Late last year, we asked ourselves some hard questions as we clarified our models and measured our programs with our vision. As we continue to grow as an organization, we must make adjustments in each season to ensure that every area of ministry is growing and flourishing. We are continually pruning and making adjustments to keep models healthy, thriving, and helping children. Last year, this conversation started around the topic of “education.” For decades we’ve poured ourselves into some incredible models of education that had a massive impact. The world is vastly different than when we began this journey, and our focus on education no longer seems to hit our mark. We all agree that education is a vital part in helping at-risk children within communities. However, the availability and access to education is rapidly changing. The need for education is still there, but the part we are addressing feels larger than education. We needed a broader and more encompassing term for the changes we were noting. Our quest began to find a word to express this intangible concept of men and women investing in their communities to bring about change.
In some communities, this looks like pre-primary education to help unlock the trap of poverty. In other communities, it looks like mentorship programs or after-school programs. It looks like concerned citizens actively engaged in building their local communities, investing in the next generation, and making their communities a better place to live. As we began to dig into the research and noted trends, the conversation became wider; and suddenly, so many areas of outreach began to fall together. Then we found a definition from the UN that made us stop in our tracks.
This is the very thing we have seen play out 1,000 times over in programs all over the world. This term, “Community Development”, is you. It’s your commitment to helping at-risk children in your community and around the world. It’s the company that volunteers their staff's time to take part in a local project. It’s the warehouse and millions of dollars of gifts-in-kind leveraged in the community to help those truly in need in a grassroots, super effective way. As the dots connected and the larger picture began forming, we all agreed. It was time to replace “Education” (in our 4 main program areas) with “Community Development.” Education is now a part of Community Development, which encompasses more children across a variety of communities.
2020 has offered us so many opportunities to lean into this new definition of Community Development; and has inspired and encouraged us in the midst of a really hard year. In moments of crisis, we get to see so many of you lean in and start asking, “What can I do? How can I help?” We also get to see you faithfully invest in helping others, even while facing uncertainty yourself.
It is because of you, that all of this is possible. So, thank you. Thank you for investing in the neighbors around you and thank you for being an integral part in developing your community.