Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Can You Help Project HOPE Today?

Project HOPE is funded from the grassroots by caring people like you. Our financial year is ending on June 30th and we need your help to continue providing lifesaving health education and humanitarian assistance to those in need around the world, especially children. You’ve been following our important work online and know about our lifesaving programs around the globe as well as our inspiring new program in South Africa. Can you help today. Donating online is the fastest and most efficient way to help Project HOPE continue saving lives. Donate now.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Countering the “Hand-Out” Mentality in Munsieville

Both the formal and informal settlements of Munsieville have been around a long time. Over the years there have been numerous NGOs both small and large that have come in, run a program and then left – both in good and bad circumstances. Right now as I write this sitting in the container office, there is a small NGO handing out food packages to vulnerable women and children. Other NGOs give out clothes, food, soap sporadically depending on when they receive donations in.

This is valuable and needed, people need to eat, and need clothes to wear, yet this has created over the years a “Hand-Out” mentality or “dependency syndrome” in which people expect to get. So there is this difficult tension between trying to meet immediate needs, and looking longer-term at trying to address root causes of the problems. The government has acknowledged this problem, it wants organisations to empower people to dig themselves out of poverty. We (NGOs and government) can give people the tools, but they must do it for themselves.

An example of this would be Project HOPE's Village Savings Fund. This is a program in which groups of 20 are formed, and trained to collect savings on a weekly basis – even if it is only 10 cents - and put it into a pot. From this pot loans can be made out to the group to start a business, expand an existing venture. These loans are paid back with interest thus increasing the savings pot. They also supplement this with a Social Fund which acts as a form of insurance. Each member puts the same amount into the Social Fund each week until it has reached the designated pot size. From this fund emergencies can be met like paying to get to the hospital, funeral expenses etc.

A key component of each meeting is health education – talking about relevant issues such as HIV, TB, legal access to government services.

The concept of the Village Savings Fund is a great one, and it has worked well in many other places in Africa, and also here in South Africa. We are taking it to the people and hitting the dependency syndrome right on the head with it. Its not an over night process trying to get people to see that they can better their lives for themselves, it takes a lot of time and a lot of convincing. But we are sure that once the first group of Village Savings Fund participants have gone through the cycle and they can see the tangible benefits, then they will become advocates for it and recruit others.