What is the sustainable program development model? 

My wife Karen and I created the sustainable program development model over 30 years ago as a response to the pitfalls of short-term aid that we saw all around us while living in Zimbabwe. It’s a four-pronged approach that seeks to empower communities in rural Africa by establishing infrastructure (with renewable energy and clean water), improved health and nutrition outcomes (through health care and sustainable agriculture) and economic mobility (through education and training). Once a community has access to the same basic requirements for a decent quality of life, education and skills training really take center stage. It’s truly an honor to be a part of helping people shift from subsistence living to a profitable market economy. 

Why are programs like this so important? 

Meeting immediate needs of food and shelter saves lives in the short term, but it doesn’t break the generational cycle of poverty. Every one of us would be stuck living in poverty if we didn’t have access to infrastructure, healthcare or education. Nobody is exempt from requiring these basic building blocks in order to succeed. Self-sufficiency has an impact with far reaches for that individual’s family and for generations to come.

Can you give an example?

In the early 1990’s, a young woman named Maria was living in poverty and was among the first students to enroll in our vocational training school. Today, Maria is the country director for Child Legacy Zimbabwe. There are too many other examples to choose from. Going from a subsistence farmer to a certified welder can change a family’s future quickly — they’re participating in the economy, they’re enrolling their children in school and then their educated, healthy children will have better opportunities when they come of age. That’s our goal. 

In your experience, what are some of the biggest challenges facing children in poverty?

Lack of healthcare, infrastructure and opportunity. 

What resources are most important when supporting kids in poverty? 

Providing clean water and health care is paramount. Mortality rates for children under 5-years-old are devastating worldwide.

Then, the focus has to be on education. Educating children sets them up for success so when they grow up, they are not reliant on someone else for their daily bread. 

How can we come together as a global community to help? 

We need to change how we think about aid programs. We need to give the people of rural Africa a fair chance to access the same things that have allowed the West to succeed and allow them to enter the marketplace through education and skills training.