Thursday, April 30, 2009

History Lessons

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development

Note: This is the fourth entry from Jason’s trip to the Philippines.

It’s amazing what you can learn from history, and how relevant those lessons can be for today. The challenges are constant, but the people trying to break through those challenges changes over the years. Separated by generations, it’s only through historical records that we can create that sense of connection and feel the commonality of our struggles. Christian Children's Fund staff moved from orphanages as the program model to a community-based approach named "The Family Helper Project." Lessons were learned along the way.

One of my favorites is this quote from a colleague I worked with when I first came to CCF, who retired a number of years ago: "The assumption is that the beneficiary – a young mother, for example – can’t make decisions for herself; she needs a caseworker to get approval from if she wants to spend money for this or for that. The caseworker approach assumes that the individuals and families being aided are dysfunctional. In those days, we did not realize that what people need most is control over their own lives. In most cases, it is the absence of such control that causes dysfunction.”

"The emphasis was on what we could do for them. There was little thought of encouraging people to do something for themselves. We did not understand that in order to maximize our resources, the best thing would have been to get these people working together from the start. They were capable of doing that, but somehow we saw them as 'cases'. We had caseworkers. They would go out and deliver the money to the families. There was very little interaction between the families."

Our generation of CCF carries forward this intention, and we have voiced it as one of the results we seek as a global organization. If infants are to be healthy and secure, children to be educated and confident, and youth to be skilled and involved, families and local organizations must be networked in their communities and promote the development and protection of children.

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