Sunday, April 15, 2012

Working alongside the poor

As part of my time with Caritas, I often get a chance to participate in training sessions. This past Thursday and Friday two trainers came to lead one of four workshops  on Community Management to Reduce the Risk of Disasters, Gestión Comunitaria de la Reducción de Riesgos de Disastres (GCRRD).

Caritas of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán has been using this methodology in its program with three communities on Management of the Reduction of Disasters. It will now be using it with six different communities. I have visited the first three villages several times and have been fascinated by the process.

The process, which I think was first developed in the Philippines, places the communities as the protagonists of the whole process. They are the ones who do the analysis of the community’s risks and needs; they are the ones who develop the plans for development of the community as well as for dealing with emergencies. Great faith is placed in the people of the communities.

In this the role of the sponsoring organizations as well as the staff persons is to facilitate a process, not to lead it.

Denaly and Neftalí working on the distinction of Management processes
Many programs come in with pre-packaged programs and place the final decisions in the hands of people outside the communities. In my mind, this means that they do not really value the people of the communities and their ideas and capabilities. Though they may say that their work is based in the communities, these programs often presume that they have the answers and look for lots of concrete results.

One very interesting part of the workshop dealt with how one enters into a community to initiate a program or process.

What really interested me, though, was working on how to approach the community and identify the risk. We spoke of four different ways. Overnight we had homework: what other ways were there of approaching the community and beginning the process of identifying the risk.

I briefly put together the four stages of the process of affirmative inquiry which I’ve tried to use in one community. The next morning it was the first one chosen to be explained, because it was so different.

affirmative inquiry

It shares a lot with the methodology of GCRRD, since it starts with the successes of the community and places the community are the forefront of the process. Sharing successes helps give people  sense that they have done something and can work to improve their communities. Dreaming the future of the community – “What do we want to be in five years? – stirs the imagination. Then the choosing and design of a project is followed by the implementation of a project.

After this, we worked in four groups on analyzing a risk. It was a useful practice, though we generally chose risks that were too abstract.

The next workshop is in early May. For that meeting we have to approach  community and begin to identify a risk situation.

Hipólito, Manuel, and Denys preparing to explain their analysis of risk.

But in all this I see the continuing need to have the people of the communities at the forefront of the process.

It is so easy to have an idea and try to have it implemented. It is harder but more helpful to have the people take the lead.

In so many ways this fits with my continuing struggle to accompany the people and help them in ways that respect their wisdom and their capabilities.

So many come here to Honduras with their plans and dreams. They sometimes don’t take the time to see what the Honduran people do in the midst of great poverty and systematic injustice.

If they would just take the time, they might learn from the people here.

All too often they are like the Sanhedrin who arrested Peter and John after the cripple at the Beautiful Gate was healed.

“Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated (γράμματοί) and untrained (ἰδιῶται), they were amazed…” (Acts 4, 13).

As so often in the Christian scriptures, the wisdom of the poor and simple is preferred to the wisdom of the powerful.

That is the beauty of the process of GCRRD.

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