Sustainability is a worthy but elusive goal. For a spectrum of reasons, there is more precedent for initiating projects than maintaining them; it is a sad reality that Africa is littered with failed projects.
History has shown us that the key to sustainability is partnership, genuine partnership. Therefore right from its inception, BUILD has placed a strong emphasis on building up workable and meaningful relationships. A story from Rev Henry Majwala provides an example of what this looks like in practice – of how genuine partnership can fuel sustainable training.
Early on in the development of BUILD, Henry was developing training in one archdeaconry* of a diocese, a diocese which, in the Ugandan context, had above average resources, yet 60% of its local church leaders were without formal training. With minimal outside resources available and in order to implement BUILD training Henry did a number of things. First, he asked each participant to find enough money to buy the training manual, which cost 5,000 UShs (around £1.20). This money was collected and accounted for by the coordinators over the course of the module. Second, each week when they met for training, individuals brought small amounts of around 2,000 UShs (£0.50) to buy food for the participants. They had raised this amount from their congregations the previous Sunday, after explaining to the church the importance and impact of the training. Finally, in one of the parishes, lay readers with bicycles, which accounted for roughly half the members attending the training, collected and transported the others to the event, which itself was held in a church building, therefore ensuring that there were no transport or venue costs.
The perception on the ground is that Western involvement often takes the shape of heavy initial investment, with external manpower brought in in the shape of development experts and mission partners. This is then followed by tapering support, the return home of the ‘outsider’, and surprise and annoyance when the project begins to unravel.
While BUILD does not claim to have all the answers in this regard, what is somewhat unique about it is that it began as a local initiative with low-level but long-term external investment (human, material and financial), invited in. Throughout, it has been driven from the ground. The local/external partnership continues and has grown in breadth and depth. And so has the work. But as with all things, one can never become complacent. Therefore please pray that BUILD continues to function through genuine partnership, and that we would continue to find creative ways to make it sustainable.
*An archdeaconry is often made up of around five or so parishes, and each parish, in this rural area, might have around ten local churches within it. Therefore an archdeaconry can have anywhere between thirty and sixty local congregations.