Blog post by E4 Project staff member Paul Schultz
This is the fourth in our series of the E4 process. The last three weeks we took a look at Educate, Engage and Empower. This week we will be looking at our last “E” Empower.
Our ultimate goal is to help our international ministry partners create sustainable solutions, and see them replicate the E4 process in other impoverished nations.
“From participation to empowerment – if the development story belongs to the community, then local participation is demanded as an acknowledgement of this fact. If poverty is in part a reflection of the marred identity of the poor, then participation is essential to any effort to restore their identity. If we agree that there are already resources within the community, then participation is the logical means by which this knowledge can be discovered and can become part of the development process. If we have the humility to know that we do not know enough to do someone else’s development for them, then seeking local participation is the only safeguard against our doing unwitting damage. By any measure, local participation is a critical success factor for transformational development.” — Bryant L. Meyers, “Walking with the Poor, Principles and Practices of Transformational Development”
Equip is the stage where we “bridge the gap”, empower is the stage where we enable our partners to maximize their resources in such a way as to erase the gap. This isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. It is far easier to keep adding resources in order to bridge the gap between our partners’ needs and their resources, but ultimately we want to get past that point so that our partners not only get beyond the point of needing us but get to the point of being a blessing to others.
Some groups don’t even attempt to get to this point. They focus on relief and while there is certainly a place for relief, we at E4 don’t want to stop there, but instead we look forward to the day when those we have been a blessing to will be a blessing to others as the E4 Process continues.
To give you an example of how this works out in practice, let’s dig a little deeper into one of the projects we mentioned last week…Project Sunset.
Project Sunset began with a simple dream of a college freshman to raise money for 50 mosquito nets that she could then distribute on one of E4 Project’s mobile medical clinics in the summer of 2012. Sarah saw a need that was real and came up with a creative way to bridge the gap between the community’s resources and their needs.
But that was just a beginning step in the Equip process. Although the need for mosquito nets was real, so was education. Therefore that component was added. In addition, instead of relying solely on Sarah to initiate the distribution of the nets, we really wanted a Gabonese team to be formed that would continue the work whether or not Sarah or anyone else from E4 was there. So just this last year, Sarah recruited a Gabonese team of nurses who would be able to continue the work with or without her.
In order to make it financially sustainable, however, we had do one more thing. Over five years Project Sunset had funded over 1,500 mosquito nets, but this past fall we sent over a part of a container with 3,000 nets. Nets that were purchased at a low, wholesale bulk price would enable the team to sell them at a reduced price in the city and a much reduced price in the villages and still have enough profit so that they could fund Project Sunset and order another partial container of mosquito nets and see the process continue.
At least that’s the goal. There are still some things that need to be fully worked out and we recently paid more in customs for the mosquito nets than we had hoped, but Project Sunset is definitely making strides to becoming completely sustainable and ultimately reproducible. And that’s great news, because once a program is sustainable it can be reproduced and shared and expand into areas where we haven’t been able to minister before.