NEWS

SMALL CHARITY - BIG IMPACT2013-06-17

'We might not be able to do everything but we can change and develop the world one community at a time.'

That was the comment made by Nyasha Migioni, one of two community development workers in Zimbabwe who are employed by a small Cambridge-based charity, The SEED Project.

Almost three-quarters of a million (730,000) citizens in Zimbabwe were reached through a distinctive health education campaign that SEED ran a couple of years ago. Groups of volunteer trainers were given basic messages about hygiene, healthy living, disease prevention, and treating common illnesses. They in turn trained their own communities. In total, 280 volunteer trainers took the health training into 24 different communities. An official from the global health organisation Population Services International described the campaign as 'The best I have ever seen!'

June 17-22 is Small Charity Week in the United Kingdom an opportunity to celebrate the untold stories of small charities, such as SEED, that are helping to improve people's lives locally, nationally and internationally.

Unlike many organisations engaged in international development, SEED believes in empowerment rather than aid. As the charity's founder, Jackson Nazombe, explains, 'The SEED Project aims to address the needs of disadvantaged communities in Southern Africa in a sustainable way by bringing together all available resources for a more determined attack on poverty, human degradation and disempowerment.'

A key focus of SEED's work is a series of skills development courses. By working alongside disadvantaged communities, their community development workers are able to help individuals to identify and train for skills that enable them to escape poverty and dependence. SEED has also participated in Zimbabwe's National Tree Planting Day and has worked with the Department of Social Welfare to help drug abusers obtain rehabilitation treatment.

In one suburb of the capital Harare, SEED helped local teachers to open a new secondary school. In its first year alone the school taught over 230 students. An impressive clutch of exam results offered many the opportunity to continue with further studies at tertiary level.

Douglas is one of a group who SEED helped to study at night school. He used to be a gardener, earning a low income, and had very little time with his family. Now, he is head driver at the Australian embassy, his children study at a better school, and they can even afford to take occasional family holidays together.

His story is repeated in the lives of many of those that SEED helps to train. One of a group who trained as mechanics has been reunited with his family in a village north of Harare. He is now serving his community by repairing agricultural equipment. Another qualified as an electrician and has been able to buy a truck for his work, as well as good housing for his family.

A group of newly-trained welders are now able to rent decent accommodation for their families and can afford to send their children to school. The same is true of a dozen recently-trained carpenters. They are even earning enough to send money back to relatives in their villages and are searching for a workshop to expand their capacity.

Participants on SEED's courses also benefit from access to counselling, instruction on employment rights and legislation, training on how to set up a business, and microfinance loans to help them to establish a business.

It is often tempting to feel overwhelmed by all the news reports of conflict and natural disasters around the world. It is true that we cannot do everything. However, as small charities such as SEED have shown, it is possible to make a lasting difference by transforming the lives of one individual, one family, and one community at a time.

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