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Powered by Community

Throughout my trip thus far, I have seen over 10 projects and many innovations around the pivotal role community plays in development. Everywhere I have seen examples of individuals who depend on their community for support in order to advance themselves and in turn enrich the well being their neighbors. In turn I have seen communities come together to help those who need it the most. Because of this model, this inherent need to build up each other and those around them, these groups of individuals create change by organizing their efforts together.

I call this “Powered by Community” and here is the impact community can have in affecting change:

  1. Foster closer community through honesty and openness. Members of the community of Dago, Kenya come to together once a year for the Kick It with Kenya Soccer Tournament.  Time is made to connect and openly share ideas with other communities who come over as visitors to  the tournament. Making time to honestly share helps with community growth and building long-term relationships.
  2. Break taboos and stigmas. Talking about HIV and AIDS used to be a big taboo in African villages like Dago. Now every community has a voluntary counseling and testing center (VCT) where the conversation about the prevention of HIV and AIDS is commonplace. It is far easier to change long held beliefs if change is being done as a collective whole.
  3. Continue traditions. Families have started to see their members spread out geographically. In a family with 5 children, most might move out to the city or even another country. Yet, during Christmas, everyone attempts to come back home to reconnect with their roots and share stories – continuing a tradition that has been in place for generations.
  4. Improve health. In Dago, Community Health Workers organize their own communities to educate themselves about current health conditions, provide preventive measures, and distribute medications to those in need. Providing this much-needed service at a reduced cost increases the prevention of illnesses to all within the village.
  5. Educate the youth. Every community has a primary school with the goal to send every child to school. In addition, communities are finding ways to support continuing education of the brightest students so that every family can continue to prosper. For example, Dago’s orphanage has solar power – giving the children ability to study after dark, while 99% of the homes in Dago don’t have power at all.
  6. Share risks. In the village of Kiminini, Kenya, women pool their savings to make loans to their peers. The borrower needs to get signatures from other women in her group before applying for the loan. This way, the women in the community take the risk of having to pay back the loan in case the borrower defaults. Distributing risk empowers the community to insure the borrower is successful.
  7. Share responsibility. Just like distributing risks, the women in Kiminini understand the share responsibility amongst the group members to make sure that the borrower pays back the loan on time by distributing ownership for loan amongst members of the group.
  8. Build skills. Outside of Kampala, Uganda, an orphanage houses close to 100 kids during the holidays. They kids don’t have a family to go to. Yet, they are spending the holidays learning various dance techniques like their own regional dances as well as salsa and other contemporary styles. Encouraging learning during what would typically be a difficult time for these children raises their self-esteem and further develops their sense of cultural belonging.
  9. Achieve self-sustainability. In Dago, Kenya, the villagers are implementing farming initiatives that will ensure that they can meet the local food needs and have all the pieces in place for self sustainability now and for future generations.
  10. Have a family. The community provides a family to everyone, including those who don’t have one of their own. In Dago, the community comes together to support widows with housing, food, and land for farming.

How do you define community?

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