Over the past few years, we’ve encountered our fair share of problems. We love working with communities, but any time people are involved problems tend to follow. We also readily admit our occasional grumbling over difficult situations. But we also like thinking deeply about those problems.
We’ve noticed that our reaction to such problems has the ability to foster reconciliation or exacerbation. And a simple change in perspective can make all the difference in how we react. If we view those problems as opportunities to react differently in the world, people tend to take notice.
For instance, in a recent trip to a rural community, we discovered that two project goats had been sold for personal gain. The entire group was upset that this individual had acted so selfishly. Upon further investigation, we discovered that the woman’s husband (a man who had refused to join the project) had sold the goats without consulting his wife. The group decided to visit this man and get the full story. Upon arrival, the man was scared to come out of his house.
He was concerned about how we would react to this problem.
Abraham Mulongo, the Project Director, was also concerned. But his concerns were quite different. He saw an opportunity to reconcile a marriage and invite this man into a different way of life.
The man was stunned by Abraham’s kindness. He understood well that he was fully in the wrong and yet the community group was inviting him abandon such practices and join them in their productive and profitable work.
The story is a long one and is far from over, but the marriage is intact and a repayment plan has been initiated by the husband. The community group has endured hardship, deceit, and theft. They have also discovered a renewed sense of patience, honesty, and sacrifice for their neighbor.
Hidden just under the surface of a community problem is an opportunity. The fascinating bit is that the opportunity is often so powerful that it can eclipse the problem. Our work is to recognize the problem and shed light on the opportunity within.
All of us at Kibo Group continue to be inspired by these problems-as-opportunities. The practice has changed the way we treat our own families and neighbors. We believe this is the real value of our work here in East Africa.