Building community relations

What is one of the most important things a not-for-profit or charity can do?
Listen.
When coming to work in a new community and possibly (as in our case) in a foreign country, we believe that listening to the needs of the community is absolutely vital if your work is going to have a positive impact.  Not listening, assuming you know best, dictating change, not considering the customs and values of the people you are working with – each of these things is a recipe for failure!  What The Small Things (TST) aims to do is to empower and give the community the tools necessary to make improvements.  And this can only be achieved through open communication: getting to know the people, finding out their needs and strengths, listening to them.
Preparing the delicious chakula (‘food’)
Because of this outlook, The Small Things has always worked to create and foster a strong relationship with the local community.  You have already heard about our Outreach Project so today I wanted to tell you a bit about one of the other ways that we try to do this – the monthly Mamas, volunteers and TST staff lunch!  We realized that it was really quite tricky for everone to have a conversation and get to know each other whilst at least five kids are also vying for your attention, so we decided to hold a lunch during nap-time!  This gives everyone a bit of space and time together, when the focus is not on the kids (aside from sometimes the odd toddler who couldn’t sleep and is snuggled on a lap), but on the people who are working together to care for them.  Its an informal, get-to-know-each-other-a-little-better time, with lots of yummy food!!
The Mamas / volunteers / staff lunch is a time to share food & relax together
We have found that this lunch has been really successful in fostering understanding, respect and friendship among everyone who works at Nkoaranga Orphanage.  This lunch was really great as some of the mamas had just finished their first round of training at IBES. They shared what they’d learnt with the other Mamas and volunteers. It was interesting to see how much they’d learned: from first aid, to dealing with relatives, to child development and physical illnesses.  Dada (‘sister’) Ellie (left) and Mama Andrew (right) even did a little skit to show how to properly greet relatives visiting the orphanage in order to encourage a better relationship between families and orphanage staff.  It was great to see the impact the training had had!
Some role playing was a great way to share knowledge and have fun
What better way to build community relations than through listening (with a good serving of food and talking together mixed in!)?