I am sitting in the first HELPSudan meeting since Jok has returned, and am getting waves of exciting news.
One of the things we’ve done at HELPSudan is a bit of an experiment; we form close partnerships with the communities that we serve. Our goal is to be able to walk away from a project knowing that the community feels ownership and maintains the work accomplished.
We do not swoop in and do projects like build schools without first asking the community to show their commitment in some form. This has come in the form of things like manufacturing the bricks to build a school, or recruit volunteer teachers before we agree to provide a stipend. We want the community to be as invested in their success as we are.
While Jok was in Sudan, he oversaw the building of more permanent classrooms at Thianwei Primary, which was our first school in Sudan. This project resulted in 4 new classrooms, 3 new pit latrines, 60 new desks, and 280 school uniforms. While that is great news, I am more excited about the tangential results.
Our first headmaster was promoted to Regional Inspector of Schools.
The school, originally on the outskirts of town, is now literally the middle of the village as the families have moved their homes to surround the school.
The community did not ask for all the school uniforms they needed. Instead, they are taking some school uniforms provided by us and asking students to pay a fraction of the cost. They will then take those funds and purchase the additional uniforms they need. Wow!
Wanting to make the most of the new school buildings in the community, the teachers and elders started an adult education program in the evenings to provide educational opportunities to adults that were not able to attend school as a child. Amazing!
As slow and frustrating as working in Sudan can be, these results make it all worth it. We’ve certainly had setbacks working this way and it slows the pace of some projects. But, being intentional about fostering community support and “buy-in”, as well as building capacity in the community, has paid long-term dividends for our organization and the communities we serve. Just wanted to share my excitement.