“Look How Far We’ve Come”
A Conversation with Sylvia and Stephen Scott, Co-Founders of Caring Partners Global
1. Tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Stephen: We were both born in Kenya. I was born in Matangwe village and attended Matangwe primary school. I went to a mission high school, where I met some Canadian missionaries. In 1969 I moved to Canada and attended the Ontario Bible College for a Bachelor of Religious Education (BRE). After that, I completed my BA at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and obtained my BEd at the University of Toronto.
Sylvia: I was born in Rachar Village about 15 km from Matangwe, closer to Lake Victoria. I attended primary school there. From age 9 to 19 I attended a Catholic boarding school run by Dutch nuns. In 1974, 3 weeks after Stephen and I were married, I moved to Canada and attended Sir Wilfrid Laurier part-time and Conestoga College in Kitchener for a diploma in nursing. I then went to Mcmaster University in Hamilton where I earned a BSc in nursing and an MSc.
Stephen: We also have 4 wonderful children and 4 beautiful grandchildren. We are very proud of all of them.
2. Can you tell us how and why you founded Caring Partners Global?
Sylvia: Back in our villages in Kenya, many people we knew were suffering from a number of diseases including HIV AIDS and malaria. Stephen and I would routinely receive calls from our family members asking for help to pay for health care for the sick, funeral costs for the departed or funding for the children left behind. These calls became overwhelming so we began thinking about how we might better help our family members as well as others in the region. Having grown up in a rural village, we understood that any solution needed to be locally driven to become self-sustaining.
Stephen: We just could not ignore the calls for help and knew that we needed to do something that would be both meaningful and help to build a community. So we began talking with the leaders in Matangwe to find a common goal that we could work on together with a vision of saving lives and improving the quality of life. That was how planning for the original clinic was started.
Sylvia: We knew that the plan had to come from the people living in the community and that in order for it to be successful in the future we had to help develop skills within the local community that would add value to life, promote health and wellness and build community.
3. What have been the key drivers that have helped you throughout this journey, especially when times got tough?
Stephen: We gained the courage, strength, and tenacity to keep going from:
our Christian faith and church family
seeing the success of individuals moving through our programs
encouragement from co-workers, friends
service and community clubs or organizations that supported our work financially or volunteered their skills and knowledge
pride in the growth of the community in Matangwe
4. What has been the most difficult aspect of building and sustaining Matangwe?
Stephen: Funding for sure! The most challenging aspect has been fundraising to support basic needs such as medications and supplies for health care and being able to pay enough to keep skilled staff. We have come a long way and now qualify for some government support but it doesn't cover all our needs.
Sylvia: We have set high standards for the care we provide and the people of Matangwe have come to expect that from us. We struggle sometimes to meet the day to day needs and yet we know there is still so much need and so many things that we could be doing.
5. When you look back over the years and then see what you have been able to achieve, what are you proudest of?
Sylvia: We have created a community of 17 rural villages through the establishment of a health center, with inpatient beds and a number of outpatient clinics, community skills training center, an agricultural program, a school lunch program and we have created jobs for many local people.
Stephen: We are also very proud of our education sponsorship program. It began in 2006 with 15 secondary school students receiving financial support to attend boarding school. Since then:
A total of 209 young Kenyans have been recipients of a CPG student sponsorship
Of this total 116 students are no longer receiving support:
7 dropped out of secondary school before graduating
13 went as far as secondary school graduation
96 graduated from either College (62) or university (34)
As of fall 2018 CPG is currently sponsoring 93 students:
3 in primary school - they are involved in CPG organized foster care
36 attending secondary school
54 attending college (20) or university (34)
50% of our graduates obtained full-time employment
Many of the graduates join the alumni program to help other students realize their dreams
6. What are your plans for the future at Matangwe?
Stephen: Getting access to clean water for the 17 villages of Matangwe is a major goal. We know it is essential for health and food security in an area like this that is very prone to droughts.
Sylvia: Sustainability is key to future success so we are currently establishing a solid plan that includes:
Ensuring good governance and leadership in Canada and Matangwe Kenya
Identifying committed leaders to continue the vision
Involvement and training of the Matangwe community for sustainability
Building partnerships with like-minded organizations both in Canada and in Kenya
Evaluating programs to know what is working well and where we need to go in the future
7. If someone came to you to ask your advice about undertaking a similar project, what advice would you give them?
Reach out to organizations doing similar work to learn from them
Involve community participants and leaders to take ownership of programs
Find and learn from others with different expertise and skills than your own
Be willing to stay ahead of change or you get left behind
Be open to recognizing failure and make sure you learn from it
Share wherever possible
8. What keeps you awake at night?
Having stable ongoing funding to continue services and
Working out the way to ensure we leave a legacy of strong governance and self-sustaining programs
9. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Stephen: We take great pride in our humble beginnings and our experiences of growing up in remote villages in Western Kenya with peasant parents, yet never thinking or believing that we were poor. This gave us the resiliency to look beyond the definition of “poverty” as seen through a lens of “ measure of net worth being money or accumulated material stuff”.
Sylvia: We believe that there’s enough wealth in the world to mitigate poverty, but not enough will to share in eradicating it. Our focus on the following areas we believe is key to reducing poverty in future generations:
Access to health care resources for emotional and physical wellness
Agriculture and water to provide access to basic survival and food security
Education for knowledge to inform, understand, question and grow
Skills training for gainful employment and self-reliance