Fighting Poverty with Empowerment

The Problem: Poverty
Poverty—A lack of the knowledge and resources that provide dignity and opportunity.

Most of the people in the world struggle for the basic necessities of life. Billions of people live without opportunities for education, health care, and sustainable livelihood.  Poverty leaves its victims economically and socially isolated, and destroys their belief in themselves.

Here, living in relative prosperity, we watch the news and read stories of the pain and suffering of others around the world.  We hear the natural call to service, but the problem seems so vast, it is difficult to know where to begin or how to help.

The Solution: Empowerment
Empowerment—Imparting the knowledge and resources that enable people to provide for themselves.

The Himalayan Institute believes in the vast potential of individuals to change and uplift their own lives and the lives of their family members, communities, and the global community. Empowerment is the integration of knowledge and action, of self-confidence and opportunity. Each individual’s transformation and sense of empowerment inspires others, and helps bring forth social regeneration.

How?
On June 15, 2007, the Himalayan Institute Community Center (HICC) opened in Kumbo, Cameroon. Since its inception, HICC has undertaken projects focusing on the four cornerstones of Himalayan Institute empowerment efforts: education, health care, vocational training, and micro-enterprise. Collectively, these services provide a multifaceted solution for sustainable social transformation.

Current Empowerment Projects
School of Energy Farming
The Energy Farming concept is a revolution in sustainable agriculture, land management, and green energy, and a catalyst for rural empowerment. It refers specifically to the sustainable cultivation of crops to provide green energy, most notably biofuel—crops like rapeseed, sunflower, Jatropha, and Pongamia. Energy farming methodology is also applicable to food, medicinal, aromatic, and cash crops, and its holistic approach increases crop productivity, decreases cost of cultivation, and offers environmental regeneration.

The School Energy of Farming launched educational and outreach efforts in summer 2007, anchored by the planting of 10,000 trees in the region. June 2008 marked the grand opening of the School’s main campus about 45 minutes from the HI Community Center on 125 acres near the small village of Kishong.

Take a look at plans for the School of Energy Farming land development.

A training center and model demonstration farm will showcase the entire vision of Energy Farming, from crops to cultivation to processing. This facility will serve as a base to provide intensive training and hands-on experience in Energy Farming to local farmers, and is the key to the Institute’s outreach campaign to educate and inspire the surrounding communities.

Himalayan Institute Total Health Center
One of the greatest tragedies of Africa is the failure to offer preventive health care and access to services for readily-treatable conditions, especially in rural communities. Unhealthy lifestyle choices and lack of awareness about simple preventive measures greatly contribute to widespread preventable health problems. Public attention is often focused on high profile diseases such as AIDS, but the common health issues that plague everyday life go largely unaddressed.

The Himalayan Institute Total Health Center in Cameroon pioneers access to holistic, preventive health care, providing a range of custom-tailored natural health products, and public health education and outreach.

In May 2008, the Center began its efforts with a six-week Total Health Center consultant training program covering the Total Health philosophy with a strong emphasis on hands-on experience in basic public health education and dispensary services. The training curriculum was developed by the Institute’s team of medical and holistic health practitioners.

The first Total Health Center in Africa is now successfully operational, staffed by the inaugural class of Total Health Center consultants. The training program graduates are continuing in an apprenticeship at the Center, honing their skills under the guidance of the Community Center staff. Upon completing the apprenticeship, these graduates will be able to launch their own Total Health Centers and help spread the Total Health paradigm to surrounding villages.

In addition to creating local employment, the Total Health model will facilitate a two-way flow of health care knowledge and health products to underprivileged areas while helping the Center collect important research about local health needs. With this social infrastructure in place, a wider range of educational and health care services can be delivered to these rural villages in the future.

Sacred Link Jewelry
In July 2007, the Himalayan Institute launched its first Sacred Link Jewelry internship program in Cameroon. Seven local students were chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in the class. Over the next three months they received intensive training and hands-on experience in the crafting and marketing of unique artisan jewelry. Based on a “train the trainer” model, these students had extensive one-on-one contact with Institute faculty, so they could become fully prepared to become Community Center trainers themselves or start their own micro-enterprises upon graduation.

Several of these students currently manage their own independent micro-enterprises where they create and sell jewelry. You can support this project by purchasing their jewelry in our online store. If you are a store owner and are interested in carrying Sacred Link Jewelry, please call our contact center at 800-822-4547 for more information about wholesale pricing.

School of Carpentry & Construction

Over the course of renovating the Community Center’s main building in summer of 2007, Institute volunteers realized that the region lacks basic tools in the fields of carpentry and construction. Workers also lacked experience integrating the various trades required to build or renovate a building like the HI Community Center.

Watch video of HICC renovations and footage from our first main shipment of materials. To date, the Himalayan Institute has sent three 40-foot containers full of supplies from Pennsylvania to Kumbo, Cameroon.

The most recent container included state-of-the-art tools to equip the new School of Carpentry & Construction. Major renovations to the School of Carpentry & Construction’s facility were completed last summer, revealing a spacious workshop with energy-saving skylights, and equipped with tools completely new to the region. Classes will begin in November 2008.

Kumbo Public Library
Africa’s consistent lack of access to information can be clearly seen in the scarcity of books. In Kumbo, despite a relatively high literacy rate, books are hard to find, and even when they are available, a used paperback will routinely cost $15 to $20 in a country where many earn only $2 per day.

The Himalayan Institute Community Center, in partnership with Honesdale Rotary Club and the Kumbo Council, is addressing this dire need with the establishment of the Kumbo Public Library. As the first public library in the region, and one of the largest in the entire nation, the facility will house over 30,000 volumes.

The Kumbo Public Library is a true community project, first spearheaded by the Kumbo Council, but abandoned at the construction phase because of lack of funding. Upon learning about the project, the Institute gladly agreed to help complete the library. Significant renovations, provided by the School of Carpentry & Construction, are currently underway to transform the building into a fully functional climate-controlled facility. Besides the main library hall, administrative offices, restrooms, storage rooms, and several reading rooms will accommodate a range of programs, including literacy efforts, children’s programs, and public education outreach programs.

Impact
What we’ve achieved since June 2007

  • Providing direct employment for 36 local people and indirect employment for hundreds more
  • Establishing four vocational training programs: Sacred Link Jewelry, the School of Carpentry & Construction, the School of Energy Farming, and Total Health Training
  • Planting 25,000 new trees in the deforested hillsides surrounding Kumbo
  • Providing scholarships for 30 children in Kumbo to attend school this year
  • Bringing investors and delegates from the United States, India, Bangladesh, Senegal, Ivory Coast, the Central Tibetan Authority, the Spanish Islands, Aruba, China, and the United Kingdom to the region, to see the Institute’s empowerment projects in action
  • Establishing the largest public library in the region

Profile: Laisin Wirngo
Laisin Wirngo was one of the fourteen students trained by the Himalayan Institute Cameroon’s Total Health program.  Now 33 and a father of four, he is able to provide for his family financially as well as medically.

“My life has changed drastically, in the advantage side,” he says.  “I have learned a lot from this course, and it has been helping me, my family and the entire community that I’m attending to.  They’ve all been giving me a very positive response from the herbal treatment they’ve been taking at the Total Health Center.”

Laisin grew up in Kumbo.  He and his wife met and married while still in high school, and the couple moved seventy miles south to the province’s capital, Bamenda.  In April 2008, when Laisin first applied for the Total Health program, he had his own health issues.

“When I was about to start studies, I had a big abdomen. Our instructor asked me whether I’m drinking beer.  I told him I took four to five bottles of beer a day.  I was also eating a lot of starchy food. He told me I should reduce eating starch and concentrate more on fruit and vegetables.  I’m no longer drinking, and I’ve been doing a lot of exercise, too, so I feel light.  My stomach, which was big, I’ve noticed it’s gone down completely.  So health-wise, too, I’m completely sound.”

Through the knowledge gained from the six-week Total Health course, Laisin realized that the most widespread health problems in Kumbo were, like his own, lifestyle-related.  Now, in addition to suggesting herbal and homeopathic treatments, he sensitizes his patients to the shortcomings of the traditional diet.

When he’s not working at the Total Health Center, Laisin spends time in Bamenda with his family.  His youngest child, Lennyuy, turned one just as Laisin was graduating from the business portion of his training at the Himalayan Institute.

As a Total Health consultant, Laisin is able to buy medicine at wholesale prices and treat patients outside of the Total Health Center.  He acts as an ambassador for the preventive and alternative methods of health care that the Himalayan Institute espouses.

“I have carried much of the knowledge I’ve got from the Himalayan Institute to Bamenda where some of the people do not even know where Kumbo is.  Now they want to know where Kumbo is because they’ve heard about the Himalayan Institute.”

While the HI Cameroon team makes arrangements for additional Total Health Center franchises around the Northwest Province, Laisin looks ahead to the future.  “What I’m foreseeing is I will be able to change the mentality of my people by teaching them what to do, how they can do it, and at the best time.”

How You Can Help
Share:
Offer your kindness and generosity by contributing to the Institute’s humanitarian efforts. All charitable donations are tax-deductible.

Serve:
Spread the word. Let your friends, family, and community know about the Institute’s humanitarian work. Help start a movement of empowerment instead of aid.

Make a Difference:
Join us! This is our opportunity to put spirituality into action—Share, Serve, and Make a Difference.

4 thoughts on “Fighting Poverty with Empowerment

  1. Pingback: Blog Action Day: Fight Poverty with Empowerment « Himalayan Institute - Cameroon

  2. real people touching real lives – transforming both. thanks for the update. great to include the personal side as well as the expanding vision. noble hearts linked through compassionate action.

  3. Helping others changes everyone including yourself for the positive. I am also helping children in need. I am currently sponsoring a child in Nepal and spreading the word via my website. I will help spread your word also.

    Thank you for this blog as it is amazing what you are doing!

    Namaste

  4. Pingback: Climate Change | Fact, Fiction, or Common Sense? « the thoughts of an aspiring walker

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