It is important to understand that on any World Visions Overseas Experience, community engagement is about listening, learning and building personal connections. The trips are about building mutual understanding and not about fixing, building or volunteering.
Whilst its easy to create "projects" for participants to undertake, we first need to understand the priorities of the community, whether this activity "if important" could be undertaken by community members themselves, is it sustainable, and what are the opportunity costs of diverting focus from existing programs?
Whilst painting a school may seem a good initiative, how does this align with a goal of building youth leadership? Why does the school need painting? Would funding something else deliver greater long-term educational outcomes? Rather than design experiences that make participants feel useful, we focus on the community's own plan and whether participants can engage meaningfully in that. It ensures that the value of activities undertaken in communities are the community members themselves.
On occasions, where the community themselves highlight an opportunity for skill sharing or a project that would enable an activity to be undertaken together with participants, we will work in partnership with the community to incorporate this into a field visit or create a dedicated field visit with this focus.
One of the reasons World Vision staff in overseas offices or local community members truly appreciate our visits as much as they do, is because it gives them the opportunity to explain their journey, demonstrate their achievements and share their hopes and dreams for the future.