PHOTO BY VOLUNTEER INTERNATIONAL PROFESSIONAL, MATT FELDMAN
Volunteers play an essential role in Global Communities’ work around the world. In 2015, our programs were made possible by more than 9,300 community volunteers, people who give of their time and energy to help promote positive change in their communities, whether through health messages, community education, working on development committees, or any number of ways.
We also host another kind of volunteer. Global Communities’ Visiting International Professionals (VIP) program seeks to bring volunteers who are experts in their fields to address the needs of communities around the world. We work with individuals, expert corporate or academic teams, or in tandem with volunteer programs through sponsorship of an employee. Since the inception of the program in 1997, 183 VIP volunteers have contributed to Global Communities’ projects in 35 countries. In 2015 alone, VIP volunteers provided more than 83 days of work to Global Communities’ projects. While assignments have varied in length, area, and scope, the level of expertise and commitment among our VIP volunteers is the essential ingredient to being partners for good.
Worldwide, the rural poor face constraints to generating income. Livelihoods are predominantly based on small-scale, low-productivity agriculture, and farmers often lack the resources and knowledge to improve productivity and access more lucrative markets. However, the cooperative business model has proven effective in overcoming these obstacles by mobilizing local resources to enable small-scale farmers to collaboratively accomplish what they cannot on their own. In Rwanda, Global Communities’ USAID-funded Enabling Market Integration Through Rural Group Empowerment program (EMIRGE) integrates groups of marginalized economic actors into the mainstream economy by linking them to the services and markets that will increase productivity and income. For example, learning new technologies or using better seeds with enhanced nutrition helps members maximize limited natural resources and increases the quality and quantity of food.
To capture in pictures some of the daily activities of rural cooperative farmers, Matt Feldman volunteered for EMIRGE in August 2015.
In Rwanda, Uganda, and Mongolia, Matt, an experienced photographer and communications professional, captured the activities of members of local cooperatives working with EMIRGE, illustrating the entire cooperative process, from production to sale of products, including planting, composting, watering, harvesting, processing, and marketing. And if he had to climb scaffolding in a processing plant to get a good picture, so much the better!
The USAID-funded Kenya Tuna Uwezo (KTU) program (“We Have the Power” in Kiswahili) reduces violence in Nairobi’s informal settlements through Change Agents, volunteers who are dedicated to making peace in their communities.
Irene Kerubo, a Change Agent for KTU, says the program has literally saved her life. A former gang member in the informal settlement of Kiambiu, Irene used to run—from police who had been given orders to kill her, from gang members, and from a hungry newborn who went unfed. “He suffered because I was always running,” she says. When she learned about KTU and the vocational training it offered, she decided it was time to stop running. She completed the training and now works in plumbing and construction. She confidently carries her construction hat, reflective vest, and tools everywhere she goes in case she comes across a chance to work. “I am very proud I have learned these skills and that now I can support my family,” she says. She is also more comfortable in her environment now. “I love being able to provide for my family. Before when people would see me coming they would try to avoid me, but now they are glad to talk with me.” Irene is especially proud when young women respect her for turning her life around and trying to make things better for others like them in Kiambiu.
Global Communities’ programs supported by the John Deere Foundation in India, Brazil and the United States engage John Deere employees alongside community leaders, residents and local NGOs to organize meaningful volunteer experiences that address development priorities identified with the host communities.
Continue reading the Global Communities 2015 Annual Report: