Asset-based Pilgrimage
  • Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When 19 Episcopalians arrived this summer in a region of Ghana where nine-out-of-ten live on less than a dollar a day, they were not carrying tools or supplies to help fix material problems. They instead wanted to see how Ghanaians are helping themselves.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the by House of Deputies, led the pilgrimage in July to a region where partners in the Anglican Communion strengthen local initiatives to get more from their land and their people.

“I saw what many consider to be a new way to do mission: in partnership with people in communities, rather than the old way,” Jennings said. “The old way is doing what we think is best for that community, rather than consulting with them and finding out what they already have and trying to build on that.”

The journey brought six members of the House of Deputies and 13 others to the Diocese of Tamale in the Province of West Africa. There the Rt. Rev. Jacob Ayeebo explained how his people struggle to sustain crop yields amid drought conditions and otherwise earn a living.

To surmount challenges, Ghanaians are now building on in-kind resources — such as seeds, fertilizer and training — that they receive through the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization (ADDRO). They also build upon microfinance loans that enable farmers, artisans, street vendors and others to expand their enterprises.

What the pilgrims witnessed, Jennings said, was the work of a 2012 General Convention resolution supporting “asset-based community development.” The idea is to let strategies for poverty alleviation emerge indigenously, then team up with local partners to help those strategies succeed.

In Ghana, Episcopal Relief & Development partners with ADDRO to help farmers and others meet the challenges at hand. In addition to visiting fields, pilgrims also visited a sewing school, where Ghanaians use equipment funded by ERD and ADDRO and then teach others how to use it, too.

“Everything that we’re trying to do is to take the strengths of the individuals there, who want to work and need some resources in terms of improved farming techniques or processing machines, and have them do it,” Jennings said. “It’s not a couple of volunteers running the machines. [Ghanaians] end up doing it themselves.”

Partnerships like the ones in Ghana, Jennings said, help undergird the universal mission of the church. When deputies convene at General Convention in 2015, several will have firsthand experiences to share.

“In caring about evangelizing in the church,” Jennings said, “we can’t do that without addressing poverty, disease, and injustice.”

G. Jeffrey MacDonald
TLC Correspondent

Image: One of the Ghanaian entrepreneurs supported by the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization and Episcopal Relief and Development. Gay Clark Jennings/Facebook


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