African Villages Empowered to Fight Poverty
David Glenwinkel worked with humanitarian aid and charitable associations and realized something was wrong in the system. He wondered how it was possible that billions of dollars in aid sent to Africa could have little impact on the African villages it was supposed to help.

With this in mind, Glenwinkel took a revolutionary approach to helping the needy and poor African villages to fight poverty. He founded Village Care International in 2008, offering hand-ups, not hand-outs, to empower struggling African communities. He hoped his unorthodox programs would help poor communities utilize their own resources without depending on failing aid programs.

“We believe only Africa can solve their problems by using the resources they have on hand,” said Glenwinkel. “We do that by equipping communities and their leaders with principles and practices that empower vulnerable populations to thrive.”

The core program at Village Care International is Outcomes Practices and Open Space (OPOS). In seminar forms, it is presented to any targeted community in one to three days. All OPOS seminars are run by trained African facilitators, with every villager invited to participate.

The program first recognizes the underlying causes of African poverty and struggles including colonial, cultural and historical factors, along with failures in direct aid and outside support.

The facilitator then guides villagers to set up a series of goals or outcomes for their community to fight poverty, using their own language and localized definitions. After everyone agrees on their goals, the facilitator leads villagers to discuss things that must be done to achieve the outcomes.

At the end, every participant shares with the group about what he or she can contribute to the community and what they can do as a group for the community.

In this program, the facilitator equips local communities and their leaders with principles and practices that empower vulnerable populations to thrive. In the past eight years, Village Care has seen its OPOS program take hold in 800 villages across 10 countries — through initiatives such as improving sanitation to boosting fish-farming techniques to fight hunger.

Increasingly, the program is spread and shared from village to village via word of mouth, helping countless families repair their villages while working to take advantage of the resources at hand to build a better future.

Yvie Yao

Photo: Flickr