How Grassroots Action Solves Crises
Twenty million people are living on the brink of starvation in east Africa, largely because of the crisis created by civil war in South Sudan.
Many are packed into overcrowded refugee camps in Uganda; the largest has approximately 275,000 residents.
I must admit, until I received an assignment recently to write a story about the Foursquare Church’s relief project in the region, I wasn’t that aware of the situation.
It’s one that can easily get lost in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. It isn’t the kind of story that fascinates viewers or generates the kind of attention that creates daily headlines and public awareness.
Still, what I found fascinating was how the church’s action illustrates the value of grassroots activities in making a dent in a much larger problem.
Small but Significant
The sheer size of the problem is overwhelming. There are seven zeros in the total number of east Africans facing starvation.
It’s the kind of situation that makes many people throw up their hands and say, “That’s too big for me. What can I do about it?”
Instead of reacting that way, Foursquare’s disaster relief organization did what it could: direct a fund-raising effort to provide flour, cooking pots, beans, salt and soap to select groups of families.
Staff members have also handled assessments, planning, oversight, accountability and managed partnerships with other organizations.
The net impact is that Project Nourish has fed more than 25,000 people.
The national leader of The Foursquare Church in Uganda commented that the relief Foursquare gave out may have been small, but it was significant.
“The beneficiaries got a message that cannot be erased in their minds: Jesus loves them, and the church cares,” John Kamanzi said.
A Fraction of Good
Twenty-five thousand divided by 20 million provides a fraction so small that the yield is equivalent to the size of a gnat measured against an elephant.
Yet, as Kamanzi said, it was significant. Significant to those families that received enough food to fill their bellies when some of them only eat every third day. Significant to people like the widow who fled the fighting with her five biological children and seven others whose parents have died or been displaced by the war.
“I don’t know that any other organization apart from the (United Nations) could take the initiative of supporting us,” she said. “I am praising God for what (Foursquare) has done for me and my big family.”
One Person at a Time
The same approach applies to the staggering problems our society faces, be it hungry people, the drug abuse crisis, or racial and ethnic divisions.
I recently wrote a blog for a client about the grassroots approach being taken in one rural county where overdose emergency calls have nearly tripled over the past year.
A former addictions counselor talked about the cooperative efforts that are unfolding there. Among them: a long-term residential home that has opened there. And, law enforcement agencies working with treatment centers to see that offenders aren’t simply told to take care of their legal problems first. Now, offenders can serve work release sentences and get drug treatment at the same time.
“We know what works is if treatment is intensive and is offered over a long period of time—several years,” said the counselor. “If we do that, they’re going to be successful. The way we get over an epidemic is one person at a time.”
One person at a time. It’s the way starving people get fed, drug problems get healed, and misunderstandings get reconciled.
Whatever the problem, no matter how small a step you take in the right direction, it’s one more that will occur than if you sat at home and did nothing.