by Mary Duvall
God has modeled for us the decisive act of accompaniment in the life of Jesus. By walking along the road and breaking bread with his companions (Luke 24), Jesus met others eye to eye, accessing new horizons for them to construct their future. Similarly, we endeavor to walk and work with partners. As we engage in critical and self-critical reflection and develop cultural competency, we support, encourage and learn together within long-term relationships of trust and reciprocity. LWR’s Values
As a kid, I hated math. I would do anything in my power to avoid doing my math homework. I’d lose my assignments. Forget the book at school. You name it.
My dad, on the other hand, loved math. He made me sit down with him every night to work on math homework. “It’ll be fun! We’ll do it together!”
We would struggle. I’d tell him to just give me the answer. He’d say no. I’d sulk. He’d make me try again. It wasn’t good enough for me to stumble upon the correct answer – he wanted me to understand WHY that was the correct answer and how I got to it.
I survived. I made it through my math classes. And I even took a math class in college. But it wasn’t until I started my work at LWR that I was able to mutter those fateful words: Dad, you were right.
To me, accompaniment doesn’t mean that LWR goes into a community to do things FOR our partners. It means we ask them what challenges they have, help them figure out how to overcome those challenges, and strengthen their ability to meet their needs. It’s about helping the communities design their own solution, not imposing our own solution on them.
I saw this accompaniment in action last year during my trip to Mali and visited a project supporting female Fonio producers.
When LWR first met this community, the women were struggling to get their families through the “hungry season” (the time between planting and harvesting). They mostly planted millet, but because millet takes so long to grow, they would have to harvest it for food before it had fully matured.
LWR asked the women their ideas of how to shorten the hungry season. They responded that if only they could plant fonio — a traditional grain that matures in half the time of millet — their families then could eat the harvested fonio. The millet would then be able to grow in the field until it is fully mature. There was only one problem: processing fonio is back-breaking labor that can take 15 days to produce 1 bag of grain.
LWR could have taken the easy route. We could have said, “Well, that’s too bad. I’m sorry”, handed out some food packets and left. Instead, we helped the women of this community organize and collectively purchase a husking machine, which decreased the labor and time necessary to process a bag of grain. What used to take 15 days now takes them one hour. And with this time savings, they are able to grow more and varied crops to sell, which increases their income and allows them to spend more time with their families.
And though there is a big difference between learning long division and finding ways to eliminate the hungry season, the value of accompaniment is the same: we care enough about our partners — and my father cared enough about me — to NOT take the easy way out. We walk WITH our partners, supporting and encouraging them to create long-lasting change in their community.
So one more time for my dad: YOU WERE RIGHT. And thank you.