I AM was born from of a desire to help families find a way out of unfit housing and into safe, secure homes. In very simple terms, we provide funding for a local building team to construct a small family home with living and sleeping quarters, a separate kitchen facility, a separate bathing and toilet facility, a small solar power installation, and a rainwater collection system. We also provide some basic furnishings, cookware items, and other basic household items. A home build project typically takes five months to complete and beneficiary families contribute to the build during that entire period through labour or other practical assistance. It’s a model that helps to instil a true sense of ownership at completion.
The kitchen facility, usually located close to the back of the house, is equipped with a smokeless oven which means that cooking over an open fire – which is both dangerous and a health risk – is no longer necessary; it also uses significantly less firewood. Access to improved sanitary and hygene facilities, by way of a separate toilet and bathing block is vital for improved health. Solar power for lighting in all rooms reduces household bills, due to no longer using kerosene lamps, but also reduces fire risk from the same dangerous lamps. Finally, the value of access to water and in particular clean drinking water cannot be understated. Installation of a 2,000 litre rainwater collection tank, with a home filter station, is literally life-changing.
Alongside a safe and secure home, an attached half-acre farming plot provides new opportunity for families to improve their household income. Most people in the areas we work will provide for their families to some degree through subsistence farming. The ability to increase crop-yields, through availability of land and improved tools and equipment, provides families with additional resources. In many cases, this additional farming capacity, in conjunction with financial savings being made on rent, firewood, other household items, and maintenance allows families to begin to feel a sense of control over the direction of their lives and prospects.
Being able to afford school fees for children and having access to medical care when needed becomes a reality. Where there is an interest and an aptitude we work with families to provide training opportunities through local vocational training partners. This can add another potential income stream to the household and really transform peoples outlook and expectations. Feeling valued and recognising your worth as an individual and within your family can restore hope for the future that the desperation of previous circumstances had pushed aside.
The hope that is birthed from a stable home and new opportunities can reach far beyond the here and now. Children who may never have received an education can have prospects of a bright future. Families who suffered through lack of access to health care, clean drinking water and good sanitation can live longer, healthier lives, without the daily burden of a hand-to-mouth existence. As a measure of the future impact of the work that I AM is involved in, we like to consider whether its transformative effects would persevere, should we be unable to continue working in the communities we do?
If for whatever reason we had to stop our operations tomorrow, would those families we have helped to-date continue to benefit? We feel we can answer a wholehearted yes, and most likely for generations to come. The hand-up that sets a new life path in front of families does not rely on our continued support or that of any other organisation. We do like to check in with our partner families now and again, to see how they are doing and have a catch-up.; and we’re always hugely encouraged to see sustained positive changes.