By: Tamara Arredondo, Volunteer Coordinator
International development can be tricky. Citizens of developed nations often like to think that they know what’s best for communities in other countries without having a complete understanding of the environment. Many projects in the developing world are initiated by needs-assessments developed with foreign priorities. But Westerners should be careful not to impose our priorities and our culture on these nations, and rather aid development in a way that enhances the existing cultures.
International development could benefit from a more thoughtful approach. Before determining needs and solutions, we should be asking: What is the culture here? What is most important to the people? What systems do they have in place already? What are the obstacles (politics, resources, etc.) that exist? What do the locals see as their greatest needs? What technologies exist already in this area? How will this affect the various members of the community?
One way to ensure that the correct approach is taken is to pursue partnerships with organizations that are already doing important work in the particular community. I was lucky to observe Edge of Seven’s partnerships first-hand last fall. Having been involved with the organization for over a year, I’m familiar with all of the efforts that go on in the U.S. to make our projects a success and to educate others on the issues affecting girls and women in the developing world. But the partnerships that we form with local NGOs and organizations in the communities where we work are essential to making sure our projects are appropriately responding to needs—this is what drew me to Edge of Seven originally.
Collaborating with local Nepalese organizations allows Edge of Seven to maintain a community-focused approach – to know where the necessary resources are, how to communicate effectively with the people of the community, and to maintain the project site – all while being able to focus on providing the financial and volunteer support needed to complete each project. Because of this collaborative model, Edge of Seven is able to operate more efficiently and provide effective assistance to communities in need.