Engaging communities and involving them in decision-making activities is a challenging but critical component of relief and recovery operations in Sri Lanka. Communities often find it difficult to keep up with the various projects being implemented within the extensive scope of World Vision's Tsunami Response, particularly with the deteriorating security situation in the East and North of the country. To tackle this potential gap in understanding and participation, World Vision's Humanitarian and Accountability Team (HAT) has been working to establish and maintain an ongoing dialogue with communities to help them identify and find solutions to their development issues, as well as understand their roles and responsibilities regarding the new facilities they receive in the program.
Tools such as a Community Transition Program Calendar allows World Vision to effectively communicate its transition out of tsunami areas, as projects are completed over the next nine months. The calendar, which is used at project sites and uses easy to understand symbols, has facilitated smooth discussions with communities in the nine tsunami affected districts in Sri Lanka and has created understanding of project progress, transition, roles and responsibilities, problems and possible solutions.
An innovative tool currently in use is a 3D animation video used to educate tsunami survivors about their rights, responsibilities and entitlements, whilst building social capacity and establishing community action groups. The latter is of utmost importance in tsunami shelter sites because many of the families that move into new homes are not part of the original community. They are reluctant to take ownership of the community's shared problems and volunteer their support to a new community that they feel they have little in common with. Knowledge of rights and responsibilities of government, relief organizations and community is often limited.
The video seeks to help communities adjust to their new environments. Shown by a facilitator, the video details problems that a community might face in the future, such as broken windows and cracks in the wall and discusses the roles and responsibilities of the community in addressing these problems. The discussions that are conducted afterwards provoke new ways of thinking that help the community realize the need for advocacy and joint action. After establishing an understanding among the community members of the importance of their cooperation with one another, World Vision makes sure that they are empowered by establishing Community Action Groups that advocate on common problems, such as garbage disposal. These groups are an elected representative body of women, men and children, chosen through community elections using ballot boxes and nomination forms.
The Community Transition Programs Calendar and 3D animation are just two tools helping to increase community knowledge, encouraging them to mobilize and take action on issues that impact their lives. The tools also hold World Vision accountable to the communities they serve. The animation video can be viewed on www.wvtsunami.org