For the next three days David and his family, along with a small group of local pastors and volunteers, visited the homes of every participant, as well as the homes of many healthy families in the village. “We kept three things in mind,” David says, of the visits, “Give nothing, lead nothing and promise nothing.”
At the end of three days, the widows came together to decide what they could do in each area with whatever resources they had. David left for home in America with a promise to return in a few months and help them form a plan, but in the meantime they had to work together to accomplish a few things with whatever resources they could muster.
When David returned just a few months later he was astounded at what he found. “The entire community had a different air about it,” he recalls. “Where there was litter and trash and homes barely standing on their own, there was a clean environment throughout the central village. Homes had been refreshed with new walls and many roofs had been repaired. Interiors were clean and bedding was hanging outside to be cleaned by the rays of the strong African sun. The projects extended beyond the homes of a few widows, the entire community had been transformed.”
One widow explained to David how the transformation took place. “We could think of nothing to do after your visit,” David was told. “So we decided to clean our homes. Then others near us began to clean their homes, and some planted gardens, and we began to exchange food and sell some small things at the market.”
The Birth of OPOS
From this, the die for Village Care International and its pilot program, OPOS, was cast. David wrote a short guidebook called Basic Home Practices and in it defined a series of questions and community definitions gleaned from this 2005 meeting. The Practices were divided into five categories that define all healthy communities around the world: Sanitation, Nutrition, Health, Education and Economic Security.
HELP US CHANGE LIVES FOREVER
Through OPOS — an acronym for Outcomes, Practices and Open Space — villages across Africa define, design and implement their own ways of achieving the five Practices in order to create a more healthy community. And the results are impressive. To date, the multi-level program, implemented entirely by VCI-sponsored African facilitators, thrives in more than 800 villages across nine different African countries. From it sanitation, health and education have improved dramatically. Businesses have been launched. Countless orphans and vulnerable families have been sheltered, fed and loved. More importantly Village Care is replicating rapidly from village to village without initiation by our organizational leaders.
Essentially, Village Care has succeeded in accomplishing in just a few short years what others have failed to do in 50 years,” David says. “All because we tried something completely out of the box and backwards and by understanding that the catalyst necessary to effect change is to allow people’s natural capacity to solve their own problems emerge. Once they understand this all we have to do is stand back and stay out of their way.”