Lasting change begins within the community
By Landry Lyons
POIPET, Cambodia -- When it rains in Cambodia, it pours.
In villages like Poipet, the heavy rains make dirt roads impassable, keeping some children out of school. They fall behind in their lessons and can’t keep up in class.
Borey, a 20-year-old resident of Poipet -- and the only person in his village to have graduated from high school -- recognized the need for supplemental education. He decided he’d teach children in the evenings to help them catch up in their studies. Every evening, after he finishes working in the fields, Borey gathers children ages 5 10 and gives them lessons for an hour.
When representatives of Baptist Global Response, the Southern Baptist international relief and development organization, came to Poipet to conduct training on community development, Borey realized he already was practicing a core principle being taught by Ben and Pam Wolf, BGR area directors for the Asia Rim.
Borey learned that the people of a community are the primary initiators of change for their community.
Many villages in Cambodia are accustomed to having humanitarian organizations come and give handouts. While those handouts may address the effects of a problem, they don't not necessarily get to the root of the problem, Ben Wolf said.
(Ben Wolf, Baptist Global Response area director for the Asia Rim, shares about transforming communities during a community development training in Kratie, Cambodia. BGR photo)
“You want the community involved in creating change,” Wolf said. "When the community has ownership, lasting change occurs."
The Wolfs conduct community development trainings in villages and cities throughout Asia each year. This past summer, they held two trainings in Cambodia.
The sessions teach villagers and leaders tools to pinpoint needs, such as a lack of water, and then find internal solutions to the needs.
One tool the Wolfs use to help with that is community mapping. The trainees are divided into small groups, each representing a village. Each group then talks about what a community needs as they draw out a map of their village. Later, the small groups makes a map of what they’d like their village to look like in the future.
“I want in the future for my village to have a school, church and for people to have food, health and children to be clever,” Borey said.
Borey’s grandfather is the leader of their village. He plans on talking with his grandfather about how they can apply what he’s learned in the workshop to help their community.
“My village has a lot of problems,” Borey said. “If I can [fix] the small problem, people in the village will be happy.”
Borey is excited about sharing the community development principles he has learned with the children he teaches.
“This is the attitude we get excited about,” Wolf said. “If we can especially get young people involved in community development, we can see a future for healthy, vibrant communities -- communities that are stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
Landry Lyons is an international correspondent for Baptist Global Response. To help with community development projects like this, click here.