VOLUNTEERS are very important people. These are most often, young men and women who travel abroad wholeheartedly, to render important services to the communities.
In our context, mainly such volunteers from different countries are deployed in remote areas to help communities in different ways.
Sometimes we find them in rural areas helping in education, health and agriculture sectors, among others.
It did not come as a surprise to see Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) last week dispatch the 3rd KOICA - Saemaul Volunteer team, 22 volunteers in total, since the Korean people and their government have always been generous to help our country in various fields.
On Friday, August 10, 2012 the volunteers arrived in the country. We do welcome them to feel at home and help us to improve the quality of services in various sectors. According to KOICA officials, these new volunteers will be stationed to Jinga Village (Bagamoyo), Pangawe Village (Morogoro), Cheju Village (Zanzibar) and Kibokwa Village (Zanzibar).
The volunteers will work with local communities through dissemination of technical know-how, using the Saemaul Undong (New Village Movement) model for one year. The aim of the KOICA - Saemaul Volunteer programme is to share experiences and techniques of Saemaul Undong through the establishment of a model village to eliminate poverty.
According to KOICA Programme Officer, Ms Min-jee Kang, Saemaul Undong is a movement based in Korea seeking community development and modernization of rural villages. Of all things, it is a movement to escape from poverty.
It is, therefore, something that our people should cherish in terms of using the model to change people's lives for the better. This ideal is not limited to individual lifestyles and living conditions, but encompasses the whole community.
The fact that it has been introduced in the country rural extension workers should be encouraged to study the model and replicate it in other social settings around the country. The Folk Development Colleges can also be made aware and taught the model to spread the word on the same.
Since it is evident that it cannot be done alone, what then should be done? Community members must stand together and help each other to move forward. Village is a community where they work and live and that is why community members should develop it together, hand-in-hand.
It is also a fight against old and deep pessimistic views such as "poverty is our fate" or "it is impossible." It is a movement of getting over our pessimism, a movement of mental reformation, say the Korea rural development experts.
What we always need to know is that the culture of resignation should be fought right, left and centre.
It is not the fault of rural communities in this case but those who are entrusted with the duty to effect changes if they fail to deliver the required services.
The country is committed to rural development, which calls for more budget for extension services.
The KOICA - Saemaul Volunteer teams have been volunteering since 2010 at Pangawe Village (Morogoro) and Kibokwa Village (Zanzibar) to contribute amplifying the synergy with KOICA projects, Integrated Rural Development Project in Morogoro and Irrigation Development Project in Zanzibar.
KOICA and North Gyeongsang Province in Korea expanded the Saemaul Movement model villages in Tanzania this year and sent 2 additional volunteer teams at Jinga Village (Bagamoyo) and Cheju Village (Zanzibar).
These new KOICA - Saemaul Volunteer team will continue doing Saemaul Undong for community development. They will do medical service, create a Saemaul organization, conduct Saemaul education (offering training) and provide education for pre-schoolers.
The Korean government initiated Saemaul Undong to develop underprivileged and underdeveloped rural villages of Korea on April 22, 1970. The government proposed and executed 10 major projects for improving rural areas. These include expanding and straightening villages' inner roads, providing roofs and fences, installing laundry facilities, developing community wells, building bridges and improving water systems.
It is therefore crystal clear that the volunteers will only be able to accomplish their goals if the local development partners give utmost cooperation to them in their work. It is the duty of all extension workers and other change agents working with the communities to grab these opportunities of learning a new model of development which is already in the country.