Here is how it happened.
Jenny is working with the Dominican Evangelical Church (IED, for the initials in Spanish) as a Community Health consultant. Jenny still thinks this is a bit odd, because she has had no professional training in community health and development. However, her last job in Nicaragua before beginning to serve in Haiti and now in the DR with the Presbyterian Church (USA), she was doing a lot of things in the field of reproductive health that relate intimately, so to speak, with community health. Also, Jenny is good at "reviewing the literature." That is, she looks for relevant reading material and pulls ideas out that make sense to her context. And Jenny is good at learning on the job.
So about a year ago, Jenny and I took what she had learned (and shared with me) about CHE (Community Health Evangelism) and we presented it to folks in Batey 7, together with Dr. Soraya and Santa, the director and pharmacist, respectively, of the IED clinic in Batey 7, Good Samaritan Health Clinic. CHE is a Christ-centered model for integrated community health and development.We got a good response at the first meetings, so we had a second meeting. Then another. Then, with help from our PC(USA) colleague, Jo Ella Holman, we were able to get in touch with Flor de Leon and her husband, Hiran, who are CHE trainers. Flor and Hiran and an associate came and did a seminar with folks from Batey 7. And the response was good.
The next step was training for Jenny and Dr Soraya and Santa and me in Santiago, about 5 hours away from Barahona. That happened this past April. One of the things we learned about during our four days of training with Flor and Hiran was the idea of "Seed Projects." For me, a "seed project" would be something about teaching folks how to save seeds. Not exactly. In this context, it is a small project that can be done quickly, requires no outside resources (or very minimal) and has a high probability of success. The initiators of seed projects should be the members of the Community Development Committee. This committee is the central unit in the CHE strategy. Made up of recognized community leaders who are chosen by the people of the particular community, it is the group responsible for determining the core issues that are keeping their community down as well as developing the program to address those core issues.
In the case of Batey 7, the folks Jenny and Santa and Dr. Soraya and I had been meeting with formed themselves into this Community Development Committee. After we cambe back from our training in Santiago, we began to apply what we had learned about identifying problems and analyzing their root causes with this committee, but we also knew that we needed to help the committee move into some kind of specific action that addressed the issues about which they were talking.
So that's the history and finally, here are some pictures to help show you where we came from to get to today, when the Community Development Committee of Batey initiated their first seed project.
To understand this story better, it may be helpful to read the first two blog entries about land issues with which folks in Batey 7 deal Also helpful to know at this point is that the land on which Batey 7 is located is very flat and very near sea level, so these drainage ditches are the only way to keep water out of the community and the ditches are the only way to keep the soil drained enough that sugar cane can grow well. The drainage ditch in question is maintained, or should be maintained by the sugar refinery company that produces sugar cane all around the batey.
After several more meetings the committee decided to try a two-step approach, as their first "seed project." The first step they decided to work on was a survey in the community to find out which proposed solution to the trash/ditch problem people like the most. Jenny, with Santa's input, helped develop the survey, then the committee reviewed and approved it.
What is the second of the committee's two-step program? They will take the results of the survey and put together a petition that they will take back to the community and ask members to sign. Once they have that, the plan is to send a commission to negotiate with the heads of the sugar company and pressure them to resolve the problem, since the ditch is on their land and it is their ditch.
What does all of this have to do with community development? This is an issue that sets nearly every one in Batey 7 on fire. Every meeting that Jenny and I have led since this issue became the central focus has been dynamic, energetic and energizing. Without really knowing what we were doing, we started something important to people. That is pretty cool, especially since my first take on it was, "What a dull problem! This isn't that important." Ha! If the next step, the petition and the commission succeed, it will demonstrate to the committee and the people of the batey that they have the power to recognize problems and to make real changes. And that is exactly what our work is about.
What can you do to be part of this? Pray for the committee as it writes the petition, asking that they (and Jenny and Mark) might be inspired by the Holy Spirit to find words that will reach the hearts of the people of Batey 7 and, especially, the hearts of the directors of the sugar company. And, as you are moved, support Jenny's work by providing funds that can help us to continue to receive and provide more training with CHE.
Thank you for checking us out. God's blessings on you.