European leaders from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) met in Budapest, Hungary, October 22-2-5, to discuss and find new approaches to make a bigger impact around the world. The aim was to accelerate the wellbeing of disadvantaged people and to build a stronger ADRA network.
ADRA Country Directors from Europe, together with leadership from ADRA International and ADRA Europe, came together for the annual European ADRA forum which combines their executive committee and planning meetings. Thirty European countries host active national ADRA offices and 25 Country Directors or their representatives were present at the meetings – six of them new to their role!
ADRA Europe remodeled two years ago to bring the disparate offices under one umbrella, making joint efforts and collaborative projects among countries much easier. This new model also brought a new way of thinking and dreaming, allowing offices to accelerate their impact, especially in the areas of health and education.
Access to education is becoming a leading theme for ADRA around the globe and European offices are fully joining the effort to support disadvantaged children and youth who lack access to education. Big improvements can be also seen in the area of emergency response. As the number of disasters is increasing, more professional and more coordinated efforts are bringing hope and are saving more lives than ever before. Concluding the three days of meetings, a new group of ADRA professionals continued on to an emergency training course.
Such committees expect reports on the routine but important work, and these came via Raafat Kamal who chairs the ADRA Europe board; Norbert Zens, treasurer; and João Martins, Executive Director.
Jonathan Duffy, president of ADRA International, spoke about the theology of compassion including recent global trends and the role of faith-based organizations in development and humanitarian aid. Just recently, global development experts realized that faith-based organizations are playing a significant role in solving some of the deepest issues of today’s society.
Duffy note that more than 85% of the global population is affiliated with some form of religious organization. Religious leaders are among the most influential. If global society is serious about reaching sustainable development goals before 2030, then religious leaders are among those who are going to bring about the desired change. Duffy and his team are developing the theological basis for social justice and are active advocates for justice among faith-based organizations.
Michael Kruger, ADRA International VP for finances, presented new business models with special emphasis on social business. Matthew Siliga, VP for marketing, conducted practical workshops and presentations on branding, fundraising and new technologies. Contemporary society is fast changing and new models of financing for development are being developed. ADRA is also testing and developing new technologies in order to bring positive social changes to local communities.
With the rapidly increasing number of humanitarian emergencies and disasters, Mario Oliveira, Director for the Emergency Management Unit at ADRA International, presented response models and led discussions on how to improve quick and efficient responses, thus saving more lives.
Leaders discussed programs strategies and models of collaboration between offices. A new global advocacy initiative was presented and employees and volunteers from ADRA offices were invited to join and increase advocacy efforts for the disadvantaged, marginalized and poor.
Volunteers are a vital resource as part of ADRA work in Europe. This led to presentations on volunteer management and volunteer engagement, along with practical discussions on the valued role of volunteers.
Annual ADRA meetings in Europe are also an opportunity to spend time with colleagues, share challenges and ideas, seek partnership opportunities and encourage each other. Many individual meetings took place which undoubtedly will result in new collaborations.
João Martins, Executive Director of ADRA Europe, states, “Having the opportunity to meet all the European ADRA Country Directors is really a privilege. We can see the progress accomplished, share good experiences and learn together how to progress ADRA in Europe. Together, we can serve humanity better so that all can live as has God intended.”