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 wereally 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 Managementbefore 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 Leodand 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 email@example.com 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.
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 teachers. Bibiana also was able to helped at the library when they had their book fairs. The idea of a farmers market had a weak response, but for 5 years we set it up every summer, using the fire hall first and then the old train station warehouse to host few tables and some tourists. Few members of the community joined bringing their produce or crafts and coming to have coffee and muffins. However, it was not sustainable, and this year we decided to close it. This is to show that not everything we planned has good results. However, it also gave us the chance to continue to meet more neighbours. The market soon showed that many people in town were interested in gardening, flowers and vegetables, hence we invited volunteers to join a Gardeners group. Through the years we contributed with the local school garden, decorated the town (13 planters, a big circle at the entrance of the town and the cenotaph by the Legion) and continue to meet regularly for planning, fellowship and learning. Sometimes we offer workshops to neighbours and the group has been very faithful in attendance, always willing to learn and share beauty.
I write on the monthly town publication about Development, (The Seagull), with the intention to pass on what I have learned in the field about community organization. Few years back, after realizing that Public Health no longer invests in face-to-face Peri-natal classes, we started a support group that meets at the YMCA in Sydney, the capital of our island, Cape Breton. We meet with pregnant women and their birth partners, and this has been well attended ever since its inception.
And what about the spiritual side of wholistic health and development? How are we sharing the gospel? Through friendship, acceptance and learning about the people first. We have a long way to go to see our town having a grassroots movement. There are lots of plans in economic development for our little touristic corner of Canada, (the fortress of Louisbourg just a stone’s throw away), but our voice is being heard: "There is much more to development than flourishing business, we want to see flourishing relationships, specially the one that change lives and makes us right with God”
We are in a journey with our neighbours, every little effort to see God in action among them is worth the time and effort.
Written by Regional Coordinator for South America & Caribbean, Bibiana Macleod