Thoughts on Community

By Cheryl Mahoney

Our founder and CEO, Pamela Hawley, was recently in Colombia for a conference with the Inter-American Development Bank.  While there, she had the opportunity to volunteer in the local community, which led her to write some beautiful thoughts I wanted to share here:

“One of my favorite parts was visiting the community where some of the women had participated in building and buying their first homes. The pride, the ownership, was so palpable. Nothing was taken for granted. Whereas in the past, a home consisted of one, wide, open-space room, now there was the privilege of having separated rooms as a sign of status and increased wealth. 


“An interesting concept: Separation as status.  It does seem right in many ways: There was a room for the children to sleep; there was a private bedroom for the parents. Often animals were kept inside the home, and now they had a place outside.  Of utmost pride were gardens outside, where natural food was being grown, harvested, for use in the day to day. 
“But it also gets me thinking about the sense of community. Certainly privacy, protection of the husband-wife relationship, and having defined space is a respectful element we all appreciate.  On the other hand, communities are often compacted — dozens of people can and do live together in a shared space. 
“What happens here is truly the utmost in ‘client service.’  People must learn to share and be respectful —  albeit forced at times due to the circumstances — on an entirely different level. I can’t even imagine the patience, perseverance, kindness and utmost of common consideration that entails. These values must be demonstrated consistently, simply in order to live harmoniously.   It makes me think about how much respect I can give — and all the more I can give — to those with whom I live, especially since I do have my separate room.    I think these communities are made up of remarkable people.”

Personally, I love my separate room.  I have two roommates, and even with my own room sometimes it feels a little crowded.  It’s good for me–for all of us, I expect–to remember what a privilege space really is, and also to remember the opportunity presented by shared space.  Living together creates a bond of community, and also creates an opportunity to practice patience, respect and consideration–to create a harmonious space for everyone.

Pamela was also interviewed with the Inter-American Development Bank; check out the podcast.  And if you’d like to help build a home in Colombia, you can do that too.


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