In December, Walu International hired Dr. Dave Jenkins (Founder of SurfAid International) to serve as a community development consultant to the organization that is dedicated to improving the sanitary conditions in Papua New Guinea through education and empowerment.
Walu International flew Dr. Jenkins to their pilot village in Papua New Guinea in order to receive field training from an expert whose organization has worked in more than 300 villages in Indonesia. SurfAid started in 2000 and its community-based health programs involve education in nutrition, hygiene, healthy environments, and disease prevention. It also works in Emergency Preparedness and Response.
Dr. Jenkins trained Walu’s operations team in project management, risk management, and community development and helped Walu staff understand the benefits and relevant risks of a successful sanitation model called ‘Community-led Total Sanitation’.
Although there is no panacea to the wide range of problems that communities encounter, Dr. Jenkins has taught the Walu International staff that the key solutions to any problem are listening to the community and empowering them with the education to make a difference in their own lives. Handouts are not solutions – they are merely Band-Aids. Dr. Jenkins put an emphasis on strategically operating in Walu’s pilot village so they would be able to measure their results and replicate their successes.
“I have been impressed by Walu’s commitment to high quality community development principals and practices, and their open willingness to learn,” Dr. Jenkins said.
Walu International was created as an MBA project at San Diego State University. The Walu team was comfortable with building the business on the domestic front, but had little community development experience. Walu International decided to outsource the needed community development knowledge through SurfAid since they already had experience with a successful model.
With the newly acquired knowledge from Dr. Dave Jenkins and Dale Young (Founder/Water and Sanitation Engineer of MSABI), Walu International has moved forward with their operations with hopes to avoid making some of the common costly mistakes made by newly formed community development organizations.
On the first day of the trip Walu International was informed that their initial water and sanitation approach would not work in a particular village. “Our work may have caused more harm than help and without our community development experts on hand we would have fallen into a common pitfall for newly formed NGOs” says Walu founder Zack Parker. “The smartest thing that we have done in this whole community development process is understand that we are not experts and instead outsourced all of the knowledge that has been acquired over years of experience.”
Walu International has recently launched a handwashing campaign in response to the cholera outbreak in Papua New Guinea. The number of handwashing stations has gone from 0 to 60 in less than a month and Walu International has not subsidized a single one of them. This type of sustainable change that SurfAid has introduced to Walu International has made the success rate of Walu’s project much higher than they had originally planned.