Frequently Asked Questions
Relief generally focuses on external aid and addresses the symptoms of a problem rather than working at the root causes of problems to create lasting change. Relief is only a short-term fix and focuses mainly on individual needs, causing people to become dependent and preventing them from finding lasting and sustainable solutions to their problems. Relief is often necessary when there are manmade or natural disasters, but it does not ensure long-term development.
Development, on the other hand, is about people and changing their ability to work together to solve their own problems with the resources they already have on hand. Development addresses root causes, develops long-term solutions and social change and empowers communities. At World Neighbors, we do not simply hand money to poor people to alleviate their poverty but instead focus on ensuring they are self-reliant for the long term.
Problems and issues within a community are all interrelated, and World Neighbors has found that you cannot solve one problem in isolation. Poverty, sickness, illiteracy, environmental degradation, malnutrition, lack of water, large family size and births too close together as well as declining soil fertility, lack of organization and lack of technical knowledge and education are all linked together in many ways. For example, if you are not healthy, you cannot work productively on your farm. If you cannot farm, you do not produce enough food or earn enough money to buy food or to pay for health services. If you try to grow more food by buying fertilizer, but do not find ways to prevent soil erosion and cutting down of trees, your fertilizer will be washed away. If you improve the water supply in a village for potable water but don’t help the village organize itself to maintain the water systems, the water system will break down.
World Neighbors believes that we cannot afford not to fight against poverty abroad. In a world where distance no longer determines who your neighbor is, payment for the price of equality and justice is not just heart, it is smart. In this regard, John Peters vision was echoed by Martin Luther King Jr.:
We are the first generation that has the potential to eliminate the kind of extreme, needless and stupid poverty that sees a child die of hunger in a world where there is enough food, and where farmer families could be helped to learn how to improve their agriculture. We are the first generation that has the potential to decide that we can no longer accept that an accident of where one is born determines whether the child lives or dies.
Every day in Africa, Latin America and Asia, tens of thousands of people perish because of extreme poverty. They die of diseases because they are weakened by extreme hunger. This extreme hunger is a result of a lack food, safe drinking water, access to education and basic medication. It is our task as global neighbors to help those who are suffering, both in the United States and internationally, to climb up out of poverty for themselves.
World Neighbors strives to be a model example of how Americans are caring, generous and concerned about the well being of others – how people in the U.S. are just like other people. There is no better way to work toward common understanding, appreciation for our country and goodwill than by helping other people live their lives with dignity. Anti-U.S. sentiments are not anti-World Neighbors sentiments. The World Neighbors mission is not to defend U.S. foreign policy, but to help communities find lasting solutions to hunger, poverty and disease.
World Neighbors experience is that poor people are incredibly hard working and industrious - they have to be or they would not survive. They lack opportunity because of a need for education, illiteracy or sickness to help themselves. World Neighbors has been working with poor people since 1951 in 45 countries and has countless stories of ingenuity and hard work from millions of the poorest people on earth.
People usually are overtaken by poverty due to either circumstances or behavior – but neither should be seen as a reason to do nothing. Poor people – like most of the rest of us – need a chance to make their lives better. World Neighbors works around the world to support individuals, families and communities that desire to take advantage of opportunities offered to them through World Neighbors programs.
“Development” and the desire to end poverty is becoming increasingly important, but World Neighbors is one organization whose work is radically different, proven and incredibly successful. World Neighbors focuses on training and educating communities to find lasting solutions to the challenges they face – hunger, poverty and disease – rather than giving them food, money or constructing buildings. Communities tell World Neighbors what their needs are, and World Neighbors, in turn, works with them to acquire the knowledge, skills and organization to solve their problems.
World Neighbors model is successful and is often replicated by other development agencies - we take a big-picture, integrated approach to our work, focusing on the entire community rather than on one issue. We work with the local people to identify and address needs from within, resulting in greater community involvement and longer-term impact. We listen to the people without predetermined ideas of how they should change and we understand that issues are often interrelated. By removing one obstacle, we can open many avenues of opportunity. We invest in people themselves through education and training, not by giving away material aid. We provide knowledge, and strengthen local capacities for change than merely handing out technology or money. We invest in local leadership and organizations that continue and expand program activities after we end our support. This makes our program very efficient and creates lasting change rather than a short- term fix. The work permanently improves the social, economic and physical resources available to and controlled by a community.
World Neighbors looks at several factors when determining where to start programs, including the openness by local government and partners for World Neighbors approach of capacity building. We also look for sufficient stability in the geographical area, absence of conflict and reasonable cost efficiency in terms of carrying out the program. We consider the conditions that will enable partners, community groups or leaders to sustain program activities once World Neighbors has phased out and whether we have sufficient funding for developing new programs. Other factors include whether or not World Neighbors can build on an existing presence in the area and if the program could be used for a wider impact.
Once we decide on the program area, World Neighbors staff seek out local organizations that already have relationships with the villages and negotiates a partnership. The selection of villages in such cases is decided jointly with our local partners. If there are no suitable local partners, World Neighbors staff will contact local leaders in many communities directly, informing them of our work and methods. Then, we leave it to the new communities to make a decision whether to invite World Neighbors to come and work with them. Since we do not provide direct material aid or give things away, those communities that best understand and appreciate our approach will invite us. Once we get results in these initial villages, the neighboring communities often will lose their initial skepticism and will ask to be involved.
We recruit local staff and volunteers who know the culture and language. Communication in our program area mostly takes place face-to-face. Field workers travel to the villages on foot and sometimes by bicycles, cars, motorbikes or bus. We also use telephones as some of our local program partners have acquired telephones, cell phones or two-way radios.
Almost all new farming techniques and improved health practices have been developed somewhere else beforehand. Agricultural innovations have often been tested, either by other innovative farmers or by local agricultural research stations. Individual farm families, or entire communities, depending on the technology decide which interventions they want to test, and World Neighbors provides technical support. As a World Neighbors program introduces a new technique or way of working, we encourage local people – men and women, farmers and homemakers – to try it out on a small scale to see if it is appropriate to their situation and whether it helps to meet their needs or solve their problems. For technologies such as water systems that involve the whole village, World Neighbors arranges for leaders to visit communities that have already succeeded to see and learn first hand. As successes are realized, the new technique is shared – both by World Neighbors and by the people themselves – with others within the community, or with other villages. In this way, others in the community are both inspired by the experience of their peers, but they are also confident in knowing that the techniques can work in their context.
A new farming technique does not fail because World Neighbors does not enter a community claiming we already know the answers. Instead, we share our experiences from elsewhere, and promote small scale testing. Helping volunteer farmers experiment with new techniques on a small scale on their own fields is key to our approach. An experiment, by definition, cannot fail. It is designed to promote learning about what works, what does not work, and why in each situation. This is what World Neighbors calls “action learning”.
Poverty-stricken people are risk-adverse. They are unable to take many risks as these may create even greater hardships for their families. When working with rural communities, World Neighbors recognizes this and takes deliberate steps to help reduce the risks associated with efforts by the rural poor to test and try new techniques. Often, when people are working with World Neighbors to test new ideas, we may provide part of the materials or supplies needed during the testing period, thus helping to reduce the risks for the people involved.
Capacity building is the most cost effective and lasting way to achieve long-term results, promote self-reliance and affirm human dignity. If we do not strengthen the skills and abilities of people to solve their own problems and meet their basic needs using local resources, then we are not doing development work. We are addressing only the symptoms and creating dependency.
If disaster strikes in program areas where we are already working, we help people and partners to cope, through rehabilitation and recovery. What World Neighbors avoids is jumping into new places where disaster strikes because we do not have any added value in terms of local knowledge or relationships. We think it is better to allow agencies that specialize in emergency relief to take the lead. Our specialty is long-term development and strengthening the capacity of communities to meet their basic needs and to prevent disasters from happening in the first place (or setting up coping mechanisms in disaster prone areas).
Yes. In the United States, we are supported by a number of foundations who have provided us with long term funding support, including the Ford Foundation, McKnight Foundation and the Gates Foundation. We are part of larger networks of development organizations in the United States that advocate for change in policies and practices. In the countries where we have programs, we work with hundreds of local organizations, including non-profits, local governments, technical agencies, health posts, family planning agencies and peasant farmer associations.
World Neighbors area representatives are people who need to have an extraordinary mix of technical and language skills, strategic leadership, program and management experience, fundraising ability, knowledge of the culture and language and who also share World Neighbors values, methods and approach.
As an international organization, World Neighbors seeks to have a diversified international staff, in terms of nationality, gender and disciplinary background. Our strong preference is to seek people who meet our high standards who are from the countries where World Neighbors works. Our recruitment process, however, is international in scope, in order to seek the most qualified individual possible who meets all the criteria. In most cases, but not all, we are able to recruit a person who is from the country where they are to be based. In some situations, the best qualified person is not a national from the country but has lived there for many years and knows the local language and culture.
World Neighbors volunteers assist World Neighbors U.S. based headquarters staff with annual events or projects such as WorldFest, WOW! Walk for Women, global staff conferences, special events, fundraising and much more. Volunteers also provide behind-the-scenes support through the Oklahoma City-based headquarters volunteer and intern program.
In keeping with World Neighbors philosophy of training local people to help themselves, World Neighbors does not offer volunteer opportunities overseas. Our approach is to cultivate in our participants the skills and abilities necessary to address their own problems instead of creating self-reliance on external assistance.
On March 1, 2013, World Neighbors entered into a strategic collaboration with Feed The Children, Inc. in Oklahoma City. We entered into an incredibly unique relationship with Feed The Children, allowing us to remain a separate nonprofit. World Neighbors international programs and mission will not change as a result of this new relationship, but Feed The Children assumes the responsibility for providing support services to World Neighbors, including human resources, finance, marketing and communications and fundraising. In exchange, World Neighbors is tasked with the incredible opportunity to train all 750 of Feed The Children’s international staff on our successful methodology. Together, we are combining nearly 100 years of international relief and development experience to address global hunger, poverty, and disease. Learn more about Feed The Children by visiting their website.
As conscientious stewards of our donors’ money, World Neighbors operates efficiently and aims to minimize fundraising and administrative costs. We’re confident there is not an organization more efficient than World Neighbors when it comes to how far a donor’s charitable dollar goes. Our work is so effective that in most areas, it only takes about $12 to provide life-changing programs for a rural villager for an entire year.
At first glance, our program/administration ratio may not appear as impressive as some other charities. But World Neighbors is different when compared with many other organizations – we are a development organization that does not provide material goods in the areas where we work, unlike many relief organizations which focus on providing material aid (food, clothing, etc.). For example, most of the actual work in the villages is done by tens of thousands of local volunteers trained by World Neighbors, not by paid outside staff, but current accounting rules have no provision for including this as a program cost. This difference has a significant impact on how our program/administration ratios compare to others.
There are a number of realities that lead World Neighbors to this program/administrative ratio. Given World Neighbors model of development, our ratio for program will likely remain approximately 75 percent due to the following:
• Unlike most mid and large size international development and relief agencies, World Neighbors has accepted no U.S. government funding to date. Instead, we rely on numerous small, individual donors and foundations for our financial support, requiring more time by staff to support these relationships. This reality, however, has allowed World Neighbors to develop our own unique and highly successful program methodology that is not driven by a government agenda.
• The World Neighbors program methodology is remarkable, honed over 60 years of supporting communities to drive their own development processes. We do not send funds to poor villages or do direct program delivery that relies on large staff teams as do many of the larger development and relief agencies. The World Neighbors program is “delivered” by thousands of community volunteers who carry out projects for themselves. These efforts are not reflected in dollars, however, thus keeping our program costs low and giving the appearance of high administrative costs proportionately. We also do not build buildings or provide other equipment or facilities – budget elements that would typically boost program costs to much higher levels.
• We have a very small administrative staff team relative to a highly complex program that is managed in 70 rural areas in the poorest and most remote places on earth. Our approach is “integrated” since the communities take the lead themselves so that work can unfold in agricultural practices, gender, reproductive and community health, community-based natural resource management and community capacity building. Such a program – to be managed and monitored well – takes more oversight and strategic planning than an organization that is responding to emergency situations or agencies focused on just one program (an agency, for example, that only works to improve water access).
Yes, World Neighbors is registered as a tax-exempt charity under Section 501(c)(3)of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to World Neighbors are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. World Neighbors tax identification number is 73-0707328.
Since 1951, World Neighbors has relied almost exclusively on funding from individual donors and private foundations. Gifts from individuals and charitable foundations represent the largest sources of income. The remainder is provided by income earned from investments, donations from faith groups and civic organizations and grants from development assistance organizations.
Oklahoma is not geographically at the heart of the development community, but we have developed mechanisms to be engaged within this community in ways that serve our organizational interests and mission. World Neighbors has high caliber staff in Washington D.C. and in San Francisco, and we work with selected peer agencies in the U.S. on common strategic initiatives. We are a member of InterAction, a consortium of many development organizations in the U.S.
World Neighbors works in countries where the government will allow us to work at the community level with local partners and where there is relative stability. World Neighbors is a non-partisan organization and does not engage in overt political activity within any country where we work. The political status of a country is not a prominent factor in determining whether we will work in that country. However, once World Neighbors has established programs in a country, we work within the available political space in the country to address key issues affecting the well being of rural communities. At the same time, through our program activities, World Neighbors supports our community and other local partner organizations to engage or even diplomatically challenge political forces to support positive social change for rural communities within their country.
One of the key strengths of World Neighbors work is to help rural individuals, families and communities continue the important work begun through our programs – even after we have left. This principle is practiced through a range of activities – including leadership development, training, mentoring, community organization, peer networks – and is used in a range of social, technical, organizing, planning and political skills. World Neighbors supports our local partners to engage and challenge political forces to support positive social change for rural communities within their country. We see that by constructively engaging political forces – while not always agreeing with them – we can often find common ground upon which to move forward, rather than focusing too much on differences that we and our partners may have with those political powers. This often provides paths for progressive action.
Yes, and not just in terms of increasing income and food security. Poverty is more than the lack of income. Poverty also means having no hope, having a sense of helplessness, being isolated from making decisions, sickness, physical weaknesses and illiteracy. World Neighbors helps people overcome poverty in ways that create hope and restore human dignity, generate optimism about the capacity to take action and change things.
Many people are oppressed because of their gender, caste, religion or their ethnic background, or because they live in remote, isolated geographical areas. They live in areas where there are no roads, electricity, water systems, schools, health services and normal local governmental services. Other forms of oppression include a lack of access to education, markets and the inability to read or write.
In many rural areas there are less tangible forms of exploitation, such as debt bondage, or discrimination against women and gender inequity. To help men and women escape from the forces that oppress, exploit and discriminate against them, we strengthen local leadership and organizations by helping people more effectively use their own assets and pool their resources to escape from debt exploitation of moneylenders. For women, we help them form self-help groups, gain access to resources and strengthen their confidence and improve their status relative to men.
Yes. World Neighbors is committed to human development first and foremost. In our experience, lasting solutions to basic needs cannot happen unless people change their practices, their behaviors and learn how to more effectively work together at the family, community and district levels. World Neighbors promotes social change by enabling people to learn how to work together to solve common problems. At the individual level, people are transformed by gaining hope, self-confidence and optimism in the realization that they are capable of improving their lives by using local resources and by working together. At the community level, local leaders organize, undertake self help programs in agriculture and health, and link with neighboring villages to work jointly, negotiate their combined interests and to advocate for change.
World Neighbors approach toward this concept can best be summarized in a statement made by Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State: “The war against terror is bound up in the war against poverty.”
By promoting development, enabling people to help themselves, live in dignity, free themselves of exploitation and work for justice through organization and non-violence, World Neighbors is part of a wider movement for world peace.
We are not a religious-based organization nor do we promote any particular religion. Instead, we are guided by a deep sense of values, including the universal human value of neighbor helping neighbor. Our founder, Dr. John L. Peters, was inspired because of his spiritual convictions, but acted in a way to promote justice, peace and human dignity in a similar way to Martin Luther King Jr. He applied love for one’s neighbor, non-violence and practical work on a global scale, and contributed to a widespread movement reaching out to all people, cultures and faiths.
World Neighbors is an international organization. Most of our staff are from developing countries. Our board of trustees is also diverse in terms of gender, profession, ethnic background and location within the U.S.
Many World Neighbors programs work with Muslim communities around the world including in Indonesia (the country with the largest Muslim population), India, as well as in the African countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Tanzania.
The rural development strategies that have been proven to be successful in many parts of the world are also applicable to Muslim communities. However, as is true when we work within any rural context anywhere in the world, we must consider the specifics of that particular area, including the culture, ethnicity, customs and religious practices of the local people and how those specifics may influence how World Neighbors will work in that area.
Capacity building is a process of strengthening the ability of people, communities and local organizations to organize themselves to improve their effectiveness in collectively pursuing their own interests, solving their challenges and accomplishing their goals. Building capacity provides a community with both organizational and leadership skills as well as technical tools, such as agricultural techniques, assessing the nutritional and growth status of their children, addressing gender inequities, savings and credit groups, and searching for ways to improve their income – all of which they can use in the years to come.
World Neighbors approach to capacity building seeks to create well-organized, fully developed and independent communities and local organizations. Our capacity building efforts, especially early in the development process, helps people meet their own needs by generating tangible benefits. Our capacity building programs strengthen not only individuals and families but also local organizations and results in communities that “own” their projects and feel empowered to organize themselves and share their successes and learnings with others.
For example, we train local farmers to identify their challenges in food production, identify and experiment with technologies, such as improved local seeds, and work with them to share their successful approaches with other farmers through World Neighbors farmer-to-farmer programs.
World Neighbors is fully committed to helping communities find lasting solutions to hunger, poverty and disease in a way that is equitable and sustainable. World Neighbors programs seek to overcome gender barriers to ensure that women benefit equally with men and for both to participate equally in decision making at the household and community level.
In many poverty-stricken and rural settings, where people are hard pressed to meet even their basic needs, talk of women’s rights is not a priority or a viewed as a necessity by communities. However, World Neighbors approach to addressing gender and women’s rights begins by making it clear to communities that by making changes in gender relations, they will be better able to meet their basic needs. This sensitive dialogue raises the awareness of gender issues with village leaders and the community and the benefits these changes could have in achieving healthy families. This discussion generally consists of an exercise where the men and women separately talk over their family life currently, the consequences of the current arrangement and how it could change. Then, the couple comes together and openly shares their perspectives. Often, this is the first time women will have had a discussion with men in a public forum.
When World Neighbors implements this process, we find that once women begin to meet the needs they initially identified – usually for improved health and increased income, their confidence and skills are elevated. Additionally, once men see the benefits of women’s involvement in decision making within the family and the community, they begin to value and seek women’s input and involvement in other areas.
For example, although women produce more than 55 percent of all food grown in developing countries, they are usually left out of decision making about which foods to produce. On the other hand, men generally don’t participate in discussions about health and nutrition. This can lead to malnutrition because the food planted doesn’t provide the nutritional balance people, particularly children, need.
And although women are responsible for cooking the family meals, they are usually the last to eat, which, in lean times means they may go without enough to eat. In many households, if women speak up about this problem they are accused of being greedy; when they are too weak to work they are accused of being lazy; and when their babies are stillborn or die at their empty breast, they are accused of being impure.
In order to prepare meals and care for the family, women must fetch water from distant wells or streams and gather firewood from the forest. Yet again they are usually excluded from planning and decision making around the management of the community’s natural resources. These decisions, such as directing water sources away from the home and into the field for irrigation or banning collection of wood from the forest, can affect their ability to meet their families’ needs.
World Neighbors works to illuminate the value of women’s contributions and the importance of their involvement in decision making and leadership and to foster couple communication around all aspects of family and community life, so they can work together to meet their needs and raise healthy families.
Women are often at a disadvantage and excluded from community activities, thereby depriving them and the community of the opportunity to understand their needs and benefit from their perspectives. World Neighbors programs seek to help communities identify and overcome these disparities so that as individuals, families and communities, they can meet their development goals.
World Neighbors uses three primary methods to involve women and promote long-term development that benefits all community members: women’s savings and credit groups, couple communication and promotion of participation and involvement in decision making.
Savings and credit groups have proven an extremely successful way to engage poor women in a process that addresses urgent family and community needs, increases literacy, improves their self-confidence and even raises their status in their families and communities. In saving even very small amounts of money on a regular basis, women contribute to a collective pool that has much more impact in terms of available credit. Because they build it with their savings, they see the power of organizing and are motivated to learn and practice good financial management. They themselves establish credit guidelines and decide who gets credit for what types of activities or needs. This experience builds trust among women that promotes collective investments in community services like family planning and income earning activities. With time, women’s improved ability to earn income and contribute to community well being often raises their status in the family and in the community. This, in turn, results in their increased participation in decision making.
Work in couple communication recognizes the importance of participation from both women and men to good family decision making. In many relationships, men come to understand the value of discussion and women’s involvement to good decision making, and women note greater cooperation and solidarity from their partners once men become more aware of what women can contribute.
Women’s increased self-confidence and improved status often leads directly to their greater involvement in family and community decision making. Sometimes, however, existing leaders need to be encouraged to see the benefits of wider participation and shared decision making. Strategies for ensuring greater involvement of women in these areas are also part of World Neighbors work with community organizations and leaders. In addition, women are encouraged to work together to address community-wide concerns that they identify, such as domestic violence or securing family planning supplies.
WOW! (Work of Women) is a membership organization at World Neighbors that mobilizes people in support of efforts to improve lives of women and their families in the villages with which World Neighbors partners. WOW! does this through education and awareness raising, advocacy and involvement activities and financial donations from members. All membership fees and donations support the vital work of World Neighbors around the world. Monthly e-communications are sent to WOW! members, covering issues affecting women who struggle with poverty in rural communities around the world. Members are also encouraged to lead and participate in WOW! campaigns and activities. In areas where WOW! networks exist, these local groups also organize educational and social programs that raise awareness and promote community support and action. Learn more about the Work of Women (WOW!) program.
By becoming a WOW! member, women can make a difference both as individuals and in community with others. Involvement with WOW! offers opportunities for increasing knowledge and raising awareness about a variety of concerns that poor women face in developing countries. Taking action as a result of this awareness can help raise the visibility of these concerns with friends and the wider community and provide the catalyst for joining together for a larger impact. The WOW! membership fee of $35 and additional donations support World Neighbors work, and make a difference in World Neighbors communities and to the women who live in them. For example, WOW! donations have helped to start women’s savings and credit groups, establish health clinics, improve sanitation, bring local access to clean water, conduct literacy programs, promote kitchen gardens and more. WOW! strives for connection and solidarity among women from many different walks of life—and opens doors of understanding and change.
Community health incorporates all aspects of our social, political, physical and public environments that affect our individual, family and community’s physical and mental health. Community health encompasses water, sanitation, housing, air quality, infectious disease, health services, education and maternal and child health. The concept of community health also incorporates access to care, health education and information and the rights of individuals to live in a risk-free environment. The social aspects of community must be underscored, as community members are often left out of policy and program development, relating to domestic violence, trafficking, HIV/AIDS, gender equity, and other social aspects that affect a person or community’s health.
Reproductive health includes all issues related to having children, family planning, prenatal care, newborn care, gynecological issues, sexually transmitted illnesses and any and all issues related to reproductive systems of men and women. Reproductive health is an important aspect of community health; it also includes clinical and social aspects, including the need for access to care and information, and an approach that is inclusive of all groups – men, women and youth.
Everyone wants and deserves to be healthy and to have healthy children. Without a healthy and sound body and mind it is difficult to raise children, work in the home, in the fields, or go to school. In order for communities and villages to advance in their development, advocate for services and work towards improving their livelihoods, they need to be healthy, drink clean water, have access to health services, have adequate housing and appropriate and sufficient food. These are rights that every citizen of the world deserves.
World Neighbors approaches community development in a holistic manner. Health is a component of our program work, as is agriculture, capacity building, gender equity and education. As families and communities live in an integrated way, any efforts to improve development must also have an integrated focus. For example, having births too closely spaced together due to lack of family planning affects both child and maternal health. A water system project that works with the community to bring clean drinking water to families also incorporates a leadership and management component to provide the community with skills to run their own water system. Health education and information on the importance of clean water for nutrition and for hygiene are also parts of the program. Conservation of water and protection of the water source are the components of natural resource management integrated into the design of the water system. Likewise, the water that runs off or is used for bathing and cleaning can be directed to a kitchen garden for irrigation.
The community and reproductive health program in World Neighbors program areas is based on needs that the community identifies. In many areas there is a focus on water systems to provide clean drinking water; in other areas sanitation facilities are built. In some program areas, women are not able to participate in community projects, nor participate in decision-making in their own homes, so the health component incorporates a gender equity focus so that women and girls are part of the planning and implementation of all health projects. Most of our program areas work to improve nutrition for rural families to prevent protein-calorie malnutrition and severe stunting of growth in children under the age of five years.
Safe motherhood initiatives are also part of our program, incorporating prenatal care, breastfeeding support, newborn care and family planning. A number of our programs, especially in Africa, include a strong educational and clinical component regarding HIV/AIDS – to assist communities in voluntary counseling and testing, providing anti-retrovirals, reducing of stigma and discrimination and raising awareness regarding prevention, treatment and care.
The community and reproductive health program of World Neighbors is not a cookie cutter approach to health or health care. We respond to the needs of the community, to their constraints and local resources, and plan accordingly. Our programs include any and all of the following components: water, sanitation, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, family planning, reproductive health, safe motherhood, malaria and prevention of diarrheal and respiratory illnesses.
Family planning is the deliberate control by a couple regarding the number of children they choose to have and the spacing of those children. Typically, women in developing countries have little control or say in how many children they bear. Family planning requires that couples communicate with each other and that each of them has an equal say in decision-making. World Neighbors works with families to support them in the areas of communication, decision-making, gender equity and access to family planning education and counseling. World Neighbors encourages families to seek support for their interest in family planning in order to have the number of children that they can readily support.
World Neighbors supports local partners to provide family planning programs that include awareness raising, education, counseling and provision of services. These services include nursing visits, gynecological visits, provision of contraceptives (such as depo provera, pills, IUD insertions, distribution of condoms) and education on natural family planning. Counseling and education is provided by trained nursing staff and community health workers. Once one or both of the couple request information about family planning, the clinic staff or community health worker will provide information, and the client chooses the method that suits him/her most appropriately.
Couples often do not know that there are ways to plan their family. Often they talk with World Neighbors supported staff about the increasing difficulty in educating and feeding their children. Once they are aware that they can plan their family, they go to the reproductive health (RH) clinic, or they are referred to a partner clinic or to the local hospital to further discuss their options, including natural methods and contraception.
World Neighbors sees family planning as part of a wider program approach to reproductive health, with the emphasis on health and well being, providing people with choices and empowering women. We fully support the outcomes of the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) that was held in 1994 in Cairo, Egypt that emphasized the provision of options for all families to control their family size.
There are a variety of ways that World Neighbors offers education, counseling and services. In some program areas, our partners run reproductive health clinics which include prenatal care, family planning and contraception, care during labor and delivery, newborn care and diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted illnesses. However, due to the lack of access to general health care in these rural communities, most of these clinics provide primary health care to all members of the family including immunizations, care for communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, diarrheal disease and respiratory illnesses and referral or assistance around social issues such as domestic violence and severe financial issues.
In other program areas, community health workers or health promoters provide counseling, education and services in the rural villages. They are trained by World Neighbors staff or partners to provide family planning as part of the holistic community health program that includes all family and community issues such as clean water, sanitation, prevention of communicable disease, healthy houses, personal hygiene, etc.
How services are provided is dependent on the community, the culture, the resources available for health services and the needs of the families in the villages. There is no one model that works in all areas. In our most remote locations, such as Bolivia, a trained community nursing staff walks six or eight hours to reach a village to provide education and support regarding family planning as part of our integrated community health approach. In Ecuador, that role is shared by a male/female team of integrated agriculture and health promoters, cross-trained in those areas. In Kenya and Tanzania, community health workers receive detailed training and are responsible for four or five villages by providing information and support on reproductive health, water and sanitation and home and personal hygiene. In other areas, education and services are provided by Ministry of Health posts in collaboration with World Neighbors.
World Neighbors position on abortion includes taking active steps to prevent the need for abortion through promotion of family planning and the management of the consequences of abortion as part of reproductive health.
World Neighbors offers options and choices, education and information. Decisions about use of contraception, for example, or seeking an abortion, are made by the individual woman or couple. We work hard with the communities to promote healthy women and healthy deliveries through the option of using natural family planning or contraception. Abortion is a last resort for any woman, in any country.
World Neighbors endorses the program of action of the U.N. Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) which states “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning...in circumstances where abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe.”
In most countries where we work, abortion is illegal except to save a woman’s life or to protect her physical health. World Neighbors supports providing counseling to women about the option of abortion in circumstances where it is legal and believes that abortions should be provided as safely as possible. World Neighbors respects and observes the laws and customs of the countries in which it works.
HIV/AIDS is a social, medical and environmental plague that has affected more than 40 million people around the world. In the poorest countries, however, people suffering from this disease face abandonment and discrimination because their communities don’t want to acknowledge that the disease exists. In three countries alone, child-headed households have increased more than six times in the last three years as a result of one or both parents dying, leaving children to raise themselves and their siblings.
In World Neighbors program areas in Kenya, the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS is 22 percent, almost twice that of the national average. As a result, in our program areas, World Neighbors works through community-based initiatives to raise awareness about the causes of HIV/AIDS, means of prevention, counseling and testing and approaches to remove the social stigma and lack of communication about HIV/AIDS. We also work with other local and international non-governmental organizations, hospitals, clinics and the Ministry of Health to form networks of awareness and care.
The prevention of HIV/AIDS depends on communication, power and control over one’s sexual health, access to testing, counseling and treatment and good nutritional support. One way World Neighbors provides nutritional support to individuals affected by HIV/AIDS is through training and education in kitchen gardens, tree nurseries (citrus trees), livestock programs (goats and cows) and clean water projects. In addition, in World Neighbors program areas, we work with community health workers, clinic staff and local groups to provide an integrated approach to counseling, support, testing and treatment for people living in rural areas.
In World Neighbors Tanzania program, community health workers receive training on the methods of transmission of HIV/AIDS and they take this message with them when they present at community functions and conduct home visits. In Kenya and Burkina Faso, small community-based organizations have sprung up from the need to respond to the suffering from HIV/AIDS; local residents have come together to raise general awareness, teach about prevention and support the orphaned children with their schooling and ways to earn income.
Sustainable Agriculture/Rural Livelihoods
World Neighbors has found that rural people do not depend on agriculture alone to survive, rather they must pursue a number of diversified livelihood strategies. As a result, World Neighbors supports rural communities in carrying out holistic analysis of their forms of production, sources of income and expenses, and how they can mobilize their assets, natural resources, individual knowledge and organizational capacity to improve their well being. World Neighbors strategies to support and enhance rural livelihoods include: support for savings and credit groups to mobilize local funds and investments; seed and grain storage banks to buffer against food shortages; processing and marketing of local products, including crops, handicrafts, fruit trees, etc.; and income generation through the establishment of small enterprises.
The International Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture and an increasing number of researchers, farmers, policy-makers and organizations worldwide have developed a definition that unifies many diverse elements: sustainable agriculture is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just and humane. These four goals for sustainability can be applied to all aspects of any agricultural system, from production and marketing to processing and consumption. Rather than dictating what methods can and cannot be used, these goals establish basic standards by which different agricultural practices and conditions can be evaluated and modified, if necessary to create sustainable systems. The results are 1) an agricultural system that is designed to last and to be passed on to future generations; and 2) integrated, nature-based agro-ecosystems designed to be self-reliant, resource-conserving and productive in both the short and long terms.
Conventional agriculture relies heavily on expensive, difficult to access fertilizers and the incorporation of toxic pesticides. This approach does not focus on the health of soil and water. Sustainable agriculture, however, focuses on creating an agricultural system that is healthy, designed to last for future generations and does not deplete the natural resources that exist within the soil and environment.
The communities where World Neighbors works are located within areas of the world where most people are living below the poverty line (less than $1a day), and where people chronically suffer from hunger, disease and malnutrition. These communities tend to be isolated, removed from mainstream society and are forced to live and work in environments that are less than conducive – where the soil is very poor, the terrain is hilly and rocky, the rainfall is erratic and the roads are inaccessible or don’t exist, making it difficult for farmers to travel to sell their goods.
There are several root causes of this entrenched poverty. Many farm families are unable to grow and sell enough food to feed their families and their communities. Many of these farmers are women – who are isolated within their own societies. Many of the farms are too small, or the soils are too poor to produce consistently. Many farmers do not have access to good quality seeds, simple water management systems and other basic agricultural tools they require. Most of the rural communities where World Neighbors works are affected by poor infrastructure and lack support or training to produce healthy crops – rural roads are scarce; access to market and finance systems is limited or non-existent; and government policies often do not support their agricultural production goals. Additionally, rural communities face enormous challenges to manage the natural resource base upon which their agriculture is dependent – the soil, water, and forest resources – for the long term.
Through sustainable agriculture, World Neighbors helps communities produce more food, improve the quality of their soil, manage water and irrigation sources and increase their income through the sale of their crops while managing the natural resources that exist in their village and preserving the environment for future generations. Through training local farmers to experiment with low-cost and practical farming techniques, including contour planting and terracing to prevent erosion of the soil, communities in the most rural and ecologically fragile areas can reduce their dependence on external assistance. World Neighbors also helps to form savings and credit groups to collect funds within a community, helping them make small investments in business ventures to sell goods, produce handicrafts or process food. We also support farmers’ groups in gaining access to local markets, educating them on what products can be sold at a higher value.
No. Most large-scale pesticide use has serious negative effects on the health of the environment and often on the health of the farmers themselves, not to mention the consumers of the food produced with pesticides. In many of our programs around the world, World Neighbors is engaged in – and in some cases leading – efforts to stop the use of harmful pesticides in agricultural production.
World Neighbors promotes alternative approaches to control pest and disease incidents in crops – including biological controls, alternative pest management and integrated pest management techniques. We educate farmers about the pros and cons of large-scale use of branded chemical pesticides and allow farmers to make final decisions on solving their pest problems.
A priority for all World Neighbors programs is access to clean water for consumption and access to water for agricultural production and livestock. Access to clean water and sanitation is a fundamental need and human right, which not only affords convenience and dignity, but also plays a vital role in improving health conditions and encouraging social and economic development. Successful rural development cannot happen without access to clean water. Agricultural innovation will not reach its full potential if communities’ water sources are distant, meager or contaminated. When women and girls must spend six hours each day collecting water, there is little remaining time or energy for participating in community decisions, education or engaging in new income generating activities that can produce money, improve dignity and promote equity. Health care services may be available nearby, but if the clinic has no source of clean water or proper sanitation, then its capacity to heal is greatly diminished. Families may be eager to adopt practical and proven techniques for improved hygiene and sanitation, but they are unable to do so without water.
World Neighbors staff and partners work directly with communities to assess their needs regarding access to potable water and water for production and livestock. There are a variety of technologies that can be used to access water (wells, boreholes, water pans and rainwater harvesting). The choice of technology depends on the cultural, climatic and geographical context. We work with all community members to determine the best way to get water into the community for drinking, for cleaning and hygiene, for kitchen gardens, for irrigation of crops and for watering livestock.
One of the unique ways in which World Neighbors addresses the issue of water in communities is to work with community members on the management of the water system. This capacity building applies to all aspects of the water project including the maintenance and repair of the physical system; the management of the distribution of water; conservation of the land around the water source; and sound financial and governing rules about the water program. Combined with education on hygiene, food preparation and clean water for good health, the World Neighbors water projects are sustainable and are maintained in the long run by community members.