Home / Community Development – Intro

Via’s Community Development initiative supports leaders promoting sustainable community development in the California/Baja California border region. Our responsive and inclusive approach supports a wide range of programs, always and everywhere designed by local leaders who are best positioned to know the needs of their communities.

What is Sustainable Community Development?

Sustainable Community Development is a global movement to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The United Nations has set  Sustainable Development Goals to address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. As a part of this global movement, and informed by its history and experience, VIA INTERNATIONAL (or, simply, “Via”) has developed its own unique approach. Incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in the United States in 1976, we work closely with our sister organization, LOS NIÑOS DE BAJA CALIFORNIA (or, simply, “Los Niños”), which was established as an “Asociación Civil” in Mexico in 1988. We have spent 45 years building relationships of trust with community leaders from across the California/Baja California bioregion and indeed around the world.

Our Philosophy

We have been successfully supporting local leaders to become agents of positive change since 1975, resulting in community defined programs in nutrition and ecology education, food security and community gardens, micro-credit, community leadership education, integrative service learning, youth leadership and civic engagement. 

Via supports local engagement as a participatory process in which individuals identify community needs and organize themselves to take the actions necessary to improve quality of life. It is not a linear process but a “caracol de desarrollo” or spiral of development that advances and retreats both individually and collectively. Slow and inclusive, integrated community development values patience, persistence and respect, and helps build paths to self-reliance for an interdependent world.

Since 1975, Via has fostered community initiatives based on the ideals of sustainability and well-being that support local community members to teach nutrition, develop family gardens and address local environmental issues. What naturally evolved from this programming was a realization among participants that economic sustainability and well-being was needed to maintain quality of life improvements. As a result, micro-credit loans became an avenue to enhance family income as well as build community through solidarity loan groups.

Via’s expertise lies in developing relationships at the grassroots level and listening and responding to the needs of each community. As a result, much of our current programming has been initiated through the needs and desires expressed by project participants themselves. Other program areas developed through this participatory approach include a university-credentialed leadership education program as well as our educational travel programs that integrate and educate student visitors in community sustainability efforts.

Four Key Principles

Safety in Community with Expert Local Knowledge & Supervision

Safety is a priority to Via International and we focus on a combination of resources to provide safe volunteer travel experiences and community engagement. Our over 45 years of experience in the field has taught us to employ local experts engaging in community projects and cultural exchange through group activities. Our team in each location is a ‘family’ and when you travel with us, you become a part of it. This is possible due to the fact that Via supports programs that are responsive to locally defined needs, relying on close partnerships with local organizations and the leadership of local residents.

Long-term Relationships with Local Partners

We are proud to collaborate with a host of dynamic local partners oriented to a long-term commitment to addressing complex socioeconomic challenges and working toward community level solutions.

Hands-on Learning through Immersive Education

We believe that service and cultural exchange helps to raise awareness of the complexities and interconnectivity of these unique communities while simultaneously providing a vehicle for transparency, support, and an influx of much needed energy.

Sustained Impact through Integrated Volunteer Service

When joining Via International, you become part of an extensive support network reaching an estimated 25,000 people each year in communities around the world. We support international development initiatives through our Integrated Volunteer Travel Programs with international volunteering opportunities in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Bolivia and Sri Lanka. In addition, we have domestic programs in San Diego and Appalachia. Each of these is designed to improve quality of life through nutrition and ecology training, community leadership education and/or microcredit and micro-enterprise support.

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