Community Liaisons: The Key to Success

Based on much of what I have learned from my International Studies major and a lot of leadership theory, I have always believed in the importance of local participants and stakeholders in international development work. Now, looking at it on the ground, I see more than ever why it is necessary to involve community leaders in much of the work that NGOs and volunteer organizations are doing. At African Impact, the majority of the projects that we are working on have one or more community liaisons and facilitators that are local community members. In my time working on projects, I have come to realize the value that these members hold on our projects and in their communities and have begun to focus on working with them specifically to figure out where my help and work is most needed.

Solomon, our building coordinator and community liaison is extremely passionate about his local environment and waste management but does not have the time or the technical knowledge to create more advanced lesson plans or visual aids. These lesson plans and visual aids are key to leading successful workshops in both schools and women’s’ groups but because he does not have the time to create new ones, they have become repetitive.

During my afternoons that I do not spend out in the communities, I have been trying to fine-tune the lesson plans that volunteers use. For the first week, I was not consulting Solomon and found that most of my plans were either too technical for the children’s limited English or not targeted towards the kinds of challenges that women in their communities are facing. When looking over my workshops with Solomon, I was able to learn a lot more about specific challenges that communities face, aside from what I had just witnessed myself. I was also able to figure out what they had taught in the past and build upon their successes.

As a result of this partnership, I constructed a series of five lesson plans that can be adapted for both the school-aged children and the women’s groups. I also created visual aids to help the children get over the language barrier that often poses huge issues for the volunteers. As we continue to use these plans over the next few weeks, I hope to fine-tune them so that they work more smoothly.