Blog post by E4 Project staff member Paul Schultz
This is the third in our four-part series of the E4 Process. The last two weeks we took a look at Educate and Engage. This week we will be looking at Equip. This is the step where we bridge the gap:
Bridge the gap between available resources (people, financial and technological) with the needs of impoverished communities
Once we have built relationships within a community, together we can assess the needs that the community leaders believe exist. We look to our partner leaders to determine what assets and resources the community has and what abilities are within their own environment.
At E4, we believe that the local church and community leaders must take the lead in all projects. We are there to come alongside them to help equip them with resources, training and additional labor through sending short-term teams. By doing this, we can supplement the long-term programs and projects and be an example to the world of how the members of the body of Christ serve each other.
Let me share just a few examples of where a lack of a few resources stood in the way of great progress.
Animals of Opportunity
About five years ago, an epidemic virtually wiped out the pig population in an area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The area was already impoverished and the pigs represented both an important protein source as well as capital. There are no banks in this part of DRC, so pigs equal money. E4 is partnering with the national church and a Congolese agricultural expert to bring back the pigs using church-run co-ops.
Our international partners needed help in the initial stages of this project; from initial training in Uganda for agricultural expert to finding pigs that were resistant to the disease that killed them off in the first place (we found some in Uganda). We also purchased the initial set of pigs, financed crop production and provided a palm pod mill that allows the church to harvest the palm oil and give the farmers a nutritious food additive for the pigs. From here, the Congolese leaders are taking the resources and managing and running the entire program.
This project was kickstarted by a high schooler (Ryan Schmidt) who saw the need and then volunteered countless hours to see the vision of this project move forward. Although it is still in the early stages, the program aims to be quickly sustainable as the pigs multiply and naturally spread out through the region from the co-ops. This project has the potential to be an incredible blessing to the people in that area and it would never have been accomplished without the tenacity of a high schooler and the generosity of those who also caught his vision.
Project Sunset began as the dream of a college student who wanted to raise funds for mosquito nets to distribute in Gabon. Malaria is a significant threat, especially to young children and Sarah Lewan, even as a college freshman, wanted to do something tangible to make a difference for people in Gabon. She volunteered her time and raised funds for the nets but she also went to Gabon and helped distribute them. The first trip was so successful that she planned additional trips and eventually over 1400 mosquito nets were distributed, along with a malaria prevention education program. All of this happened because a college freshman had a desire to make a difference and gave of herself to see the project through. But Sarah and we at E4 weren’t satisfied to leave things there. We wanted to take Project Sunset to the next level and for that we needed local ownership.
We found this in a Gabonese team of nurses who have taken over the responsibility of mosquito net distribution and education. In order for the program to be sustainable without further financial investment on our part, Sarah helped raise funds to purchase space in half a container for 3000 mosquito nets. The fully Gabonese team will now sell the mosquito nets at cost in the villages and for a small profit in the large cities that will then allow them to purchase additional mosquito nets and keep the process going. This should bring sustainability to this program.
Hands of Grace
Widows face challenges in any country, but especially in Africa. Hands of Grace is a ministry for widows and needy women in Gabon that helps them be financially independent. When Vicki Quellhorst saw the need that existed in Libreville, she gave of herself to train and equip the women (even bringing sewing machines, sergers, etc.) so that they could produce clothing, uniforms, blankets, etc. and thus have the potential for income and self-sufficiency.
It hasn’t been easy and Vicki still goes over to help the women overcome various hurdles. A kiosk (shopfront) was just put in place to provide the women another avenue for selling the goods they are producing and this is a big step forward in their income stability.
One thing that these projects all have in common is the fact that a person (whether a high schooler, a college student, or an adult) saw a need and knew that they had do something about it. Sometimes that was simply raising awareness about the need and getting others on board to take care of the financial need. However, in two of these cases, our volunteers raise funds and travel every year to serve and further the programs. There are other stories we could tell of people with specific skills (like electricians, engineers, doctors, nurses) who have traveled at their own expense to serve and train others in both DRC and Gabon, and also our church partners in the states that have gathered people together and sent them as whole teams to serve a strategic purpose. And, of course, there are many generous people behind the scenes that also move projects forward by providing the funds necessary for the various projects. We could not do any of this without those of you who partner with us through financial giving, prayer and volunteering.
Through the sacrificial help of volunteers and generous donors, we are able to bridge the gap and thus defend the cause of the poor and needy.