I’m in Guatemala, scouting for an upcoming one-hour public television special — and today I had the honor of sitting in on a powerful community gathering of hardworking farmers. I was brought here by Project Concern International, an NGO with a smart approach to development that focuses on empowering women, supporting farmers, and helping communities become self-sustaining.
A much-needed community center here costs about $3,500. (Meanwhile, my hometown is currently building one for 4,000 times that amount — and that’s considered a good value.) Societies develop better and faster when they can unleash people power. And people get power a lot more easily when they have a place to meet. Today, as I watched this community gather to share their little triumphs, one proud citizen at a time, I was struck by the shack that used to be their center — and how just a little money gave them a nice, new cinderblock center.
Pride and dignity give people reason to hope, and give a community energy. These are intangibles — but in struggling communities, they create desperately needed tangible results.