Tuesday, June 07, 2005

ASAP: Helping People To Help Themselves

It could be said that "A Self-Help Assistance Program" (ASAP) is a labor of love. Elizabeth Bara and Tom Arsenault, met and married as Peace Corps volunteers in Swaziland in 1990. Later they founded ASAP in 1992 in the U.S. to help people in Africa who want to help themselves. In 1994 they returned to Africa themselves to continue their efforts. They say they wanted "to see if two people with a dream of making a difference could succeed in the unknown world of international development work."

Working in Zimbabwe for over 10 years, ASAP is now an established and reputable International Private Voluntary Organization.

Since they started ASAP, they have been operating in Zimbabwe, with what they call "a combination of successes and 'learning experiences'". But ASAP continues to thrive and grow. In their fiscal year ending in September 2002, they had an operating budge of over a half a million dollars (U.S).

Being a U.S. organization, ASAP's umbrella operation in Zimbabwe is CHILD (the Community Holistic Initiative for Local Development). CHILD encompasses all individual projects implemented within each community by ASAP. Working in partnership with rural communities, ASAP, through CHILD has been assisting people in their efforts to improve their own lives. They work with in partnership with the economically active poor and with communities that take the initiative to try to resolve problems and pool their limited resources.

The efforts have resulted in some long-term and lasting improvements.

ASAP has been recognized as an internationally recognized Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) even though it reports to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. One unique feature about ASAP as a "small" organization is that it has posted its tax report on the Internet. If you go to their web site, there is a link to their Form 990, which all non-profit organizations regulated by the U.S. are required to file with the government.

But even though it is a "small" organization, it sees its efforts as contributing to the worldwide effort to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

ASAP says that what it is doing is "Development Work" and that is different from Relief Work." They explain this by stating: "While relief work is critical in times of emergency, long-term, grass roots development is the only kind of assistance that is truly sustainable."

The purpose of ASAP, according to their web site, is "to help people in their efforts to improve their own lives."

ASAP believes that long-lasting improvements in an area can only be achieved when those living within the community identify the problems as well as the solutions. ASAP sees its contribution as assisting disadvantaged communities to access resources needed to address the problems they have identified. It is the people who receive the benefits from the ASAP projects that actually do the work. This is truly a Self-Help Project.

Vocational skills training to build school desks, training in savings and lending clubs, and improvement of teaching skills are some of the projects of assistance that ASAP has provided to various communities.

With a staff of over 25 full-time citizen employees in Zimbabwe ASAP projects are truly making their nation a better place. ASAP believes that this is something that can never be achieved by "outsiders".

Knowing that it is important to keep its administrative costs low, ASAP's administrative and fund raising expenses together make up re less that 10% of the annual budget. And this can be checked by reviewing their tax form that is posted on their web site in PDF format. They will also make audited financial statements available upon written request.

ASAP sees it goals in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which are:

GOAL 1: To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015

GOAL 2: To achieve universal primary education

GOAL 3: To promote gender equality and empower women

GOAL 4: To reduce child mortality

GOAL 5: To improve maternal health

GOAL 6: To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

GOAL 7: To ensure environmental sustainability

GOAL 8: To develop a Global Partnership for Development

ASAP is a small engine with a whole lot of steam. If you go to their web site at:
you will see what I mean.

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