On occasion, I ponder whether or not I should concentrate my efforts somewhere else. There are so many worldwide problems: Street Children; Trafficking; Refugees; Gangs; Poverty; Education and the list goes on an on.
The root usually lies in communities. For example, a community that is lacking a resource to help it survive is more vulnerable to poverty. Poverty leads individuals to seek a way out. While seeking a better life, they can become prey to those who have ill intentions. These ill intentions can then touch our lives and we invest thousands of dollars to make sure it doesn’t become our way of life, but there never seems to be evidence that things are improving.
If our focus was on creating healthy communities in our neighborhood, city, state, country, and world, some of these problems could be eliminated. Most people don’t want to leave their family, friends, and communities, but they don’t see any other way. My hope is that they won’t have to and instead will be able to meet their needs so they can make their families, communities, state, and world a better place. Sound simplistic? It is. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true, though.
Walu has always said we do not wish to turn any community into a Westernized society. Rather we want them to have what they need and develop their world into what it should be according to their values and culture. That is what makes traveling so exciting……seeing different ways of living, thinking, and existing.
Cuajachillo Dos and Nicaragua are in a crucial state. The government has stabilized and now that it is safe, many countries and foreigners are trying to get a piece of the pie. Canals are being planned despite environmentalists and other advocates pointing out the impacts it will have on the environment as well as indigenous groups. Foreigners are developing tourism instead of locals thus making it difficult for nationals to sustain their way of living. Decisions are being made that will affect the lives of communities and cities, but local voices are not being heard.
That is why Walu will not merely come in and build latrines over a short period of time in communities. We want to work with communities to have a voice and equip them to exercise it. This means spreading out our projects so we can see the results after we have left. We are more interested in the progress that is made after we leave then when we are there. It isn’t about what we are getting done, it is about what the community is accomplishing without our presence.
During each trip, we provide guidance and training to a community in the hopes it will bring them one step closer to independently resolving issues they are facing.
The main issue currently in Cuajachillo Dos is a lack of improved latrines as well as a functional water source. We are pleased to see the community getting involved with their municipalities in order to make headway to receive what they need. This is more effective than a foreigner doing it for them. We want communities to be independent so that they will use their voice. Strong communities who can get things done are less likely to be taken advantage of and that is exactly what we want for Nicaragua.
We could operate like most organizations who do the job versus equipping others to do it themselves (producing big numbers), but in the end who did we really help?
Walu’s obstacle is competing with the big numbers that are marketed. Instant results are exciting and in our fast pace society that is what we have been trained to value. It is tempting to move in another direction so we could get the funds we need, but we would have to compromise our core beliefs in community based development. Since we are 100% volunteer, our livelihoods do not depend on funding which eases the temptation, but at the same time we need the funds to make more progress in the communities we are working with.
This post is just another look into what it is like working (volunteering) in the non-profit world. Make sure you are investing wisely!
Enjoy the upcoming Spring weather and I wish you peace.
President Walu International