Arlene Kelly, Clerk of the Board of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), will visit four African countries next month, meeting with AFSC staff, partners and communities in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Burundi.

A highlight of her visit comes September 18, when AFSC will officially hand over its program in Mozambique to the Manica Community Development Organization (OCODEMA), a national nonprofit organization formed by AFSC. The core of AFSC’s phase-out strategy is to exhibit responsible exit, encourage community ownership and ensure sustainability.

“Arlene Kelly’s visit to the continent is timely, because AFSC is phasing out its presence in Mozambique after more than 30 years of committed service,” says Dereje Wordofa, the regional Director for Africa. “Her presence at the handover ceremony will grace all the hard work over the last 3 decades and the beginning of a new organization.”

The OCODEMA board was established in February 2009 and is already distinguishing itself. Ana Chapo, of Manica Province is serving as the new board chairperson, taking on the challenge of guiding this new organization in a place where it is uncommon to see women as organizational leaders. She, together with her fellow eight board members (two women and six men) will support OCODEMA’s next steps.  

Already in August, OCODEMA’s general assembly was expanded to 49 members to include 40 community representatives, 10 from each of the communities where AFSC has worked, and nine board members.

The board has made strides toward sustainability, including approved national registration of the organization, a new constitution, the recruitment of the director designate, and approval of key documents including a three-year strategic plan, budget,  and human resources and financial policies and procedures.

11 of current AFSC staff will be joining OCODEMA. Despite significant salary cuts, current staff are  excited to join the new organization. “I am happy to be part of OCODEMA because I believe it has huge potential to tackle poverty and promote self reliance in Mozambique,” says Ana Mlambo, the senior program officer who has worked with AFSC for the past five years.

Her colleague Leocadia Rutsvara says, “We were full of anxiety and worried when we heard the idea of forming a new organization, but now we are blessed to witness the establishment of OCODEMA. Today I am proud to be part of this new organization after two years of continued service for AFSC.”

“It was excitingly hard work to form a new organization, and a rewarding experience for AFSC and myself,” says Patrick Otipa, the Program Director who was instrumental in designing and implementing the phase out with support from the regional office.

“I have happily phased out my job too! In October, I will return to my family in South Africa, with no job prospect,” says Patrick, who worked for AFSC in Mozambique since November 2008. Previously he had been working in the AFSC regional office for Africa.

Director designate of OCODEMA, Justice Duri said, ”I would compare the phase out to a relay race, the start was excellent judging by all standards, and now the baton stick has been handed over to us to finish the race, it is now upon us to win the race or lose it. At least one thing is certain, that OCODEMA has great potential to grow.”

Dereje Wordofa adds, “Patrick and his team were very diligent and conscientious. I don’t think that we have successfully come this far without the good-will, skills and support of all staff. We are very grateful to the staff for their devoted service.”

The OCODEMA has secured core program funding from the EED- Church Development Service (Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst), an association of the Protestant Churches in Germany. In 2010/11, AFSC will continue to monitor and mentor this new organization from its Africa Regional office in Kenya.