What is Community Development?


For the two years, Eric McClellan has served youth leaders in  Dallas, Texas area by helping them plan their 30 Hour Famine event, speaking at churches, and connecting with youth.  Today Eric tells us about the meaning of community development.

Some people use words that flat out confuse me.  Medical words like “ablation,” engineering words like “EurIng,” and business speak like “broker” all draw a look of confusion on my face. These are technical words that are only used by industry insiders.  “Community development” is one such phrase. In the relief and development world, community development generally means improving conditions within a group of people. For World Vision the phrase carries more specific meaning. We feed the hungry; quench the thirsty; educate learners; help boost local economies; and develop safe, clean health and hygiene practices.

Does community development still sound abstract and impersonal?  Here’s more:

We Feed the Hungry (Food)

What if your entire family faced danger in your community? It’s not that the neighbors are threatening you, or that your nation is at war. You’re just hungry. And thirsty. And you can’t do anything about it. So you leave. And you walk for weeks. You, your parents, and your grandparents.

A similar story belongs to Mohamed, a 76 year old grandmother. She fled Somalia because the land lacked food and water. When she walked for days and finally arrived at the Dadaab refugee camp inKenya, she found food. She and thousands of other’s – including many children at Dadaab – are facing death due to hunger, but are receiving nutritious food and life saving care through World Vision.

We Quench the Thirsty (Clean Water)

Imagine walking four miles every day of your life to gather your daily supply of water. You trek for hours through tough terrain. And once you arrive, you scoop dirty, disease-ridden water out of a muddy creek bed. You use this filthy water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Sabina, a mother of three living inKenya, lived a life exactly like this. As a child, she never even attended school because she didn’t have time – she needed the water. As she grew older, she carried 70 pounds of water on her back every day from the creek bed to her home. She even made the trek the day she gave birth. Sometimes her children fell ill to disease because of the filthy water.

Then, earlier this year, World Vision completed an irrigation system that provided Sabina and her neighbor with water spigots. Clean water. Accessible water. Now, Sabina’s children have time to attend school.  And now, Sabina and her family live free from the fear of water-borne illness.

We Educate Learners (Education)

Because her family lacked the funds to support her, Khoun Kheo stopped going to school after second grade.  In a village in Laos, Khoun now attends a literacy class through World Vision where she is learning how to read and write – two skills that will dramatically improve the quality of her life. When men and women learn to read and write, they can read laws, regulations, and loan agreements. As informed citizens, they can protect themselves and their families from oppression and contribute to society in new ways.

We Develop Local Economies (Microenterprise Development)

In Rwanda, a woman named Angela owns a small clothing business. Her town lacks the infrastructure to help her business grow. She can’t walk to a bank and take out a loan to buy new equipment. In spite of these obstacles, Angela is determined to improve her business and provide for her children. World Vision pairs entrepreneurs like Angela with loan opportunities by introducing a donor in the US to Angela. Through a small donation to World Vision Micro, this donor is providing funds to help Angela get her business up and running. Angela will now be able to support her family and contribute to the growth of her local economy as a result.

We Develop Health and Hygiene Practices (Sanitation/Hygiene)

Rowena, a mother of five, lives in the Philippines. In her community, it is not uncommon for a woman to birth 10 children. Because the community misunderstands aspects of nutrition, disease prevention, and how to treat illness, children are often sick. Thankfully, mothers and community members can learn better hygienic practices through classes taught by World Vision. Instead of caring for children using leaves and herbs, parents learn to practice sanitation and the basics of disease care and prevention.  Rowena can now provide for her family’s health in ways she couldn’t before, and she teaches others to do the same.

We take a holistic approach to helping a community stand on its own two feet. Through food, water, sanitation/hygiene, medical care, education, and business opportunities, World Vision’s community development model is designed to improve the life of the children and families who live there and the generations to come as they step out of poverty, and into a healthy future.