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To Keith Addison

Handmade Projects
Journey to Forever

Community development

"Change not Charity!" say Journey to Forever's friends at Oxfam Hong Kong. Their clear and simple briefings on development get straight to the heart of the matter. We've summarized some of them here.

Oxfam Hong Kong

Poverty Alleviation -- Solutions
Change not Charity -- Charity and welfare can create dependency. We believe in helping people to help themselves.

A child dies every 3 seconds from hunger related causes -- Oxfam HK
If aid or development were simply a welfare exercise of handing over money, then the poor could become more dependent on outside help, less able to help themselves, and ultimately less equipped to solve their own problems.

We aim to support the efforts of people in finding their own solutions to poverty, rather than imposing solutions. When communities work together to improve their own lives, the result is a permanent strengthening of the community and renewed hope for the future. For this reason, we promote the principles of Participation, Empowerment and Sustainability.

We help those who are striving to help themselves. All our projects try to involve the beneficiaries at each stage of the project. Participation means that the poor people themselves are involved in identifying the problems they face, determining ways to overcome them, designing realistic plans to achieve these goals, and carrying them out. Solutions devised and fulfilled by the people in need are far more likely to prove successful than those imposed from outside.

From participation grows empowerment. People who truly participate in their own development are permanently strengthened. As well as better incomes or more crops, projects help to improve the skills and the experience of those involved. The project should also help build up more self-confidence and hope in the participants -- confidence that they can make a difference and that they can improve their lives. If projects can give poor people confidence, hope, dignity and strength, they will strengthen people more than any short-term financial help could ever do.

Participation and empowerment seek to ensure that projects bring lasting change which will strengthen people's ability to fend for themselves and improve their lives long after the project has ended and the overseas money has stopped. Therefore, another key principle is sustainability -- a long-term approach that seeks to understand and respect local conditions. We support projects which draw on the vibrant cultural traditions of the people with whom we work, projects which give a voice to all members of the community, and projects which ensure that the natural resources and the environment of the people are protected and sustained.

The Questions: Eight questions that will tell if a community will truly benefit from a development project.

Rural Reconstruction

This is the Credo of Rural Reconstruction, developed by Dr. Y.C. James Yen:

    Go to the people
    Live among them
    Learn from them
    Plan with them
    Work with them
    Start with what they know
    Build on what they have
    Teach by showing
    Learn by doing
    Not a showcase
    But a pattern
    Not odds and ends but a system
    Not to conform but to transform
    Not relief but release.

It's also the credo of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), a non-profit NGO devoted to improving the quality of life of the rural poor in the developing countries. IIRR was founded in 1960, growing out of the revolutionary grass-roots development movement founded by Dr. Yen in China in the 1920s. Beginning with a series of massive, highly successful literacy campaigns for peasants, Dr. Yen and his colleagues evolved an integrated, sustainable, people-centred development approach that came to be known as rural reconstruction.

"IIRR's strategy recognizes that the poor face multiple problems: lack of education, inadequate income opportunities, ill health, a degraded environment, political oppression. IIRR uses bottom-up, participatory, integrated strategies to address this interlocking nature of rural poverty."

IIRR Website:


These are the principles that guide Journey to Forever:

  • that the spirit of cooperation is the foundation of real growth
  • that resources are better shared
  • that all life is interdependent
  • that the "law of the jungle" is symbiosis, not savagery
  • that good fellowship is the human norm, not greed and narrow self-interest
  • that conflict can be resolved
  • that self-reliance at the community level strengthens the whole of society
  • that poverty is WRONG, and can be reversed
  • that there is enough for everybody except the greedy
  • that waste is wasteful
  • that the best things in life are not things
  • that this must be the guiding spirit of the new millennium
  • that we are not a minority in holding to these principles

See Poverty and hunger -- The causes of poverty, The myth of scarcity

Community development | Rural development
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