Many communities in developing countries are trapped in a mindset of short term relief, feeling helpless or simply unaware of how they can improve their environments. They have grown dependent on outsiders coming in with short term, quick fix solutions for long term problems. Sustained, long term improvements will not happen until the community members themselves own the problems and the solutions.
Last week in Cambodia I had the joy of seeing our pilot project take some definitive steps toward local ownership and direction. Although my colleague and I, both outsiders, were there our TWR Cambodia staff are very capable trainers and it was great to see them facilitate the process even though I didn’t understand a word.
They led a group of commune leaders, village council members and local volunteers through an exercise designed to enable them to discuss what constitutes good health for their villages and families. However it was even better to see the community leaders come together to decide on their own criteria for defining a “healthy home”, create their own teaching booklet and take the initiative to arrange and pay for the printing of the booklets.
After the second day of training, we accompanied the young volunteer trainers to a village where they could practice teaching the lesson in a couple of the homes. These young ladies then taught the lesson to several of the other volunteers who had been absent for our lessons, and then observed as these young men taught the lesson themselves. This is multiplication.
As the day wrapped up, we sat under a village home snacking on enormous pomelos that were growing on a tree in the center of the community. Trapped by a monsoon downpour, we enjoyed watching village life as children returned from school and families from the fields carrying wood and leading their cows home for the night. Within minutes a small lake had formed beside the house and the village boys were romping in the mud.
Not to waste a perfectly good opportunity to share with others, Kimsong spontaneously shared with the villagers the story of the rainbow.