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St. Martin Approach

St. Martin has a particular way of dealing with the problems in the community.
This approach has developed over time and is still undergoing further change, acquiring insights from everyday experiences.
Even those involved in St. Martin do not always find it easy to grasp and internalise the right attitudes. They need time to make it their own. The major characteristics of the St. Martin approach are described below.

Targeting the ‘Able’
St. Martin does not directly target the vulnerable people in the community, such as those with disabilities or living with HIV/AIDS. The focus is on the ‘able’ people who have gifts, talents and resources, however small or great they may be which could be shared with the needy people around them. By involving these people St. Martin indirectly care for those who are vulnerable. For this reason the motto is: ONLY THROUGH COMMUNITY. Solutions for problems of the beneficiaries are always found by the community and in the community itself.

believing-in-potential


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Believing in the Potentiality and Promoting Solidarity

In Kwanjora, there is a special unit within a local primary school to cater for children with cerebral palsy. Children with such a disability require special care from teachers and house mothers: many need to be fed, be helped to go to the toilet and have special requirements in terms of learning. Many parents of the children could not pay for such treatment and would not be able to pay for all the costs of such a unit. Initially the headmaster of the unit was desperate about how to pay the housemothers and how to buy food for the children. In response to the problem, St. Martin did not involve an outside donor, but it involved volunteers to go to all churches near the special unit. There, they appealed to the people to consider these children with special needs, visit them and donate what they could to the unit. From then onwards, donations started coming to the unit, the food store was never empty and the children felt appreciated and accepted.
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The approach of St. Martin sets off from the potential available in the community. We believe and have trust in people. We are convinced that resources in the community are available and that there are many people of goodwill.  What is required is to mobilize them as well as the resources and to promote solidarity and sharing.

By promoting solidarity ,sharing and love, changes in the lives of the beneficiaries will not only be lasting and sustained beyond the existence of St. Martin ,but will even be of greater quality. The love and acceptance that one is given by his own neighbours, is equally valuable as assistance from an outside donor. For this reason, St. Martin encourages staff and volunteers to trust people’s capacity to love and make use of the locally available resources. Only where the community falls short financially, will the organisation raise funds from outside.

Getting money from a donor organisation would have been a ‘simple’ answer to the problem, but it would also have created dependency. Withdrawal of the donor support would automatically mean the closure of the school and would not have promoted the responsibility of the people. Besides the risk of dependency, we would also have assumed that resources were not available locally; that the generosity within the community would not be sufficient.  It is actually sad to trust a bank account of the donor more than the generosity of the local people.  By searching for an outside donor, we would not have given the chance to the community to grow in solidarity. We would have ignored the fact that the community could find happiness in caring for the weakest among them. We would not have allowed these severely handicapped children to accomplish an important mission: to change the hearts of the people of their village.

Besides the available potential in the community, the beneficiaries themselves also have a potential in which we believe. They have hidden talents and abilities, often overshadowed by many issues and problems, which overwhelm people and make them lose hope, self-esteem and belief in their capacity. It is our duty to bring out the best in every beneficiary and to make them realize that they can do something for themselves. In whatever the community undertakes with the beneficiaries, there must be a contribution from themselves (be it financial, time, or other possible ways) that will make people see that they are not helpless but that they can actually give their lives a new direction. By doing so, we recognize the dignity and potential in each one of them.

Working with volunteers.
The work of St. Martin is done through a network of community volunteers. These are people, who have the drive to freely give their time and energy for the community and for people who are in need. Such volunteers are of different kind: farmers, housewives, shopkeepers, teachers, doctors, advocates and those in other professions.
St. Martin believes that nobody is too poor to have something to offer: be it time, expertise, skills, finances, farm produce or other things.

Depending on their talents and gifts volunteers engage themselves in the work of
St. Martin in different ways. Most of them work in the community, in direct contact with the beneficiaries. For instance, they nurse AIDS patients at home or mediate in conflicts between people.
They also create awareness on the needs of the vulnerable and promote solidarity by mobilizing people to provide assistance where there is immediate need, such as for medical treatment or lack of food. There are also volunteers who work on the management level as committee members, where they give direction to the programmes.
Other give free professional services such as doctors and lawyers. Each volunteer contributes according to his or her own strength and ability.

capacity-buidlding

Building Capacity
Solidarity is promoted in the community by enhancing capacities. Capacity building and formation is therefore the back-bone of the St. Martin approach. This formation consists of two types, which are equally important. The first type builds the capacity of the “heart”: the capacity to love those who are in need and the capacity to find happiness and joy in caring for others. This type of capacity-building is the spiritual formation process that all staff and volunteers go through. Volunteering is a difficult concept for all of us. By nature we are inclined to primarily think about ourselves. We need a special drive, a special source of inspiration in order to be able to continue to volunteer. Meditations, bible sharing, retreats and other forums afford the opportunity to share about the gospel of service.

St. Martin is also well aware that besides building the heart, solidarity is also promoted by building the “head”, which means: providing professional skills. These allow people to make the right interventions in their neighbourhoods and to have real impact in the solution of problems. That is the reason St. Martin provides a wide range of technical training courses to volunteers. These depend on the nature of the programme and the subsequent needs of the beneficiaries. For example, some volunteers are trained on the management of disabilities at home, others on how to carry out home-based care for people living with AIDS, while others are trained on paralegal skills. These technical skills not only make volunteers confident in what they are doing, but they also allow them to make tangible improvements in the lives of others, which serves as a real motivation to work as a volunteer.

Volunteer management committee members also receive various technical training courses to equip them with the knowledge and skills to adequately monitor and direct the programmes under their care. Such courses include: leadership, financial management, strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation. St. Martin realized that these courses are of paramount importance if one truly wishes to involve the community at all organisational levels.

Transforming all, a long term process
Promoting solidarity can only be achieved by transformation of communities, by involving all categories of people and making a change in their lives. By involving those considered rich and strong and those generally considered poor and weak. Giving them a chance to meet, learn from each other and help one another.
Involving the community in all levels is a long term process however St. Martin believes that the final result will not only be a beautiful one but also one that lasts.

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