VC Difference

Village Care International was developed by our founder David Glenwinkel in 2005, after he spent years working within other African aid organizations. Over time, he came to the realization that traditional aid programs were a failure.

He made a vow not to become absorbed into the ‘system’ of a perpetual cycle of giving that ultimately relieves immediate (and legitimate) needs, but results in sustaining impoverishment more often than sustaining development. As such, David decided to develop a program that was completely out of the box, backwards and radical.

A new way of thinking

First, he reversed all commonly held assumptions about aid to Africa by assuming that three basic principles regarding the problem are true:

  • First, that only Africans can solve the problems in Africa.
  • Second, that only Africans living within the affected communities of poverty can lead the way in breaking the bonds of poverty.
  • Third, that the resources they need to get started are already available in their own communities.

Next, and even more radical in its premise, he decided that his program adhere to the following list of “don’t’s”:

  • Don’t give money.
  • Don’t promote our ideas and solutions.
  • Don’t participate in projects with the community.
  • Don’t bring goods or services.
  • Don’t loan money.
  • Don’t rely only on local leaders to oversee and initiate projects.


“I personally spent years provisioning
loaning, building, feeding, teaching,
and reaching out across Kenya only to realize
that the only result was a deepening need for more aid.”

David Glenwinkel

Founder, Village Care International

The Turning Point

This was in late 2005 and David, equipped with his new, untested and unorthodox approach, chose to present it to the people of a small village in the Western District of Kenya not far from Lake Victoria. He had been to this community on many occasions before but no project that he had tried there or seen other organizations initiate had ever survived in the long haul.

“Expectations were high that day,” recalls David, “a known white donor had arrived with his family and called together the poorest people in the community, mainly widows. There was a lot of excitement and anticipation.”

The meeting took place in a small local church building constructed of sticks and mud. One hundred and thirty seven widows from the village attended. David stood before them and explained the dilemma of Africa and his idea that no outsider could really understand the circumstances and conditions that the average African lives in on a daily basis. Furthermore, he explained that no outsider could clearly comprehend, much less solve, the problems they face.

I told them that we come and preach and teach but we don’t know how to clean a home made from mud, manure and straw. We don’t know how to make a roof of thatch,” David recalls. “I told them that I didn’t understand why, when the materials were available, so many roofs of the poorest families were in disrepair, or why, with food wasting to spoil in the market place, so many people were near starvation. I told them that I didn’t understand why some families only ate bananas and others only corn. Or why one small hut in one shamba of homes was filthy and in decay while others were in good repair with healthy occupants.”

But rather than preach to them about the way things should be and how they should be done, David told them that he had no idea about what to do and then asked them what they thought they should be done.

“At that,” David says, “one of the widows spoke up and said, ‘We know how to do all these things.'”

For the next several hours, while David took notes and organized information, the widows proceeded to answer his questions. They defined traditional principles of cleaning, food storage, water gathering, and how to clean clothing and bedding and dozens of other practices. They even explained the nuances of community dynamics and how families are formed and grow.


“This meeting was the turning point,” David says, “where I stopped seeing Africa through my eyes and started seeing it from the perspective of those who live there.”

“This meeting was the turning point,” David says, “where I stopped seeing Africa through my eyes and started seeing it from the perspective of those who live there.”

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.

The Results

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.

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.”