What We Do

Sustainable International Development

Designed to meet the basic needs of developing communities and eliminate the obstacles preventing children from accessing education, Adopt a Village is a unique sustainable development model made up of five pillars crucial to community development:

  • Education
  • Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Health
  • Agriculture and Food Security
  • Alternative Income and Livelihood

Adopt a Village is currently implemented in Kenya, rural China, India, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, Haiti and Nicaragua.

Adopt a Village supports community development in areas experiencing a high incidence of child labour, exploitation of children and minimal opportunities for the girl child. The development model is a true partnership with local communities as they are actively consulted and involved throughout the development process.

The government in each Adopt a Village country determines the curriculum taught in the schools and schoolrooms the organization builds in partner communities. Standardized tests are typically given in the respective countries where the organization works, and government-determined curriculum coincides with the test.

In all Adopt a Village countries, Free The Children partners with the Ministry of Education to ensure that all school-related projects initially implemented by the organization are maintained over the long-term. For example, the Ministry of Education in Kenya works with School Management Committees (made up of teachers and headmasters of each school) to ensure the schools are properly resourced, maintained and operated.

The government in each Adopt a Village country pays the salaries of teachers in Free The Children schools. However, in some cases, the community will join together to pay part of the salary for a community-level teacher. In China, for example, through Free The Children’s alternative income and livelihood programming, the community will give some of the income generated from an animal husbandry project to support the salary of a community-level teacher. Salaries vary in each community and each country. Amounts are determined by the government and are reflective of the specific needs of each community and country.

Whether or not Free The Children directly provides lunch depends on each community’s food security situation. For example, during the drought in East Africa, the organization stepped up to provide full support. This included supporting short-term efforts like providing students with a hot meal for lunch and ensuring nutritional check-ups were conducted at the Baraka Clinic, and long-term sustainable solutions such as agricultural programs and providing access to clean water through large-scale water projects.

In many of our Adopt a Village partner communities, Free The Children complements school curricula with agricultural projects, such as working with students to plant kitchen gardens on school property to grow medicinal and nutritional plants and vegetables. The vegetables from these gardens are used to supplement students’ meals in Free The Children schools.

Yes. We believe that education provides the highest return of any social investment. Education is the best way to empower people, especially girls, with the tools, knowledge, strength and confidence they need to promote and protect their own rights, growth and self-sufficiency. Education helps girls, their families, their communities, and even their nations, break the cycle of poverty.

In developing communities around the world, girls have unique challenges in accessing education, staying healthy and breaking free of poverty—but they also provide hope for change more than any other group. In Free The Children’s work around the world, one thing transcends borders: the power of a girl to create positive change.

Free The Children’s support of women and girls:

  • Free The Children attaches water projects to each of the schools and schoolrooms we build. Not only are girls able to collect water on their way home from class, this ensures families are drinking clean instead of contaminated water.
  • Our alternative income projects provide financial literacy training and empower women to sustainably contribute to family income, through beekeeping, animal husbandry, women’s circles and more. Mothers who have a source of income are less likely to take their female children out of school and into early marriages.
  • Our first all-girls secondary school, the Kisaruni Girls’ Secondary School, allows young Maasai and Kipsigis women to continue their education beyond middle school, empowering them to create positive change within their communities and become role models and visionary leaders.
  • Through Free The Children Girls’ Clubs, Ecuadorian girls come together for workshops on human rights, self esteem and leadership, sharing perspectives and ideas, building strong bonds with each other and working together on income-generating projects.
  • In China, we work with communities to ensure equal enrolment of girls and boys in schools.

Free The Children health projects include:

  • Mobile health clinics
  • Health care and awareness workshops
  • Provision of medical supplies
  • Health care and awareness workshops to educate communities on preventable diseases
  • Household health promotion
  • An epilepsy management program

Providing mothers with an income is key to the sustainability of Adopt a Village. When mothers have a source of income their financial stability is increased, reducing child labour, giving women a sense of empowerment and a voice, increasing women’s capacity and skills and more. By participating in Free The Children’s alternative income and livelihood programming and gaining financial stability, women are able to send all of their children to school for a longer period of time. This has an effect on the children themselves and on the entire community. An educated community is more equipped to lift themselves out of poverty. What’s more, women who participate in alternative income and livelihood programming also increase their capacity and skills—and they pass these skills on to their friends and children.

Free The Children alternative income and livelihood projects are different in each Adopt a Village partner community. They are based on each community’s culture, traditions, resources, habits, climate, environment and more.

The projects include:

  • Animal husbandry projects which includes milking/breeding animals
  • Vocational training
  • Business and financial literacy workshops
  • Leadership and skills training
  • Honey production
  • Artisans projects
  • Girls’ Clubs
  • Women’s and Men’s lending circles and support groups

Yes. In most cases, Free The Children provides communities with the education to become and stay healthy, and in situations where immediate health care is needed, the organization will refer the patient to a local hospital. We align our health care practices with the government’s national priorities and in many cases work with the government in getting resources and materials to clinics. This ensures that Free The Children does not recreate the role of the government. We work as a partner and do not intend to replace government services in the communities where we work.

The most common illnesses in Adopt a Village partner communities are respiratory illnesses, water-related illnesses and malaria.

Free The Children takes a number of measures to ensure that these illnesses are not only treated, but prevented. We put an emphasis on education, working with communities to teach them how to prevent these illnesses. In India, for example, we visit families to discuss preventive measures using illustrated health manuals and posters and more. In Sierra Leone, Free The Children has been supporting epilepsy treatment and education programs. We offer families subsidized and free access to anticonvulsant medication. Our team also provides educational outreach, hosting workshops for community members and other health workers about the causes, effects, and treatment options for epilepsy.

We also initiate preventive projects like chimneys to help eliminate smoke in the home, hand-washing stations in schools to keep students clean and wells and boreholes for safe drinking water.

In some countries, Free The Children provides basic treatment like de-worming and vaccinations, and in Kenya, basic treatment of common ailments.

Our holistic development model, Adopt a Village, empowers all community members, regardless of gender. In the communities where we work, there is typically a large gender gap in education, with more boys in school than girls.  As a result, while our work is not exclusively focused on girls, we do work to increase the number of girls enrolled in school.  Our schools are built in the interest of educating all students, not only girls. Our clean water projects, alternative income activities and food security programming engage and benefit entire communities, not only girls and women.

Free The Children clean water and sanitation projects include:

  • Hand pump systems
  • Boreholes and wells
  • Water catchment systems
  • The piping of clean water into a school or community
  • Clean water education and sanitation
  • Hand-washing stations and latrines for schools

Many of the areas where the organization works have dry climates. In addition, the communities are facing issues like deforestation, changing weather patterns and global warming. Communities often only have limited sources of water, like a local river, which is used for everything: bathing, washing clothes, drinking source for people, and is also where animals defecate and bathe themselves.

Yes. About one in ten school-age girls in Africa drop out once they reach puberty because they don’t have clean or private toilets to use at school. Ensuring that girls have their own latrines at school is crucial to ensuring girls continue to receive an education.

Sustainability is the goal of all Free The Children’s Adopt a Village projects. We work closely with the government to ensure that local community members have real ownership over each Adopt a Village education project, whether that’s a schoolroom, a school garden or a student environmental club. Community members are involved in each project, helping to construct a school, digging for a water project and more.

In Kenya, communities elect a water management committee that takes ownership of maintaining wells, boreholes and hand-washing stations. In Haiti, the organization has employed 6,000 people, to date, who have touched our projects on the island in one way or another. In rural China, the community works to construct roads so that material and supplies are able to get through to a build site.

The involvement of the community is crucial to creating and maintaining a sense of involvement, investment and ownership of Adopt a Village projects. Ownership is what helps ensure our projects are sustainable and maintained in the long run.