When you live outside the community, it is difficult to anticipate interruptions in projects, prioritize daily tasks, or even understand why a certain program is not meeting expectations. Local leaders are vital to establishing reasonable timelines, properly prioritizing, and creating innovative solutions.
Domestic Church Partnership Director Lindsay Allen shares the following about her own learning experiences working with our smart and talented team in Haiti:
I may ask our team members to meet with a pastor to discuss an upcoming team's itinerary. What I don't anticipate when I give a deadline . . . is that the church might not be accessible. If it rains, it might be too muddy to drive to the church, or the bridge to the church may be collapsed, or the pastor may not have any more minutes on his phone, so he can't be reached. In the US, we are accustomed to instantly accessing people through text messaging, phone calls, and even safe roads to travel. Local leadership can help set more reasonable expectations of when and how something can be done.
I’ve also learned that many Americans tend to have a very specific idea of a family/home structure—one or two parents plus children. But in most developing nations, the people in a home can be very fluid. Sometimes grandparents are there. Cousins, aunts, and even non-relatives might live there for a time. The number of people in a home can change year to year or month to month. As we focus on caring for a family, sometimes it's even difficult to know who exactly that includes. Our local leaders—who regularly visit homes and build relationships with families–are able to help us gather information on individual needs.
4) They are known and trusted in the community.
Local, established leaders have spent time pouring into their communities. They have attended birthday parties and weddings. They have visited the sick and grieved with those who have lost loved ones. Consider your own friendships for a moment. Who is in your inner circle? Who do you confide in the most? Which friends do you call when you feel like everything is crumbling before your eyes? The person who held the door for you at the grocery store yesterday probably didn’t come to mind. The person who unexpectedly paid for your food in the drive-through line didn’t suddenly pop in your head either, did he? Though you undoubtedly appreciated those acts of service, the people that know you—those that have invested in you and have taken time to build your trust—are the people that you reach out to when you need a friend. Likewise, in communities around the world, mothers have best friends in the community that they can contact when parenting or running a small business is hard. Fathers have friends in the community that they can contact when they need an extra hand on a project or when they suddenly face unemployment and need work. The local leaders we partner with are the friends that show up for others in their community.
5) They have a pre-existing investment in the community, and it is likely that they will continue being invested for the long term.
By supporting local leaders that have already invested in their local community, it’s possible to help those leaders capitalize on the investment they have already made rather than trying to create a new program without the support of local leadership.
World Orphans Middle East Director Billy Ray shares the following: