Over the past few months, the world has seemingly stood at a standstill due to the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. People’s mobility has been limited almost to a halt to avert the spike of coronavirus cases. Despite such circumstances, we cannot escape reality – life must go on. Human instincts tell us that people must endure to live in spite of all the odds they face. What is disheartening at the moment is that life has become more difficult, aggravated by the scarcity of basic commodities and services. For the affluent, the issue revolves more around logistics but for the underprivileged, beyond availability, affordability takes precedence.
Such a situation warranted most governments to extend assistance to their constituents by providing financial amelioration or basic food items to augment household needs. Dependence on governmental aid would simply lead to cyclical problems most especially for third-world countries. How can needs be sustained if the present conditions continue to persist for months to come, as predicted by some? How will the most vulnerable population endure such difficulties? Are these actions sustainable? These are some of the questions that need to be answered in order to come up with viable solutions.
WADAH FOUNDATION’S CONCERNS
Those reverberating questions mirror the concerns of Wadah Foundation which currently supports and assists 63 marginalized communities across the archipelago. So far, more than 20,000 individuals and families have benefitted from Wadah’s works since its establishment in 2008. This number does not even include the number of people and communities it assists through its international affiliates like the Philippines, India and Malaysia. The looming repercussions of this pandemic prompted Wadah’s management team to design a program that is expected to provide a long-lasting positive impact on the lives of the people especially in the communities that it supports. Similar to all other programs implemented by Wadah Foundation, focusing on the development and enhancement of the human capabilities is always a priority and an integral part of the process. Wadah believes that a program’s success is hinged on the preparedness and readiness of its human capital.
To help address the impending food scarcity and economic stability, Wadah Foundation launched its flagship program called, “Raising a Village: My Village, Our World” (Membangun Desa: Desa-ku, Dunia Kita). The program embodies one of Wadah’s ideals that is – “inclusivity.” This inclusivity also means tackling the issue in an integrated and holistic approach, which is one of Wadah’s unique way in confronting a problem. Wadah never employs a band-aid approach. Everyone would agree that the success and failure of any endeavor is dependent on the people who implements them. This is why in all of its programs be it in education, health, or family economic empowerment, Wadah always takes into consideration the preparedness and readiness of human capital needed to implement the undertaking.
Wadah believes that once awareness has been instilled in the minds of the people, that they are capable of fending for themselves; they become resilient. When they come to realize that there are other avenues by which they can avail of the various resources around them and create unique opportunities out of them, they become empowered. The Wadah way is also being respectful of the local wisdom of each and every community that it supports. With collective independence, one’s success uplifts everyone else in the village or community and thus, the world.
What the program will do is to help find ways on how to be able to assist the community in improving ways, developing access, increasing productivity, or just making them aware that they are not alone in their journey. What they need is just a little push to enable them to reach greater heights in what they do. When each and every member of the community believes that a “whole is greater than the sum of its part” (Aristotle), teamwork proves beneficial in the success of the social action. As what the premise ‘My Village, Our World’ suggests, everyone living and working in the community should not just think of himself but also of others. One must be concerned in the bigger picture – how to uplift one another and eventually the whole community.
When such paradigm is inculcated in their minds, they will be encouraged to be more proactive in taking care of their community to make it progressive; motivate others to do the same, thereby allowing growth and prosperity to abound in the community… their village.
HOW DO WE ENVISION THE PROGRAM?
Wadah Foundation sees this flagship program as a sustainable program that also addresses some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals being adopted by United Nation member countries which includes Indonesia. Wadah Foundation, having a Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 2016, deems it necessary to uphold and align its programs with the 2030 Global Goals.
As such, this “Raising a Village: My Village, Our World” program hopes to attain the following in the short-term, wherein, people in the community would:
• have a greater desire to improve their way of life by fending for themselves;
• be resilient in the face of challenges and difficulties;
• have stronger motivation to improve and increase productive of their village;
• have stronger relationship with local authorities;
• be self-sufficient to provide the needs of their families;
• encourage other families and community members to adopt the program/activities;
• have sustained livelihood; and
• have set-up a community barn (lumbung) to store their produce.
As soon as the short-term impacts have been realized or at least become more visible, enhanced strategies shall be executed to achieve its medium and long-term impacts. Some of the expected goals to be achieved in the medium-term include:
• Gaining more local support particularly with the Local authorities motivating them to:
expand the program to other areas/communities
provide additional assistance to the communities to further strengthen their desire to improve their livelihood
• Providing or opening-up networks or potential investor for the community to grow the program and make it flourish into a successful business
• Increased productivity
• Adoption of the program by the local or regional government; organizations and/or other private business;
• Local community members who have left the community start to return to their village with a brighter hope of helping grow the local business
• Ability to supply local needs in terms of locally produced goods and services.
Either in the medium and long-term, following are the expected goals to be achieved by the program:
• Adoption of the program by the regional or national government
• Medium to large size investment to grow the business in the locality
• Availability of additional employment to people in the community and nearby communities
• Sustainable production of raw materials and even processed goods
• Ability to produce processed products to be marketed nationwide
• Ability to produce export quantities to increase national income
HOW SHALL WE DO IT?
Wadah Foundation serves as a catalyst in all of its other programs, ‘Raising a Village’ is no different. Although the pilot program would initially involve 3 Wadah-assisted villages or communities, with its aim to be inclusive, other members of the community, as well as neighboring villages, are welcome to participate and will be assisted to eventually adopt the program. Two of the basic criteria considered in identifying the 3 pilot communities are the readiness of the people in the community as well as having a strong relationship with their external stakeholders and potential partners. Part of the strategy is to get everyone in the community involved – from the ordinary members of the community, local businessmen, government agencies and officials, and all the rest regardless of status and interests, everyone is and can be part of this program.
Every member of the community can take part in the program by doing what they do best, in their own special way. ‘Raising A Village’ program does not dictate nor limit the communities into doing something that is unfamiliar to them. In fact, one of the objectives of this program is to encourage the efficient use of available resources. Having the ability and opportunity to utilize such resources effectively, increase the likelihood that the community would grow independently and be self-sufficient. This in itself would ensure that each community or village would have a different approach and experience in this program.
Each village or community has its own unique characteristics and resources. No two villages are completely identical. It is essential, therefore, that the program is implemented based on the specific requirements and capabilities of the community/village. As it is, this program is not a one-size fits all solution. We all know that culture, tradition, geographical location, demographics, and other factors vary in each and every village or community, and there is critical information that need to be considered in drawing up a plan. Gathering and acquiring an honest to goodness data is therefore very essential to get a clearer insight of the real situation in one community/village.
As soon as data has been gathered and analyzed, a plan of action shall be prepared on how the community will be assisted. Interventions may come in the form of training, skills development, network expansion or linkages, technical capability enhancement, and other forms of support that best suit to improve the current situation or address any specific problem. These interventions or intermediations may also warrant the involvement of external parties whom Wadah believe have the capability to help mend or address issues that have been identified.
As an example, a fishing village would have access to a body of water where they can catch fish and other seafood products. The ‘Raising A Village’ Program would then be able to assist local fishermen in possibly linking them or getting access to modern fishing technology that could increase their haul; or, encourage them to form a cooperative where their catch could command higher price; or in a longer-term link them with fish processing businesses which may eventually bring new job opportunities to the people.
Another example would be, a farming village who have been farming for years but are not getting the right amount for their harvest; or, do not have access to a market, ‘Raising a Village’ may be able to provide support by getting access to new farming technologies, post-harvest technologies or maybe a new market. And if the issue is let’s say, the scarcity of water, through the program, they may be assisted by introducing them to an individual or organization who could aid them in locating or find new source of water.
Wadah Foundation envisages that every community it supports may become self-sufficient with empowered community members; for the people to have the ability to maximize their full potential and make better use of God-given natural resources; for communities to be productive with capable individuals and help create a resilient village, eventually making it progressive. This is what Wadah envisions – “a world with empowered and dignified individuals and communities.”
This is “the legacy” that Wadah Foundation aims to give and offer to future generations.
Author: Alfredo Torno III