Sitting in the compound of a home in western Ghana we are talking to the members of the family. We are listening for evidence of the strengths these people have. They have a determination to give the children a good education. They are concerned that if the children keep getting sick, they'll miss out on the opportunities that an education will bring. The home is neat and tidy: there is order and calm. They speak respectfully about their neighbours and speak of the community's strong sense of belonging. These are strengths to affirm explicitly, and we do it. We ask about their hopes for the future. They talk with longing, evidence of the struggles they are facing today. They make a telling comment: "No one brings us together to talk about these things. We used to, but not anymore." This is said with a realisation of what is happening in this conversation. It is kindling hope and imagination. Hope and imagination. In my book these reflect something of the image of God and their createdness. 

My mind turns to thinking about the church. "No one brings us together anymore"? This is surely the role of the church.

The visit closes after we ask the members of the family what action they think they could take to begin to address their concerns about the regularity with which the kids are getting sick. The responses are interesting and give further hope that they want to take more responsibility for their own health. "We will raise this concern (it is mainly about the sources of water locally being polluted) with our village chief and we could work together to protect the water sources."

Who was in the group that made this visit to the household? It was someone from the local church, someone from the health post and myself - the only 'outsider'. We went to listen, not to educate. We went as ordinary people, not as badge or status holders. We went in faith that we would see strengths and the ability to take the initiative and make a response in the local people. We were not disappointed. The role of the church in bringing people together and facilitation dialogue leading to action by communities themselves. Its so obvious!  Support Us (the new name for USPG) This story demonstrates how we are working to help people put the Hands on Health around the world.

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Comment by Olivia Munoru on August 8, 2012 at 5:27pm

David - a beautiful story with a great title. I can see the images in the way you write.

It really shows the power of facilitation, as opposed to the "interventionist / expert" approach. Just by your team being there, giving the household an excuse to come together and talk, the family themselves came up with their own solutions (protect the water sources) and commited to taking action (talk to the chief).


You make me reflect, when was the last time my family got together to discuss our own concerns. It's been years..... so here we see not only the beauty of facilitation, but the power of sharing experiences to inspire others to take action in their own context.


Keep writing and sharing these gems!



Comment by Autry Haynes on August 6, 2012 at 11:28pm

This is very interesting, when stimulated to local response, they already knew the 'root cause' "..... sources of water" so that is what has to be addressed. Very well done TEAM (To each a member or together we achieve more). How Can I help?

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 6, 2012 at 10:27pm

David, the title of your blog is very powerful so is the content. Communities can do a lot, we just need to bring them together in an appreciative way to spur conversation and then hope for change.

Thanks for sharing!


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