Each time World Vision enters a new community, they do so with the mindset of stabilizing that community in order to break the cycle of extreme poverty holding that community from reaching their full, God-given potential. Entrance always comes with an exit strategy, but it doesn’t come with an end to problems. Today, I would like to tell you the story of the 582 World Vision volunteers in one of the three regions in which World Vision operates in Nicaragua. I met several of these volunteers last week when I was given an up close look at World Vision’s work in Nicaragua. Their selfless dedication to improving the lives of children allows World Vision to scale their work far beyond what other organizations can do.
Imagine if you were to transform a community and help it become self-sustaining for generations. On one hand, you could do all this for the community in a year or two: build wells, schools, clinics, and stores. You could use sponsorship dollars to pay for books, uniforms and school fees to attract children to attend school. When you step away, some of this work will remain, but much will return back to the way things were before – the way people are accustomed to and equipped to handle things.
Alternatively, you could partner with community leaders, civic groups, local & national government, other NGOs, parents and youth, taking the time to train those who will remain, long after you have gone. You could help to build schools, train teachers and help change the culture around education. When parents and civic leaders see the value in children attending school past elementary, when students become mentors who help struggling students learn to read and write, when sponsored children grow up and become teachers: we all win.
The later approach is that taken by World Vision and has been proven to be more effective in the long run because the community is vested in the decision process, they understand the why and they are passionate about helping to create change. When you take time to develop a community and create opportunity, educated children they will grow to become parents, teachers and civic leaders who will help the next generation achieve even more. I met some of these people while in Nicaragua who had been sponsored children in their younger years and now are creating a brighter future for the next generation. They spoke with pride and dignity about the experience of having someone outside their community care about them; it spurred them on to work hard and now to give back to a program they felt gave them so much. Some of the volunteers are mothers of sponsored children and see the benefit of giving their children a better tomorrow. Others, with great gusto, told us that this was their community and they were there to do the hard work to make it better than ever.
Development work is hard work, costly work, slow work, but it pays dividends in transformed communities. By using a network of highly trained volunteers and teaming with other organizations, World Vision can scale their work far beyond what any NGO could do alone. Volunteers, who have several years training and experience, meet with families and help monitor children for signs of preventable disease & malnutrition, to ensure they are in school and that they have access to needed social services. When volunteers identify a gap, they work with World Vision to solve for the root cause of the problem. Examples range from providing bikes to children who are not in school because it is too far to walk, or engaging with the Ministry of Health to provide services if a child is ill. When you sponsor a child, you join hands with thousands of others around the world to create a network of transformation, a network of greatness in the lives of those touched by this work. Today, I reach my hand out to you and invite you to join this network for good. Will you be bold enough to reach back? cause.worldvision.org/salina And better yet, in addition to supporting this great work, will we allow these people to teach us about the power in working together to create positive outcomes in our own home communities?