Reflexions on Community Development

As we near the beginning of another cohort of Village Earth’s Approaches to Community Development course, I reflect on recent stories in the media on international development, both negative and positive, that raise a number of interesting questions to explore. Of these, I will highlight two that I keep thinking about long after reading and listening to them.

The first, which received a lot of international press when the story broke back in June of this year, highlights questions of “white saviors,” practicing medicine without a license in a foreign country, and if these led to the death of more than 100 children. Renee Bach, as a recent college graduate from the United States, established a nonprofit in Uganda that treated malnourished children, and is now being sued for her actions by mothers of children who died at her center. As you read this article, what questions come to your mind? What lessons can be learned for those of us working internationally or interested in doing so?

This story is from the Irish Times, but there are many others including some that come to the defense of Ms. Bach. There is much to explore here!

The second piece is a radio story from Public Radio International’s show “This American Life.” In this segment, Botswana’s approach to bringing an end to tribalism in this diverse nation is explored through its policy of requiring teachers to relocate throughout the country in communities not of one’s tribe. The story follows the experiences of one teacher who, despite loving her job and life in a city, surrounded by friends and family and people of her own ethnic group, is required to teach in a rural community in a much different region than her own.  What this policy means to her personally, and its results nationwide, make an engaging story to enjoy and ponder.

I look forward to joining another group in our online class that starts in a few weeks to explore these and many other approaches to community development!


John S Straw, Village Earth Instructor