Success in international assistance: Working with local leaders

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

My name is Daniel Oduor Otieno. I work as a field representative for the CanAssist African Relief Trust, a Canadian Kingston-based charity that supports small infrastructure development in East Africa. Since 2008, CanAssist has supported communities to improve their education, health sanitation and hygiene by constructing classrooms and pit latrines, purchasing textbooks and other learning materials, improving kitchens (cooking areas), and funding rainwater harvesting, among others. This has been made possible through the support of various donors both organizations and individuals.


The Bridging Post website has been sharing how a bridge is helpful and how individuals have been crossing various bridges to meet others and help out or to give hope and courage to those in need. I have felt like a bridge too.


Through CanAssist, I have found myself in several circumstances acting as a bridge between the communities who need some support or assistance and CanAssist as an organization who would like to support or reach out to those in need and vice versa.


Here is one example of how I have worked to bridge communication and action between donors and one local community school in need. Ramula Secondary, located in Nyanza province, Kenya, is a young, mixed day secondary school in my community. It is located almost on the equator geographically. This school plays a big role and is integral in serving this community.


The school’s Parent-Teachers’ Association knew that its cooking area was in dire need of facelift and improvement. After learning about CanAssist, and having previously received two 10,000L tanks rainwater harvesting support from CanAssist, the PTA representative approached me to ask if I could submit an application to the CanAssist’s trustees on their behalf. Few folks in this community have internet access or computer knowledge. I had to bridge the gap as an individual from this community to do the proper and complete application as required by CanAssist, thereby linking the Parents – Teacher’s Association, CanAssist trustees, and the school.

CanAssist looked for funds to get this project started and I was on the ground working on logistics, procuring the materials, identifying a working team which would construct what the school had wanted and arranging the delivery of an energy-saving stove which had to be purchased and installed by a company in Nairobi, around 450 Km from the community of Ramula.


The new “Envirofit stove” was installed to replace the traditional open three stones format, not only improving hygiene, but also improving efficiency and fuel costs by reducing the needed fuel by 90%. The school management and the students all benefited from this project.


A bridge is a sign of hope and continuity. With all the underlying challenges, it is satisfying whenever the purpose is fulfilled or the item is successfully passed to someone who makes that dream come true or takes it to the next level.


Through my role as Field Representative for CanAssist I have realized how important it is to have a trusted, local person who can act as a bridge between international donors and the schools and other community organizations who are in desperate need of infrastructure support. I continue to work in this capacity with CanAssist and would welcome the opportunity to engage with other international groups or individuals who wish to reach out and help in East Africa.


The photo below shows the Ramula School kitchen area before and after improvement.


Daniel Oduor Otieno is a field representative for CanAssist African Relief Trust - Canada. He can be reached at dan.otieno@canassistafrica.ca.