One of the ways Outreach field staff ensure success for communities working toward empowerment and self-sufficiency is to conduct regular reflections from individuals and teams, then enter them in a database along with an incredible amount of other info too exciting to detail here, so the rest of our international staff can track progress, compare approaches, refine methodology, and on and on (seriously, there’s enough work on the back end that it makes us tired just trying to summarize all of it).
Besides the organizational benefits of all this centralized data, the personal reflections shared by local leaders and community members contextualize and humanize the numbers, as well as bringing strengths and challenges to the surface more readily than if we relied solely on graphs and prediction algorithms to guide our work, and how we do it.
Even better, these reflections offer a space for community members to consider their own experiences and feelings, discover insights on their own, then reinvest their momentum into their next endeavor with greater agency, a more defined role, and a stronger sense of their own strengths and talents. It’s during moments like these where intention meets caring; where purpose becomes resolve.
Getting involved in community-led development is a big deal for reasons far beyond the impact of an eventual positive outcome — for new members unused to speaking in public or working on a team, even showing up to a meeting is an act of incredible bravery. Articulating their feelings through reflections pairs the “what” of community-led development with the “why” that makes it resonate for generations.
We recently came across this reflection from Manuel, a member of a community team in La Leona, Nicaragua. He’s new to community-led development, but from the sound of it, he’s already come a long way. He’s in good hands, too — La Leona’s on a roll.
I am Manuel from the community of La Leona, and my family has three members (me, my wife, and son). My wife has been very involved in community work with a local group that gives low-interest loans to farmers. My wife had to go to work outside of Santa Lucia in December, and she left me the task of representing her in the community team meetings while she was away. I started to go to the meetings, but with great shyness, and I hid so that they would not ask me questions. Little by little, I began to feel confident in attending meetings and creating more friendship with the members of the group.
One day, we had to go visit another organization affiliated with our community’s team, and they told me that I had to go with them. The first thing I said was, “No, I’m not going.” The members of the group convinced me (or rather, forced me) to go.
I set one condition for joining them on their visit: “I’ll go, but as a companion.” They told me all I had to do was introduce the other group members when we arrived. “That’s easy,” they told me, so I accepted.
That evening, I told my wife Seyling what had happened, and that I was anxious about it, and she said, “But what you are going to do is easy!” Easy for her, who already had the experience, but not for me. Later, she advised me to write down what I was going to say on paper and practice reading it aloud, so that I would be ready for the day we visited the other organization’s offices.
When the day came, I was nervous. In my mind, I was practicing what I was going to say, while at the same time, thinking, “What if I forget? My God, why did I accept?”
Before long, it came time to make introductions, I felt that I spoke quickly — in order to finish my task quickly — but I managed to say everything I had practiced. I felt I did well. During the rest of our time there, I hardly heard a word my colleagues said, instead thinking about what I’d just said, going through my mind to see if I’d forgotten to say any of it.
When we left, all my colleagues congratulated me, and I felt good. I continued attending group meetings, and began to feel like a member of the team. When my wife returned, it made me a little sad, because I thought I had to stop going to meetings. I told Seyling that I had liked going to meetings to represent her. She replied by saying that I could continue attending meetings, that I could become an official member of the group, and that all I needed to do was prepare a request letter to join.
These days, I continue to support our community-led group, and am gaining more experience by working with them on projects. My wife has more experience (and isn’t shy!), but I’m here too, gradually growing more and more involved with the group and its work.
Great job, Manuel. You have a lot of people around the world cheering you on.
A typical (pre-COVID) community meeting in La Leona, Nicaragua. These days, smaller groups meet in outdoor settings to minimize health risks, with representatives from each group relaying updates to local leaders, who coordinate plans and keep everyone updated on everyone else.
Some of the world-class world-changers of La Leona (and Outreach superstar facilitator Luz Dania, peeking up, second from left).
How to Help
You can empower Manuel and countless others like him in communities worldwide through your gift to Outreach. 100% of all donations to Outreach go completely and directly to support our work alongside community-led teams around the globe. Your generosity can change the world. Give now, feel great forever.