Whether it be countries or their people, we are all active in the pursuit to better our standard of living. However, the likelihood of our success is linked to the communities we live in. For example, you could have a beautiful house, fully furnished to your comfort. But, if the location of the house is in a community with an alarmingly high crime rate, your standard of living is bound to be affected no matter how nice the place.
In other words, in order for a country to be successful as a whole, we must first have thriving communities. So how do we go about achieving that? This is where community development comes in. Community development at its core is about building communities through practices geared towards enhancing communities, inherently making them stronger and much more resilient.
Since a nation is nothing without its people, it’s entirely crucial that the needs of citizens are being met, be it low crime rates, employment opportunities, homelessness prevention or even reducing the spread of diseases.
The latter being extremely relevant to the current climate. A perfect example of this would be the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona USA, this indigenous tribe slowed the spread of the COVID-19 virus and helped reduce death rates through a combination of intense contact tracing, surveillance of high-risk individuals and vaccinations.
What makes this truly inspiring is that the White Mountain Apache Tribe is a marginalised community that faces systematic and health inequalities, with multiple generations all living under one roof, making them one of the most at-risk communities. Their success in curbing the virus and reducing death rates, far better than most US states, within their community can be accredited to working together and ensuring consistency in their efforts, even after death rates had significantly reduced.
You might not be able to control all the bad things happening around you. For instance, a widespread pandemic, but what you can control is how you react to them. Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he said “Do what you can with what you have, where you are.”
In our years in community development, we live by this philosophy, we believe community development starts with us as individuals. It’s the act of intentionally and collectively working together to enhance our cities and the communities within them.
Our Beyond Bins initiative is a great example of this belief. We aim to accommodate communities with recycling opportunities and simultaneously allowing them to make a small income from their efforts. With the current climate and people struggling to stay afloat, the need for alternative skills and practices to make ends meet has become more apparent than ever. With our Beyond Bins initiative, we not only intend to educate and create a sustainability mindset but also improve the standard of living of marginalised communities in Malaysia.
Similarly, we actively stand for the protection of Malaysian students be it physical, mental or even emotional well being. Our commitment is reflected in signing a pledge to stand in solidarity with students and call for an overhaul of the school counselling system. This plea for assistance was brought on by students dealing with dismissive attitudes and school systems failing in their counselling services. Ignorance and lack of initiative in providing proper counselling can be damaging and lead to a loss of trust in the system. By pushing for change we will be able to safeguard the youth and enable an empowered generation with a strong support system.
Successful community development calls for collaborative efforts among stakeholders, with the common goal of working towards defining and solving issues within a community. Community development is not predominantly efforts by the government, rather the private sectors within a community getting involved and taking action. For example, private organisations and even you. You can pursue the goal of development within your community.
Community development initiatives can come in many forms…
- There are tons of volunteering opportunities across Malaysia that you can pursue—teach an English class, take part in recycling projects, help renovate a school in a marginalised community, drive awareness for a disease campaign and many more. As a volunteer, you would contribute to bettering the lives of the underprivileged and help improve their standard of living. An important thing to remember is that grassroots initiatives would not be successful without volunteers like you.
- We’re all familiar with the English proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” That is the power of education—eradicating poverty through self-sufficiency. Education is one of the most significant contributing factors to the development of a community and a country. Through quality education systems come employment and income opportunities, increased productivity and overall higher standards of living.
- An example of this would be Mereka Scholarship Opportunities. Through Mereka Scholarship opportunities. We want to help the youth market their skills and leverage digital platforms to get jobs in this crazy emerging digital economy.
- Sign petitions
- It’s understandable to not trust the impact of a petition. After all the act requires very little effort and almost feels self-serving, in the sense of making us feel good, rather than making a difference. But trust the process! The impacts of online petitions are far-reaching and mean a lot more than immediate results. In 2020 for instance a petition to expedite the Sexual Harassment Bill, signed by 512 Malaysians, was read in parliament, urging the house to consider the seriousness of the matter and its impact on the country.
Investing time and effort into community development is increasingly important because it provides the foundation cities are built on to improve the welfare of their citizens. Building strong and thriving communities attracts potential talent, business opportunities and overall prosperity. However, change is inevitable and with it comes new challenges. Community development should not be viewed as a solution to the problems a community faces, but rather a way to improve lives and nourish resilient communities capable of facing adversities. As without it, economic growth and success are hindered.