Choosing villages to partner with is a weighty decision made each year by our fantastic staff in Myanmar. Partnering with Shanta requires more than just picking villages that seem to have the most need, as we must also consider the likelihood of success. When our staff visit communities across Magwe and Southern Shan States looking for villages that would thrive in our development model, it is often difficult to choose between so many struggling villages. However, over the last 17 years, we have learned what Shanta Foundation’s model takes to be effective. Like any good partnership, both parties require specific abilities and actions.
One obstacle to a successful village partnership is a divided or conflicted village. Community-led development is difficult when animus and mistrust color the atmosphere of a village. In conflicted communities, villagers are reluctant or unable to work together for common solutions because they do not trust the motives or actions of their fellow villagers.
Similarly, if the villagers and “head-man” relationship is fraught with negativity or mistrust, it is difficult to rally the community around a joint effort. These villages would need a different type of intervention before we could be effective there.
One of our most important findings relates to villages where other charities or INGOs have operated. Given the prevalence of “handouts” as the modus operandi of many charities, philanthropies, NGOs, and government agencies, it is very difficult to implement our model where villagers have been habituated to handouts. Shanta’s model requires the community’s meaningful investments (time and money). We train and empower villagers to create their own solutions rather than offering “giveaways” like other organizations. In the latter model, gratification is easy and quick, but there is no holistic or sustainable remedy to poverty because the people haven’t been equipped to address their problems. Eventually, the benefactor moves on, and poverty resumes.
Although the choice is difficult, trial and error have clarified how we can best allocate funds to ensure that people can succeed within our model. And when one village thrives, often other villages notice and want to experience the same transformation. Then, they approach us and request a partnership!
Thank you for your support which allows us to offer this “path out of poverty” to villages across Myanmar…and soon, Zambia!
P.S. We currently have several unsponsored villages in Southern Shan State. That makes their situation incredibly precarious. Would you consider sponsoring one?