What is Community Engagement?
Unfortunately, there is no uniform description, because there are different explanations depending on the program. But roughly speaking, the aim is to work together with locals and international volunteers to carry out actions that have a positive impact on the welfare and life of the local community. A great aspect of the program is that everything happens with the involvement of the locals. The projects are not only designed together with the locals, but also implemented into action with them. This should above all strengthen the local community and reactivate it. All should recognize that a lot can be achieved with a common vision and that it is important to remain active.
The Cornerstone of Community Programs
During the projects the members of the community build closer relationships as they interact more with one another. Of course, relationships are also built between all participants in the program. You will not only be creating bonds, you’ll also dive deeper into the culture and way of life.
Pursue Common Goals
The goals to be achieved within these programs are set by the locals themselves and then supported by the volunteers - the projects are not simply set up by outsiders, but are directly created from the locals requests.
There must be a balance between resources and benefits. In other words, materials, the voluntarily employed labor force and time of the help and the local people must be used economically, so that they have a lasting effect.
What are Typical Community Engagement Programs?
All community programs have one thing in common: to improve the living conditions and future of the locals and to reactivate the community. However, it is not a goal to impose or implement the Western standard of living. Community engagement programs can be found in Bali, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Madagascar.
Construction projects are also being developed within the framework of many community engagement programs. Together with the locals and volunteers, it is decided on which points the infrastructure can be improved and the resources to be used. The construction or renovation of new educational institutions is one example of these projects. The locals supply the plan and blueprints and the labor force is increased by the international volunteers.
Teach English in Schools
In these programs volunteers are mostly used as teachers in preschools, kindergartens, primary schools or high schools. It is strictly reinforced that no one goes into class unprepared. The volunteers are assigned classes and have to prepare themselves for a particular topic before the lesson. The curriculum is given by the local teachers, and it is at the very least noted which class is at what level. This ensures that the volunteers do not teach twice and the children learn new things.
These programs are mainly taught in elementary schools and high schools within an after-school program, as they are not part of the normal curriculum. The aim here is to help the pupils build a closer relationship with their surroundings and nature. In addition, they should be made aware of why the environment is to be preserved, and that the future of our planet is in their hands.
In addition to classroom teaching, a large part of the program also consists of practical learning activities. There may be “Clean Up's”, organized at school or on the beach, for example, or excursions to garbage dump to show the children what is actually happening with the garbage. In addition, volunteers are taught how to differentiate between the different types of waste, and the approaches to sustainable waste disposal, which is also known as waste management.
These programs are organized mainly for primary schools, in order to make children aware of the importance of good hygiene. As a volunteer, it is important to understand that it is not possible to introduce a uniform standard because of the varying local conditions. First, the traditions must be understood, in order to check where more hygiene is necessary and feasible. This can be better understood by means of an example:
Example 1: In many countries of Asia the children have to shake hands with the teachers when entering the classes.
False: It would be wrong to abolish this because the welcome is part of the culture and shows respect from pupil to the teacher.
Correct: Show the children to wash their hands with soap before the welcome. For this purpose sinks are being built in schools.
Example 2: In countries like Indonesia or the Philippines many people eat with their hands.
False: Teaching the use of cutlery.
Correct: Before each meal teach to thoroughly wash hands and explain why this is important.