‘A pot should be a circle but not a square so that no one is stuck in its corners.’

– paraphrased unknown

Community empowerment could be compared to that cumulonimbus cloud that covers the sun: The greater the front builds up, the greater chance of an event like rain and/or thunder. Storms are powerful events that cool down the heat from the sun. Similarly, communities are quite a force when its members unite for a purpose. When enough motivation and purpose is built in this cloud of members, they make for a powerful storm to calm hot issues that arise. In today’s class, we discussed Vertical and horizontal approaches to assist communities and SHoWED, a tool for community empowerment.

SHoWED is a problem-solving tool for groups.  It’s an acronym:

S: See (Is everyone seeing the same issue?)

H: Happen (Is there a problem identified?)

O: Our (Is it relevant and reflect own experiences?)

W: Why (What causes it and what are consequences if nothing is done?)

E: Educate (How will we educate others about the issue?)

D: Do (what solutions are there and how do we act?)

We watched a video titled, ‘Who wants to Be a Volunteer?‘, as an example (I would suggest watching and trying this exercise briefly before reading this further. It’s four minutes short):


S: What I SEEN was a parody of the game show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” about a group of volunteers who went to “help” people in Africa. They tossed food, taught them to exercise, and took photos with them.

H: What was HAPPENING was that volunteers provided their own solutions to the issue of hunger and education.

O: It reflected my OWN experience with previous volunteer experiences: I have done short-term volunteers more for resume building and self-gain more than others needs.

W: WHY this volunteering happens, in my opinion, is because people are misguided in their purpose or not well prepared to help the community.

E: Training about the causes of poverty and hunger in Africa is a great way to EDUCATE people about the issue.

D: Providing self-sustainable resources and talking to people from that part of Africa prior to volunteering are things we can DO.

Perhaps you came up with similar and/or different ideas for each letter, but it can be a powerful tool to build a powerful storm. We proceeded to discuss two types of approaches: Vertical and horizontal approach.

The vertical approach involves resolving a specific issue and relies on external funding. This method best explains the example in the video. The volunteers went to a specific part of Africa, with a focus to feed and educate them. It’s not known who funded this, but it can be guessed that they won money from a gaming contest. While the vertical approach can be effective to solve short-term issues, it’s limiting and poorly monitored. For example, external funders will shift focus to other efforts too soon or won’t follow up. The horizontal approach is a community-focused alternative to these shortcomings.

Horizontal is a modern community empowerment approach. This approach prioritizes relationship building within a community. It is long-term and focuses on preventing issues. An example of this would be educating Africans to make their own ovens and cook utilizing resources they have, instead of giving them food that’s already prepared.


US intervention in Nicaragua

US first interest in this country began in the mid-1800s, which contemporaneously the Civil War and Gold Rush occurred. The Gold Rush consequently lead to a greater US interest to go to Latin America and economic gain. Lakes, rivers and other bodies of water that surround Nicaragua make it a feasible trade route. So, the US and Nicaragua Government agreed to a treaty, which grants rights to a transit route to Nicaragua.


The Beyond the Dispensary by Roy Shaffer,1986.AMREF

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