The Importance of Local Leadership

“Our community is a part of our responsibility, and we have to care for each other.”

Lennon Malambe is one of our staff members in South Africa. He is from a local community called Embonisweni, where we run one of our after school programs and some of our leadership training.

He first joined in 2010, when he decided to do a discipleship training school, and now he is leading several of our local mission projects.

We asked Lennon a couple of questions about why it is so important for organizations such as Ten Thousand Homes to raise up and empower local leaders in order to create sustainable change.

Why is it so important that you as a local take responsibility in your own community?

It is very important because it communicates values. It teaches them that our community is a part of our responsibility and that we have to care for each other. I think it gives them hope when they see people with the same background, from the same circumstances, standing up and taking responsibility.

Do you think it would have the same effect if someone from the west came and did your job?

We can’t teach people to wait for someone from the outside to make a difference. We need to show that people like us can come together and find solutions. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s less efficient when western people come to help. It is about how we do it, not who does it. The ideal solution is that we all work together because we see different needs.

What do you mean by different needs?

Take me for example. I have lived in this community my entire life. There are certain issues I have grown up with which are normal to me; these situations seem so hopeless because I don’t see how we can make a difference. In those times, an outside perspective is very helpful.

At the same time, because I grew up here, I have insight into what the communities actually need and how to solve problems in a way that local people would receive it. So it is two-sided.

Do you think this is vital in order to do sustainable humanitarian work?

Oh, that’s a good one. I would say yes, but I believe there is more to it. First, imagine you give someone a fish. They would have food for a day, but what would happen if you taught them how to fish? They would have food for a lifetime.

We need to teach, not just give. Giving is more than money and necessities. It is also knowledge and compassion. To teach someone takes time, relationship, and patience. That’s why I really like what Ten Thousand Homes is doing here.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you have grown as a leader through working with Ten Thousand Homes?

I have grown a lot, especially in the last couple of years. I am so lucky that I have great leaders that teach me a lot, but at the same time let me do things my own way.

I have learned how to be an independent leader and how to lead from a place of confidence and who I am as a person. If I try to do it a different way, I am not going to do a good job. No one will.

As an international community, Ten Thousand Homes always strives to raise up and empower local leaders. As Lennon Malambe points out: “I think the combination of outside perspective and inside knowledge is key to achieve sustainable humanitarian change.”

by Marthe Nymoen, TTH Intern