This is an update from NMSA Development Intern, Erin Moore, ND. Dr. Moore was in Nepal, in a remote village just a few miles from the epicenter, when the earthquake struck. Many of you donated money and sent prayers towards her efforts to find disaster relief for her adopted village- Karmidanda.
The earthquake on April 25th destroyed many areas in Nepal. One of which is the village of Karmidanda. Dr Erin Moore had recently returned to her adopted village in Nepal in March of this year to continue her global health work and to become certified as a facilitator of participatory development when the quake struck. This was her sixth visit to the village. On that Saturday afternoon, she became a first responder. She worked tirelessly to help the villagers deal with the aftermath and devastation. Only two houses in the village were habitable after the quake. Much of the livestock was killed from falling structures. Thirty three human lives were lost. The source of clean drinking water was lost to a landslide. Thanks to many generous supporters, medicine, food, clean water, temporary shelters and a tent school were in place prior to the monsoon.
Months later, with the monsoon over, Erin reflects on how her focus has changed, as she heads back to Nepal to continue her work.
I’m Doctor Erin, a Naturopathic Physician and Facilitator of Participatory Development. To listen, empower, and heal is my professional objective and the focus of this blog. My development work focuses on the people of Karmidanda, a beautiful Himalayan village in central Nepal with tremendous potential. I feel like I’ve recovered about as fully as possible (after earthquake disaster response work), and I’m really excited about this next trip. This blog has been swirling around in my heart and head for a while, so I’m happy to share it with you all.
In Nepal, conditions are up & down. They continue to reach major milestones since passing their first democratic constitution, like the election of a new prime minister, and Nepal’s first woman president! Despite these successes at the top, many thousands of people are in a precarious position as winter approaches and their futures remain unsecured. Major reform is needed in the process of disaster recovery, and I intend to devote my everything to securing a prosperous future for the land and people I hold so dear.
The Need for a Clean Message in a Messy World
This past month my life has been a lot about refining the message of a new non-profit endeavor I’m fostering called ParticipAid. It’s become clear to me that in order to get the masses on board, I’ve got to package our message in a bite-sized, easy to understand way. Just a few nights ago I went to a fundraiser for the amazing Seva Foundation. They can restore sight to a blind person in less than 15 minutes for just $50. I was moved and impressed by their work, but also envious that their message is so simple, so easy to convey. It got me thinking about the tension that exists between the enormous complexity of the global humanitarian system and the neat and tidy missions that individual organizations within it must create to attract donors.
People have been helping people forever I assume, but the “system” of humanitarian aid can be pretty agreeably traced back to the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863. They treated and protected victims of war and crisis, pretty straightforward relief work. By 1919 Save the Children was on the scene as the first recognized international humanitarian NGO. They asserted that all children, regardless of which side their parents fought for, were eligible for relief.
Today humanitarians operate within the imperfect framework of the “emergency-development continuum”. On one end emergency aid is meant to be led by outsiders, and on the other end the beneficiaries are expected to lead their long-term development. In theory it’s neat and clean, but in practice it’s not nearly so simple. For one, the institutional cultures and donor bases on either end of the continuum are quite different, and don’t overlap as much as you’d think.
Back to that tension between the clean message and the messy system – no matter how clean and simple a package ParticipAid’s message is delivered in, I know that a clean and simple humanitarian system will never work. The world and its problems are too complex for a “this plus this equals that” solution. These are exciting times to be a humanitarian – we need new disciplines and alternative perspectives to introduce the innovative approaches.
ParticipAid is very much up for the challenge. Check out our starter website www.particip-aid.org, and tell your friends to subscribe to my mailing list to see how all of us fit in as our work continues!
What’s Participatory Development?
I’m a definitions kind of girl, I can’t get behind something if I don’t know what it means. So if I’m to call myself a Facilitator of Participatory Development (PD), I should define what it is. Let’s start with “Development”, and simply call it “positive change”. If we’re going to call Development “Participatory”, then the more important questions become HOW are we developing and INTO WHAT are we developing? These are the questions that keep me up at night, and PD provides the framework to answer them.
LISTEN. EMPOWER. HEAL.
So how does one facilitate this process? PD Facilitators try all sorts of things in all sorts of ways, because the process must be uniquely adapted to the community and to the facilitator. My training is as a Naturopathic Doctor, so I draw from that in my approach. Naturopathic doctors listen to and empower their patients to take ownership of their health, then support them with the education, resources, and/or tools needed to heal. This, in a nutshell, is my approach to PD. Take the time to listen, listen to empower, empower to heal. This is the core, the rest is just the details. That being said, the details should be real fun and/or interesting, so be sure to subscribe to my mailing list for monthly updates!
Did I answer my question? Participatory Development is a process that empowers and supports local people to create positive change in their community. Boom.
Thanks for being a part of this journey, and I’ll be in touch again soon!