One of the things that is very important to us in terms of the sustainability of our work here in Haiti has to do with community participation. When the local community participates in the development of a project, both in terms of planning and implementation, the project is more likely to succeed over the long term, because they are motivated to see results from their own efforts continue far into the future. They take ownership of the project and treat it as if it’s theirs. This is known as community sustainability, and is based on community participation, which has to be cultivated from the start of a project. This is opposed to the “hand-out” mentality, where those responsible for a project come into a community and announce that they are there to do a project. In this situation, the community plays no active role in the process, and dependency is created, rather than empowerment.
The community needs and resource assessment we are presently conducting helps us to have a better understanding of the issues related to health care availability, barriers to access of care, and overall health needs in the communities. Once this information is summarized, it will help us as we develop our programs and decide our priorities of service. But, it also helps to begin the process of community participation and, hopefully, long-term community sustainability.