Wellness in Tough Times

Lessons Learned  The WTT team did not necessarily work or live in the locations selected for the pilot project. It was important to identify local Extension professionals who were trusted resources and were willing to serve as liaisons between community advocates and the project team.  Some of the WTT locations selected for the project were in frontier areas of Nebraska. Instead of selecting one small village in these locations, the team focused on a multi-county area that included several small rural communities.  Due to the nature of this work, it was also important to engage with Extension professionals focused on rural community development.

Lynch, Nebraska (population 206) was one of the villages affected by the 2019 flooding. Photo credit: Lynch Volunteer Fire Department

Community Advocates Are the Key to Success By Julien Hoffman

Selecting community advocates involved more personal connections than metrics. The WTT team relied on local Extension professionals and community leaders to suggest strong candidates to be the advocates for their communities’ needs and liaisons for the WTT project. The communities were represented by individuals with leadership skills, a sense of responsibility to their community, and a high level of trust with other locals. These qualities allowed each chosen community advocate to act as a representative comfortably and confidently in their community and champion their selected community projects. Lessons Learned  When communities already have a stable leadership structure and a network of community advocates, a new project is more likely to be welcomed and have follow-through.  Community advocates have good intentions but may find they have limited capacities and access to resources. In our project communities, advocates were also affected personally by the 2019 disasters. While they wanted to help their communities, they also had to help themselves.

 Relationship building with communities and community advocates is key to project success.

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