What is the impact of Church and Community Mobilisation?

Through Church and Community Mobilisation (CCM), communities grow in their resilience, taking the initiative to solve their own and other’s problems, recognising and strengthening their skills and capacities, and speaking out and influencing others. The impact of this approach depends on the communities’ own priorities but includes the following areas:

Improved resilience

The true test of resilience, is what happens when an NGO has left – is the community able to take the initiative and solve their own problems? Or do they wait for the next NGO to arrive?

Four years after Eagles last worked with Kamkwere village, Eagles visited to find out what had happened. They discovered that the work in the community was not only being sustained but had widened and developed significantly!  In the intervening years, the community had identified other issues and had taken action.

The previous year, the village began their biggest project to date, to tackle the increasing effects of climate change. Raphael, one of the facilitators that Eagles had trained, explained: “We saw that rainfall was now unpredictable and that affected the food availability in our village. So the community met together to discuss ideas. We decided to dig something to catch rainwater. So now even if the rains fail, we can still water our crops and get a harvest.” At the time of this visit, the earth tank was 21m long, 16m wide and 2m deep. Crops and animals are now thriving as the village can irrigate at all times of year, ensuring that no one goes hungry. And their plans continue! According to Raphael, “We are now planning to expand it and bring in fish to provide added income.”

Six months later, their fish business was up and running, one of the biggest income earners in the community. They sell their fish in their own community and beyond, earning money to pay for their children’s school fees and medical care. This year, they plan to dig the pond deeper, to make it secure against droughts and enable them to keep more fish. Raphael says, “You have no idea what you did for our community when you helped us develop out vision! We are all busy with that vision and this work is what we agreed to do to contribute to the fulfilment of our vision.”

We saw that rainfall was now unpredictable and that affected the food availability in our village. So the community met together to discuss ideas.

Improved relationships

Families often hide away children born with disabilities in Malawi. Fathers frequently abandon their children, causing further stress to the mother and increasing their poverty. While official data records disability prevalence in Malawi at 3% among children, our work reveals it as much higher. The disparity in data demonstrates the extent of the stigma.

Research shows that these children are 3 to 4 times more likely to experience violence than their peers. 80% of them live in poverty, causing developmental delays because of poor nutrition, healthcare, and parental mental health. A national survey in 2016-17 also identified that those with disabilities experience higher levels of discrimination, abuse and poverty, and lower access to education, paid work, healthcare and other services.

Eagles’ mobilisation process directly challenges perceptions of disability through Bible studies and participatory activities. One of the most helpful is 'Take a Step’, where people from the community each take on a character. They respond to a series of statements and take a step where their character would answer "yes" - such as, "you have completed primary school". As some move forwards and those with a disability are left behind, a clear visual picture appears and builds empathy. People realise how much those with a disability are left out of community life. As a result, when they create their community action plan, they tackle this exclusion. Eagles also encourage people living with a disability to create their own ‘Scale of Participation.’ This helps to identify where the church and community are now and how improvements could be made.

Following Eagles' training, Thete Living Waters Church saw their love for God and for the most vulnerable as inseparable. They determined to ensure children with disabilities were included in family life and able to access education. Now they work with parents and schools while church volunteers offer personal tuition to the children. They also consulted an NGO with expertise in disability to ensure the children get the full care they need.

Yankho, 15, and his sister Chimwemwe, 11, were stuck in a class of 5-year-olds. Their mother, Ellen, had given up on their future. Then the church came alongside with holistic support. Both returned to school, helped by the volunteers, and passed their first exams, The NGO helped Ellen to understand her children better and to know how best to care for them. The church also helped her to begin a small business so she could create a stable home life.

People realise how much those with a disability are left out of community life.

Improved environment

Mobilised by Eagles, churches and communities are taking action in many ways to increase their disaster resilience:

Energy-efficient stoves: The churches at Kachenyu are promoting the use of energy efficient stoves in order to reduce the demand for firewood and conserve trees. They are also encouraging reforestation and working with community leaders to ensue forests are cared for. Group Village Headman Chizumba Ngulube, a powerful traditional leader, praised the churches’ work, grateful that people are using less firewood and saving women time searching for it.

Tree-planting: frequent floods erode and degrade the soil in Malawi, making it impossible to get good harvests. Trees not only anchor the soil, but also provide a physical barrier to flood water that protects crops and houses. Many churches have taken action to protect local forests and plant more trees. Just these three churches have planted nearly 20,000 trees by working with their communities:

  • In Lusangazi, the church worked with the community and forest department and planted over 10,000 seedlings. They distributed them to 100 households within the area, six local churches and the community forest to care for.
  • In Kasungu, Ntunthama church raised a nursery of 3000 trees to plant.
  • Kaphatenga Living Waters Church successfully advocated to the government for 5000 tree seedling which they planted with their community to protect homes from wind and farms from erosion. The church also planted additional fruit trees.

Suffering from floods every year, Benga Living Waters Church decided to use Eagles’ training to map their local areas with their community, identify the places most at-risk and take action together. Church members went around their community helping people to assess whether their houses would be able to withstand flood-waters and wind in the coming rainy season. The church repaired the house of an elderly person and mobilised the community to improve the drainage system.

Unlike past years, in the next rainy season, no houses collapsed. Delighted, they now do this every year.

Many churches have taken action to protect local forests and plant more trees. Just these three churches have planted nearly 20,000 trees by working with their communities

Improved standard of living

Inspired by Eagles, the pastor of Nanjiri determined to fight poverty within his community in a way that brought about self-reliance rather than creating dependency.  He trained those interested in his congregation in budgeting and business management. This group started a business together to earn enough capital to each set up on their own. The group learned to bake from a man in a neighbouring village and make and sell them twice a week, saving all the money. In a couple of months, they will have enough for every member of the group to take a loan to begin their own business.

The business training enables widows, among the most vulnerable in the community, to become independent. Hendrina Forster, a widow who cares for an orphaned child, joined the group because she wanted to support herself, rather than depending on the charity of her three adult sons. Proudly independent, she states: “Now I will be able to support myself and the orphan that I care for.”

Christine Mwanza, another widow, desperately needed money to care for her 3 children. “Before, my children did not have food, clothes, soap or exercise books for school. With my business, I can support them.”

Each week, the business group give money to support the poorest in the church: the elderly, widows and orphans who cannot care for themselves. Once each member has their own business, they will still continue baking, purely to provide for these vulnerable groups. Grateful for the way that the business has transformed their lives, the group is eager to serve the community in whatever way they can.

Before, my children did not have food, clothes, soap or exercise books for school. With my business, I can support them

Improved health

Families in Chilowosi village have never had clean water. From the first settlers in 1949 to the 400 people that now live there, they have been forced to rely on a stream – unpredictable water levels and high risk of disease. Then, trained by Eagles, two determined women from a local church invested days of their own time and money that they could not spare to confront corrupt government officials and bring water to their entire village.

Ezelina Bikausi had been thrilled to hear in a local development planning meeting with the government that her village of Chilowosi had been chosen for a borehole! It seemed like a dream come true – after 70 years of battling diseases and water shortages, they would finally be able to provide for their families! She eagerly awaited the promised borehole… and waited… and still waited.

One year on, patience evaporated and Ezelina decided to act. She remembered from Eagles’ training that God calls His people to seek justice for their communities, that it is a form of worship. So she and a friend went to ask the village chief why there had been the delay. He told them to wait, but Ezelina answered: “We can’t wait any more! A year has passed – something must be wrong.”

So the women went to the group village headman, responsible for several villages including their own, and received the same response. Their next attempt was the Traditional Authority who claimed to be unable to help and told them to consult the District Commissioner (DC), head of the local government. The DC referred them to the water board, who gave them the contact of a specific official. All the while, these two women had been using their scarce money for transport and losing time that they could have spent in their many other tasks. Their ordeal continued. The official ignored their calls for days, claiming to be too busy. Running out of options, the women kept talking to whoever they could, desperate to find answers.

Their persistence paid off. The official, worried by the rumours going around about him blocking Chilowosi village from having a borehole, finally asked to meet the women. The confronted him directly, asking why the government money set aside for a borehole in their village had not resulted in anything and explaining their desperate need simply and plainly. At first, he was evasive, but the women assured him that they would keep pushing until they uncovered the truth. They told him, “We are like mourners. You can’t stop us crying. If you gave us our water in the first place, things would not have gone down this way.” Reluctantly, the official revealed that, in a corrupt deal, the Traditional Authority had diverted the borehole to another community. Terrified of the story spreading, the official promised that the next time they received funding for boreholes, Chilowosi village would be first.

Thanks to two women’s courage, tenacity and refusal to remain silent about injustice, their entire village have fresh, clean water! Ezelina’s joy is unbounded. She is so grateful to the training that gave her the confidence to act:  “As a facilitator, there are a number of ways of solving a problem. Some problems have to be solved by us doing something. Others need to be solved by advocacy. And this one needed that path.”

She eagerly awaited the promised borehole… and waited… and still waited. One year on, patience evaporated and Ezelina decided to act.

Improved education

Unable to attend school, Daniel’s future looked bleak. But now he has hope: “I am so happy!” he says joyfully, swinging round the pole on the veranda of the new village school.

Before Eagles began working with Alawe village, very few children could attend school as it was so far away. Instead, many had to work, often labouring long hours shepherding goats and other animals. Challenged by Eagles’ training in God’s heart for the most vulnerable, an innovative group of pastors determined to end child labour and ensure every boy and girl has an education. “Now they are all in school!” announces Effie Phiri, a church member, delighted with their achievement.

The village had begged the government for years to build a school but without success. Dispirited and disillusioned, they did not know where to turn. However, Eagles used Bible studies to challenge and transform their thinking. Pastor Chidule says: “From the Bible studies, we learned we could use resources that we have in our community. We also learned how important it is to help the needy. We learned from Eagles how to work together as a church and community.”

Effie adds: “Instead of doing nothing, we asked ourselves, ‘How long will we wait? Let’s do what we can!’”

One church lent its building to provide a temporary school and in 2016 community volunteers began teaching the 275 primary-age children! Meanwhile, all the churches and villages around joined together to build their own school. They contributed sand, moulded bricks and their own labour, while the church generously raised money for other materials. Local government began to help, once they saw the villages’ commitment. They sent people to give advice on the building and promised to supply the school with government teachers once it was completed.

Effie says passionately. “In the future, we’ll have educated children because of our school! They will be able to find jobs and to take care of their own lives!”

In the future, we’ll have educated children because of our school!
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