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Compassionate Eye Foundation – strategy at work

March 8, 2012

“I am a good boy… I am a listening boy.” Quote from schoolboy in video from Fezeka High School, Guguletu, South Africa.

In my previous post about Compassionate Eye Foundation (CEF), I wrote about the strong business approach that it uses to obtain funding for its charitable works. This same business approach and attention to detail apply to when it puts the money to work, the goal always being to maximize efficiency and benefit. In addition to its eye on the bottom line, CEF has a very clear mandate, the three pillars of its work being sustainable economic development, education and health. And while CEF might concentrate on one pillar when it works in a particular area, the other two pillars must also be present.

To give an example, while education was the first objective when CEF built the schools in Guatemala, it soon realized that other problems also needed to be addressed. CEF’s work in various communities has helped address malnutrition, lack of potable water, and has brought in programs of animal husbandry and sustainable forestry. Similarly, while assisting in building a new school in Ethiopia,  CEF contributed funding to help build wells, irrigate crops and provide equipment and animals so that the people could achieve more self-sufficiency. I have attached a link to a video describing the problems in Guatemala. It is both a beautiful and heart-wrenching account of CEF’s trip to Guatemala in 2008.

To date, most of the money raised from the sale of photographs by Getty Images has been spent for the purposes of education, starting with the first of several school projects in Guatemala and continuing with projects in Sierra Leone, Zambia, Ethiopia, Zambia and India. In Cambodia, the CEF focus is health whereas, in a recently announced micro-financing project being done in conjunction with Free the Children, economic sustainability is the key.

CEF’s recently announced an agreement with Free the Children, an organization that CEF started working with in 2008, is interesting because it illustrates the rigorous vetting process CEF uses to determine if the proposed project meets its very specific criteria. To review the process, I spoke with Sue Dick, current chair of the education pillar of CEF and soon to be responsible for all three project pillars. CEF wants to be certain that its partner organizations have experience in the project area, have a clear mission as to what is to be accomplished which is in alignment with CEF’s own mission and that the program has, as its ultimate objective, a sustainable community.

Free the Children goes into a community with a three to five-year plan to provide the people with the ability to be self-sustaining which fits perfectly with CEF’s approach. In Kenya, as an example, CEF  in partnership with Free the Children has just funded three ‘water kiosk’ facilities to provide water so that young girls do not have to spend their days walking to collect water. Instead they can go to school.

CEF will also be participating in ‘merry-go-round’ micro financing with Free the Children. This is different from other types of micro financing because, instead of lending money to people, the funds are used to train them on how to earn, save, manage and invest money. Each participant in the merry-go-round contributes a small sum of money each month. That money is pooled, and each month a different person from the group receives the pooled sum which helps him or her to finance a project. That person is accountable to the other members of the group for a proper use of those funds. Instead of charity, or a loan which often carries high interest obligations, people pool their financial resources and receive the knowledge with which to help themselves.

Other types of activities, such as building schools in Africa, require involvement of the community. The involvement might consist of labour, participating in negotiations or contributing money. The community learns how to do things for itself, and has pride in its accomplishments. The process builds leaders for the future.

Such a simple idea and such positive results. As Sue says, “CEF wants to give a hand up, not a hand-out.”

Next post, Compassionate Eye – A peek into CEF’s future.

All photographs courtesy of Compassionate Eye.

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