Adam McLane, The Youth Cartel, San Diego California
In January 2013, I traveled with the 30 Hour Famine team and 10 youth workers to visit a World Vision Area Development Program (ADP) in Southern Zimbabwe.
According to Business Insider, Zimbabwe is home to one of the world’s worst economies. My expectations were low… I mean, what difference can one organization really make in a problem that big?
With that in mind I was shocked to hear Hillary, the humble and unassuming ADP Manager, describe the work of World Vision Zimbabwe in the area with the phrase, “We are winning.”
He wasn’t boasting. Working with the local people and other organizations, his team has accomplished a lot in 15 years in the area. In fact, he explained, their work in the area will begin winding down as they’ve accomplished nearly all of their milestones.
Signs of Winning the War on Hunger & Poverty
Throughout our time in Zimbabwe we were shown pieces of World Vision’s work in the area. Here’s some things I took away as signs of winning:
- Healthy farms – Hillary is a farmer at heart. He knows that in rural Zimbabwe quality of life is determined by the quality of farms. He’s overseen the construction of massive irrigation dams for farmers, helped develop farm cooperatives, and made sure farmers received proper training so that they can not only provide for their families, but have extras to sell.
- Empowered locals – It was very encouraging to see locals in charge of everything. In fact, everything we saw was run by Zimbabwean’s and not outsiders. At the ground level, we were introduced to local forms of government like neighborhood councils or irrigation committees. It was all very democratic. When it comes to long-term development work, locals in charge seems like a great thing.
- Healthy families – While there is still work to do, we saw lots and lots and lots of healthy families. As families gained access to secure water, food, education, and health care you could see families thriving. Several times we heard proud fathers tell our group that because they could take care of their families they had a new status in the community, one of wholeness. That’s the Gospel expressed in real life, isn’t it?
- Budding entrepreneurs – I love to see signs of commerce. From the local woman selling fruit on the side of the road, to local artisans selling trinkets to tourists, to larger shops being built in a shopping center, these are all good signs of a communities development.
- A culture fostered, not replaced – One fear I’ve had about large-scale development work is that the influence of Westerners will somehow destroy culture. It was really cool to see the opposite as true. We witnessed a culture fostered instead of replaced.
Winning is Possible
I share this because I have a tendency to believe that problems like hunger, poverty, and disease are just bottomless pit problems. As if, no matter how much investment we make, nothing will really change.
But that just isn’t the case. While Zimbabwe has one of the world’s worst economies the work of World Vision is making a huge difference. The work we saw was well beyond meeting immediate needs. (Which is obviously vital in other places) Instead, it was focused on completing its mission and seeing a rural community in southern Zimbabwe become a self-sustaining, healthy place to live.
Winning. Together, you and I are helping them win. Let’s keep it up!