities across the world.

© St Catherine’s, St John Vianney’s and St Gregory’s are parishes of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, charity registered in Scotland - SC008540