Wednesday, September 21, 2005

CHF INTERNATIONAL: More Than Can Be Put Into One Name

C HF International (Community, Habitat and Finance) is an organization that backed into its name.

Originally, CHF International was established as the Foundation for Cooperative Housing (FCH). Founded in 1952 as a 501©(3) non-profit corporation seeking to help low- and moderate- income families in rural America and low-income urban neighborhoods achieve improved economic standing and quality of life through the construction of affordable housing this organization grew to sponsor over 60,000 units of cooperative housing in 35 states across the US.

In the 1960's, CHF began to focus more and more on international issues. Over time, it developed the experience to understand that addressing one linear area of development alone was not producing outcomes that were sustainable for the long-term. CHF came to recognize that a program that demands community investment in housing but turns a blind eye to the need for income generation to maintain those structures is doomed to fail.

Acting on this understanding the organization expanded its programming so that in addition to housing microfinance they began to address concerns in the areas of disaster relief, environmental management, infrastructure rehabilitation, economic development, civil society development, and post-conflict response.

In 1998, they began to market themselves as CHF International (although their legal name remains Cooperative Housing Foundation) to reflect their overseas focus.

After repeated successes in its US projects, CHF caught the attention of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID invited CHF to apply their experience on an international level and CHF's first overseas programs were focused on housing microfinance in Central America.

At that time, the organizations name was the Cooperative Housing Foundation (CHF).

Today, CHF works in approximately 30 countries each year, promoting democratic principles to effectively build, strengthen and promote change within local institutions and communities and shape policy decisions that recognize and support our world's most vulnerable populations.

Throughout the history of CHF International has let communities identify their greatest needs, then work with them to set realistic objectives that meet their goals. This practical approach to humanitarian efforts has proven for the organization to be an effective one.

CHF designs all of its programs with the appropriate social, environmental and economic solutions in mind to ensure the communities they serve are able to manage and sustain their future development at a steady forward pace.

Building a stable, more equitable world - one community at a time - CHF International continues to be driven by its humanitarian mission while guided by its high standards of accountability and performance. It takes every program seriously and demands the best possible outcome for the time, effort and money invested. Because of this, their programs are designed to be realistic. Each program is adapted to the distinct cultural and social context of the community served and employs the most appropriate and effective methods to ensure that progress is made and forward motion sustained. It very much helps that they encourage communities to identify their own priorities and work with them to set achievable objectives that advance their overall goals. This is done whether the project is to rehabilitate a school, a road or a water systems, or to establish an independent financial institution that can lend credit to low-income individuals for a business start-up or to build homes.

One example of the type of project in which CHF involves itself is the LPATH-GM program in Kenya. LPATH-GM stands for the "Local Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS-Grants Management" and is cooperative arrangement between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and CHF International/Kenya

The LPATH-GM program "works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS in Kenya by strengthening the capacity of local nongovernmental organization (NGO) partners".

This program applies a customized blend of intensive participatory learning, on-site assistance, and practical application and monitoring to ensure that NGOs are using the new skills in they way programs are implemented, on a daily basis. This is done with the purpose of reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS in Kenya by strengthening the capacity of local, community and faith-based organizations (NGO partners) to provide and sustain high quality, expanded HIV/AIDS services.

CHF International/Kenya believes it will achieve this goal by:

- Improving the technical capacity of NGO partners in providing prevention, care and treatment activities to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

- Improving the organizational capacity of NGO partners - that is, their capacity in managing grants and resources, financial management, strategic planning and sustainability.

- Ensuring HIV/AIDS interventions are having an optimal impact, by improving program capacity mechanisms for reaching targets and increasing collaboration among NGO partners.

LPATH-GM provides a comprehensive assessment of NGO partners that will help them to develop strategic plans for improved and sustained HIV/AIDS services.

The capacity-building component of this program will apply a customized blend of intensive participatory learning, on-site assistance, and practical application and monitoring that ensures NGOs are using these new skills in their efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.

Other important features of the LPATH-GM program are the commitment to developing information sharing and referral systems among the NGO partners in addition to promoting sustainability.

There is much more to CHF International, CHF International/Kenya and the LPATH-GM program, and you can learn a lot more about each of these topics at:
CHF International
CHF International/Kenya

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