An innovative self-help program engineered by Marriott School graduate João Bueno, recently reached the 10,000-person milestone as it aims to alleviate poverty and improve the quality of life in villages throughout Mozambique.
A graduate of Brigham Young University's MPA program, Bueno works for the humanitarian group Care For Life. Although many aid organizations simply disburse supplies to the poor, Care For Life representatives believe the free handouts can increase dependence and perpetuate poverty. In 2005, Bueno spearheaded the development of Care For Life's Family Preservation Program, which achieves sustainable development by empowering families and communities to overcome extreme poverty and become self-reliant.
"We do not look for short-term results," Bueno says. "If we work with local leaders and the community as a whole to provide a solution, then it is sustainable, and families and villages will learn how to help themselves. Our aim is to be the last NGO in the lives of those families."
The program works by educating the poorest families in one of the poorest areas of the world about how to overcome challenges and change habits. For 39 months, Care For Life volunteers meet with families and community leaders every other week to teach hygiene, sanitation, general health, financial responsibility and more. Each family sets 10 goals, such as building latrines, planting gardens or vaccinating their children. Care For Life provides incentives for families to meet their goals - rewarding the villagers with things like aluminum for a new roof or seeds for a garden.
"As families perceive the benefits of achieving their goals, they become very motivated," Bueno says. "When we leave, those families will have the power to change."
Families are organized into groups who share responsibility for each other. Leaders are chosen from among the community to make village-wide decisions that address unexpected challenges and to help the neediest families.
When Bueno began in 2005, Care For Life assisted 754 Mozambicans. The success of the Family Preservation Program swelled the ranks in excess of 10,000 beneficiaries in eight communities in 2008. And its return on investment makes it an even more attractive option for alleviating poverty. The 39-month program costs Care For Life only $25 per beneficiary each year. The organization is now poised to expand and adapt the program to other struggling communities in Africa and Central and South America.
Participating communities have seen dramatic improvements in living conditions and health. Care For Life's statistics show that the first four participating villages experienced an 80 percent reduction in diarrhea, a 60 percent reduction in coughing and a nearly 70 percent reduction in deaths in only the first year. Plus, half of the families were planting their own gardens, and literacy and school attendance were rapidly increasing. And because the villagers themselves are driving the change, Bueno says he believes the progress is sustainable.
Several faculty members from the BYU Economic Self-Reliance Center contribute to the Family Preservation Program as Care For Life board members. In addition, dozens of Marriott School students volunteer in Mozambique as interns, helping teach classes in microcredit, financial responsibility and more. In fact, Bueno began his service in Mozambique as a Marriott School intern with Care For Life in 2004.
"The Marriott School is an incubator - what we have here are students with brains, skills, energy, idealism and values who want to go out and change the world," says Warner Woodworth, BYU professor of organizational leadership and strategy and one of Bueno's mentors. "They want to do more than write checks. There's this passion and this drive to make a difference."
The Marriott School is located at Brigham Young University, the largest privately owned, church-sponsored university in the United States. The school has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, public management, information systems and entrepreneurship. The school's mission is to prepare men and women of faith, character and professional ability for positions of leadership throughout the world. Approximately 3,000 students are enrolled in the Marriott School's graduate and undergraduate programs.
Writer: Arie Dekker