Community empowerment during COVID19 and beyond exercise progressed with a fourth session as various participants from the AJAN network shared new things they had absorbed since the entire training commenced, and which may have shifted their minds significantly.

“I have realized that I should not be intransigent when dealing with community, that I should embrace humility, and lend a keener ear to them because it is about them and not me”, weighed in Christopher Murasi of the Jesuit Youth Office in Harare, Zimbabwe. Solomon Rogers of RTI International in Liberia, was elated to share with other participants that he had become more conscious about barriers to active listening.

To enable participants to grasp concepts easier and vividly, the trainers have been employing real life situations which they have encountered in their own work in their presentations. These are consequently closely dissected during the session, an approach which has made the sessions highly interactive and thought-provoking.

On this day, among a few other scenarios, was one about an old man rescued by a young lad as he was haplessly drowning in a dam. Albeit this was a successful noble act, the old man would express his reservations as he conversed with his savior moments later. The trainers meticulously elected the old man story purposefully but also symbolically, to discourage the matter of perennial community projects that do not empower beneficiaries, but rather make them eternally dependent on external help. The old man wished that the young man at least allowed him to use one of his arms in the process of being pulled from the depths of the water and to safety. He lamented that he had felt hapless and embarrassed even after this vital assistance.

Ultimately, the coaches went on to unravel the irredeemable weaknesses of a ‘top-down’ approach to project implementation, displaying the need for beneficiaries’ participation from the level of conception to completion. “The approach the intervening organization uses to engage the community determines whether they own the development trajectory and if it will become community-based or not”, said Dr. Paschalia. The requirement to explain the process and benefits of a project was analyzed in depth as was the involvement of beneficiaries in planning. Understanding the priorities of the beneficiaries was critically examined. “Involving community, the community at the ‘point of consumption’, is failure”, asserted trainer Dominic Syuma.

The next session will be held on 21st July 2020 at 3:00pm Kenyan time, and Fr. Elphege Quenum encourages members to try their best to be in the zoom meeting and to participate.