Staff from our partner organization are reaching out to a Roma community in the south of Kyrgyzstan. Using good community development procedures, the staff first spoke with the mayor of the community, asking him which influential citizens could help them understand the needs and desires of the community. The mayor responded that he could tell them all they needed to know and that the biggest need was education for the children.
Our staff continued to follow good procedures and explained to the mayor the importance of community surveys. Such surveys help people identify what they long for and need, we told him. Then, when we offer our help, we’re not just imposing our own ideas on what they long for and need.
We were given permission to conduct the surveys. Initially, our staff only heard what seemed to be superficial needs. Better paved roads and a bigger school building were frequently mentioned. But our staff persevered in building relationships through repeated visits. As we kept listening, it became more apparent that the village was in despair because there was no work. And the reason there was no work was because there were not enough educational opportunities. Maybe the mayor was wiser than we thought.