CDP is a mouthful … but it works

CDP is a mouthful … but it works

Some days my letterbox is full of stories of hungry children, people dying of thirst, girls left out of school and communities denied a political voice. And as I sit down to read about who needs what, I ask myself: What on earth do I base my decision upon about where to make my donation? Food? Shelter? Education for women and girls?

Recently I met people who gave me the answer: Community Development Projects (CDPs).

Bear with me. Community Development Projects are a mouthful to say, but they work. Why? Because they are able to respond to the specific needs of specific people in specific places.


Unpicking the web of poverty in India

We were visiting a community about six hours north-west of Kolkata, West Bengal — a place so isolated that a woman gripped my hand and told me (via translator) we were the first foreigners she’d ever seen “in real life”.

We were showered by marigold petals as our ears were filled with the sound of welcome drums, children bubbling and saris singing with colour. Boys had slicked their hair flat for our arrival and proudly offered up their baby sisters for photos.

Poverty is a complex web that is ever-present in this community (and so many others like it). Unpicking it is the vision of the Church of North India.

“We don’t choose one issue,” explained Nita Pyne, who oversees the CDPs within the Diocese of Durgapur. “We ask the people in the communities what they need and then train Community Organisers to help them meet their challenges.

“You can only beat poverty by addressing many different issues: women’s rights; support for school; health; farming techniques; water supply. We want to create whole, healthy communities. That’s what Community Development projects do.

“Poverty is very complex and the way we tackle it must be sophisticated too.”



Making a local difference

On a mat woven from leaves gathered from a nearby forest — hand-made products like these are the community’s only source of income — a group of women told us about the progress they had been making. Yes, they are occasionally beset by elephants in search of food, who emerge from the forest and knock down their homes. But no, they have not lost heart.

Once they relied on rainfall alone to grow their food and when it ran out, they moved on in search of another place to live. Now, they’ve lobbied the government for a water pump, as well as starting to irrigate crops, use drought-resistant seed and grow better food.

Their children attend school more regularly and they have a local tutoring centre to support their education, health and nutrition. The women have formed a self-help group to learn about available pensions and manage saving schemes and loans. A local Community Organiser goes door-to-door speaking to people about gender equality and the rights of women and girls.
“I think my daughter will be the first person in our family ever to have a really good life,” a lady called Amala told us. “She is vaccinated. She goes to school, eats well.

“I am saving for our future, for a cow through the Women’s Group. Before, none of this would have been possible, not for any of us.”


Power to the people

Community Development Projects like this one are smart, sustainable ways to overcome poverty.

CDPs genuinely put power in the hands of people to take charge of their own lives. These projects take time and energy but, in the hands of committed and capable people like our partners, they really work.

This year, UnitingWorld is helping to build the capacity of the Church of North India to train more Community Organisers throughout remote West Bengal.

Are you keen to invest your money in sophisticated, long-term solutions to poverty? CDPs are the place.


Cath Taylor, UnitingWorld

  • In recognition of UnitingWorld’s effective work in the sector, the Australian government makes available an annual grant to support its projects. For every $5 of government funding, UnitingWorld must provide $1 in supporter donations. What this means is your donation will have up to 6 times more impact for Uniting Church work in the field. Click here to donate before June 30  



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