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by Allan Bacon
If proof was needed to show how important development projects are for promoting the mission of The Salvation Army then one need look no further than the South America West Territory. Over several years, a comprehensive approach to development work there has resulted in steady and strong growth for The Salvation Army. This has in large measure been due to the way in which The Salvation Army’s Canada and Bermuda Territory has worked closely with its colleagues from The Salvation Army Australia Development Office (SAADO) and, of course, the local people. Such partnerships are the key to success.
This collaboration has been most notable in Bolivia. High above the city of La Paz, dwarfed by the mighty and majestic Andes, communities have struggled over the centuries to eke out a harsh existence. Some years ago Gordon Knowles from the SAADO office began to fund solar tents (greenhouses) in the communities of Corqueamaya and Lacaya in an attempt to raise the economic status of these communities and improve the diet and health of the population, in particular the children. These efforts have been complemented by the Canada and Bermuda Territory funding additional solar tents, setting up a fertiliser programme and, this year, providing a tractor for community use and as an income generator for Corqueamaya.
It is a wonderful experience to visit these two communities and sense the excitement and pride in what they have achieved. There is true ownership, crucial to sustainable development. The Corqueamaya community has trained tractor operators and has established new bylaws to govern the tractor’s use. Some of the families who are growing produce in the greenhouses are experimenting with different kinds of fruit and have built additional greenhouses from the profits made so far. In Lacaya some families have installed water points and have shown great initiative in dealing with some of the problems that have arisen. There is now talk of establishing a cooperative.
It’s impossible to measure the full impact The Salvation Army has on communities. The seeds that are sown as the result of our working with communities will grow in God’s own time. What is certain however in Corqueamaya and Lacaya is that The Salvation Army is appreciated for having transformed peoples’ lives. It is respected and valued. What is more, the Corqueamaya community have recently renamed their elementary school the William Booth School after the Army’s Founder.
Moving on from these communities to Viacha, you reach one of the ‘jewels’ of The Salvation Army world, the Day Care and School Programme. Money from Canada has been used with remarkable creativity by Captain Leonor Zelaya and has transformed this centre into a bustling, exciting focus for the community, fully supported by parents and community leaders. The Sunday school is bursting at the seams. Sunday meetings are full to overflowing. Next door to this centre is the Lindgren Institute, where a new computer laboratory has recently been installed. The boys’ home provides a warm and friendly environment for more than 50 young boys, whose happiness is very apparent to any visitor. These young people are able to take advantage of the computer facilities, learning skills that will enable them to enter the world of work with a reasonable chance of earning a living.
In Ecuador the Community Health Programme, now in its third phase, has been responsible for an expansion of the Army’s work, with new corps and outposts being established in communities to which the programme has been extended.
A new dental clinic has been introduced at La Colmena. This, together with the computer centre, is helping to ensure the sustainability of the work. Recently, the school at San Rafael has been added to the La Colmena Computer Centre operation.
An exciting innovation now being used is a hand pump producing compressed air, rather like a bicycle pump, linked to dental tools, such as drills. Wearing a belt similar to a carpenter’s tool belt this simple technology enables a dentist to make house calls and operate when electricity is not available.
At Quito Sur, the clothing factory continues to do well and is being expanded in a second phase of funding. One of the original employees who moved to another area has been responsible for the setting up of a new outpost where already a thriving home league (women’s group) has been established and five senior soldiers (full members of The Salvation Army) have been enrolled. At Guamote, where a cow bank is being started, there are already more than 100 people in attendance at Sunday services in the grass and mud hut that serves as a corps building. Again, these examples provide clear evidence of how development projects are furthering the Army’s mission.
A further example of the impact of The Salvation Army upon communities is seen at the Colegio Palaci in Vitarte, Peru. The Salvation Army in Sweden has provided much of the funding for the rebuilding and renovation of the school. Tremendous progress has been made under the direction of Captain Arturo Escobar. The professionalism and enthusiasm of the teaching staff is apparent and community leaders are quick to express their appreciation for the opportunities being given to their children.
Canadian funds have complemented the work of Swedish Salvationists in providing for a new fully-equipped computer laboratory that has made state of the art technology accessible to students during the day and to adults in the evenings – also generating income.
Finally, in working with territorial leadership to build the capacity of the territory’s officers, two seminars have been provided in Santiago, Chile, to train personnel in community needs assessment and the writing of development project proposals, as well as managing and reporting on projects.
These seminars have been the culmination of training programmes begun in 1998 in partnership with SAADO. Of particular note was that Oswald Malunda, Project Officer for the Tanzania Command, was on the facilitating team in Santiago, sharing his expertise with delegates.
We can achieve so much more if we are prepared to work in partnership with communities and with other donor territories. More importantly, we can build the Kingdom as we work towards the achievement of our mission. As St Francis so aptly expressed it: ‘Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.’
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All the World
Tell a Friend
© 2013 The Salvation Army