Cultivating Independence Through Community Development

By Odalys, Cohort 7, and Brielle Perry, LMI Intern

When our students graduate from The Leadership Center, they leave campus ready to become drivers of positive social change in the world. Odalys, a 2017 graduate of The Leadership Center, has spent the past five years turning her passion for community development into a career. She currently serves as the Community Outreach Assistant for El Ayudante, a nonprofit organization based in Comayagua, Honduras, that empowers local leaders to enact sustainable solutions within their own communities. As we approach Honduran Independence Day, we are honored to share Odalys’ perspective on how applying strong community development practices enables people, communities, and countries to gain autonomy and grow for the better. 

Why is community development important in Honduras? 

Community development is very important in Honduras because the main purpose of community development is to bring people together to work toward a common goal so they can improve their living conditions as individuals and as a group. People need to understand that implementing strong community development practices within their community is important for collective growth. For example, communities evolve when they work together as a team.

How have you witnessed the impact of community development in the communities you work with? 

As a community development practitioner, I have seen firsthand how the perspectives of community members grow once they become a part of creating change. I have witnessed community members taking initiative and leading in ways that benefit not only themselves and their families but their entire community. I have seen communities begin working together toward the same purpose of helping their communities flourish. These actions—stepping up to lead change and coming together to better a community—are what community development is all about. 

How have you been personally affected by your work with various communities? 

I have been doing community development projects for the last five years, and it has been five years of endless learning from the people and communities I have worked alongside. I have realized that community practices can and often do change from one place to another—sometimes, what works in one community might not be effective in a different community. The more I learn, the more empowered I feel to continue working in community development. 

How do the communities you partner with celebrate Honduran Independence Day? Are there traditions celebrated on this day that encourage you to continue working in community development?

Most cities and villages throughout Honduras celebrate Honduran Independence Day with parades, marches in the streets, drummers, and folk dances, all performed by students from primary and secondary schools. However, despite being independent from Spain for over 200 years, Honduras has a long way to go in terms of development. Within communities across Honduras, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. To truly change mindsets and empower community members, we need to enact intentional, effective development strategies throughout communities. This truth is what encourages me to continue doing the work I do. 

Want to become a supporter of LMI’s mission? Leading up to Honduran Independence Day, LMI is seeking new partnerships to give  a month toward developing #strongvoices at The Leadership Center. Help us continue to foster independence and leadership qualities within our students this quarter. Click here to donate today.