The sustainability of our projects and activities is very important for our organization. For that, we need the participation, commitment, and involvement of our communities. This includes next to our staff the children, their families, all the people of the related areas in general, and the relevant authorities.
To build up, improve, and maintain these contacts, we do home visits every Friday afternoon, hold 4 community meetings per year and keep continuous contact with the authorities of the relevant community.
When we are visiting our families on Friday, we are listening to them, if there are any urgent problems and worries, any concerns concerning their children or other issues. We are checking on them for any needs, we are having an eye on their health status and living conditions and listen carefully and with respect because every member of the community is very important for us. If a student is missing for several days and we do not know the reason, we are also going to the community and search for the family and the child to know what is going on and to set an intervention if needed.
But we are not just listening. We are also building awareness. Though our kids are the beneficiaries of a holistic an free of cost program related to education, nutrition and hygiene- it doesn’t mean, that the families can afford it in the long run to send their kids to our centres. A big part of the children who are attending our program have to support the family income through little jobs, like collecting garbage. If the kids are visiting our centres, they are not fully available for work anymore. The income, which is already very low- reduces again. That is one of the main reasons, why parents are not supporting their children sufficiently in the regular attendance of our educational program, though the big benefits. A high number of parents do not have the awareness of the big relevance of education for the impact on their children’s lives. They cannot see the importance to support their children’s educational career. Most of the parents are missing education and knowledge themselves-how to change their lives and improve it sustainable. A big part is struggling to generate their daily income. They find themselves captured in an endless loop of hopelessness and poverty and pass on this lack of perspective to their children. Most of the people would like to improve their situation, but not everybody is aware, that they have to be open for changes.
Every three months we are holding a community meeting. Together with the SSO team the community is working on different topics (like environmental problems, labor market, human rights, general knowledge, training opportunities, …), related to a workshop- sometimes supported by external experts. These workshops are all including an educational and awareness value, ending with a discussion about the current problems in the community, what they would like to change and how they can implement the alteration.
In the near future we are planning to work together on a project for a long-term improvement of the key problems of the community. (E.g. Greening the slums to improve the hygiene, growing vegetables for a healthy diet and as a possibility of income generation, improve the water and sewage situation, health awareness, child trafficking, alcohol, gambling, drugs, …). This aim is not just for improving the situation, we also want, that the community is putting effort inside and support the program and its activities in the range of their possibilities. A regular integration of the families is upgrading our centres as locations of encounter and is building awareness concerning the added value for this institution. Through their contribution and participation, they are getting a stronger identification with the program and extend the awareness and knowledge concerning the possibilities ( e.g. educational or health wise,…) of their children, but also for themselves. Furthermore, these regular meetings in our centres are supporting the contact between SSO and the community, but especially also in between the family. It occurs a better cohesion and exchange.
Projects which are created directly out of the community and lead, supported, and participated by the families have a higher value for them. If the people can see and experience, that they have their lives in their own hand, they will also have more commitment and consciousness for changes. Developed strategies out of the community are always sustainable interventions. At the end, the own created project will improve the daily life of the families. The workshops will contribute to increase the general knowledge and the children in our program and the formal education program will get more support from home.
Our endeavour is to work WITH the community, not exceptional FOR them. It is important that they participate in and contribute to the activities. Without the commitment and acceptance of the community educational programs like this are not possible.
But not only the good relation to the community itself is important, also the smooth connection to the authorities is essential for the positive results of our work. The SONNE Social Organization is very experienced in implementing projects in this field. Because of the trustful relationship with the authorities, many risk factors can be minimized. We are working closely together with the government and we are actively involved in advocacy and lobbying. SSO has always had many connections and a good standing in governmental institutions and ministries, such as the YCDC (Yangon City Development Committee) and the Ministry of Social Welfare. The government and the local authorities all approve of the project as a valuable contribution to the development of the townships.