Why this project in Sierra Leone shows the importance of community participation
Contrary to popular belief, alleviating poverty requires more than just teaching people skills or handing out materials. A key factor often overlooked in the international development field is community participation. When the community is engaged in the initiative you are trying to accomplish, the likelihood of long-term, sustainable impact rises.
Communities experiencing poverty know their needs best. Asking questions and listening helps ensure that all voices are heard. People are also more receptive to assistance when they feel understood. Without this step, development projects often fail because they are out of touch with the actual needs of the community.
An example of an organization doing community participation well is our newest collaborator OneVillage Partners (OVP). Together we are working to improve access to sanitation in the remote villages of Madina and Makka in Sierra Leone. The project will construct 68 latrines, which are toilet systems that do not require water to flush. These latrines and the addition of handwashing stations will ensure proper sanitation and reduce the spread of diseases in these communities.
OneVillage Partners makes it a priority to listen to the community’s concerns before starting a project. To do this, they have established community action groups who meet to decide on the top five priorities that need to be addressed in their villages. OVP then works alongside leaders to solve the issues. For our partnership with OneVillage, the community action groups decided they wanted to focus on improving sanitation.
In addition to listening to the community’s voice initially, there also needs to be community participation throughout the project. This means including community members in the planning, construction, and implementation.
Participation throughout the process passes on important skills. It also encourages buy-in from the community and ownership of the project. This empowers community members to continue the project, even when the organization leaves.
People living in Madina and Makka will work alongside OVP in the implementation of the sanitation project. As a result, local ownership will be more likely, which means people will participate in the use and maintenance of the new latrines and handwashing stations.
Lahai Amara, one of the beneficiaries of the project says, “to enhance project sustainability, communities should contribute.” He will be one of the local volunteers that will encourage and educate his community on the effectiveness of handwashing and using the new sanitation facilities.
OneVillage Partners notes the importance of their local leaders: “Together with toilet facilities and handwashing station construction, people like Lahai will be actively contributing to the improved wellbeing of the community of Makka.”
For each of ODW’s projects, we make sure that the communities where we work are brought into the process of planning and implementation. We believe that listening to people’s voices and involving the community is necessary in order to create sustainable impact.
You can support this sanitation project in Sierra Leone here.
Jessinia Ruff is an ODW Blog Contributor and student at Seattle Pacific University.
More stories of impact
We are all investors. Each decision we make devotes our time and resources to a cause. Five dollars for coffee contributes to our productivity. $10 a month towards Netflix provides us entertainment. $100 spent on a nice night out brings enjoyment. These...read more
Hidden under the turkeys, pumpkin pies, and excitement of Black Friday sales, are the remnants of Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving is increasingly being commercialized as a time to buys things rather than a time to reflect on the gifts we already have and to express our...read more
This month we’ve been really energized by collaboration, partnerships, and people taking action. There is a growing need to provide more relief resources for refugees around the world. Last weekend, we gathered together with our partners and community in...read more
Why intern? Is it just about getting experience? Are internships even worth it these days? These are questions many of us have wrestled with, especially if you’re a student or on the job hunt. At One Day’s Wages, we believe that interns are an integral...read more
When conflicts and wars strike, it is typically women and children who bear the brunt of the suffering. Not only do children have to face the trauma of being torn from their homes, friends, communities, and potentially their own families; but they also...read more
Are we listening? Or are we operating with a currency of fear? One Day’s Wages’ founder Eugene Cho explores these questions with Wondercamp filmmakers as they share stories of refugees in the Middle East.read more