by Angela Holzer, President of Given Tree


In part I of this article, we discussed a few ways charities can show accountability through having an effective community approach and mission statements. In this article, we will be focusing on another important aspect of showing accountability through the 3S’s (teaching skills, self-reliance and service to one’s neighbor).


Teaching Skills, Self-Reliance and promoting an attitude of Service to Neighbor:

We need to do more than distribute items and handouts to those in need. We need to empower people to help them provide for themselves.

 President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, an apostle from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in October 2010 in Providing in the Lord’s Way, “There are many good people and organizations in the world that are trying to meet the pressing needs of the poor and needy everywhere. We are grateful for this, but the Lord’s way of caring for the needy is different from the world’s way…The Lord’s way has always included self-reliance and service to our neighbor in addition to caring for the poor.”

 Let’s discuss these areas and what it means with one particular charity in Mozambique.


Charity: Care for Life (Mozambique)

Care for Life was founded in 2000. In 2001, they became a U.S. 501c3 charity. In 2002, they received non-government organization (NGO) status in Mozambique. They have evolved over the years from teaching in schools and orphanages to creating a powerful community approach plan called “Family Preservation Program.” A quality community approach, as we discussed in the first article, goes hand-in-hand with the 3 S’s; teaching skills, self-reliance and service to neighbor.

We recently visited their offices in Beira, Mozambique and met with Solomon, their National Director, who showed us around. He explained that they enter a village and the community chooses a President, V.Pres, Secretary and 5 community leaders to teach the 5 focus areas to the community: health, agriculture, well-being of children, education and housing improvement. These elected community leaders are then trained by Care for Life in their various areas of accountability. Let me quote directly from my journal and tell you about a few experiences we had.


First, we went to see a man and his garden.


Journal: “After driving through pot-hole-filled dirt roads to get to this house, we pulled up to see clothes hanging on lines and a mud/brick house surrounded by a few green fruit trees. We met the man of the house and he promptly guided us to see his large garden in the back. We walked by a cement building he built for a latrine.


He proudly showed us the seedlings growing in one patch then walked us to a flourishing part with lettuce growing. He was so proud of what he was doing.His red shirt was beautiful against the red/brown dirt, green lettuce, trees and blue sky. I asked if I could take a picture and he quickly disappeared to retrieve two watering cans. He proceeded to walk down the rows, a watering can in each hand and smiling as he walked along looking at the camera. His family will eat some of the lettuce and sell the rest. It’s a continual process to help growers understand how much they need to sell and not eat in order to make a profit and become self-reliant. But who can dispute that they are needing to eat? It’s a great example of teaching a skill and helping him become self-reliant.


Solomon explained to us their concern with purchasing seeds from local stores where expiration dates have been changed and results in 70% of the seeds are bad. Waste of critical funds. They are trying to solve that problem by finding a trusted distributor. Care for Life educates these smallholder farmers on how to grow and provides them with the initial seeds. They then sell their proceeds and are able to purchase seeds for themselves the next time they grow. It’s a sustainable business.”


Next, we met a woman, an elected leader of her village program and mother of 7.

Journal: “Then we walked through the bush led by one of our community leaders. We walked by a man making bricks, mixing the cement/dirt mixture and shaping them into bricks to dry in the sun. We walked by houses blaring lively music that makes you want to dance. Our guide at one point turned around and asked if we are taking our malaria pills. “Yes,” we said. “We take malarone, the daily malaria pill.”  “Oh good,” is all he said. We then swatted away a few more mosquitoes and kept walking.

We then came to this house where a woman had a young child strapped to her side as she leaned over a wicker plate on the ground holding a few small fishes. She was chosen as the VP in the village. She was sharp. The villagers are required to make a goal sheet with 10 goals. Community leaders make suggestions on what their goals should be if their situation doesn’t meet current standards. For example: get a mosquito net ($15 for a good treated one), get HIV tested, attend education classes, participate in a community garden, build a latrine, sanitize water. These are examples of what we saw. They get a reward for completing these goals & relating to the goals. I was told that most ask for a bag of cement to build a latrine.

“Do you want to ask her anything?” said our guide. “Yes, of course,” I said.

I asked her if she saw any changes from before the program and after.

She said her neighbors work together now and help each other whereas before it was competitive. Now they are aware of each other.

This program is a great example of how a charity promotes an attitude of serving your neighbor. As she showed us her goal sheet, she had already started a lot of the goals. She had been HIV tested, she had built a latrine and was working on the other goals of attending classes, participating in a community garden, attending literacy classes and more. As we walked away, we saw a cooler containing frozen popsicles and a stand with corn…the start of a mighty fine small business!”


Later, we met with an older woman participating in the Family Preservation Program.

Journal: “We then walked by a few houses on our way to our next visit and Solomon pointed out a handmade table holding dishes. When Solomon assessed this house a few weeks ago, they made a suggestion for this family to move their dishes off the dirt. The dishes used to be sitting on the ground where dogs would lick their dishes and they would use them. Yuck! Small things that make a huge difference in maintaining a healthy living and staying disease-free.”

Next we went to an older woman’s house. Our guide asked to see her goal sheet and she immediately found it. She knew exactly where it was. Her sheet was similar to the last woman’s: attend classes, build a latrine, sanitize water, etc.

My Question: What are your thoughts about the program?  (I wanted to keep it open ended and not lead her into any particular answer. I wanted to hear her initial unfiltered reaction.)

Her Answer: She said she never knew before this program that it’s important to sanitize water, use mosquito nets, wash hands and to help your neighbor when they have a funeral and support them. This woman didn’t know she should help when her neighbor died. Before they would hear of a death – attend the funeral – and go home. Now, she attends and asks to help. Now all the neighbors pool together food to help the family who had a loss.

As this woman spoke, I was struck once again that people still don’t know the basics. And as she continued talking about “helping with a funeral,” I was grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and my church that teaches us to look outside ourselves.”

As you can see, this program teaches skills, self-reliance and an attitude of service to neighbor. You can follow us on Facebook and we will keep you aware of how things progress.


Skills: Teaching needed skills that will help improve lives and can lead to self-reliance. Skills range from literacy, gardening and health education to offering formal education and classes to obtain degrees.  Meeting the needs and desires of the community members to help the members change their circumstances.


Self-Reliance: Reliance on one’s own capabilities, judgment, or resources; independence. Promoting a self-reliant attitude is key, and better than encouraging dependence on hand-outs, a program, etc.  By empowering individual families to develop these skills, they rely on each other and create a business and a life that allows them to sustain themselves.


Service to Neighbor:  Helping the recipients maintain an attitude of serving each other and giving back. An approach that encourages working together in a community opposed to an attitude of competitiveness and isolation.



Given Tree Overview:

Teaching skills, fostering a self-reliant mentality and promoting an attitude of service-to-neighbor enables beneficiaries to teach and mentor others, expanding the circle of impact and eliminating the entitlement attitude. The proportion of time spent serving urgent needs to sustain life vs. teaching skills and self-reliance will be a reflection of the targeted population.