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Designed to meet the basic needs of developing communities and eliminate the obstacles preventing children from accessing education, WE Villages is a unique sustainable development model made up of five pillars crucial to community development: • Education • Water • Health • Food • Opportunity
WE Villages currently works with partner communities in Kenya, China, India, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, Tanzania, Haiti, Nicaragua and Ethiopia. We began our work in rural areas because we saw that there was a significant need—these areas are often under-serviced by the government, and the lack of opportunities drives people to urban spaces. After many years of building our expertise and implementing programming, we know where our strengths lie, and we know there are other incredible organizations focusing on urban poverty and development.
We rely on the governments to help us succeed in implementing education projects. WE Charity partners with ministries of education to ensure that all school-related projects are needed and maintained over the long-term. During the outset of a partnership, our teams often work closely with the local ministry of education to understand regional requirements for construction and the design and layout of school-related projects. In most of the areas where we work, the governments determine the curriculum taught in schools. Standardized tests are typically given in the respective countries where the organization works, and government-determined curriculum coincides with the tests. When it comes to salaries, the government in each WE Villages country pays the teachers who work in WE Charity schools. However, in some cases, the community will join to pay part of the salary for a community-level teacher.
In most countries, WE Charity focuses on preventive health care measures. We develop health care partnerships in-country that are directly aligned with the government’s national priorities and work to enhance health care programs that are already embedded into the school curriculum or implemented through regular workshops. WE Charity health projects include: • Working with the local government to get resources and materials to clinics, helping to coordinate medical visits, and establishing mobile health clinics • Health care and awareness workshops • Providing medical supplies • Health care and awareness workshops to educate communities on preventable diseases • Household health promotion
WE Charity clean water and sanitation projects include: hand pump systems, boreholes and wells, water catchment systems, piping water to a school or community, latrines, and handwashing stations for schools. Water systems are region specific, with their source and structure varying from country to country and from community to community. For example, in Ecuador, the primary source of water comes from natural springs and rivers, whereas in semi-arid regions of Kenya it’s more appropriate to dig boreholes and tap into underground sources of water. We engage people at all levels of a community through the establishment of water and sanitation workshops. These workshops emphasize the importance of brushing teeth and washing hands. Water committees or community leaders are often trained to take care of water systems, including making any repairs or looking after maintenance issues that might come up. All in all, while we do try to expand the scope and reach of our work where possible, we are working very closely with community members and local government officials to ensure that water systems are built to last. The same rule applies to sanitation facilities, in that they are region specific. In India, for example, we use force and lift systems, which allows water to be lifted to an overhead tank and made available for latrine purposes by the force of gravity. Specifically, when students use the hand pump to get drinking water, a pipe and valve system simultaneously lifts water to an overhead tank through the pumping action. This water is then available for drinking or toilet use via gravity. Through this system, clean running water is continuously available at the school’s latrines, helping keep them clean and in good working order. This manually operated system also runs without the use of electricity or fuel, making it easy and cost-effective to maintain. Schools in WE Villages communities are the only schools in their regions with running water for latrine purposes and separate latrines for boys and girls—making sure that girls have their own latrines at school is crucial to ensuring girls continue to receive an education.
WE Charity Opportunity Pillar projects are different in each WE Villages partner community. They are based on each community’s culture, traditions, resources, habits, climate, environment and more. The projects include: • Animal husbandry projects, which includes milking/breeding animals • Vocational training • Business and financial literacy workshops • Leadership and skills training • Honey production • Artisans projects • Girls’ clubs • Women’s and men’s lending circles and support groups We teach parents, mainly mothers, skills such as animal husbandry to help them generate income, accrue savings and ensure sustainability. Through a mix of engaging the local government and developing income programs, we help our WE Villages partner communities reach a level of self-sufficiency over several years. We provide them with tools for economic independence. And this has had a direct impact on the health and welfare of their families and their communities. Enabling women, specifically, to become earners is smart economics—it improves the financial and health outcomes of an entire community. Programs that we implement are different in each WE Villages partner community. They are adapted to a community’s culture, traditions, resources, habits, climate and environment. This could mean a project like animal husbandry programs, business and financial literacy, leadership skills training, honey production, artisans projects, and more. Over time we have begun to incorporate fathers and men into our opportunity programming, as we saw the same need for empowering men with sustainable income generating methods, as we have with women and mothers. We continue to make sure these programs are consistent with each community’s cultural norms and family traditions. For example, in Kenya, men are the primary participants in our beekeeping program as, culturally, beekeeping has been a male-dominated activity and we wanted to continue empowering men in this field.
Yes. We believe that education provides the highest return of any social investment. Education is the best way to empower people, especially girls, with the tools, knowledge, strength and confidence they need to promote and protect their own rights, growth and self-sufficiency. Education helps girls, boys, their families, their communities, and even their nations, break the cycle of poverty. In developing communities around the world, girls have unique challenges in accessing education, staying healthy and breaking free of poverty—but they also provide hope for change more than any other group. In WE Charity’s work around the world, one thing transcends borders: the power of a girl to create positive change. WE Charity’s support of women and girls: • WE Charity attaches water projects to each of the schools and schoolrooms we build. Not only are girls able to collect water on their way home from class, but this also ensures families are drinking clean, instead of contaminated, water. • Our opportunity pillar projects provide financial literacy training and empower women to sustainably contribute to family income, through beekeeping, animal husbandry, women’s circles and more. Mothers who have a source of income are less likely to take their female children out of school and into early marriages.
Whether or not WE Charity directly provides lunch depends on each community’s food security situation. In many of our WE Villages partner communities, WE Charity complements school curriculum with agricultural projects, such as working with students to plant gardens on school property to grow medicinal and nutritional plants and vegetables. The vegetables from these gardens are used to supplement students’ meals in WE Charity schools.
Sustainability is the goal of all WE Villages projects. We work closely with the local government to ensure that community members have real ownership over each WE Villages project, whether that’s a schoolroom, a school garden or a student environmental club. The involvement of the community is crucial to creating and maintaining a sense of involvement, investment and ownership of WE Villages projects. Ownership is what helps ensure our projects are sustainable and maintained in the long run. How we develop partnerships with new communities depends on the WE Villages country and how long we have worked within the region.