In 2014-15, I was privileged to participate in the ASEC-sponsored training program in Finance. At the time, I was working in a clinic in Zambia as Data Clerk for a monitoring and evaluation project on HIV/AIDS. I wondered how the work I was doing was linked to this certificate training in Financial Management. But I realized that the skills I would learn in this program would be able to be applied everywhere at any given time. And this has come true as I’ve moved on to work for my community, the Little Sisters of St. Francis (LSSF).
The Stewardship of Financial Management
The course helped me a lot in dealing with finances both at work as well as at community levels. I developed an interest conducting some spot checks with our Accountant. I can now proudly say, financial management is as easy as pie. She adds,
"I have come to realize the interconnectedness of my vow of poverty and stewardship on everything I have and do."
Whenever I am asked to manage finances at any level I do it without difficulty because my ASEC training has equipped me with the following:
- I understand books of accounts and the importance of supporting documents.
- I learned the importance of financial management in projects, proposal writing and budgeting.
- I contribute to the process of coming up with systems that will bring about accountability and transparency in my community/congregation.
- I know the advantages and disadvantages of the available modern accounting packages.
Financial management is a skill that is cardinal to every sister because in whatever we do, we find ourselves involved with money issues. As we learned during finance training, we need to be good stewards of assets: those of the Community, the property of the Church, and all Gods property.
A Rippling Effect
In 2015, I joined the Zambia Association of Sisterhoods (ZAS) as Liaison and Resource Mobiliser. I managed to find a source for funds as Catholic Relief Services (CRS) came to our aid. A five day workshop in financial management was conducted with an objective “to improve capacity of sisters in managing financial resources”. This was a response to all the General Superiors in ZAS who felt the need for their congregation treasurer generals to know systems dealing with finances. The workshop attracted 45 sisters from over 20 congregations. Some of the topics which we covered were:
- Budgeting and resource mobilization. Forecasting and prioritizing needs of any project, Institution helps people to know how much money is needed to carry out that activities and people will have to meet the targets.
- The importance of audit and audit preparations. It was put clear that a report of any kind is considered important as financial report which is an audit is equally important for it gains donors’ confidence for current and for resource mobilization.
- Developing income generating activity (IGA) and projects and ensuring their sustainability. The ultimate goal was to help sisters use opportunities around them when making a choice of IGA, to know how to assess the viability of the project within their reach.
- Documentation in finance management. The facilitator emphasized the concept of “No Document No Existence”. Supporting documents are key to show transparency and to account for every transaction. They are proof that something happened. Otherwise no one will believe word of mouth. The receipts, invoices, vouchers should not be taken lightly because they vouch how monies have been used.
Financial management is not only for people who are good at arithmetic but for all managers and administrators. It is useful for monitoring purpose and for maintaining stewardship. It is spirituality-in-action:
- Establishes internal and external accountability practices
- Documents and communicates best management practices, policies and procedures within the congregation
- Provides a way to show compliance to what has been agreed upon
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Testimony from Sr. Priscilla, a current SLDI Finance participant
A current SLDI participant, Sr. Priscilla Mwanza, has also benefited greatly from SLDI workshops in Zambia. From learning basic computer skills to understanding complex accounting concepts, Sr. Priscilla feels blessed to have the opportunity to learn new skills.
"I acquired knowledge and skills that are of great use in my work and ministry. I now know how to handle and record information correctly in the books."
Sr. Priscilla is grateful for all of the computer skills she's learned, admitting that before the SLDI Basic Technology workshop "using a Computer was a night mare." She needed assistance in the most basic computer tasks, like typing a letter. Now, she's mastered email and can use Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. She's even making her own cards and posters using desktop publishing applications!
Sr. Priscilla extended many thanks to ASEC staff, facilitators and supporters of the SLDI program because,
"...the skills and knowledge I have acquired and gained have made me have confidence in myself and in my services to others. I have been empowered and my whole life has been transformed."