Archive for the 'Haiti' Category

May 22 2014

A Super-Practical Tool to Learn About the People of a Poor Community

Published by under Community Development,Haiti

If I ever have kids, I won’t try to impress people by how soon my kid reads or how far they can hit a baseball. By the time my son gets to be 3, I want him mowing the lawn and painting the house. Grown man, grown responsibilities.

Isn’t it true, though? Parents love to encourage their kids to do more and be more as soon as possible. Parents are always bragging about their kids and what they can do. No parent excitedly says, “Guess what!? My kid is 8 and STILL doesn’t know how to walk! I carry him around everywhere!”

But when it comes to working with the poor, this is often what happens. The wealthy spoon feed and carry them for a really long time.

There are times where spoon feeding is appropriate. When someone breaks their arms, they sometimes need help eating and doing certain things. But once they heal up, they’re back to eating on their own.

Communities affected by disasters (e.g. hurricanes) and other situations where an event “breaks their arms,” usually need some spoon feeding for a period of time. But eventually that community heals up to the point they can do things on their own.

In situations where communities have NOT been impacted by a disaster but are continually languishing in poverty, the first step is to establish what they actually believe about themselves and the world.

The poor typically feel powerless. And it makes sense they’d feel that way. If they had power, they would get themselves out of poverty. So poor people often have a very low view of themselves. They also feel like they can’t control very much.

In order to establish how the community views themselves and how they view the issues in their community, you can conduct a Worldview Analysis using the Ten Seed Technique.

First, you discuss with the people what assets are in the community – knowledge, skills, natural resources, geographical advantages, etc. At this point, the people are now thinking about all the things that are RIGHT in their community – not just what’s wrong.

Second, you ask the people what the major issues are that affect their community. You then plot these on a diagram that looks like this…

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 9.08.14 PM

You’re asking yourself right now, “What are the rings about?” Remember yesterday when we talked about The Three Controllers of a Community’s Destiny? A community can change…

  • From inside by community members
  • From outside by advisors and friends
  • From God/nature

So the rings each represent one of those controllers….

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 9.11.59 PM

The people then get 10 seeds for each major issue in the community and they can distribute them to each of the three controllers (what they control, what outsiders could help them control, and what God/nature controls). An example using one issue might look like this…

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 9.26.48 PM
You can see in the example, that 20% of the problem (2 out of the 10 seeds) could be controlled by the community (inside ring), 50% could be helped by outsiders (middle ring), and 30% is up to God/nature (outside ring).

This process allows you to find out how the community understands THEMSELVES. Before they place the seeds, they have discussion about the problem and you simply listen to them reason out their existence. You hear what they can control and where their speed bumps are. Since they use actual seeds for this exercise, they can easily move them as the discussion progresses. When the analysis is over, you draw the seeds onto the chart.

So let’s look at an example from real life! Here’s a picture of the Leadership Council in Camp Marie, Haiti…


After much discussion, their Worldview Analysis currently looks like this…


The circled numbers in red are the order of importance that they place on each issue. What you’ll see that’s very interesting is how many seeds are in the very inner circle – this is what they believe they can control on their own. For them to understand exactly what it is they control in their community is a huge deal.

We want them to stand on their own. We want them to be empowered. Truly empowered. That is, we want the people to increasingly gain a sense of power over their problems. I have rarely met a dumb poor person. They might be uneducated, but the knowledge they have is significant. When they start realizing this, the mood of a community changes and they want to get to work and start saving money for their dreams.

Before I close, I want to mention that I’ve been in Haiti this week with an organization called 410 Bridge. They’re 100% legit and if you’re looking to do work in Haiti, I highly recommend them!

If you want to know more about these topics, you can read some white papers on them here:
Ten Seed Technique
Holistic Worldview Analysis

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May 21 2014

How We Help Poor Communities

Published by under Community Development,Haiti

Let’s say, on average, the United States is like a Ford Focus. It’s nice and reliable.

Now, let’s say that developing communities in the Majority World (e.g. much of Haiti) are like a Model T. It works but is a little slow and not up-to-date.

When that Model T comes up against certain modern road obstacles like speed bumps or steep hills, it might need a little help.

A speed bump might require some outsiders to push the car over. But once the car gets over the bump, those outsiders wave goodbye as the car drives away.

A steep hill might actually require a new engine be placed inside the Model T. And it might even require that some outsiders help pay for and install that engine. In our own lives, we take our cars to mechanics to have specific issues fixed. But the mechanic doesn’t ride with us in the car 24/7.

Now, what happens if a hurricane occurs? How does the Model T move? How would ANY car move? It wouldn’t. Neither insiders nor outsiders could do anything about it.

When you think about it this way, all communities can be affected in three ways:

  • From inside by community members
  • From outside by advisors and friends
  • From God/nature

By default, the community should organize themselves to solve and pay for solutions to their own problems. This isn’t always possible. Sometimes the problems are beyond their expertise and beyond their money means.

So the role of the materially wealthy in poor communities is to act WITH THE COMMUNITY only in situations where the community can’t move forward on its own.

When the wealthy over-step their role, they’re like parents who keep their kids in diapers too long. They emasculate the community, preventing them from growing up.

Walking this line is just as much art as science, but there IS some science to it. And I’ll talk about that tomorrow and what it practically looks like to engage with poor communities in identifying what they control and what they don’t control.

Part of the work in helping poor communities is making sure they really know that they’re made in God’s image and that they’re loved by him (beyond being true, this gives them self-esteem), and they, too, have been made by him to do great things. We’re not the only ones!

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
_Ephesians 2:10

May God speak to ALL of us all over the world to let us know we were made by him to do good! And may he give all of us the wisdom and means to make good things actually happen!

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May 19 2014

How We Hurt Poor Communities

Published by under Haiti

After I became a teenager, it took me seven Christmases before I could work up the nerve to tell my mom and dad to stop buying me clothes. Every year they’d get me weird stuff that THEY liked but made ME look like a clown – shirts that were three sizes too big or colors I didn’t like. It made me feel awful telling them to stop but I had to do it.

Before we get gifts for people, we often pay attention to things they talk about. We remember they mentioned a book they want to read or a perfume that smells great. Then we buy what they want. We get into trouble when we start guessing what they want and buy them random stuff. I’ve got a buddy who didn’t know what his girlfriend wanted for a birthday gift. He wracked his brain and ended up getting two tickets to go to the opera. Only problem? His girlfriend hated opera!

Working in poor communities is little different. When wealthy people go to poor communities, we often have our own agendas. We don’t typically have a systematic way of finding out what THEY want. We buy what WE want. We see they don’t have a school so we try to build them a school. We see they don’t have enough food, so we build a feeding center and buy them food every day. There’s nothing wrong with these things in certain situations, but the wealthy can damage poor communities.

People in those places can become weak and dependent on outside help. We can actually create a kind of “welfare community” where people collect money and goods from us and completely miss out on using their God-given gifts to build their lives and build their own community.

People in those places can also have a difficult time telling wealthy people, “Please don’t buy us these things” just as we have a hard time telling our loved ones not to buy us clothes at Christmas time. Almost nobody likes to hurt the feelings of those giving gifts.

When the wealthy go to poor places, we often see them almost exclusively in terms of what they DON’T have. The way forward in working with poor communities is first discovering what they DO have. This is done through a process called Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). The first goal is not to ask, “What’s wrong here?” It’s to ask, “What’s right here?”

When we meet new people in our life, we don’t start by asking them, “Tell me all the things that are wrong with you.” But when we go to poor communities, we often start the conversation by saying, “Tell me what’s wrong here.” They have struggles to be sure, but they have strengths, too. And it’s good to start with those – to discover their assets first and their liabilities later.

Since I’m in Haiti this week, I’ll take the next couple days and explain some practical tools that can be used to find out details and strengths of a community and even show some examples from a couple of the communities here.

It’s compassion in our hearts that prompt us to help the poor. Just as important is to have brilliance in our minds that lead us to help the poor WELL. God, may you lead us in loving you and other people with all our hearts and souls and minds!

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