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 firstname.lastname@example.org to show your interest
Che villages in need after two devastating hurricanes hit Nicaragua
Medical Ambassadors Canada and our sister organization Medical Ambassadors International are asking you to consider giving to this emergency situation. More than 300 homes in rural CHE villages were under water after the first of two devastating hurricanes hit Nicaragua last week. Because we have a strong relationship with CHE leaders in this area, we are confident that donations sent through us will go to the biggest needs in the community right now. Please consider giving to this urgent need for our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua by clicking the Donate button and designating your gift to Nicaragua. As always, your donations are eligible for charitable tax receipts through MACA.
Psychological First Aid Training Available now!
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 effect 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, missionaries, and anyone who has an interest. This is just as much for laypeople and volunteers as it is for paid community workers.
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 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.
*Covid 19 UPDATE*
We are aware of the current situation in the world in response to the pandemic of the novel coronavirus COVID 19, and we have called all of our overseas workers home and they will be self-isolating after returning from abroad, which we hope will be by Friday, March 20.
We believe that the CHE initiatives we have around the globe will help to mitigate the loss and suffering during this pandemic and hope to see how our practices can be used for future pandemic planning as well. We all need to depend on our neighbours and community during this time, which is a major tenant of our development work. CHE workers have been teaching hand hygiene, preventative measures and visiting the most vulnerable to make sure they will not be exposed to the virus and have what they adequate supplies deemed necessary for life, like food and water.
We will continue to monitor the situation and will make ourselves available for consultations with various CHE communities and directors via various technological systems we already have in place.
Let's support each other through this, and use it to learn how to better control any future pandemics of this kind.
It was a simple health lesson
Forgiveness sought as a community
“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 she had carried out the previous week in a community an hour outside the provincial capital.
As is so common in PNG, a person can never expect to conduct a training in a community with only the invited participants! No, typically half the village shows up and hangs in every window of the open-style church or community center. After all, there are not many events to break the sameness of their village life and certainly no television for entertainment. The gate crasher participants are usually respectfully quiet, laughing at all the appropriate places or quietly snickering when someone makes a comment that they find embarrassing or surprising. Children giggle as they hear serious statements from the mouths of the adults. Such was the scene of the story Mama J was relaying to me on the telephone that day.
“I was just doing the Dr Akia lesson when it happened,” Mama J began.
This lesson, titled with an appropriate name within any given culture, is a story of an overworked doctor whose patients really should be learning to prevent most of the illnesses that they are bringing to poor Dr Akia for treatment. The participants are asked to use their understanding of prevention to decide which of the patients in the story could have prevented their illness either at home or with the help of a nurse at the local health center.
Mama J had told the story, then as usual handed each participant in the room a cut-out picture of a person bearing the label of a specific medical issue: measles, scabies, pneumonia, alcoholism etc. She had pictures of the three possible facilities at the front of the room—the hospital, the local health center and a home. Each was asked to walk to the front of the circle of participants, tell the name of the illness and place it at one of the three pictures on the basis of whether or not it was preventable.
As she described the scene to me, it seemed that all went as planned until a young man stood up with his picture figure. Instead of placing it at one of the three facilities he began to sob. Great big man-size tears were streaming down his face as the whole room, along with the window gazers went totally silent. Such a culturally unusual spectacle in a macho setting like this one. A grown man crying in front of his community!
After a few moments he began to speak. “I am holding in my hand a picture of a pregnant woman,” he stated, eyes cast downward, face wet with tears. “I am feeling so sorry for her! I am one of those guys who has made several young women pregnant but not taken any responsibility for the baby. I am so sorry, and I want to ask this community to forgive me.”
“Well you wouldn’t have believed what happened next,” Mama J continued. “And I tell you, honestly I didn’t say a thing!”
“What happened?” I asked, not sure what to expect from the volatile Highlander community where she was conducting the workshop. They could have lynched the guy right on the spot. Emotions run wild in situations like this.
“The whole room started to cry!” she said, hardly able to keep her own voice from breaking. “Everyone had something to confess and ask forgiveness for. Soon they were on their knees on the floor, asking God to forgive them and to heal the ugliness in their community. And I tell you the truth, it was just a simple physical lesson! There was nothing spiritual even said, no mention of God at all.”
“Mama J,” I said quietly, my own tears flowing by now. “The Spirit of God is not limited by our words or lack of them. You have, by your very presence, brought the Kingdom of God into that community. Your own humility and desire to do his work has given him permission to speak into the hearts of these dear tender people. You have done a great thing for them, just by being there and giving them opportunity to speak about issues important to their lives.”
“I guess this is what we mean when we talk about the CHE facilitation method of teaching,” she added. “When we say it’s learner-centered we state it’s all about them, not about me. My whole lesson was side-tracked by their need to deal with some deeply rooted community problems! In the end, I guess that is what will make CHE work here.”