I was sort of delegated to attend a workshop in Participatory Learning in Port Dickson last week as everyone else had other commitments.  I admit that I went a little reluctantly given the upheaval in my ministry just now, especially once I discovered that I was to facilitate two of the sessions.  Those who know me know that I am a very reluctant public speaker. I did not learn a whole lot new about participatory methods but had a great time networking with a new organization from Cambodia.

It is however, always exciting to be reminded of the effectiveness of the CHE lessons which are designed to be learner-centered, posing a problem and allowing participants to discover the solution and develop an action plan to deal with it.  I was asked to demonstrate the Ten Seed method and opted to use an actual scenario from our pilot project.

This district is comprised of twelve communes each of which has ten villages made up of approximately 20 homes per village. In spite of the fact that there is an established Commune Council and Women’s Commune Council with representation from all the communes, the region remains very poor. Government money is often made available for projects and many NGOs have come and gone with money for various initiatives yet little progress has been seen over the years. Most people in the district feel that the main problem is lack of money and if they could just get more government or NGO assistance all of their problems would be solved.  The average family income in the district is $100 per month.

Here is the reality for people there that I presented for the demonstration.

Men

There is very little work available for you and in any case it is the responsibility of the women to maintain the home and gardens and provide for the needs of the family. From time to time you are able to make some money to support the family but in reality you spend much of the time sitting together with other men socializing and playing games. Life is a very painful reality for men and the one pleasure is to drink rice wine and beer with your friends.

You give what money you can to your wife for family needs but know that most of your own cash actually goes to alcohol and anyway your wife seems to be able to come up with enough money to get by. You know that the alcohol does affect your family as often you go home at night angry and are at times violent but it is at these times that you are able to get money from your wife, which you will spend on alcohol.

You are pretty sure that about 30% of the money available for your household is spent on alcohol.

Women

In your culture it is the responsibility of the women to keep peace in the family and ensure that the members of your household are cared for. You are able to grow your own rice and vegetables and even to sell some in the market to make a little extra cash. With the addition of some chickens, pigs and fish and your ability to sell some of your own handicrafts you could at least provide the basic needs for your children. The days are very long as you go about your work and care for the children but there is little hope in sight.

Your husband spends most of his afternoons and evenings away with his friends and often comes home very drunk and even violent. At these times he demands that you give him all the money you have and you know that you must do so as it is the responsibility of the wife to keep peace and protect the children. It is therefore impossible for you to save money to pay for necessities such as school supplies and fees. Many children in your village end up dropping out of school and going to the city to work in garment factories or restaurants in order to send money back to the village.

You are well aware that 70% of the available money for your household is spent on alcohol consumption by your husband and teenagers and even, on occasion, by yourself.

Youth

Your schooling has been limited as you quit studying at an early age to try to be of some assistance to your very poor family. There are relatively few teenagers and young adults left in your village as many have gone into the city to work in garment factories or restaurants to send money back to the village. You are able to make a small amount of money by helping out in the market or other odd jobs but see very little hope for your future.

There is very little joy in your life and not a lot to do for fun but you are able to forget about these things when you and your friends get together and drink beer, which you do on a regular basis. You do genuinely want to help your family but also know full well that 80% of the money you get is spent on alcohol.

When this community using ten seeds as a method to express their thoughts anonymously finally agreed that 50% of their income went to alcohol we were able to watch as they calculated that each year the entire community spends $126,000 US dollars on alcohol; money that could have gone to helping the community deal with family, health and education problems.

This is the kind of discussion we are seeking to promote at the community level through our Moral Values training. Not every group is able to attain the level of interaction that would lead to a community resolve to do something about the problem of alcoholism. But I have witnessed first hand how some groups get that far, and listened to others who report that such discussions have led to change and renewed hope at the community level in villages far from any missionary or gospel.

Other dicussions that have followed from Moral Values training have led to villages seeking to know the Truth behind these lessons; and the One who empowers that truth and buries it in the heart so that change becomes permanent. This is not some wealthy Westerner coming to bring riches from his goodie bag that will momentarily solve all ills. These are villagers confronting their own shortcomings in themselves, their culture and their traditions and deciding on a path of renewal. This is part of the work I am involved in.

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