An Introduction to Village Care Initiatives, Sierra Leone
Village Care Program helps communities find the answer within themselves.
- The Plight
- The Village Care Approach ( The Empowerment Change Model )
- Village Care Success Story
- VCISL Principles
- VCISL Achievements
- VCISL Costs
The Plight of Sierra Leone
Remote villages in Sierra Leone have been devastated by prolonged poverty. The result has been a devastating war, disease such as Ebola and HIV/AIDS pandemic, malnutrition and finally hopelessness.
In Sierra Leone, VCISL works in almost 30 villages. The average life expectancy is 45 years, compared to the average US life expectancy which is nearly twice that. The country is one of the world’s poorest, and 37.36% of the population lacks safe water to drink. Over 90% of people don’t have access to toilets. Kids in Sierra Leone die before their fifth birth day, many from diarrhea, worms or other water-related illnesses. Over 3,000 children and adults were living with Ebola and HIV at the end of 2014. Approximately 12,000 children in Sierra Leone have lost one or both parents due to all causes, with 4,000 of them having lost one or both parents due to Ebola and HIV at the end of 2014.
Helping to explain these desperately high mortality rates are figures on national income, and economic security. 92% of Sierra Leoneans live on less than $1 a day. This low income decreases access to crucial resources, like clean water, education, health care, food and public sanitation services.
Sierra Leone is currently in a poverty trap. There are no navigable waterways, hindering trade and resulting in high transport costs. Western market is virtually cut off. As a result of poor market conditions and high transport costs, individuals are unable to succeed in businesses resulting in low income, and virtually no savings.
Your organization intervention can help improve the quality of life and new forms. VCISL has determined that the quality of life in communities can only be improved if the inhabitants become the prime moving force for their own development. With your partnership and community driven development , new forms of education need will be developed to create a new consciousness of this role among them, as well as to impact new skills.
By relying on the ideas of the community we try to combine outside resources and education to supplement local resources, with emphasis on local decision.
The Village Care Approach
Village Care Initiatives Sierra Leone mobilizes communities to care for their most vulnerable members, orphans and widows. We facilitate communities finding the answer within themselves. Using our Empowerment – Change Model: a four stage program, we work with communities to mobilize and advance sustainable change in remote rural villages.
By targeting the most vulnerable members of villages, we can encourage communities to meet and discuss solutions to their local problems. Every community will mobilize around the idea that all children, in particular orphans and vulnerable children, ought to be safe, healthy, living in a loving home, in school and succeeding and represented in their communities.
Empowerment Change Model
The empowerment change model ultimately improves the quality of life for all village members because they rely on themselves to help children. The Village Care emphasis on self-reliance encourages the development of healthy and dynamic communities, and energized and hopeful individuals. The model is initiated in communities by Village Care staff and sustained by local volunteers.
The program is initiated with training that asks village community members to use the resources they have on hand to implement 5 core practices necessary for children to thrive: Sanitation, nutrition, health care, education, economic security, cross – cultural exchange, and development programs.
In addition, the villages organize a village care leadership committee that helps support ongoing maintenance of the home and community practices and also registers 100 of the most vulnerable children within the village for help.
The children and their families are provided with additional and specific support by the larger village, such as food donations, clothes donations, resources for shelter, paying for expenses such as teachers’ salaries, textbooks, school supplies, electricity, uniforms, etc.
Once the community implements the Empowerment – Change program with no external resources for 6 months, they are eligible to seeking outside financial help where appropriate, if they require additional capital to complete key projects. These could include: expansion of a community garden, building materials for the homes of families caring for orphans, development of a fund to support the operation of a fee free educational facilities for students and their families.
Village Care has seen communities come together, pool their own resources, and buy clothing for orphans, loan money for small businesses (and the loans were repaid), organize community sanitation networks, donated building materials, after – school reading programs, and more. It is incredible to see what these communities can do when they are given the opportunity to discuss. Below is a “Sticky Wall”, a trademark of Village Care’s open space discussions. It is used to help organize community members so they can discuss issues that are important and relevant to them.
A Village Care Success Story: The women of Darul, Sierra Leone
Village Care Initiatives Sierra Leone (VCISL) believes that local issues are solved with local solutions. We encourage communities to find their answers within themselves with the resources they have in hand. VCISL recruits Village Care coordinators to travel in teams of 5 to the villages that request support on specific projects they have initiated. Below is a story that demonstrates the infinite potential for human achievement when groups rely on themselves.
In the summer of 2012, the VCI group leader asked if the VCISL staff could organize a volunteer team coordinator to work with some of the women in Darul, his home village. These women were interested in implementing VCI practices, but they were not certain of where to start. VCISL staff organized a small team of women staff to travel to the village, introduce the idea of a women’s group, and assist in facilitation of the early sessions. Given the VCISL focus on indigenous leadership, the staff team leader sought approval from the women prior to their trip. She communicated through the National director.
The women of Darul were excited by the opportunity to meet alone as a group without their husbands. In many Sierra Leone communities, leadership roles are relegated only to men and women do not often get the chance to establish and develop their own leadership skills. When given this opportunity to engage with each other around a common problem, the matured leadership abilities of the participants in the Darul women’s discussion group began to emerge. By working as a united group that was directed only by participants, the Darul women were very capable in putting in place plans to improve the outcomes of their own children, as well as the outcomes of other vulnerable children living in the village.
The original group began in 2013 with 11 women; by 2014, 2 of the original group members were ready to initiate their own groups. Between 2014 and 2016, the original women’s group accomplished the following:
- Initiated and maintained a community garden that they shared with the group members as well as with widows in Darul that did not have enough food to feed their children.
- Each had donated 5,000 Leones ($1) to a common fund. The fund grew until they were able to have a fund large enough to allow them to put hand washing stations just outside of each of their homes. After they had taken care of their own homes, they were saving to offer the services to other families in the village caring for vulnerable children.
- They are making business plans and working to find the resources to fund the initiation of a sewing business that could jointly run among all members of the group that committed resources to the endeavor.
- The original Darul Women’s group has expanded to include 50 women and they are continuing to grow. As the group expands, the women are better prepared to design new projects as each new recruit brings to the group a novel set of skills.
Each of these projects is being implemented with no external resources and each further improves nutrition, sanitation, education, health care awareness, and economic development in Darul. In turn, these practices increase the likelihood that even the most vulnerable children in the village will be able to be safe, healthy, living in a loving home, going to school and succeeding, and contributing to their community.
VCISL applies a business model to community mobilizing. The organization emphasizes principles also evident in successful businesses. Community self-reliance is a key goal of VCISL.
- Equal Vesting: Outside resources must be matched with community resources. All communities initiate projects with their own resources.
- Indigenous Leadership: Only community members can develop realistic solutions for community problems.
- Self Sufficiency: Projects must be sustainable prior to external resources being invested to support implementations of the 5 core practices.
VCISL operates currently in 3 districts: Bo, Kenema, Pujehun districts and Western area of Freetown.
- Currently, the VCISL 4 stage Empowerment – Change program is being implemented in 30 villages.
- The majority of the villages are in stage 1 (they have completed outcomes, practices, and open space (OPOS) training and formed village leadership committees).
- Each village registers 20 of its most vulnerable children for targeted assistance during Stage 2. During the 2013 calendar year, a total of 230 children were registered for assistance in the first quarter.
- Intended Outcome: By end of 4th quarter of 2013, minimum of 920 children registered and maximum of 1480. (Total number will vary based on how many villages progress beyond Stage1).
- Minimum of 100 families per village involved in the key activity of Stage 1- Outcomes, Practices, and Open Space training. Each family is supported to initiate the practices immediately at home, impacting a minimum of 7400 children across the 4 districts where VCISL is operating.
- Introduced the Village Care program to 26 orphanages in Sierra Leone. Training for 25 administrators to initiate Empowerment – Change model within their orphanages is planned in September, 2016.
- Provided funding for crisis food aid to 1,500 orphans during the Ebola virus outbreak between 2014 and 2015.
- VCISL has initiated a program in which school books are owned by the schools and may be borrowed on name by parents. If the school books are not returned in its proper condition, a new school book is expected to be bought by the family.
- Nine communities have launched 5 programs to improve existing health and education facilities or constructed a playground, water supply facilities and latrines.
- Equipped the school with educational resources, such as books and stationeries as well as tables, chairs and blackboards to aid effective learning for the children.
- Constructed 5 new school buildings containing classrooms, kitchen, toilet facilities and bathrooms using locally sourced sand, cement, stones, sticks and workers.
- VCISL is working with community-based groups and organizations to further the involvement of women in water and sanitation activities. Demonstration projects are underway in 15 villages and are planned in nine more.
Self – Help and Participatory development Program:
VCILS is implementing a participatory development program which aims to alleviate poverty by increasing community participation in local, self – help initiatives. The program pays particular attention to assisting vulnerable groups, including women, youth, the unemployed and the landless. Efforts are geared to meeting community priorities, such as improving living conditions, increasing food supplies and income for other necessities. Ensuring sound environmental management of local resources, and responding to basic education and health needs are other areas of focus.
Through the assignment of Village Volunteers (field workers), the program promotes the sharing of successful grassroots experiences among community groups and organizations in Sierra Leone. Participating groups can adapt approaches and activities successfully developed elsewhere and apply them to their own situations. The volunteers themselves learn from the realities and experiences of their host communities and make use of this knowledge upon their return home.
The volunteer field workers live and work at the community level, and possess skills often required at the grassroots. But above all, they are skilled in promoting community organizations and participating activities.
Since its inception, approximately 135 village volunteers (field workers) have served in some 30 villages in the operational districts of Sierra Leone. A considerable number of returnees have continued in development work in their own communities, and some have started new grassroots action programs.
Other development agencies have become associated with the program. They are responding to the growing calls for help from communities wishing to better themselves, and are hoping to create a more enabling environment for local self – help initiatives to flourish.
This document highlights only a few of the many achievement realized by communities and supporting groups as a result of the village volunteer worker intervention. It brings development down to the basics: People helping people.
Sharing experience through training
Sharing accumulated experience and know-how helps identify both strengths and weaknesses in development approaches at the community level. It breaks the isolation in which groups often operate, and encourages networking. To this end, VCISL encourages three kinds of other training programs in nine communities:
- Training workshops for members of self-help groups, NGO’s and development agencies involved in community-based development.
- On-the-job training in rural self-help projects lasting 1-3 days for group leaders.
- Training through observation in other communities for village coordinators. This training facilitates getting to know other structures and programs for grass root developments.
- VCISL operates currently on an annual budget of 125,000,000 Leones ($25,000). Of this, 10% is spent on administrative costs; the rest is dedicated to direct program support.
- Between 920-1480 extremely vulnerable orphans will be registered for tailored care by the end of 2016. Based on these projections, the cost for orphan that is registered by the Village Care Leadership Committee will range from 225, 000 Leones to 355,000 Leones per month.
- In addition to the most vulnerable children in the villages, an additional 7,400 children will be positively impacted because of their community’s renewed and dynamic focus on sanitation, nutrition, health care, education and economic development. This translates into 45,000 Leones per child, per month.
Areas of Work
- All ages