|The Community Builders: A Practical Guide where People Matter (GTZ, 1989)|
In successful community building
the builders have become so much part of our lives; and the
Community Builder is leaving behind a part of his heart, that we and the local
people give thanks for what they have done.
It is now that we grasp how important this experience has been for us all. It is how we make use of this, turning it to advantage, that we must act upon here.
We must now
consider how we can use our new found experience and sense of responsibility to the benefit of our families, our work, and in the community at large.
Our Story - Genuine participation pays off
Nurse Lerato is very happy with the new clinic. It's bright and
airy and feels fresh. Her own room does not feel part of the clinic, yet it is
under the same roof. It would be nice to have her own house, but then she has
seen how nurses at such clinics had to go out in the night when called to see a
patient. She much prefers it this way now that she is separated from the waiting
mothers and the patients staying overnight. A visiting doctor had said how
surprised he was that the architect could have chosen such a terrible shade of
pink. Lerato didn't say anything, after all they had chosen it themselves
because they like it.
One day the women of the village health workers' committee came to see her. Lerato was delighted for they were offering to organize the cleaning of the overnight house. Here were signs of progress she thought to herself. The women suggested that one village be responsible each month for clearing up, smearing the floor and keeping it nice. At Christmas each year they would redecorate the outside (as you see here). This, thought Lerato, is something to encourage. She asks them if they would also be responsible for the new pit latrines? She would provide the materials if they would scrub the seats and see that they were properly used. "That's OK," said the women. "We have decided that any village that does not do it to your satisfaction must go to the back of the queue on clinic days and be served last." The women would do anything to avoid being home late!
Lerato could see there was a good opportunity here to encourage people in the villages to build proper latrines and keep them clean. If the women cared for the latrines at the clinic, then this would be seen by all the women from the villages, who would, she hoped, take the ideas home with them and tell their husbands. She could also encourage the village health workers to follow this up in the health education programme, teaching people why it must be this way. So they looked at the new latrines together, noting the features -like the vent pipe to take away the smells, yet the seat was out of the light so as not to attract the flies. This is a 'VIP', the ventilated improved pit-latrine. There is a man making them for sale in the village beside the clinic. One of the women observed that the seat was too high for a child. "Yes," said Lerato, "let us put a block there to help them. The government has provided this notice inside about the importance of washing the hands. That is why we have put the tap between the latrine and the clinic, so you pass it." There was much discussion. Everyone was happy.
Our future in our hands
There is always an air of excitement and pleasure on occupying a
new building, especially when it has been created from our hearts. Its
imagination gives joy, not only to ourselves but also to people around us and to
those who built it. Such buildings do not live by bricks alone, but provide that
bit extra which is more than just function. It has been by talking with people,
listening to what they say and encouraging them, that we have discovered our
real needs. This has tested to the full our intellect, care and training, as
well as patience, that our lives should enter and become part of the
Some people may compliment us, others are sure to be critical, yet both may be superficial. This may surprise us, for few people seem to appreciate that it is not how the building appears to them that is important, so much as what it achieves in our lives that really matters. There is no such thing as a perfect building, for the process of design and construction is far too complex and we all contribute mistakes in one way or another. As we become more familiar with the building and reflect on how we are using it, we may notice some shortcomings. Mistakes can usually be traced back to an activity or people who were not properly consulted or represented in the discussion. We can try blaming the architect, "you gave us the wrong advice, you should have told us we were wrong," we say, but he responds, "you decided for yourselves, I only advised you." Mistakes are infinitely more tolerable when made by ourselves, rather than imposed by outsiders!
The building should be of service for a long time to come, continuing to give pleasure to future generations. Only time will show whether what we- have built truly meets our needs and is capable of adapting to our ever changing requirements. If we have not succeeded we may witness discussion starting anew and the builder returning within surprisingly few years to make substantial alterations at considerable expense, creating noise, dust, and disturbance all over again. So it is important that we did our work well.
When we succeed in community building, people who are discerning will notice a change in those of us who were involved in the work. We now expect to be consulted and have learned to express ourselves better. We have greater self-confidence and readily accept more responsibility for what we are doing. So it is that our experience has equipped us with the ability to decide for ourselves, plan and programme, budget and control expenditure, the potential of which should not be underestimated.
We have gone that extra mile in our work and if our hard won experience is not to lead to frustration, it has to be made use of. It is as if we have been on a training course to up-grade our skills and are now ready to apply this experience in facing new challenges. Those of us who are in charge, making decisions and giving instructions, must be prepared to move over, creating space and providing opportunity. It is by actively seeking the means to achieve this, that lasting benefit will be gained and the building process truly will have been a tool in our hands, creating long term community development. Only then will our work stand as a practical demonstration to everyone, of what can be achieved.
Our Story - The end of the job
Dr John is attending his monthly clinic in the new building and
takes the opportunity to call in on Fr Pierre. He finds him in his study
drafting letters. "I am writing to the funding agency of my church telling them
what a beautiful clinic has been created for a relatively small sum of money."
He adds, "and that the final account will follow when the builder has completed
the work at the end of the maintenance period." "That's excellent," comments Dr
John. "Looking back I'm sure you will agree that the result has been worth all
the effort and trouble?"
"I am really delighted at what this has done for Nurse Lerato," says Fr Pierre. "It has brought her out and she is very much alive. Her initiative with the village health workers is most encouraging. " "Yes, the health education programme has long been a problem. I think her involvement in the building has given her the self-confidence to deal with this. We must," says Dr John, "give her all the support we can."
"Nurse Lerato spoke to me this morning about having a party for
the builder's men," says Dr John. "She points out that it is the traditional
thing to do on completing a building." "Yes," comments Fr Pierre, "the women
working on the overnight house have raised this with me. They are offering to
organize the food." "Perhaps," says Dr John, "we should contribute to the cost.
I would like to suggest that this is something we leave to Lerato to manage. She
will guide us in what should be done."
Dr John then says, "Ralihaha is pressing me to organize a meeting of the Building Committee. There are various matters he feels we must attend to, such as the final account to agree and how we attend to the maintenance that we need to discuss. It also occurs to me that the committee is really the best place to decide what to do about this party." "OK," says Fr Pierre, "when are you here again?" "I'm passing by next week," responds Dr John. "Could we hold the meeting then?"
"How is your building at the hospital getting on?" asks Fr Pierre. "Oh it's nearing completion," says Dr John. "You should come and have a look. We are all delighted with the improvement and what has been achieved. Like your clinic, an old building has been given a new lease of life. Ralihaha will be leaving soon; perhaps we could write a joint letter of reference for him? I know he's looking for something to move on to." "I'll go further than that," says Fr Pierre, "I will write to my organization and ask them to enquire whether anyone could make use of his services."
How we express gratitude for what has been achieved is of great
importance. Africans know how to do this through traditional means of
expression, but we, in our rush to develop, may take everything for granted. How
amazing (yet human) if we overlook all this and fail to recognize what has been
The Building Committee must now initiate, and the Executive endorse, suitable means of expression for what has been done. There are the workmen (in Africa a party is given in which there has to be meat); the builder (in whom we placed our trust); the architect (who may need a reference and leaves behind a part of his heart in the job); the funding Organization (the final report and accounts, please no plaque, it is the people who did the work); and finally the Executive must see that the members of the Building Committee are given adequate thanks (they carried most of the burden).
In due course the project newsletter and annual report must follow this, reaching all those people with an interest in what the project is doing.
Planting trees near buildings
where people are crowded together requires extra care and
1. soak the ground before planting, keep the roots moist while planting;
2. after planting keep on watering, maintain the protective fence;
3. prune the tree as it grows, loosen the tree ties.