Core Values Series: Sustainability

 

God’s timing is funny sometimes. Just yesterday, the day before we’re supposed to unveil our final value — sustainability — we met with another organization called Living Water International. And at some point in our conversation, it came up that Living Water felt it could be more sustainable in its efforts.

In the past, they would simply show up, drill a well in a week's time, then leave to knock out another one the following week. They weren’t empowering the people for whom they were providing the wells.

We talked a little bit more, and then something really caught our attention. Living Water is looking for another organization to aid it in the social front-end of engaging water projects. This means meeting with the villagers to identify their greatest needs and best possible solutions, pre-training these villagers on how to maintain a well and empowering them to own the project.

You see, without sustainability, individuals and communities can’t become better; they can’t grow. They become stagnant and dependent on whatever temporary solutions others will offer. Sustainability occurs when the helped no longer needs the helper. 

Sometimes, in rural development, this means saying 'No' when your heart wants to say 'Yes.'  It's suffering through ten meetings with a community to teach simple things instead of doing the simple things for it. It starts with changing expectations. The original expectation may be to receive a specific thing like water or food or straight cash money.

But sustainability is the art and science of engineering a project in such a way that the helped feel as if they are leading the project…as if it's their own idea. Their expectation should change from attaining a thing to attaining the knowledge necessary to attain the thing themselves.  

We've got no idea what our future with Living Water looks like, but we do know this. God is scary. In a good way. As I was thinking about sustainability and how best to articulate its importance and need in Nicaragua, God connected us with Living Water, maybe for no other reason than to confirm that we’re not crazy. Other organizations are actually looking for the service we aim to provide, and we’re excited about the possibilities that lie ahead!

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