From the Field

Community Facilitators

Published December 22nd, 2016 in From the Field

These local heroes are good neighbors.

Sometimes heroes look just like the person next door. Sometimes the hero is the person next door. Community Facilitators (CFs) in Ethiopia are people who have volunteered for a great responsibility: to tell their neighbors about healthy hygiene and sanitation practices.

How they start: Lifewater field staff choose the CF from among the community members because they set a good example in their own household. Once they establish their own Health Home (latrine, drying rack, handwashing, safe water storage, and clean compound), they see the results pretty quickly. Everyone is healthier and strengthened with a new sense of pride and personal accomplishment; they did this themselves. Often we find that gratitude is a motivator for someone agreeing to be a CF, because when you experience something great you want to share it with others.

Lifewater field staff train the CFs in how to establish healthy homes and how to engage their neighbors. Together they set personal goals for the CF to reach, including how many of their neighbors to reach in a set time, and Lifewater staff meet with them regularly to see how they’re doing and what challenges they face.



What they do: CFs go home to home, helping families understand how their current behaviors affect their health and what they can change with the resources they have. CFs offer practical advice on how to construct a quality VIP latrine, dish-drying rack, and handwashing device with locally-available materials. They show families how to make water safer to drink and how to keep it safe until it’s used. They encourage families to keep clean compounds and keep their animals from spreading disease.

What’s at stake: Being a CF isn’t some cushy position of honor. It’s not reserved for the most powerful or educated. It’s true that their work saves lives, but the CFs bear a risk as well. They get discouraged. They face rejection. Their work requires convincing people to change, and that is not easy… anywhere. Lifewater staff are there to support them with tools and encouragement as well a measure their progress toward their goals.

In some cases, CFs are replaced. In the past few months in West Arsi, Ethiopia, two CFs were replaced because they “have lost acceptance” with their people. Lifewater staff have tools to share with CFs to help. Staff organize CF visits among different communities and CF group dialogues so they can keep each other accountable and share best practices.

This neighbor-to-neighbor interaction does a lot of great things. It makes the information more credible; you can’t fool someone who sees you every day.

It utilizes local genius; when each community has the freedom to adapt solutions to their own needs and resources, great ideas emerge. It helps sustainability; implementing personal solutions encourages ownership and longevity. It builds spirits; feeling of helplessness are replaced with tangible examples of ability and hope.

CFs are real people reaching their neighbors with knowledge that can save their life. They are the ripples of change moving out through the communities and regions we serve.


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