New Eyes to See With
In tiptoeing my way into the world of global development, one of the concepts this Modern Day Church Lady (MDCL) learned about was asset-based community development. Asset-based development seeks out local assets and builds upon them rather than importing a solution that may have worked elsewhere.
As I shot a promotional video for Haitian Artisans for Peace International (HAPI) in Haiti, one of the things I have come to appreciate about HAPI is how it promotes change by working with the local culture, not against it or in ignorance of it. HAPI is run on the ground in Haiti by Haitians and in the US by Valerie Mossman Celestin who has been working on and off in Haiti for over 15 years.
Take HAPI’s approach to improving maternity care for example. In developed nations like the United States, birth happens in a hospital. So the goal of many of the US based NGOs is to encourage women in Haiti to give birth at a hospital or a clinic. Makes sense, it really is the safest way to give birth and God knows, Haiti needs more clinics and hospitals.
In fact that’s why HAPI built the Felisane clinic, so women can deliver their baby accompanied by a skilled nurse. But in rural Haiti, many women can’t even afford the relatively low delivery price of the Felisane clinic. So they turn to local midwives.
Using my US-based MBA marketing mode of thinking, HAPI’s path would be clear; focus all their resources promoting the Felisane clinic as the superior choice over midwife assisted delivery. After all, most midwives in rural Haiti just learned the craft on the job.
But that MBA mode ignores a deeply rooted Haitian custom and totally discounts the value of the existing midwife network. Luckily HAPI is smarter than me and provides local midwives with extensive training in addition to providing delivery services at the Felisane clinic.
Working in Haiti has opened my eyes to new ways of thinking. Hopefully I can apply this new asset-based lens to other parts of my work and life.