Prakashni Gounder

National Donor Services Coordinator SOS Children's Villages in South Africa

Together we can

I start my story by sharing with you that I love my job, despite ALL the challenges I encounter. Although I do not work directly with the children in the eight villages, I work with the information and stories and photographs of the 530+ sponsored children. The National Association is evaluated annually based on the work via the sponsorship department. The village and child sponsorship letters, the departure notices and response time to queries, etc make up the score- although we also receive the score of the letters separately as well.

Feedback on the Child Sponsorship Letters and Village Sponsorship Letters
Each year we send letters to the child and village sponsors, based on the information received from co-workers in the village. Previously we received general feedback on the letters e.g. the letters were xx or xxx. And the overall score is xx.
The end of year letters 2013 feedback was based on a list of criteria and we scored 12 out of 26 for one of the village letters. Although I was expecting a low score, I was shocked and devastated at this; and to add more to my stress levels as I had just completed the editing of the midyear 2014 letters, I then decided to step back, re-read the evaluation and change my approach to the letters.

I made large copies of the feedback AND spent a whole day understanding the notes, advice and comments. For added measure, copies were taped to my office walls so that I could constantly refer back to them. I met with our National Director and shared with him ways that I was going to approach this. My only request to him was that I needed his support to convince the teams in the villages that I needed to re-write the letters using the guidelines provided by International Office (IO).

Once that was done, I began working on each letter. It took me almost two days of re-writing and editing, before I completed one letter. I then printed a copy and looked at it carefully. I did this process many times before I was happy, before completing the rest of the letters. My main objective was to score a minimum of 20 out of 28 for the next evaluation. As I wrote the letters, I kept going back to my notes keeping them fresh and very alive in my mind. This was challenging and tiring, but I was determined to at least meet one of my objectives.

Challenging yet rewarding
Who says hard work does not have its rewards? When I received the feedback evaluation from IO I could have cried, as we scored 21 out of 28.

A change process with big impact
Our National Association is going the sustainable path process1. This process aims to support 35 Member Associations of SOS Children’s Villages International in five regions to become increasingly financially self-sufficient and sustainable in the long term.

I have to say that this process leads to many challenges on various levels ….

So who is listening to my challenges of meeting International Office deadlines to improving quality of work provided by co-workers from the village?

To me leading by example is important and therefore change starts with me. I called all the village secretaries and told them that we will have a skype meeting during the week and I will email the agenda to them. They will add/edit comment what they also needed. I then sent an email to the programme directors informing them that I have scheduled a meeting with the sponsorship team [village secretaries]. I asked if they could help with authorizing a venue/office space with laptop and skype and invited them to join the meeting.

Holding individual support sessions with each secretary has helped a lot as each one has a different level of understanding. As for the secretaries closer to the National Office I invited them to one of the sessions to help them improve their English writing skills and look for stories in everyday activities in the village. I make myself available to the team literally 24/7 via phone, cell, Whatsapp and skype. I hold workshops and get the village sponsorship co-workers to present in the area of work that I see them shine in, excel or do well. I give them notebooks so that they can record events and happenings that the children participate in.

I thank them for working late, for responding to my emails, for trying to meet deadlines and for helping me to be good in my job. When the evaluations of our association arrive, I give credit to the team. I do not work alone therefore the credit goes to the full team. In my humble opinion, people who work in the background are key to the result.

The secretaries are important to the work I deliver as the sponsorship coordinator. Oh yes.
Are you curious about the latest evaluation score for the period 2014 to 2015? For the end of year letter to the sponsors, we received a score a score of 26 out of 28. The total evaluation for the National Association was 94%.

I strongly believe that together as a team we can make a difference in the quality of work we deliver.

1 In 2012 SOS Children’s Villages International launched the so-called “Sustainable Path” initiative which aims to ensure self-sustainability among SOS Member Associations in middle income countries by 2020. Simultaneously this process aims at maximising the impact of SOS programmes by strengthening the local communities’ and local community-based organisations’ capacity to take an active role in the development of their own community. 35 Member Associations with the greatest fundraising potential were selected, with the aim of achieving self-sufficiency in order to free up international subsidies that could be relocated to the member associations with the greatest need among our target group (Child Care for Development, 2015, SOS Children’s Villages Norway).

Prakashni Gounder

joined SOS Children's Villages South Africa in 2008. She is the National Donors Services Coordinator. 

She loves working with children and communities and by virtue of fact, her work bridges the two worlds she delights in working with. 
She is passionate about her work that she consciously likes to announce: ‘’come to me with challenges and I help to find solutions’’. “Let me be ME” is the ethics of her understanding of relationship and family. Living in good memories of the beaches of her birth place, Durban, seaside port, she still enjoys nature in Johannesburg, loves cooking, reading and pin bowling. Johannesburg is a city of many cultures and people- in fact a true reflection of the rainbow nation. It is known for its beautiful shopping centres, friendly people and heavy traffic.