A week spent with the forming Central Impact Team gave a profound impression as to the true advantages of being a grass roots movement within Rural Zambia. A 4 day visit was planned to follow up all of the central region areas where Dignity has Life! groups in many communities. What this meant in practice, was Jon, Jude, Bernard and Gevais, traveling around making contact with many people in the villages. Dignity is not a project, it isn’t a traditional organisation, it is a movement of Zambians. This emphasis means that we have eyes and ears on the ground that many works in Africa simply could not ever have.
There is one area, the name of which, literally means “confused and apart”, which really does describe the area. Church groups, community groups and others simply do not work together. It is a transient community with employed farm workers and small scale farmers. Alcoholism is high and many surrender their lives to cheap vices. The confusion in the area seeks to frustrate those who would work here, that includes the members of Life! Groups in the area. One of the leaders has been depressed recently, we have been able to spend some time helping him. In a culture where weakness is not talked about, and failure is hidden, we talk about open-ness, honesty and integrity, which means we can deal with problems as and when they arise.
Another area is held back by one individual. In Africa, more elderly people are often given great respect and position, unlike the UK where the opposite is often true. In one particular community, one individual seeks to have control and power over everything that happens. In short, what doesn’t feather his nest, doesn’t happen. Every initiative that has tried to begin in that area has failed. The reason for this is simply that they have not appreciated this dynamic. The greed and ego of one person is literally holding the area captive. In short, his control needs taking out. Through positive encouragement, prayer and relationship we are working towards making this happen.
Perhaps the biggest issue we see in many areas is that of Dependency. Many NGO’s pay sitting allowances for their conferences, or give out free aid to all and sundry. All this has done in the villages is create a culture of “something for nothing”. It is one of the greatest curses upon people in this country. How does this work out in everyday life? A person sits back and only plants a small amount, when they could plant more and make a profit. People expect to be paid for doing an act that is simply an act of kindness to a neighbor. Selfishness can being to rule. It is totally untrue that poverty is caused by a lack of money. Of course, there are some very poor areas, but I am yet to come across a community that has absolutely nothing. Everyone has something they can use to move forward.
Even through Dignity’s work has spread far and wide (literally all over northern zambia), we would be lying if we gave the impression that nothing ever is difficult or goes wrong. However, by giving villagers a prominent position in our work, we can find inventive, relational and community based routes around problems. Through the work of Impact Teams and Life! Groups, the work has a finely grained view of what can happen and is happening in a particular community. This helps us to reach people for God and bring people together for the common good.
This is the true value of working from the ground up and a value we are committed to always.