Part 3: sustainability and ownership
When we visited these communities a few weeks ago, I watched Haiti Outreach’s (HO) “animators” in action. Each community is assigned an animator who will walk them through the process of getting a new well or rehabilitating a broken one. The animator’s job is to encourage, guide, and help community members execute the most important part of this process – communication.
Communication must occur not only between community members, but between the community and HO. The animators try to help the communities realize and respect each person’s voice, not just the leaders’. Cultivating this new dynamic in a community is crucial to sustainability. Without it, the project will fail.
These communities are capable, smart, and could absolutely take ownership of their project. But unfortunately most of the people in these rural areas have never had the opportunity.
But taking ownership will bring many benefits to communities in the long run. Once people learn how to run their new or rehabilitated well like a business, and manage their own resources, they can really take their future into their own hands. Many communities even begin to save money for the first time. Our local partners in Asia, Africa and Latin American say that the communities that are truly empowered often organize themselves again to take on other projects, like a road, school, or hospital.
I really like this quote by Gary, our co-founder:
“People on both ends – the poor and the powerful – must believe that the poor can meet their own needs. I know I do; I’ve seen it over and over again first-hand. This is why I believe every person can have access to safe drinking water in my lifetime.”
– Erin Swanson, Water.org Communications & New Media Coordinator