East African Center (JCI USA)
July 20, 2010
To help communities achieve empowerment through health education, general education, and poverty eradication programs.
The EAC recognizes that much of the monetary assistance that is currently available in East Africa is either not plentiful enough to make a significant impact in dealing with the complex issues related to economic, social, and resource development, or is not efficiently utilized. Either way, populations of many villages often have extremely limited access to potentially beneficial information, resources and services. The EAC aims to connect health education, general education and poverty eradication information and services to women and children in villages throughout East Africa.
The information and services offered will be organized in small, inexpensive, largely community-operated resource centers. We believe that by offering sites that are close to, or right in the villages, we will increase the population
We will continue to work with the community in Takaungu to empower local people to improve their lives. We will do this by expanding our current programs and initiating new ones, continually using the community's needs and advice as our guide. In addition, we will explore locations for other community centers in East Africa.
After establishing the Vutakaka Community Center, we believe our model to be a generally successful one and we are anxious to replicate our success in other needy communities. We have already begun this process and will proceed as time and funding allows.
The process of establishing the Vutakaka Community Center began with assessing the local community's needs. EAC Executive Director Suzanne Jeneby conducted this assessment over several months in Takaungu, meeting with leaders and members of the community.
In the process, she established the Vutakaka Committee, a group of 40 community members who guide the EAC in all of its work in Takaungu. This committee advises the EAC on its programs, approves all decisions made about the Center, and promotes the Center among the four local villages we serve (Vuma, Takaungu, Kayanda, and Kanyambuni-together, the first two letters of each village form the Center's name. In Swahili, Vutakaka also means "pull brother").
The community helped the EAC establish its priorities in Takaungu: general education, health education, and poverty eradication. It was decided that the best way to address these priorities was to establish a community center and run programs from there. With funds raised by Jaycees and other sources, the EAC built its first building, which included two classrooms, two offices, and a latrine.
In addition, the EAC built three local-style huts to host foreign volunteers who come to help the Center. Much of the labor to build the Center was done by local men and women who donated their time to improve their community. Once the Center was completed in late December 2003, the EAC began to open its programs. The health library was available immediately, and the nursery school, adult education class, and sewing club began in the first week of January.
After-school tutoring, the Farmer Field School (which uses a plot of land adjacent to the Center as a demonstration farm), and the health education class started soon thereafter. By June, the business skills class, market day, and Bridges to Understanding programs had begun and the Center has been an incredibly busy place since.
In recent months, we built an extension to the Center to expand the EAC's capabilities and meet the community's ever-increasing interest in the Center and its programs.
The new buildings include two new classrooms, a kitchen, a storage room, a courtyard and two new latrines. The EAC is already using this new space and will continue to expand its programs into 2005.
In January, we are opening a new first-grade class to offset the extreme overcrowding the local primary schools (Takaungu Primary's first-grade class has 200 students and one teacher). We are also expanding our business skills curriculum to include the operation of a demonstration business near the center.
Along the way, we have consulted and collaborated with many like-minded organizations, including the U.S. Peace Corps (2 Peace Corps volunteers are currently placed with the Center), the Bridges to Understanding NGO (who co-facilitate our Bridges to Understanding program), the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (who co-facilitate our Farmer Field School), Out of Afrika (an NGO that helped the EAC acquire computers for the Center's programs), and many, many other organizations.