Finding practical solutions for the complex problem of poverty alleviation

A GUEST POST BY KATHLEEN VAUGHANAs a career I chose to solve problems for start-up, growth and problem-filled financial services companies. To be effective, one must call upon an ability to lead diverse teams, an ability to keep a quick pace for extended periods of time, an ability to be a tenacious change-agent, and an ability to get the team to believe the desired result is possible. The turning point almost always comes when faith begins to weaken and the outcome is in doubt. It is also at this time when the leader must show steely resolve, drive, personal passion and a desire 'to win' because it is this combination that often carries the team to success. I mention all of this in the opening paragraph because I thought I had seen it all. When deciding to take on poverty alleviation in Africa, I made assumptions based on years of experience in the US. As poverty showed its real face in Africa, I learned most of my assumptions turned out to be wrong.

As I began the journey of finding solutions to alleviate poverty, I underestimated the number of issues to be tackled. A low literacy rate coupled with little access to general education with no access to clean water nor a reasonable diet nor access to electricity posed problems for which I did not have immediate answers.

It was time to re-think the approach. A team of us began to review what was available on which to build rather than focusing on what was not available. We saw strength in traditional arts and crafts which were handed down from father to son and from mother to daughter. We asked ourselves if we could build small arts & crafts businesses which could bring a much needed regular income to assist with reducing the many situations where we witnessed 80%+ unemployment. We believed building sustainable businesses would bring regular incomes which could bring a better diet and money for clean water which in turn could bring better community health.

BRIDGE ~ Building Resources to Inspire Dignity Growth and Empowerment ~ was born. It was with this humble notion that we began working with various arts & crafts projects in Africa. Our mission is to give the dignity of work to advance self sufficiency and promote hope for future generations. BRIDGE now buys products from numerous groups in Africa and has become a distributor of choice for many. We contribute to some portion of the monetary health of 28,000 African men, women and children every day.

There is still much to do and with our partnership with Vital Voices, we can now do more. Vital Voices sponsors training, development and support to artisan groups throughout Africa. With experts in trends, design, marketing, business planning and much more we now have the opportunity to add more new businesses to the fold. Vital Voices brings a wonderful package of resources filling a gargantuan need which is making a huge difference on the ground

The problem of poverty is plentiful and punishing. It is not at all like the problems of US business, but business practices can shed some light … we have to believe the desired result is possible and we can never ever give up!

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