March 16, 2015

An intern's experience

ADE an Experience
by: Azikiwe Calhoun
What’s it like to work in a rural setting getting your hands dirty literally? What would it look like to see people within the local community working toward empowerment and improving their livelihoods through participation and cooperation amongst one another? The mission of the Association for Development through Education (ADE) differs from other organizations in that they are on the ground in the communities of the marginalized and working alongside residents, showing that local assets and physical capital can be found in local development. By incorporating biblical principles into the organizations practices this allows for a strong emphasis of placing people above empty development discourse; that has damaged rural communities by stifling creativity of alternative practices and a reliance on development dependency.
At the core of ADE is promoting education and how this is expressed through practical application. For example as a recent intern, I worked in the community of Vara Blanca on the organization's organic farm. Many residents in this community are farmers and their agricultural methods are large scale and utilize agribusiness techniques, which are harmful for the environment resulting in ground contamination and water pollution from chemical runoff. ADE looks at the local knowledge of the community and those who live and worked on the land for centuries, while at the same time supporting local assets readily available toward holistic development. Education is not found only in textbooks or classrooms, but is a continuous process which everyone can contribute toward. From sharing proven methods of agricultural production that break the cycle of debt, to praxis of understanding how societal institutions affect the daily lives of the poor. ADE does not have a set method of doing things, but is adaptable to the unique circumstances and cultures of people. Does ADE always get it right? No. But they learn by doing, just as you or I would.

Throughout my time in Vara Blanca, I have met many people and formed lasting friendships that extend beyond just agricultural work. The community is inviting and people are always to share good conversation over a cup of coffee. ADE can bring about transformation within the local community with those willing to participate in their own development. I believe this organization has the ability to change how development is thought of and implemented in other countries. It will be exciting to see what new development practices emerge in the near future.