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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 been in a Training of Trainers workshop we conducted a few months previous and had become a Community Health Education trainer in his community. He was anxious to have us visit and see the changes and to commend them for the natural beauty that their village now highlighted. It had taken no money to clean their common spaces, to plant vegetable gardens close to their homes, to fence the pigs outside the village, to grow colourful hedges of flowers. But the hard work of digging the fish ponds that were fed by the clear stream meandering down the hill between large boulders was clearly impressive as well as beautiful. They were proud of the results of their labour and delighted to see our amazement.
As we strolled about the community, we asked Joe what he had observed of other changes in the health of the community. His face grew serious as he told us how diarrhea and respiratory illness had decreased among the children and how appreciative the mothers were to know the simple prevention measures. Their time was more productively spent now that there were not frequent trips to the clinic for medicine. They were amazed that this teaching had not been known to them before.
Then he dropped his own story out of the clear blue. “You know,” he confided, “I worked for 20 years for a mission, becoming a pastor with them. The white family lived in the house I now live in right here in our village, raised their family here.” He motioned towards the tidy white house not far from where we stood. “What puzzled all of us,” he continued, “was that their children didn’t seem to get the same sicknesses as our children, and none of their children died while many of ours did. We wondered what the difference was. We talked about this all the time among ourselves. Finally after much discussion, we decided that they had a secret that they were hiding inside their house. We often looked for the secret, but we never found it.”
He was looking sad now as he had shared something so brutally honest, and I felt the air rapidly leaving my lungs as though a fist had laid a punch. He was talking about me, about us. Is that how we had been perceived with our happy healthy children who we raised in this country?
“Sure, they helped us out when we were sick,” he went on, “taking us to hospital or giving us medicine. But now we know there was no secret. It was simple prevention like how to drink clean water, hand washing, nutrition and immunization. Why didn’t they teach us that 20 years earlier? Why did so many children have to die before we found this out? Why was spiritual training seen as all that was important? ” He was not speaking in anger, but in soberness, in genuine questioning.
My mind raced as I replayed the years that we too had been here in PNG, right nearby in fact, at the early part of those 20 years he was talking about. We had been busy, Bill administering the health of the province with all the facilities and staff, I helping to organize continuing medical education for the rural health workers. All good, but top down, outside-in health fixes. Nobody was analyzing why the health education of the trained professionals never filtered down into the homes where the mothers needed it more desperately than anyone. Yes, we thought of training pastors, and started the Village Level Worker School around that time, but it was not a model that was rapidly multipliable into the remote villages. A few were changed. But we had no system-wide approach as we did now with CHE, which Stan Rowland was quietly developing in Africa at about this same time, mid-80’s.
How I wished to give an answer, to justify. But there was no answer, just gut wrenching silence. All I could offer was an empty apology, quietly spoken from a tight throat and a tearful face. I see the scene as clearly as I did then, the grave expression on his face, the beautiful village that was now what it should have been 20 years before, the former mission house still standing with its own secrets, the question hanging in the void between us—“Why did we have to wait so long to understand how to become physically as well as spiritually healthy?”
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