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Kenyan and Tanzanian Visitors Share Experiences in Toronto and Montreal

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         “The study visit broadened our ideas. We will take what we learned in Canada and use it to strengthen NACHU”. – Ephantus Macharia, NACHU board member
         Ephantus is one of four representatives – two from Habitat Forum Tanzania (HAFOTA) and two from the National Cooperative Housing Union of Kenya (NACHU) -- who  visited Toronto and Montreal in May 2009. The Rooftops Canada-sponsored trip focused on sharing experiences and learning alongside Canadian organizations in four key areas: membership and governance, member services, sustainability, and institutional frameworks. 
         I was struck by the diversity at Bleecker Street Housing Co-op, especially the inclusion of people with AIDS, and by the youth engagement and scholarship program at Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto (CHFT).  We are also dealing with HIV and AIDS and an aging co-op leadership in Kenya, said Stanley Ndungu of NACHU. He is delighted that Kenyan and Canadian youth from NACHU and CHFT will be participating in an exchange this summer. Both organizations aim at building youth leadership to ensure the long term survival of housing co-ops.  
 IIn Toronto, the Social Housing Services Corporation and NACHU shared ideas on how to scale up NACHU’s housing micro-loan program. In Montreal, FECHIMM (Fédération des coopératives d'habitation intermunicipale du Montréal métropolitain) shared its strategies for maintaining a good neighborhood environment and member training models.
The HAFOTA representatives were impressed by the relationship between housing groups and government. ONPHA and CHF Canada’s strategy of putting across key messages in a non-threatening way and meeting with local representatives during the election period impressed me. I was also impressed by the time spent building relationships with staff from the local municipalities and government, said HAFOTA’s Rose Pangamawe.
         I II was struck by ONPHA’s institutional sustainability through member dues and its value- added services to members, a strategy also used by CHF Canada, Homestarts and FECHIMM in Montreal. The role played by Canadian housing groups during the election period to ensure that housing gets on the political agenda is commendable, said Ashililya Nyanda, board member of HAFOTA. She also praised the Ontario Council for International Cooperation for its excellent information, education and communication skills, particularly for its impact in smaller cities, and for its Development Principles, which provide clear guidelines for its membership.
         Canadian housing groups were impressed by NACHU’s gender-balancing policy. NACHU fills three Board vacancies by choosing candidates from the less well-represented gender -- which is still more often women. NACHU looks forward to exploring further links with the Social Housing Services Corporation, CHFT and Bleecker Street Housing Co-op.