Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The First Program (R)Evolution

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development
(Note: This is the third entry from Jason's trip to the Philippines.)

"Verent Mills (pictured above) had been the American Advisory Committee’s field supervisor of famine relief in the unoccupied region of Sz Yup since 1941. In his work, he came across hundreds of children – sometimes alone, more often in small groups – wandering the countryside or haunting the villages of the delta. The children he encountered reminded him of ‘packs of little wolves,’ searching, scavenging, begging for something to eat. When he took them in, setting up five impoverished orphanages … all the children were malnourished, many with bloated stomachs and skeletal frames characteristic of progressive starvation." (From "A Book About Children," by Larry Tise, that reports CCF's history from 1938 to 1991.)

From this humble start evolved CCF's program model of orphanages that housed, fed and educated children, and helped to establish CCF's global reputation. Why would a successful organization that had acquired such rich experience and expertise move away from a successful model? That's pretty bold!

The following from "A Book About Children" explains how CCF approached things nearly 50 years ago: "The Korean Association of Voluntary Agencies, conducted a study in 1960 to determine where the children in CCF-assisted institutions had come from, how long they had been in the homes, and how many of them actually returned to their families when they left. The findings were unequivocal. A large proportion of these children had been transformed into ‘orphans’ by their families. We began to understand that by working exclusively in institutional settings, we were actually bringing children into the institutions. Parents would go through all kinds of shenanigans to get their child into an orphanage so that he could get an education."

As a result, after painful discussion and soul searching, CCF decided to create a community-based model that became known as the "Family Helper Project." This was the first time that an external organization had scrutinized CCF's established program model, and CCF staff, after taking it in, responded in a progressive way to create a new program approach. But it wasn't the last time!

CCF's history contains several examples of years of relative program stability being "upset" in a positive manner by self-assessment and reflection. As one workshop participant said, "I didn't realize CCF was such a courageous organization."

Coming soon: History lessons.

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