Village Earth

Working for Change in Sierra Leone, Africa

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The article below is introduction to one of our newest affiliates, Village Care Initiatives in Sierra Leone. We are very excited about their success so far and happy to welcome them to Village Earth’s affiliate program. In 2007, the first phase of an action-research partnership with local grassroots groups and community-based organizations was initiated in Eastern Sierra Leone. The partnership initiated what they called the “Village Care” approach based on the principle that recognition of strengths, gifts and assets of individuals and the community stimulates positive action for change. When communities focus on what they have (rather than what they lack) to achieve goals, they are better able to advance their livelihoods in a sustainable and self-sufficient way. The project brings the community members together to identify and map the capacities of individuals, associations and institutions. This helps them to take stock of their strengths and design programs accordingly. Once the community participates in a series of exercises, they generate action plans that utilize their assets in order to achieve a desired change. In general, the principle is based on the recognition that successful community driven activities are achieved through self-guided leadership with citizens at the center of the activity, rather than institutions. Village Care rests on and is perpetuated through feelings of confidence and capacity rather than a sense of dependence on external support.   Village Care has successfully started a number of projects by focusing on communities’ assets. They have worked in the area of education, women’s rights, infrastructure, leadership training, small-scale loans and agricultural projects. Agricultural groups have come together focused on postponing harvest until the need for food becomes critical. Stocks are then divided among members. Another group has set up a revolving loan fund. Members borrow money to purchase agricultural or fishing inputs or to do petty trading. Another group has set up an emergency loan fund to cover the expenses of members and their families needing medical services or to help cover school expenses for their children. While many groups mobilized their assets and successfully cultivated community support, some have run into barriers that may require additional resources from outside to fulfill their goals. Village Care project groups have started looking for ways to connect with others that allow them to stay true to community goals. Village Care Initiatives and its local partners have established a revolving fund that groups could apply for on a competitive basis to utilize for community projects. This locally managed Community Leverage Fund’s main purpose is to offset financial shortages experienced by communities as they pursue their goals. If you wish to support the important work that Village Care Initiatives is doing in addressing issues of hunger, women’s rights and access to loans, please read more or donate to Village Care Initiatives.

Upcoming Courses in the Village Earth/CSU Online Certificate Program in Community-Based Development

Fall I Session

GSLL 1509 – Development and the Politics of Empowerment

Through a careful investigation of the historical applications of development, we will explore the idea that development is an inherently political process and challenge the claim that any development NGO is apolitical. Additionally, we will strive to identify successful methods of community empowerment through political organization.

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Summer II Session

GSLL 1510 – Community-Based Mapping

This course explores theories, ethics, applications, and methods of community-based mapping and its role in participatory learning and action as well as larger processes of integrated community-based development.

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