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Democracy has taken a giant stride in a little
town in the Dominican Republic. People listen
while another speaks.
Is that a giant stride?
You bet it is. And it cost a Peace Corps Volun-
teer one year of hard work to accomplish it.
The Volunteer has taught a basic tenant of
democracy: that every man may have his say.
This may seem elementary, but to people around
the world getting their first taste of democracy,
it is a new and exhilarating experience.
Americans have enjoyed democracy so long,
they've forgotten it doesn't come naturally. This
is something like the shock an American child
first receives when he finds an adult who doesn't
speak English. Democracy seems simple to us
because we grew up with it: that is not true in
most of the world. In many nations, democracy
must be taught.
Community development is no more compli-
cated than teaching democracy on a community
"Without a foundation of actual local and per-
sonal experience, talk of national- citizenship re-
mains unreal and remote," said Mahatma Gandhi,
the first world leader to recognize the importance
of community development. "Once the villagers
know exactly what they need for their own vil-
lage, and are conscious of their own responsibility
and their ability to get things done, they will
have no difficulty in choosing the right people to
put in charge.
"The task of adult education is therefore to
quicken and awaken this consciousness of their
own responsibility and their own power to act,
and the best means of causing this awakening is
to start a village-wide discussion of the actual
How does a Volunteer teach democracy on a
community level? No one method is foolproof but
experience has provided solid guidelines.
First, the Volunteer is a stranger. He must
get to know the people-gain their confidence.
He must seek out the local leaders, learn the needs
of the community. This may (and often does)
take months. Different routes are used in getting
to know the people: some Volunteers just talk
and visit. Most Volunteers, though, find that they
are more effective if they become active in com-
munity affairs. For instance, playing a trumpet
in the town band, organizing a 4-H club, teach-
ing English classes, starting a baseball team.
Patience, initiative and ingenuity are key quali-
ties a Volunteer must develop. Patience because
the work is slow and often frustrating. Initiative
and ingenuity because he has only a few months
to gain the confidence of the community, lead
the citizens into an awareness of their needs, and
guide them toward a solution.
Sound like a big job? It is, but more than 2,000
Americans like yourself are doing it around the
The second phase of the community develop-
ment worker's job begins after he has acquired
the confidence of the community. It is then time
to organize a community meeting and talk about
what needs to be done. At this stage, the villagers
must decide for themselves if and how they are
going to deal with their community's problems.
The Volunteer can only offer encouragement,
not give orders. During the first meeting, the lack
of democratic training is demonstrated. Every-
one talks at once, speakers are kidded, pestered,
and hooted. People walk in and out of the meet-
ing at will. No one listens. In short-bedlam.
Very seldom is anything tangible accomplished
at the first community development meeting. Vol-
unteers compare it to the first day of school: it's
mostly noise. The first meeting will meet its ob-
jective if it arouses the people to want to meet
There will be subsequent meetings. Many will
be fruitless. But some won't be. Gradually the
Volunteer will lead the people into discovering
their problems and finding solutions.
A Volunteer in community development re-
members that one day he will no longer be there
and the community will have to find the answers
to their own problems. His job is to teach them
how this can be done. Included in this is helping
the community to petition their local government
for needed materials.
Once the problem is defined, and the commu-
nity has agreed on what needs to be done, com-
munity development enters into its third and final
stage. This is the doing stage.
Like an iceberg, most of community develop-
ment lies beneath the surface. Only the last stage
shows. It is here that the schoolhouse is built, a
chicken cooperative formed, a cleanup program
initiated, a road cleared.
During the doing stage, the Volunteer acts as
a general supervisor at times, and often as a com-
mon laborer. At all times he acts as a member
of the community. His purpose, in working or
supervision, is the same: to develop local leaders.
The Volunteer can see things getting done at last
in this stage. The progress is reflected in visible
He has completed all three goals of commu-
(1) Basic education of the people in working
together to define their own goals and solving the
problems necessary to achieve these goals.
(2) Getting the government to respond to com-
(3) Material improvement in terms of specific
technological advancement and economic growth.
In Colombia, a long aqueduct runs through
the lush mountain ridges for miles carrying fresh
water to a small village. It is a thing of beauty
to two Peace Corps Volunleers who live in that
village; not because they built it, but because
they didn't have to.
This is the end result of one project in com-
munity development. Much work that went into
the project does not show.
To begin with, there was the problem of get-
ting known. The two Volunteers spent the first
few weeks walking the street, cornering anyone
they could and talking about whatever came to
mind. It improved their Spanish, but what was
more important, they got to know people. Soon
people began saying hello to them. There was
usually a crowd of kids around their house, so
the Volunteers organized a baseball team. Most
of the children had heard of baseball, but had
never had an opportunity to play. They were
delighted. Parents, who had little to do with their
spare time, attended the games faithfully. Through
the baseball team, the Volunteers made friends
with most parents and children in the town.
They got to know the mayor, town council
members, and the priest. Gradually they instilled
the idea that there should be community meetings
to organize the community to help itself. Key
citizens were contacted about the meetings. After
the Volunteers explained what could be accom-
plished, most of the town leaders were ready.
The first meeting turned out as expected. It
was mostly a social gathering, but it did give the
town's citizens an opportunity to see the Volun-
teers in a leadership position. The germ of an
idea was also planted: that things did not have
to be as they had always been.
After a dozen meetings in which hundreds of
needed projects were discussed, the village de-
cided on the item they needed most. It was an
aqueduct. The village had no potable water: it
had to be carried by hand from a mountain stream
five miles away. Women spent most of their time
carrying the water along the difficult rocky trail.
The aqueduct was the obvious answer, but who
was to build it?
The Volunteers launched a novel idea. Why
not the villagers themselves? The villagers didn't
think this was possible. They didn't have the
time. (The Volunteers said they could do it on
Sunday and after work.) The villagers said they
didn't know how. (The Volunteers said they
would teach them.) The villagers agreed finally
to give it a try, although they were frankly dubious
about the whole effort.
The first few days of work most of the villagers
turned out. Then the excitement wore off and
most of the people went home. The Volunteers
continued to work with the few people who stayed.
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As the days wore on, the aqueduct began to take
form. People who had quit began to come back.
Something tangible was emerging. Community
leaders developed. In a few more weeks, it was
really not necessary for the Volunteers to be pres-
ent at all. The people were carrying the load
themselves. It was the first time they had ever
The Volunteers and two key community lead-
ers petitioned the government for the pipe. After
writing several letters, they went to Bogota. While
there they saw several officials and were finally
able to secure the pipe from the Public Works
Department. They loaded it in the jeep and took
it back to the village.
An emergency along the coastal area of the
country required the Volunteers to move there
for some weeks. When they returned, they found
the villagers had kept the work parties going at
full strength. The first sight the Volunteers saw
as they topped the ridge of mountains surround-
ing the village was a small army of about 100
men digging by hand the last kilometers of ditch.
As is often the case, the least important
achievement is the most apparent. The aqueduct,
to be sure, is of great importance to the commu-
nity. More important still is the evidence of the
community's new capacity for continuing collec-
tive action. But most vital of all is the birth of
some kind of power structure, built along demo-
cratic lines, enabling it to plan and act for the
Are you qualified to work in community devel-
opment? You may well be. Critical requirements
are patience, initiative and ingenuity, as stated
earlier. If you have these qualities, you will be
a good Volunteer community development work-
er, regardless of whether you are a specialist in
some technical skill such as construction or agri-
culture or a liberal arts generalist.
Some of the Volunteers are trained agrono-
mists, engineers or architects; some majored in
history or English. One graduate in philosophy
did a valuable job of improving the yield of pigs,
sheep and other small domestic animals simply
because he knew what healthy stock ought to
look like. And he possessed the intellectual equip-
ment to research the program and take the needed
remedial measures. In a fairly primitive society,
a well-rounded generalist may have greater im-
pact than a high level specialist.
Training is designed to teach the Volunteer the
basic skills of the technical areas which are most
needed in the area where he will be working.
In the Peace Corps training program for a
community development project in Colombia, col-
lege graduates of some 20 fields are learning the
difference between rich mortar and concrete, how
to lay brick, how to thread a pipe. And when
the trainee learns his masonry, you won't find a
ready-mix truck waiting to pour. He starts in
the carpentry shop by building a mortar board.
He is then presented with a pile of sand and gravel,
a sack of cement and a hoe. From then on it's
all water and elbow grease.
The women practice making their clothing on
a treadle machine, and they will know how to
maintain it before their plane leaves for Colombia.
Once overseas, community development Vol-
unteers work in several areas, depending on the
local needs and whether the Volunteer is working
in a rural or urban situation. Following is a list
of typical projects that rural communities have
selected to pursue. Each Volunteer, of course,
will only be working in two or three areas; no one
Volunteer does all of these things.
-Village organizations: organizing councils,
clubs, co-operatives and community centers. These
are important in teaching attitudes and skills of
-Education: teaching adult literacy classes,
building new schools, remodeling old ones, ob-
taining the services of local teachers.
-Health and sanitation: operating dispensa-
ries, giving vaccinations and immunizations, build-
ing latrines, spraying dwellings with DDT.
-Road and bridge construction: building
feeder roads and improving old ones to develop
an accessibility to markets and sources of new
-Agriculture: teaching the use of improved
strains of seeds, row planting, planting of fruit
trees and vegetables, insecticide spraying, digging
of compost pits and use of artificial fertilizers.
-Irrigation and reclamation: helping the peo-
ple make more efficient use of their natural water
-Animal husbandry: treating animals, improv-
ing stock breeds, inoculating livestock.
-Home economists: teaching better home
making skills, nutritional values, better sanitation
measures to the rural housewives.
Although community development started out
as a rural movement, it has now expanded to
urban areas. Everywhere thousands of villagers
are leaving for the city in hopes of finding jobs,
housing and a better way of life. Too often,
things in the city are not better-but worse. The
migrants often live in the outskirts of the city in
vast wastelands. Shelters are made of cardboard,
tin, scrap boards and old tires. There is no work,
water, light or sanitation. It is in these areas that
Peace Corps Volunteers are working in urban
Typical projects include:
-Ceramics: teaching classes, establishing a
cooperative to market the items.
-Children's art classes: teaching creative ex-
pression by using scrap material.
-Furniture making: working with men of the
community in building low-cost furniture from
-Construction: building a water reservoir, a
house, a school or a community center with the
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local citizens providing tne laoor, ana usuany ine
government providing materials.
-Medical care: helping local health depart-
ment officials conduct immunization programs for
polio, smallpox, whooping cough and diphtheria.
-Nursery schools: establishing a school for
young children p the mothers can work. The
school alsQ, 't-he'y. unteers an opportunity
to establja 'inciples, f dc;iline and cleanliness.
mt lti n: working iO the local govern-
IIment im.a school lunch ptgraT, so that children
get at least onokgood..real la, y
Con munity d'vel'omneent A%, difficult job. No
two communities are the; sarne. Traditional re-
luctance toward acceptirl U v ideas must be un-
derstood; ., community .a;eds time to adapt.
There must be the'greatest possible participation
of ..the .people themselves in accordance with
.:needs determined by their values-using persua-
sion rather than compulsion. Then, sometimes
there is an opposite problem: the people become
too enthusiastic. As a Volunteer explained it:
"Our greatest enemy is the 'elaborate plan.'
The idea becomes the substitute for the work and
sweat that is really needed. We in the United
States are a country of doers-we avoid elaborate
planning and speech-making and quickly roll up
our sleeves and go to work. Our greatest efforts
as Volunteers are spent in getting the sleeves up."
If you're not afraid to roll up your sleeves, the
Peace Corps welcomes your application. Com-
munity development is a demanding job. But it's
a rewarding one. You will probably never spend
a more challenging two years.
As one community development Volunteer said:
"I had been sitting on the sidelines for twenty
years watching the world go to pot, and nobody
ever asked me to do anything about it. The
Peace Corps did, and that's why I'm here."
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND AN APPLICATION,
WASHINGTON, D. C. 20525
Attn: Office of Public Affairs
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