Defining Development: PRODEP and Community-Engagement
Louise Naissant knows development. The 44 year-old native of Cavaillon has watched countless organizations come in and try to implement solutions to long-standing problems, only to become discouraged and pack it in. “These organizations, they were timid,” she explains. “But of course they were. They came into a community they didn’t know and tried to implement solutions to problems that weren’t their own. Nobody thought to ask us what we wanted-even more importantly, nobody considered that we might even be able to create and implement the solutions.”
This all changed when PADF’s Program for Participative Development (PRODEP) came into Cavaillon. Working in the 28 poorest communes of Southern Haiti, PADF-PRODEP empowers communities to be their own catalysts for development. In the past eight years, the program has implemented over 850 community based projects, 41 of them in Cavaillon.
“When PADF-PRODEP came, the results were stunning. You went from having schools that didn’t have a single pencil to widespread improvements in health, infrastructure, and education. And it was us, our community, who was coming up with the solutions. We had eyes everywhere-when cholera came to Cavaillon we immediately set up a prevention program and attacked the disease head-on. We were able to get electricity in our town, and better prepare ourselves for hurricanes. And reinforcing our own capacity? Many of had never gone to university, but PRODEP-PADF came in and spoke to us in a language we could understand. ”
“PRODEP believed in us when no one else did,” Naissant emphasizes. “They let us be leaders in our own development. Do you what development is? When you can walk into your local community office and go line by line through a project’s finances, and any problem you have, you address it as a community. No-one is excluded from the development process, and in that way, your ability to accomplish something extraordinary becomes a reality. And the pride it gives us in ourselves, in our abilities, is phenomenal. When I am the one signing the check, when we are the ones in control-that is development.