LAOS – World Renew began work in the northeastern province of Xiengkhouang, Laos about 13 years ago, aiming to improve community income and livelihoods in its remote communities.
The third phase of World Renew’s work began in June 2014 and faced a big challenge: our communities expected handouts and staff and district coordinators agreed. They felt that World Renew had a lot of money and that the community should not be asked to contribute anything while working with the organization.
They struggled to fully understand community development concepts based on community involvement and sustainability.
Efforts by World Renew staff to discuss this conflict in approach — to try to address the tension between handouts and sustainability — led to strong disagreements.
But World Renew persisted in asking staff and communities to think and plan together, agreeing on creative ways to increase community contribution, before new work could begin. They knew that the Xiengkhouang staff and district coordinators ultimately desired to see communities transformed, that they wanted communities to take care of what they had received, and that they desired leadership in those communities to grow strong.
So World Renew leadership in Xiengkhouang began to focus on coaching, facilitating capacity building trainings and workshops for the project staff and district coordinators both internally and externally. Those who came to embrace the model of sustainability through community involvement stayed; some staff left; new people joined the project.
These efforts over the last four years have brought about change you can hear directly from the staff in Xiengkhouang:
The health team leader in 2014: “The community cannot afford to contribute to build toilets and they will not agree to do so. T
he government will not be happy if we ask the villagers to contribute.”
The health team leader now: “Having the community contribute has resulted in an increased sense of ownership. The toilets no longer belong to the organization, but to the villagers. They are now using the toilets. They can also build the toilets by themselves.”
The education team leader in 2015: “The district trainers are too powerful. We cannot ask them to come to the office to plan for teacher training with us. They will not be happy.”
The education team leader now: “It is good to invite the district trainers to plan together. We have better training plans. They are not offended.”
The Village Development Committee team in 2014: “We cannot facilitate the villagers to choose VDC in the village; we cannot also train the VDC without permission from the government.”
The Village Development Committee team now: “We can facilitate the villagers to form village development team (VDC) in the village. The VDCs need us to train them on various topics. They would like for our team to follow up and encourage them.”
The construction team in 2014: “We usually make the water user committee after construction because it is easy. We will train the committee after construction.”
The construction team now: “Forming and training the water user committee before construction helps ensure that committee members have improved commitment to get involved in taking care of the clean water systems.”
The agriculture team in 2014: “We need to give many animals to many families in the community. The district agriculture department is not happy with us because we give very few animals.”
The agriculture team now: “We cannot give many animals because we need to follow up and find out how the families that we have supported are taking care of the animals they have.”
World Renew Laos