Working and travelling through Sudan in 1998-99, a magical place where one can enjoy a coffee ceremony, cross the 3 Niles in Khartoum (White, Blue and then the Nile), travel up the Nile by boat and sit on top of old Bedford trucks on the way to sleep under the stars in the Sahara desert amongst forgotten pyramids of the ancient city of Merowe.
Best of all was the friendliness of the people, people who would invite you to eat with them every day either at their homes or on the banks of the river Nile, even though you could see they had little. Travelling and working in Sudan was the most humbling experience; people would literally drag off the streets during Ramadan so you could break fast with them and their family at sunset.
Over time, the importance of having community-owned programs has become a central tenant to our company, which has changed, developed and grown over the years. This change and understanding have come from personal development and growth through working with various communities and community-based organizations in South Africa and especially in Zimbabwe.
Rural communities are complex and one must be aware of the ‘community myth’: there is, in reality, no one community, but a mixture of many communities within a geographical area, some of which can work together and some which are always against each other, be it about conservation, hunting, poaching, schooling, religion, or where a new clinic should be built. Understanding the ‘community myth’, and navigating the many pathways to success, is an ongoing process and something which one never stops learning from, but must be aware of.