Ten years making a difference in African villages

As part of our on-going DSC e-news features on why you do what you do, Neil Kerfoot writes about his experience setting up Village by Village.

It all started with a simple idea to celebrate a birthday – go to Ghana, dig a well, help some people and come back to my normal life in the UK. I had a well paid job, company car and the mortgage paid off, what more could anyone want?

Well it turns out a lot more, but a different kind of more. It didn’t take very long digging that well for me to realise I enjoyed doing this more than what I was doing back home.

The beginning

So sitting around the fire with the village elders one evening after a long days work I asked them what else I could do to help and they had one very simple request, they wanted information, information of how to farm better, prevent disease and improve their standard of living.

Well, I didn’t have the answers to those questions but I did have the capacity to build them an information centre where other better qualified people could come and tell them whatever they needed to know. From that conversation Village by Village was born and the simple concept that started it all remains a core principal of the charity today: work with communities to help themselves break free from poverty.

Ten years later

Almost ten years on we’ve grown and developed alongside the communities we work with. We built an information centre that was transformed into a clinic, a library, a crèche, a kindergarten and a school. We’ve built toilet blocks with rain water harvesting so school children can wash their hands, and we’ve taught them why it’s important to do so with our “Clean Hands Saves Lives” behaviour change project. We’ve resurrected dilapidated schools and built more wells to provide more communities with safe and accessible drinking water. We train and employ local people to work with us on the construction projects giving them lifelong skills to provide for themselves and their families in the future.

We believe in help out not handouts and every project we undertake is in partnership with the community. We’ve had hundreds of volunteers come join us, from the UK, USA, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland to name but a few. All of them have come with boundless enthusiasm and varied skill sets. We’ve had doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, architects, mechanics, photographers all come offering their time for free. And they’d all say they got a lot more out of it than they put in.

What’s next?

But development never ends and we are seeking out new and innovative ways to change the lives of children in poverty. We’ve built the first rural school computer lab in our district opening up the whole world via the Internet to a generation of real Ghana children, and as the world get smaller for them their aspirations get bigger, the want and now expect to have a better quality of life and they understand what it takes to achieve that. That, much more than bricks and mortar is true development.

Find out more about Village by Village.