“YOU ARE THE FUTURE OF YOUR VILLAGE, TANZANIA AND THE WORLD. IT IS MOST IMPORTANT THAT YOUR VOICE IS HEARD.” – Barry Childs speaking to the children of Idweli village
Founder Barry Childs calls Africa home. He grew up in rural Tanzania, went to high school and university in South Africa, and eventually made his way to the United States. When he traveled back to Tanzania 35 years later, he was overwhelmed by the impact of poverty and HIV/AIDS on vulnerable children and he knew he had to go home and help.
In 2000, Barry retired early from Abbott Laboratories in order to start Africa Bridge. His search for a sustainable program that would transform the lives of these children led him to conduct 80 interviews with physicians, politicians, business persons, church leaders, villagers and children. It was from these interviews that the mission, values and practices of Africa Bridge evolved.
The openness of the villagers and the transparency of the children inspired Barry to build on the community’s strengths to design and deliver sustainable solutions to combat poverty and disease.
In 2002, Africa Bridge began its first project in the village of Idweli in Isongole Ward, South Eastern Tanzania. Since then the organization has received funding from individuals and foundations to expand into 37 additional villages in the Masoko, Mpombo, Lufingo, Kisondela and Kambasegela wards.
Our commitment to each community is a five-year process which starts with a Future Search planning process involving representatives from the whole community including children. The foundation of the process is the establishment of MVCC (Most Vulnerable Children’s Committees) the training of volunteers to provide psychosocial and para legal services to the vulnerable children and their families. MVCC then recommend which vulnerable families will be the founder members of at least two income generating cooperatives in each village. Over the five years each MVCC and coop conducts monthly review meetings where Africa Bridge staff can monitor progress, trouble shoot issues and mentoring.
Over the last 19 years Africa Bridge has formed has trained over 300 village volunteers in 38 Most Vulnerable Children’s Committees to provide psychosocial and para legal services; dispute resolution; and coop monitoring. 82 agricultural and farm animal cooperatives caring for avocado, corn, potatoes, dairy cows, pigs or chickens have been formed. Other support includes the provision of school supplies, the planting of indigenous and fire wood trees and projects to improve school and health infrastructure.
These interventions have resulted in the transformation of the well-being of over 10,000 most vulnerable children and their families. Examples of this is children going from 1 meal a day to 3; eating protein 5 times a year to 3 times a week; sleeping on the ground without a blanket to sleeping on a mattress or bed with a blanket; not being in school to being in school; and having little or no lamplight to having over 3 hours of lamplight per week.
In 2008 Africa Bridge engaged its first Tanzanian Program Manager in Tukuyu. In 2010, Barry Childs was awarded the prestigious Purpose Prize for his extraordinary achievements and commitment to solving social problems. In 2011 our first paid Executive Director started. In 2012 we asked our most outstanding MVCC and coop members to be mentors in new villagers and in 2016 we engaged our first Empowerment Workers in Kisondela and Kambasegela Wards.
In June of 2018, we celebrated another big Africa Bridge milestone – Lufingo Ward’s seven villages graduated from our five-year sustainable development program. In the Fall of 2018, we started to explore the idea of introducing mushroom farming in the the Kambasegela Ward. And, the Tanzania Program Advisory Board was formed!
In 2019 and 2020 we have completed a process of meeting with representatives of all 28 villages that have graduated out of the program to assess the strengths and weaknesses of our program model as it has evolved since 2005. In addition, a trip to the Njombi Region of TZ was completed to further learn about best practices for co-ops. As a result, we are piloting some modifications to our program co-op process with dairy cows in the Kambasegela Ward.
Currently, we are busy working towards the graduation of the Kisondela Ward in early 2021. Asante sana for joining us in our mission and for making a meaningful difference in vulnerable children’s lives!
© 2019 Africa Bridge is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Our federal tax ID #: 36-4381474
P.O. Box 115, Marylhurst, OR 97036
P: (503) 699-6162