I am often intrigued by the question of what a developing community is and how people should think about it. This is mainly because so many individuals believe that development is what occurs in distant countries, far removed from the developed world that “we” live in. Development is what happens in desolate places where minimal infrastructure exists, where people have little or no health care and where poverty is endemic. It occurs in areas with high illiteracy rates and high unemployment rates. Often, the people there feel a sense of abandonment by their government and hopelessness in terms of a long-term, stable future.
And this is where I get intrigued. Because, as I look at these definitions, I immediately think of many areas right in our own backyards that also fit these profiles.
While there are certainly different challenges faced by areas in Africa or Latin America versus areas in the United States or Europe, I do believe that all of these areas have many issues in common that require similar sets of expertise. The issues of poverty, homelessness, despair, mental health issues, and literacy are universal and need to be addressed in every location. We need to prepare students to address these issues throughout the global environment where they may work.
It may not sound as exciting to say we need professionals who can address poverty and homelessness in Detroit or Los Angeles, but the reality is we need professionals who can work in Los Angeles as well as Lagos. The time has arrived for us all to take as much of an interest in our own backyard as in ones 5,000 miles away – they both deserve our attention.