Our Recipe for a Thriving Community has demonstrated results all the way from the outlying river valleys where we work to the city of Cumana.
Between 1997-2016, we have served more than 41,000 women and their families with contraceptive methods, reaching a cumulative 100,000 Couple Years of Protection (CYPs) – the metric by which USAID measures family planning achievement. We have delivered 2,807 Information Workshops on Sexual and Reproductive Health to 53,283 students, teenagers, and public service and education staff.
We have done all of this on an average family planning budget of less than $52,000 a year, at an average cost of less than $10 per CYP over the last 18 years.
We fund 50+ scholarships a year encouraging remote rural students to finish high school. More than 500 rural students have attended high school, where previously, they would have abandoned their education at or before the sixth grade. More than 100 have graduated from high school and 25 of these low-income graduates have gone on to the local university with our support. Plus:
- Our Rural Education Center, several hiking hours up the river valley, offers the local residents computers, library facilities and tutoring for primary, high school and college scholarship students.
- Three outlets for our subsidized school supplies – for pre-school, primary and high school students – are run by students and their mothers out of local rural homes.
- Access to computers and Internet is available for low-income students and community activists at our urban cyber center.
- We have helped to fund construction of a rural kindergarten, a rural child care center, several rural school libraries, and a rural school cafeteria to accommodate the government’s school lunch program. We help with popular baseball and soccer sports activities to keep these young students creatively occupied when not in school!
Projects in the remote off-the-grid river valley where we live and work include:
- Installation and maintenance of gravity-piped potable water for 120+ valley families.
- Installation of solar energy electricity for 25+ valley casas, the local church and the school complex.
- Periodic vaccination campaigns against paralytic rabies and encephalitis for hundreds of burros, mules, and other domestic animals.
- Distribution of Durian, Mangosteen, Jackfruit, Rollinia and other little-known tropical fruit cultivars to farmers and Venezuelan agriculture institutions. Some of our originally distributed seedlings are now producing fruit and seed themselves, as the distribution process multiplies on its own.
- Our Community Center, located where the valley meets the road, serves as a base for school and community meetings, for government subsidized food distribution, to store agricultural products in transit to the Cumaná market, to store building supplies and school equipment brought from town for Brito valley projects, and as a care station for the community’s pack animals.
The ongoing socio-economic crisis in Venezuela has resulted in a marked deterioration in public health care. Low-income Venezuelans have decreasing access to even the most basic medical services and medicines, food supplies, and many other staples we take for granted.
In response, we have expanded our surgery program to include a wider range of procedures for lower middle and working class families who can no longer count on public health services. Some doctors and partners have called us the “Doctors Without Borders” within the state of Sucre!
- In 2016, we performed 631 tubal sterilizations (our most frequently-requested procedure), 170 hernia repairs, and a number of orthopedic, obstetric, pediatric, and oncological interventions plus laparoscopic and biopsies for patients in need.
- We offer CAT scans, ENT, ophthalmological, pediatric and other medical consultations, when these services fail to work in the public sector.
- We dispense small grants of emergency aid to help families surmount immediate and personal crises. Amounts as small as $20 to $50 can make all the difference. About 40% of these funds are eventually paid back into our cash fund and recycled to help others.
Big impact in just one generation!
- Very few unplanned children anymore.
- Infant and maternal mortality now rarely occur — we have not had a local case in eight years.
- Many more rural students, especially girls, continue from primary school to high school – and actually graduate!
- More of these rural students are attending university.
- Computers and Internet are available for the first time.
- Clean gravity-piped water and solar electricity have reached many off-the-grid families.
- Our recently introduced fruit trees, like Durian, Mangosteen, and Jackfruit, are finding homes not only locally, but in other parts of the country.
- The community collaborates more in projects to improve their lives.
Nature is benefitting, too …
As the local population has stabilized, the impact on river valleys in the region is noticeable. Upper valleys are returning to lush tropical woods, wildlife is prospering, birds are more abundant, and the streams are running cleaner. As the younger generations bring less mouths to feed, the devastating effect of repeated slash-and-burn agriculture on the tropical forest is reduced, and the extensive secondary growth is finally returning. After some 400 years of non-stop, intensive exploitation and diminishing returns, there is now less erosion and more reforestation. A long natural healing process has begun!