25 May 2012

Short-term missions...Long-term effects?

Recently Charlie and I were asked to contribute to World Vision Canada's French publication on development issues and church involvement. We were asked a number of questions on short-term missions, a subject about which we have much to say! The whole issue will soon be available (although only in French) here. We wrote our submission initially in English, so here it is!

Q: What is it like to receive short-term mission groups?  

Receiving short-term mission groups takes a lot of work on the part of the receiving organization, in terms of preparing for the group, hosting and leading the group, and often in catching up on missed work after the group has gone. There is a lot of preparation that goes into hosting a group that the traveling team is not aware of. If a host organization does not have an assigned short-term mission coordinator, which some do, other project staff will probably have to work overtime to prepare for and accommodate a visiting team.

We have heard from various field workers (both local and expat) that the groups who visit their programs often promise continued support, such as staying in touch, raising funds, or raising awareness; however, in the majority of cases, organizations never hear from these visitors again. Thus, the time spent with the visitors ends up being an investment on the part of the host organization with no long-term positive effects.

Q: What makes a successful cross-cultural experience?

A cross-cultural experience, especially if it is a first encounter with a particular culture or country, will be successful if the traveler goes with a learning spirit and an attitude of humility. When groups return from a short-term mission saying, "We met this person... We learned about this issue...," these are often the groups that have a lasting positive outlook of their experience and the culture they encountered, rather than groups who only report on what they did. Going only to do makes a team work on outcomes rather than relationships, which turns their focus inward and closes them off to discovering and learning from new experiences.

Q: What do Christian leaders need to know before planning a trip?

Before planning a trip, Christian leaders should know the answers to these two questions.  How will you ensure your trip has a lasting, meaningful effect? What are the skill sets that your group possesses, and how will you use them effectively?

The purpose of the first question is to think through why you want to go. If building a long term, lasting relationship between your community and the host community is not a top priority, this is an indicator that your trip is being dreamed up for personal reasons. If you want to share experiences with a group, and plan to encourage your team to become advocates, raise awareness or build a relationship with another community when they get back, you have the right idea, keep going.

The purpose of the second question is to make certain you are using your skills wisely. People often think that in order to do a mission trip properly, they need to build something, or that they need to manage a project. In fact, around the world there is a great need for teachers, technicians, graphic artists, and many other skills that we have and that we use on a daily basis. Finding an organization that will allow your team to use the skills they have developed over their lifetimes will help to create meaningful work for your team, will fill actual gaps for the host organization, and will help to develop deeper relationships.

Q: What are the dangers of not taking the time to plan appropriately?

A common assumption by short term mission teams, is that the first thing on their to-do list is to raise money for travel. In fact, there are many more important things to do to plan for a short-term mission trip, such as exploring team's members' reasons for going, setting goals for the trip, learning about the host country and preparing for culture shock, discussing whether a trip is really the best way to steward your funds, and, then, raising money not only for your travel costs, but also to donate to the host organization's projects.

When a group does not plan appropriately, and has not adequately thought through their goals for the trip, members of the group can lose sight of the big picture and spend much of the trip being overwhelmed by unexpected events. If the group has prepared, maintains an attitude of flexibility, and focuses more on walking alongside people, rather than going to do work for people, than even big changes in circumstances will not ruin the trip, but add to the learning experience.

22 May 2012

Spring blooms new life.

Green, a color which signifies growth, filled the room of our annual Chab Dai member meeting. I could not help but notice it was a color that suited the past two days, as our members have shown countless sprouts grounded in community and family focused care. Members from Hagar, Transitions, and Sunshine Cambodia began our conference by sharing new strategies on how to incorporate community focused care. During the process of rehabilitation, it is the right of the child to be nurtured and supported by family; this was the theme firmly planted in the past two days by all presenting organizations.

Community connections between local and governmental organizations were strengthened over sips of coffee, bites of lunch, and in small groups during the speed networking session. As the Global Learning Community has noticed, it is time we stop the duplicity of effort and work together. By sharing our experiences, we are saving time, energy, and precious resources. 

The green shoots of growth continued to present themselves as participants welcomed two new Steering Committee Members and the new medical support team, Dr. Sapna Jain & Dr. Kathrine Welch. I learned the steering Committee Members will have the responsibility of supervising overall management and operations of Chab Dai. And the medical support pilot program will commence visits to numerous rehabilitation centers in order to educate social workers on how to best advise clients during a health crisis. International directors from US and Canada offices also presented on the extension of its vast network through the Freedom Registry project. 

After two days of lectures, I am greatly encouraged by the upward growth of Chab Dai. Meeting passionate members and hearing well educated research has remind me that we are all together in this fight against trafficking. It is our community of compassionate hearts that will help shift the tide of trafficking. As the new social media intern for Chab Dai International, it will be my pleasure to update you on exactly how that growth progresses. I, Nikki, hope to meet you all in the months to come, until then if you have any questions, I am only an email away: communications@chabdai.org