St. Martin CSA has a particular way of dealing with the problems in the communities. This approach has developed over time and is continuously undergoing changes, incorporating insights from everyday experiences. Even those involved in St. Martin CSA do not always find it easy to grasp and internalise this approach. They need time to make it their own.
Targeting the ‘Able’
St. Martin CSA does not directly target the vulnerable people in the community, such as those with disabilities or living with HIV/AIDS. Our 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 CSA indirectly cares for those who are vulnerable. Here's also the origin of our motto: ONLY THROUGH COMMUNITY.
The approach of St. Martin CSA starts from the potential available in the community. We believe and have trust in people, that solutions for problems of the beneficiaries can always be found by the community and in the community itself. We are convinced that resources in the community are available and that there are many people of good will that just need to be mobilized. By promoting solidarity, sharing and love, changes in the lives of the beneficiaries will be lasting and sustained beyond the existence of St. Martin CSA. In addition, they will be of greater quality as they were given by one's own neighbours,
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 their issues and problems. Often they have lost hope, self-esteem and belief in their own capacities. It is our duty to bring out the best in every beneficiary and to make them realize that they can do something for themselves. Whatever the community does for the beneficiaries, there is a contribution from themselves to the supporting community 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 CSA is done through a network of community volunteers. These are people, who have decided to freely give their time and energy for the community and for people who are in need. They can be farmers, housewives, shopkeepers, teachers, doctors, advocates etc.
St. Martin CSA believes that nobody is too poor not to have something to offer: be it time, expertise, skills, finances, farm produce or other things.
Depending on their talents and gifts volunteers engage differently in the work of
St. Martin CSA. 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: for medical treatment or lack of food. Or they give free professional services as doctors or lawyers.
There are also volunteers who work on the management level of St. Martin CSA as committee members, where they give direction to the programmes.
Each volunteer contributes according to his or her own strength and ability.
Formation of Heart and Head
Solidarity is promoted in the community by enhancing capacities. Capacity building and formation is, therefore, the backbone of the St. Martin CSA approach and one of its core values. This formation targets two types of capacities, 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 begin and to continue to volunteer. Meditations, bible sharing and retreats are examples of this kind of formation.
Secondly, solidarity is also promoted by building the “head”, i.e. professional skills. These allow people to make the right interventions in their neighbourhoods and thereby finding a real and lasting solution to problems. Hence, St. Martin CSA provides a wide range of technical training courses for the volunteers. The topics depend on the goals 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 still 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.
Believing in the Potential and Promoting Solidarity
In Kwanjora, there is a special unit within a local primary school to cater for children with cerebral palsy. These children 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 can not pay for such services and such a unit would not be possible. With a strong need for this kind of institution and more and more affected children coming in, the headmaster was desperate about how to pay the housemothers and how to buy food for the children.
In response to the problem, St. Martin CSA did involve its 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. Donations started coming to the unit, the food store was never empty and the children felt appreciated and accepted.
Getting money from a donor organisation would have been a ‘simple’ answer to the problem, but it would also have created a dependency. Withdrawal of the donor support would automatically have lead to the closure of the school. It is actually sad to trust a bank account of a 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 villages.
Transforming all, a long term process
Promoting solidarity can only be achieved by the transformation of communities, by involving all the different 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 at all levels is a long term process however St. Martin CSA believes that the final result will not only be a beautiful one but also one that lasts.