By Ric Stewart
This article highlights some of the mission work Mike and Lynn Hutchinson are doing in Togo, West Africa, serving as CBF Global Field Personnel. Several excerpts (italicized) and photos from an article written by Greg Warner and published in the August/September issue of the CBF Global Fellowship Magazine are shown below.
Mike and Lynn are committed Christians who have been missionaries for most of their adult lives. They speak French fluently, which makes them a tremendous asset for CBF in Togo, where next to Eve the native language, French is the most dominant language. In the past several years, Mike and Lynn have focused on the general education of children in the townships/villages around Lome, Togo, AF. Lome is located on the Atlantic coast of West Africa. Mike and Lynn also have worked diligently with adults and children in helping them to realize their God-given potential. Asset Based Community Development methods are used to develop the villagers talents/skills to the point of being able to use the natural resources of Togo to produce products/services that are of value to the overall community.
The Hutchinsons have a low opinion of “development” as traditionally practiced by Westerners. In a typical approach, “a community must be seen as having nothing” in order to receive help from outside organizations, Mike explained. “This can promote a ‘deficit perspective.’ Sometimes the community themselves come to believe that they have nothing, which leaves them with little hope for improvement.”
“Asset-based community development starts with the individuals who are there,” Lynn explained. “Instead of focusing on deficits, it helps people recognize that they and others in their community have, and in fact are, assets.”
The Hutchinsons believe this organic approach to problem-solving produces community buy-in, and hence long-lasting results.“We invest in individuals,” Mike said. “As they grasp the idea of it, they start things.”
Severan is an eager high-school student from a nearby fishing village, where mothers were troubled about frequent illnesses among their children. After Mike shared the ABCD principles with Severan, the boy and his mother organized a neighborhood sweeping association.
“They decided if their streets were cleaner, their children would be healthier,” Mike noted. Now every Saturday at 5:30 in the morning, villagers emerge from their homes with brooms in hand and sweep the trash from the dirt streets — plastic bags, wrappers, rotten fruit — a week’s worth of accumulated waste in a village where there is no “public works department” to do it.
Those who participate contribute a tiny amount of money and a bar of soap which are raffled off to one lucky participant each week. “It’s kind of like a door prize but without the door,” Lynn said.
The sweeping association is one way for villagers to practice community-based problem solving, one that the CBF field personnel would probably never suggest. Not only are the streets clean, but the sweeping association and the community have become empowered and confident enough to tackle much more.