The drive went by very quickly as we stopped in the trading town of Bumala to drop our things at the hotel and then quickly were on our way to visit the board of trustees for the Akakuranut Development Trust (ADT), a former World Neighbors program partner.
Upon arrival, we were greeted very warmly by the ADT board. We then went into a meeting hall where they had gathered important members from their communities and those that had worked with World Neighbors in the past. We listened intently as they explained the long history that the community had with World Neighbors. They explained to us that the partnership started in 1989, when a small group of villagers began organizing themselves and a World Neighbors representative arrived offering assistance. From there they talked about all the tangible areas in which World Neighbors supported them, from capacity building in agriculture, livestock, organizational management, strategic planning, business management, financial management and computer skills, to the assistance they were given in establishing a cereal bank for their children's improved nutrition and the groundwork for a micro-finance initiative that has helped so many.
It was amazing to here about all the work that had taken place within this community over the years leading up to World Neighbors phasing out in 2004, but what was even more amazing were the stories of how peoples’ lives were changed and continued to improve after World Neighbors left.
One by one the community members stood from their wooden benches that filled the small, plain concrete meeting hall. They told their stories of how World Neighbors and ADT came together to lift this community out of despair. There were stories of how food used to last only a few months, but now they are healthy and full with plenty left over to sell for extra income. They talked with a beaming pride about the businesses they had started and the orphaned children that can now go to school and how even those living with HIV/AIDS had been thriving leaders of the community. It was truly inspiring to see the excitement on each one of their faces as they talked of their triumphs. Some old, some young, some women and some men but all were changed by their partnership with World Neighbors. The afternoon quickly passed away and we said goodbye for the day, but made plans to meet again the next morning at a home in one of the partners villages.
And now I will also say goodbye for now but want to leave you with my favorite quote of the day. "We were very thin and very small, but as you can see we are not anymore!"
- Patrick Evans