Doing Relief with a Development mindset

When I was a student at Wheaton college graduate program on Humanitarian Disaster Leadership, I heard lecture upon lecture, and read book after book on the topic of Emergency Management. With my missionary history of Community Health Evangelism, where Development and local ownership are emphasized, I was glad to recognize that engaging the locals in relief activities was frequently mentioned as an important component of appropriately implemented aid. However, reality and theory sometimes do not check.  Most of the times when I have been involved in responses to disasters, outsiders with resources are who determine the assessments, priorities, procedures and evaluation of their plans. They decide when to begin, how long and when to end their interventions.

Community Participation is covered as long as members of the affected area are hired, consulted, or met at some point of the journey, so the box can be checked. There are lives to be saved. Time is an essential resource. “We are the experts”, you can almost hear them say. Even the language spoken in clusters rarely corresponds to the country of intervention.

  But Community involvement is not an item to be checked on the list of relief best practices. It is the way to begin, it is a road map and it is also how to end well a relief effort.  Through the years and the eyes of someone who has seen transformation take place in urban and rural environments, I present a list of things to be considered if we  really want to witness local ownership and ongoing development in the midst of a crisis that requires immediate response:

1.- Relationships of trust are cultivated, nurtured, promoted and pursued. It is not about a mere job to get done. We are sincerely concerned about the well-being of fellow human beings that, in the midst of their own dismay and stress, need to be reminded that someone cares for individuals at the deepest level, mirroring God´s sacrificial love for the world by being there with them.

2.- Local groups that have previously been involved with community efforts to solve their challenges are invited to the table as partners the moment we step into their own areas. We acknowledge the need for their moral approval also, even if we have authorities´ permission to come in, out of respect for their area of influence.

3.- Training local leaders in Disaster Preparedness and Risk Management  before a disaster occurs, equips them to respond with more understanding when crisis come. That is why Medical Ambassadors invest in areas of the Disaster Cycle that may not seem as impressive as immediate response efforts, but in the long term, build capacity for local response in multiple circumstances where outside resources do not become available.

4.- We need to have an integral mindset, even if our intervention is single-focused. If we do not have a holistic view of an event and its causes and consequences, considering the necessary responses to it, we may miss the opportunity to link with others responding to the different aspects of complex emergencies. Only when we replace an attitude of self-sufficiency with a deep understanding of being a small part of God´s response to the need, we will be able to contribute without claiming ownership and relinquishing all credit to the One who sees the whole picture.

5.- Care for the most vulnerable, remain non-partisan, respect dignity, value people´s ideas, be mutually accountable. Though these are well promoted recommendations from recognized actors in the Disaster-Response arena, our organizations have to be intentional in our approach as these things can be easily engulfed by the stress of the moment.

When COVID 19 affected our planet, response was no different. Communities that took charge succeeded in the fight against the spread of the virus. Those that relied on the latest information, the outside world, the magic solutions had an uphill struggle.

Resilience came out of practical actions to express creativity, care and confidence. There is always room to learn to respond to crisis better. But without communities´ own initiative taken into account, we are in Paul´s words, “beating the air”, (1 Corinthians 9:26)


Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air

Psychological First Aid Training Available now!

Psychological First Aid – PFA


MACA has produced online training programs in Psychological First Aid - PFA. 

Fires, Hurricanes, War, Floods, Covid19.  All of these types of social disruption have an affect on individuals.  Psychological First Aid is helpful during these times.  Whether we are working for a large aid relief organization or if we are a member of a church or neighbourhood community we can provide Psychological First Aid to those in need

This course is appropriate for churches, international community development workers, community league members, and missionaries and anyone who has an interest.

Courses will be conducted online (ZOOM) using three, 90 minute sessions or five one hour sessions.  Sessions can be conducted in English or in Spanish.  MACA likes to use interactive training techniques so participant participation is requested.

Material is provided by a number of resources including Red Cross, WHO, Wheaton College, Dr. Bibiana Mac Leod  and several other listed resources.  Individuals who have taken the training can take course material to be used within their own communities.  There is no charge for the training.

We are able to offer sessions once every two weeks for the next few months or as required.   Please contact to show your interest

Neighbours helping Neighbours

Millarville Community Church near Calgary, Alberta, has come up with a way of neighbours helping each other in this unprecedented time. There is no need to be a member of the church community to help, or receive help, it is all about showing love to those around us. This is just an example of how communities can come together during the Covid 19 restrictions. 



Keep Up To Date on what MACA is doing worldwide

This Blog has been created to allow our field workers to keep you, our partners updated on what God is doing around the world through MACA and CHE. 

Feb 03

Disaster Prevention: Making Communities Resilient

Medical Ambassadors and the CHE approach is committed to prevention.  For SE Asia, where 2/3 of the world’s natural disasters occur, disaster preparedness and prevention is critical.  We must address these tough issues, and discover answers that will equip communities to survive and to thrive.   In April 2016 we gathered sixteen of the CHE leaders from around SE Asia in Tacloban, Philippines…

Jan 01

It was a simple health lesson

It was a simple health lesson

“It Was Only a Simple Health Education Lesson!”       I recognized the voice on the other end of the phone immediately.  Mama J is what we all called her.  She was a competent registered nurse and Community Health Evangelism (CHE) training coordinator for one of the larger provinces of Papua New Guinea.  She spoke with excited animation in telling her story of the committee training that…

Nov 22

Life after the earthquake

Life after the earthquake

Our days in Nepal have rapidly, and busily, passed by.  First two days our local director and I rode around Kathmandu visiting several organizations with whom we network – i.e. had taken our training – and some which are now interested.  Always inspiring and encouraging to see progress and enthusiasm on their parts, desiring to serve ever more effectively. Our next 3 days had been scheduled…

Jul 16

Pastor Joe's Story

Pastor Joe: why did it take so long?   I could do no more than stare at this simple but confident Papua New Guinean village leader, as the lump rose in my throat and speech seemed to flee. His words had taken a few moments to sink in.   I finally blurted out, “I am so sorry Joe. Please could I ask forgiveness on behalf of my generation of white people that came here to PNG?”   Pastor Joe had…

Apr 16

Implementing CHE at home in Cape Breton

Implementing CHE at home in Cape Breton

As part of a CHE initiative, Alexander and I have been involved in multiple activities of our home town. This would be more of a family based CHE approach. We moved back to Canada in 2007 and our children joined the local school. That gave us plenty of opportunities to be part of the Home and school group, invite teachers and students to work on a vegetable garden and get to know more parents and…

""We need to have the mentality of wholism – serving, and addressing the needs of the whole person - all the time.  It must become a life-style.”"

- Regional Coordinator, "G"