Friday, July 01, 2005

VILLAGEREACH : Another example of How To Do Things Right.

BYesterday I wrote about AMREF receiving the 2005 $1 Million Gates Award for Global Heath, and since them I have been contacted by people wanting to know "How do you get one of those awards, anyway?"

While studying AMREF as an organization can be very good guide on how to do things right, in looking over the awardees of grants from the Gates Foundation, I came across an another organization that provides an excellent example of "How To Get Recognized."

VillageReach is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works to improve health and the quality of life in what it calls "the most remote regions of developing countries."
Their demonstration project in northern Mozambique has proven to be very successful and it is refining its model so that it can be replicated in other developing nations.

In March 2002, VillageReach signed a landmark long-term agreement with the Mozambique Ministry of Health to provide a comprehensive set of solutions aimed at strengthening the nation's public health system. In July 2002, VillageReach and the Foundation for Community Development (FDC) launched a demonstration project in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado to put into practice its integrated programs designed to improve health and quality of life. This is the model that is being refined in order to be replicated.

A population of 1.5 million is currently being served by 90 clinics in participating districts in northern Mozambique. This effort has led to a 40% increase in voluntary immunization rates. VillageReach now has plans to expand the Northern Mozambique Project into the neighboring Nampula province to reach a total of 200 clinics serving nearly five million people.

I know, I know, you want to hear about the Gates Money. To do that I have to go back to the year 2000. That's when Blaise Judja-Sato quit his job as a telecommunications executive to create VillageReach after having what he calls "A life changing experience coordinating relief assistance to flood victims in Mozambique." Blaise then spent the following year developing an innovative model to improve health and quality of life in remote communities of the developing world. The model that he created ensures the
availability of critical health supplies like vaccines, improves the quality of health services. It also increases public trust in the health system within the community, and stimulates local economic development in appropriate ways.

VillageReach selected Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique to pilot its project because conditions in that area are similar to those in other remote areas of developing countries. Cabo Delgado has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the country. Vaccination rates are well below national averages. All health facilities experience frequent stock-outs of critical vaccines and supplies, and
- 85% of the clinic refrigerators suffer from breakdowns and fuel shortages.
- Less than - 6% of households have access to electricity.
- Almost half the population lives more than a two hours' walk from a health facility.

The innovative model that VillageReach constructed has the following components:

Created multi-modal transport network including land cruisers, motorcycles and bicycles. The staff not only inspects and repairs equipment on monthly visits; they are actually a major part of the supply chain. They get in the land cruisers to replenish the supply of vaccines, LPG and other supplies. They also go to the clinics to inspect and repair equipment and supervise clinic workers. On the local level, local clinic staff and other staff members use the motorcycles and bicycles for community outreach and for monitoring and supervising clinics.

Introduced reliable, low maintenance and cost-effective refrigerators in clinics. Collaboration with PATH to study opportunities for cold-chain improvement.

Installed propane burners for sterilization, incineration points and needle removers to ensure safe disposal of used syringes.

Provided lighting for nighttime care, refrigerators, and sterilizers at clinics. Reduced respiratory disease risk in households (because the propane being used in the Village Reach program is clean burning and less hazardous than kerosene and charcoal) and improved productivity of businesses.

Partnered with Iridium to utilize their global satellite system, introduced communication system in trucks to enable near real-time inventory tracking.

Introduced transportation and communication tools to support outreach activities. Trained community representatives to provide basic health care.

Established VidaGas, a Mozambican propane distribution company to reliably supply energy to clinics, businesses and households through the distribution of propane (LPG).

After Blaise did all this, he began to seek funding - and he began to get rejections. And after several rejections, he applied to the Gates Foundation.

Now, I must stop here and explain some things before I continue on to this story's happy conclusion.

The Gates Foundation doesn't accept unsolicited proposals for its education and libraries
Programs. And in the future it expects to provide fewer unsolicited grants in global health as well. Now, according to a statement by Lowell Weiss, a foundation spokesperson to The Chronicle of Philanthropy: "More and more frequently we are reaching out directly to potential partners that have a strong track record in carrying out these activities rather than waiting for inquiries to come to us,"

But having said this, the foundation currently continues to read some unsolicited proposals for global health and its program of providing support to charities in the Pacific Northwest. And fortunately for VillageReach, the foundation read theirs.

In November 2004 The Gates Foundation awarded the charity almost $3.3-million over five years to VillageReach to develop ways to deliver vaccines in Africa.

VillageReach's "cold chain" network of refrigerators and cold boxes that are designed to prevent vaccines from spoiling caught the attention of the Gates Foundation.
According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Melinda F. Gates, co-founder of the Gates Foundation, said that she is "committed to ensuring that the foundation's tradition of supporting small, relatively unproven groups like Mr. Judja-Sato's will continue." the Chronicle continued, quoting Mrs. Gates as saying: "Probably the most powerful thing I've learned over the past five or so years,"… "is the truth behind Margaret Mead's famous quotation: 'Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world.'"

The moral of this story is "COMMITTED." Even a small group of committed individuals can change the world. And for those who wish to be recognized for their work, they must understand that the price for such recognition is "COMMITMENT.' By the way, in June of 2004 VillageReach had just received a grant from the Chiron Corporation.

There is a lot more that can be said about this committed organization in Seattle, Washington, but I try to keep these articles Brief. So, I strongly recommend that you surf on over to VillageReach's Press Room and take a look at the recognition they have been getting for their efforts.

The home page for VillageReach is:

The Chronicle of Philanthropy can be found at:

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