“Dismantling the Savior Complex”
Over the course of almost 12 years Project Nicaragua has helped develop a multitude of different projects and has built lasting partnerships with not only individuals in Nicaragua but also in the US. Even though there have been numerous changes along the way, one thing that has not changed has been our organization’s mission and understanding of our role as servants for the communities we work with.
In the humanitarian nonprofit sector, colonial structures have persisted for many years. It is not uncommon to come across organizations or entities that see themselves as being the change and blessing a community needs. To put it more simply, organizations believe that they are the only ones that care enough, know enough or are enough to fix issues they identify to be problems. While this mindset may be empowering for members of those organizations or entities (no matter if they fail or succeed at “fixing these issues they identify”), it sadly often fails to provide opportunity for the communities involved. The reality is that no “problem” can be “fixed” by one single organization, especially an organization that is foreign to the culture and needs of the community they seek to serve.
At Project Nicaragua, we recognize that community needs and desires should come first and not second to our own. Project Nicaragua recognizes that it is not the one solution to addressing the needs of communities, but rather a partner. To truly make a positive difference, collaboration at all sector levels and project stages is crucial.
Project Nicaragua chooses to work with partners that recognize these values and over the years has conducted projects in a way that works alongside community stakeholders to develop community- led projects. Specific ways we have done this in the past include:
- Community Needs Assessments
Conducting randomized community needs assessments and surveys helps provide insight into areas our organization might be able to partner and provide opportunity. By analyzing community needs assessments we can better assist communities in improving initiatives that they actively need assistance with, rather than forcing projects onto communities that have already found solutions that work for them.
- Community Focus Groups
Throughout projects or programs, Project Nicaragua makes an effort to conduct community focus groups, where community members or key stakeholders from the community are invited to share their thoughts and/or concerns regarding projects.
- Community Led Training and Mentorship Programs
All Project Nicaragua initiatives are designed with the end goal of developing community leaders that can keep various initiatives going indefinitely, without the buy-in of Project Nicaragua. Project Nicaragua accomplishes this by training and mentoring teams of community members that later go on to head these projects for their communities.
Our chapters, alumni, and partners all recognize and see our role as servants for the communities we partner with. As a nonprofit, our role is to serve, facilitate, foster, and encourage leadership for the communities we work alongside every day. We actively believe in providing creative community-first solutions that enable communities to continue and develop by themselves. From the moment we partner with communities we seek an eventual exit strategy. Through sustained ongoing training and mentorship, we can nurture leaders in areas of education, entrepreneurship, and health, that will in turn train and mentor those following them. While this means we eventually become redundant, it means that we’ve reached our goal in providing opportunities for communities to further excel sustainably and independently.
We hope that you’ll support us in continuing this mission!