Meet the Fellow: Lee Reh Angelo

Lee Reh Angelo completed high school in Kayah and then worked as a lecturer on Kayahculture in the Kayah literacy project. He was elected by community members as a village leader from 2002−2006. He initially tried to organise young people in the community because he could see that there was a difference in disadvantage between youth in his community and in others. As well as seeing challenges in the village (for example, it was very difficult to get drinking water), he also saw opportunities. There were a lot of untapped human and natural resources in the village. Angelo had a good relationship with a local organisation because of his work as a village leader. He was selected to be a fellow and attended ActionAid’s fellowship training.

Lee Reh Angelo had previously been interested in development but he did not understand the different theories of change. As a village leader, he practised top-down development. However, following the training he used more participatory methods. He has seen for himself that these are more effective at sustaining action and more satisfying for himself and the community. He also has the knowledge and skills to get people involved.

ActionAid has developed a variety of tools and consulative processes that help villages get involved in finding solutions to their own problems.

These tools are effective at mobilising people,” he explained. “My favourite is the 'resource map' as it makes people see what the resources are in the community, and then I use the 'problem tree' and compare the two so that we can see how to resolve the problems with the available resources. I also like the 'dream map'.

However, it was not all easy. Only five people turned up to Angelo’s first community meeting, and there did not appear to be much enthusiasm to experiment with his new methodologies. He then changed his strategy and joined the villagers with their work in the farms, talking to them as they worked. This was more strategic and his commitment to village work enthused the community to get involved with what he was doing. After a while, and with the support of a community volunteer (trained by Angelo), things improved. One step was to bring together the multiple existing groups so that there was one village development group that represented the village.

Angelo then used the dream map methodology and worked with the village group to identify the village’s priorities. They decided that it would be useful to have a bridge that would join the neighbouring village. The funding for this bridge was shared between the government, the village and the project. 

After identifying the issue of water scarcity, the village contacted the government and received the funding to build a pond, with the result that fresh water is readily available.

 

Angelo has seen that these tools work to create effective outcomes for villagers in other placement villages. For example, in one village many people complained about the lack of sand for building materials. However, when the community knowledge was pooled in a
resource map, the community found that there was sand not far away.
He said that he has gained more respect from the community now since he treats everyone more equally. In addition, he suggests that it is now easier to work at the township level with other stakeholders and decision makers because they acknowledge the seriousness of the community work since it is so organised and structured in a much better way.