To those who are interested in community based approaches and people centred approaches to development, to those who wish to challenge their thinking on disability and development with ideas of “wholeness” and mission, please visit us over the next few days. I am updating about a Global Connections Conference I went to which looked at:
“Mission at the Heart of the Church, the Church at the Heart of Mission”
We arrived on Wednesday evening and began intensive group work pretty much straight away. My group is was small, which was a great bonus and we started by discussing the impact of short term missions – sending out qualified medical personnel to work alongside local communities to build local capacity and in some cases plug a service gap in the medical system. As an organisation, CBM pushes a partnership approach, which we believe encourages long term development and sustainability. As an individual, I baulk at the idea of short term missions as it harks back to horrid images of pith helmets and Captain Kurtz. Obviously this is melodramatic, and people have big hearts and intentions for good.
The discussion was great! There were people there who completely advocated for short term missions, and they defended their positions through sound needs assessments and invitations from communities on the ground for specialist interventions. There were others who really see short term missions as one step away from imperialism and defended this viewpoint by arguing that ‘we’ are causing more harm than good and that we must step away from this “gap year” culture, and “doing development” that they feel permeates some mission and development work. They see short term missions as a naïve and somewhat selfish undertaking that is more for the individual going on the mission; for their own cultural and spiritual gain; than for the communities these people are going to serve.
I don’t know what people think about this – it is the age old discussion about relief vs. development. In some of the poor countries of the world, there are not the resources to provide health care, education, good hygiene and sanitation…..what is the NGO role in that? What is our responsibility? How do we fulfil our mandate, but not interfere? I heard yesterday someone ask, “How do we avoid using the word “partnership” to peddle our own ideologies?”
In the evening, we had a talk from an amazing lady, Elaine Storkey, who is the President of Tearfund – she spoke about wholeness of the body and using our gifts and looking at how all our body parts have different functions to make a whole. This speaks volumes about CBM’s passion for inclusion of people with disabilities as members of society and our responsibility to change attitudes and break down barriers for participation.
I’ll be getting all the great presentations to put up on DM and writing down my thoughts over the next few days. Please feel free to comment. I don’t necessarily agree with everything that is said, so I’m sure you won’t either.