“When I started SCAD I had Rs. 300 ($6) and three of us lived in a room just 10m x 10m in size. In the first year I made a small application to Action Aid /Gorta and we started working in 14 villages with evening training classes and community organisation.
Community organisation is the most important part of what we do; we are not concerned about how much we can do but about how much we can enable the community to do.
Our biggest challenge has been working with the salt pan workers who live in the most oppressive of conditions. Money lenders and employers in the area were violent and threatening towards us when we tried to campaign for better conditions for them.
We had to respond quickly by helping the workers organise themselves into a united group. Eventually through our education and training, the people became more aware of their situation and the opposition became very weak.
Learn how to help the people you’re helping. The main message in the work I do is to love the people and to go and share in their lives to understand what they are going through. I was a field worker for many years living a very simple life. That was how it started.
We get the most pleasure when we can leave a village to stand on its own feet. More than hundred villages have already made it to this stage. Indicators for villages to become self-governing include an increase in the poverty line, health, child mortality and educational standards. We need to work with the community for a long time, 10-15 years, to build their strength and empowerment.”
If you’re inspired by Cletus’s story why not get involved.