Dorcas is a Christian organisation with biblical values. Faith@Work expresses our desire to work God’s way – His principles will be applied across all our approaches and intervention areas and reflects our core way of working. Faith@Work is built on foundational biblical beliefs and exemplifies our commitment to restored and just relationships and structures, peace and reconciliation and care for all creation – seen throughout our individual, community and societal pathways to change.
Why it matters
The bible calls us to expose injustice in relationships and structures and address the root causes of problems. It also commands us to challenge worldviews – including our own – and look for solutions to cultural difference and conflict working in turn to bring about peaceful and just relationships and reconciliation.
“Many of the communities we work with are strongly rooted in their faith so it is an important way to find common ground and build trust.”Joost van den Hee
We achieve this most readily by showing God’s love in our work; being locally present and sticking with people through the hard times. To develop a credible local presence, we must get to know the people we work with and allow them to get to know us. We believe making the time to nurture relationships is of utmost importance – it facilitates local ideas and skills. “Within the development sector, there is an emerging recognition of the role and relevance of faith”, says Joost van den Hee, our colleague who is responsible for the implementation of the cross-cutting theme Faith@Work at Dorcas. “Many of the communities we work with are strongly rooted in their faith so it is an important way to find common ground and build trust.” And with religion firmly back on the humanitarian agenda, space is created to re-open the conversation and strengthen the role of faith-based actors in development programming.
Our vision on Faith@Work
We see God as the Creator – people are created in the image of God. We believe that justice flows from God’s heart and that by making it our job to restore relationships and care for creation – not only the people on our doorstep – that we can help communities all around the world embrace their God given potential. We summarise our vision in four ‘Re’ words:
- Relocate: working among the people (local presence by the Dorcas team or long-term partners) to build trusted relations and transparency.
- Restore: creating space to discover self and to develop skills and perspective.
- Reconnect: establishing fruitful relationships with others in the community.
- Reshare: promoting and appealing to equal access and sharing of resources by governments and private sector bodies (at the local level and beyond).
Dorcas adopts a practical framework for applying faith in our work – seen in our Theory of Change. Biblical beliefs and the resulting implications to our role as Dorcas are applied to our four intervention areas (see below). Across all areas, we provide practical guidance on how to build relationships and trust with the people we serve, mitigate conflict, promote peace-building and restore hope and motivation. Together, this framework reflects our commitment to an environment that promotes material, social, intellectual and spiritual change.
How we see ourselves as well as how we perceive others can be damaged in relief and early recovery as well as livelihoods and entrepreneurship settings due to unjust structures, exploitation of natural resources, thwarted gender norms or unequal access to means of living. Our interventions are designed to restore, secure and redistribute livelihoods opportunities and enable people living at the margins of society to play an active role in their community.
Our relief programmes set out to provide lifesaving goods and services in a non-discriminatory manner – all people are equal in the eyes of God. The provision of psychosocial care, protection and/or legal support is essential in our bid to restore hope and dignity among vulnerable and excluded groups. Existing structures and actors are mobilised to help individuals (re)take control and responsibility. We seek out religious and other leaders – credible actors within the community – to take the lead in reconciliation and trust-building efforts.
2. Early Recovery
Following conflict or disaster, our aim is to carry out recovery activities as early as possible. The less time people are dependent on emergency aid, the better. We want them to realise their own potential and regain hope for the future – long after our formal involvement ends. Among others, we increase access to farm inputs, facilitate micro-business, set up self-help groups and improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. These actions are based on the importance of environmental stewardship, community-based protection structures, balanced leadership – men and women and the inclusion of vulnerable groups including elderly, children, people with disabilities and religious or other minorities.
3. Enterprising People
Enterprising people means applying the biblical lens to all our entrepreneurial activities. Our programmes ensure the sustainable use of land and other resources, fair participation of producers and consumers (pro poor market services) and just structures and market opportunities. We also promote social impact enterprises and fair arrangements in value chains such as the share of surplus produce among members of social safety nets. Inclusive participation of community members and youth and gender equality also play a leading role.
4. Community-Based Care & Protection
Community-Based Care & Protection acknowledges that within any community there are always people that need extra care and protection – either on a temporary of structural basis. Widows, orphans, people with disabilities – all deserve a higher level of support from others. Our community-based protection and safety nets projects are an expression of our sustained commitment to the community. We also encourage the broader society to take responsibility and assure the sharing and fair distribution of resources.
Culturally sensitive approach
How we implement Faith@Work varies from region to region. Van den Hee explains: “Contextual sensisitivity is very important – and country office staff know the local context better than anyone. Our role is to inspire, share stories and motivate each other to stay true to our mission and the people we work with.” Dorcas’ core values are both intercultural and inter-religious. This makes it easier to connect with religious leaders and faith-based NGOs. “If your core values align and you take time to build a relationship it creates a space of mutual respect and trust and allows you to talk about sensitive topics”, says Van den Hee. “This is our experience. Besides, more often than not it’s political revolutions, corruption and ethnic conflict that breaks down these relationships, and religion that brings us together.”
Experiences from the field
Faith@Work is visible in our work – in small acts and bigger projects. Van den Hee: “I recently visited a family in the Ukraine. I asked them what had impacted their lives the most in the last ten years. Straightaway, the family talked about their interactions with Dorcas project workers and the prayers. This, they explained, gave them real hope for the future. Straightaway, the family talked about their interactions with Dorcas project workers – it gave them real hope.” He continues: “We had a similar project in Ethiopia. Last year, a consultant undertook an impact study in the slums of Addis Ababa. The researcher asked a group of teenagers: What made the biggest difference in your life? Material goods, arts modules, school, skills training? 80 percent of them answered: the attention of the social worker. This for me is Dorcas.”
What’s more, Dorcas works to create safe spaces where people can be vulnerable and take the time to develop. Self-help and other community-based groups are essential components. In Ethiopia, Van den Hee spoke to women who had joined self-help groups: “Through exchanging stories and collaborating with other women, they told me how their lives have changed and how they have developed self-worth and a future perspective. As a group, they were able to save and launch micro-businesses. Some also went through a spiritual transformation.”
Dorcas is working to increase its expertise in five key areas – Social Inclusion, Gender, Environmental Change, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation and Faith@Work. These five areas represent our cross-cutting themes and are assigned specific spokespersons who take a leading role in weaving them into our programmes in close cooperation with our country offices.
21 January 2021