Connecting local responses around the world
This is a story from two creative people who are associated with Salvation Army UK and have expertise in video documentation- John Anscombe and Neil Maclnnes. The blog captures their perspective as observers of SALT process in the community. Neil filmed the Glocon in the US. Neil on his return to the UK shared his experience with John. I happened to note their insights!
In the past one year, Ian and Alison Campbell have been facilitating SALT amongst cadets of Salvation Army training College in Atlanta. The cadets belonging to multi-cultural background are residents in a safe, secure ,enclosed, high-walled training Salvation Army campus. Around this campus is a neighbourhood which they consider as highly dangerous. Gang rivalries and conflicts are common in the neighbourhood. There have been cases of gun fire exchange. There is a wall of house in the neighbourhood bearing bullet marks. The cadets like to live in their self-contained premises, not daring to run or walk in the neighbourhood.
To build relationship with the neighbouring community and nurture a bond, Ian and Alison introduced the concept of SALT and community conversation to the cadets. The cadets thereafter were divided into triads and off they went to do SALT visits to the homes in the neighbourhood. The aim was to appreciate and listen to the community. Forget about your organisational agenda, or Salvation Army programme, said Ian and Alison. These visits are just to listen to the people in their homes and trigger intimate conversations.
It was quite a sight to see the cadets return after the home visits. Many of them were in high spirits. They had assumed that the community in the neighbourhood was in a bad state, full of conflicts and tension. While there were difficulties and problems, the cadets discovered that the community was strong. It had within it many natural leaders. The community had taken several actions to address its issues and started many innovative initiatives. . The cadets realised that there were several capable and competent people who had invested in the community. Many cadets were amazed that what happens when one goes out in the community and just listens. Though several of the cadets had ventured into the community area for the first time they felt that they were fostering friendships and building a new relationship with the community members. By listening with appreciative lens and particularly in homes of people, families open up and share their personal concerns and hopes. Cadets observed that the human connection began to build as the differences and misunderstandings seem to vanish between the visiting team and the family.
However the cadets noted that while listening seemed a very simple process, it is extremely hard to have patience to listen. The traditional way of giving a message and awareness to the community and going with an agenda is far easier than simply listening, active listening.