11/29/2010 08:52 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Creating Real, Sustainable Community Change

Around the world CARE supports the efforts of poor and marginalized people to work together to improve their lives. We provide technical expertise, resources and materials but it is the community members themselves who make the change.

In Nueva Esperanza, Honduras, community members pooled their resources and organized a local water committee that with CARE's technical guidance built a gravity fed water system that now provides clean water directly to people's homes. The new system has improved the health of the residents and freed family members (particularly women and girls) from the time intensive task of fetching water. Women and girls are now able to spend more time at school and increasing the production of their home gardens. The efforts of the community was complemented by the work of tens of thousands of volunteer advocates who through the CARE Action Network were promoting more pro-poor USG policies, including the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act.

What happened in Nueva Esperanza is being repeated in thousands of other rural communities and urban neighborhoods around the world. Community members, at times aided by organizations like CARE, are coming together to tackle their most pressing and persistent problems. And what is true in the developing world is equally true here in the United States. Real, sustainable community change requires the initiative and engagement of community members. Government and the private sector play an important role -- and we must hold them accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities -- but each of us individually and all of us collectively bear a responsibility to give of our time and talents to work together to make our cities, our country and, indeed, our world, a better place for us all.

Our friends at HandsOn Network have created the Get HandsOn Campaign to help each of us do our part. By joining the campaign people get connected to others who are trying to make a difference through volunteer service and civic engagement as well as gain access to practical tools and resources to help them be more effective change agents in their own communities.

And for the next few weeks there is the added incentive of prizes for you and grants for your cause. So I challenge you to follow the example of the people of Nueva Esperanza and get engaged in improving your community.  Join the Get HandsOn Campaign today -- make a commitment, sign up and identify or "tag" others who are changing their communities for the better.