Relief or Development?

reliefvsdevelopment_explinationRecently I pulled into my driveway in Tulsa, Oklahoma as huge flames started pouring out of the house two doors down from mine! The entire front of the duplex was on fire. My neighbors I and called 911 and made sure everybody was safe. Fortunately, nobody was hurt and a firefighter saved the family cat.

The people who lived in the house were in a crisis. It was 10:00 at night, they had nothing but the clothes they were wearing. They had no place to sleep and had just watched their house burn down. They had some pretty big immediate needs.

Before the fire was completely out a Red Cross van pulled up and a representative started talking to my neighbors. The representative made sure they had clothes and a place to stay for the next few days, helped them get in touch with family, and connected them with other resources. The Red Cross had a great system in place that helped at the moment of crisis in an effective way.

The work that the Red Cross did that night is called relief. Relief is giving immediate, temporary aid after a crisis. This crisis can impact a single family like a house fire, or be spread across an entire state, region or country like an earthquake or hurricane.
Relief can be contrasted with another way of helping people called development, which is an ongoing process in which people and communities work to improve their lives. Kibo Group is a development focused organization. The people we work with are in a long-term state of poverty. They have some immediate needs, but our focus is on helping them identify and mobilize the assets they have so that in the long-run the poverty they experience can be reduced.

Relief and development take very different skill. Relief requires bringing outside resources to bear quickly to solve an immediate problem and requires experience in efficiency, logistics, prioritization, and fundraising. Development requires people to work together to solve the problems they face in their own community. This takes a long-term commitment, patience, cultural awareness, and lots of listening.

Both relief and development are critical tools to helping people, but we often misapply them which leads to poor results. If an organization uses relief techniques when development is needed people become depended on that relief because the real issues that cause poverty in the first place never change. Providing relief when development is needed is a common mistake that every organization, even Kibo Group, falls into at times.

In the parable of the good Samaritan Jesus calls us to love our neighbor by telling a story of relief. In the story the Samaritan comes across a man who had been beaten by robbers, so he bandaged the man’s wounds and cared for him until he had recovered. We are called to help those in need, it is not optional! The challenge we must face is how to do that effectively, even if their need is not obvious or simple. At Kibo Group that means we start by listening and understanding the situation people find themselves in, then working with them to find the best solutions to the problems they face.

How can you use the idea of relief and development in your life? What people in your community need relief, and who needs to be part of a process of development?

Finding Solutions Together

Tom has been working in Nawandyo Village to teach about hygiene and sanitation. During the discussion an issue came up: Who is responsible for maintaining a clean home? Men or women?

There were lots of opinions, and Tom did not make suggestions or support one position. Instead he offered various scenarios for them to consider and asked questions about each. The men and women continued to discuss the issue and concluded that everybody has to contribute to a clean home and community. Men and women must all work together for a home to be clean and healthy.

We love seeing a community work though an issue and unite on a decision together without someone telling them what they should do.



Please consider supporting Kibo Group!

Thank you for considering giving to Kibo Group this year!

Every December as we look back on the year, we are grateful for your support of Kibo Group. We rely on the hard work and generosity of people in Uganda and the United States to make our work possible. We are thankful for your support.

This year, our board of directors spent a lot of time clarifying our mission statement. This is really important because we want you to know what your time, money and energy are supporting. Here is our new mission statement: Kibo Group is a faith-inspired nonprofit that partners with East Africans to pursue local solutions for poverty and injustice to help communities flourish.

Clean water, efficient stoves, healthy families, trusting relationships and working latrines are all important parts of a flourishing community. During the last fiscal year, we partnered with over 40 communities in Uganda to live out this mission. Here are a few highlights from the last year:


Our mission calls for local solutions, so we work hard to partner with the people we serve. We work with local Water Users Committees to repair wells using mostly local resources. Kibo Group does not pay for or build stoves, we teach the process. We have not built or paid for a single latrine, but people in 13 villages will soon benefit from ending open defecation in their village because of their own hard work.

In Kigalama Village, an elderly man was having trouble repairing his damaged house but was still living there even though it was unsafe. Abraham and Duncan had asked people in the village to plant trees together and collaborate on other projects that would improve lives. During a meeting, the group was reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan in which Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” As the group considered the lesson, they realized that they had a neighbor in need: the man living in an unsafe house. They agreed that if they were going to take the parable seriously, they should find a way to help their neighbor. So they made a plan, and the community is working together to make bricks to repair the house.


In the face of problems like water shortages, sickness, and lack of economic opportunity, fixing one man’s home is a small step that signifies a big shift in thinking. For communities to thrive and flourish, people must work together to solve big and small problems. Our work and mission is focused on partnering with people so they can learn to work together to create a flourishing community.


During this holiday season as you prepare for your end of year giving, please consider a donation to Kibo Group. The work of finding local solutions to problems faced in Uganda is a long-term project that takes long-term commitment from supporters like you. Thank you for considering a one-time gift to Kibo Group or becoming a monthly supporter. Just follow this link to donate:

Thank you for your support!

Fighting Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution is a major health problem in Uganda and much of the world. Smoke from cooking fires has a range of health effects such as child pneumonia, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease. World wide 3 billion people cook on open fires, so this is not a small problem!

Kibo Group partners with men and women in rural communities to build low cost, energy-efficient stoves that are safer, faster and use less wood than traditional stoves. This improves health and gives women more time in the day for other pursuits.


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Uganda has a Problem: DEFORESTATION

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Why are there 50,000 broken water wells in Africa?

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Recognizing the Problem

Community Led-Total Sanitation is a process that helps communities end open defecation in their village. The first step to doing this is making sure the whole community agrees there is a problem that needs to be fixed. It is not uncommon for people to ignore problems. This is not unique to Uganda, people in every culture all over the world do this, even in the United States. Here is a recent report from CLTS that gives one example of a community acknowledging a problem and committing to fix it.

After the chairman welcomed Kibo Group he said Bukoma Village is very clean and that there is no open defecation in the village. The facilitator of the day, Julius, suggested that everybody take a tour and look for open defecation in the homes close to the meeting. The first home was clean and had a latrine, but it was not well maintained. At the second home the group found lots of open defecation. It had the structure for a latrine, but there was no pit inside. The structure was just for show to give the appearance of a latrine. The tour continued to three more homes which all had open defecation.

The Chairman apologized to the residents and admitted that his village is very dirty and needs to change. They all agreed that the problem is bigger than they imagined. After the residents had realized the need to change they took responsibility for the problem. They decided that it was their job to make sure the entire village becomes open defecation free.

This community still has a lot of work in front of them, but getting the problem out in the open is the first step to change.


Building Stoves in Butamoga Village

Recently Henry, Kibo Group’s country director in Uganda, sent this report about a recent visit to Butamoga Village.

Yesterday I visited Butamoga Village where Harriet is currently leading our stove program. I wanted to meet the community members and see what Harriet has been working on for the last few months.


We met Jennifer, the chairperson of the women’s group, who took us around and showed us the stoves the women have made so far in their homes. The community is very appreciative of Kibo. I could tell they were eager and that they wanted to do more to improve their community.

The stoves were beautiful, and in fact some of them looked like models or pieces of art! The Women’s Group here is very committed, and they assist one another so the stoves will be built in each member’s home. So far they have 27 stoves completed. We are very proud of Stove Program leaders — Harriet, Jesika and Tape — who have tirelessly worked with this group.



We also had a chance to watch one group of women build a stove from scratch. It was neat to watch Jesika and Tape make sure the women understood the process. Harriet was able to sit back and watch which is a testament to the good job Ida and Harriet have done helping train others to lead the stove program.

The women stated that they can now multitask by cooking while working in their gardens. In addition, we talked to a lady who said that when she used the old open-fire stove, the amount of wood she had in her kitchen would only last for two weeks, but with the new stove, the same amount of wood will last for a month and a half.

Part of the lessons that Harriet teaches women is to keep the kitchens clean. Most homes have extended cleanliness outside the kitchens, and in some homes they are already constructing dish racks, building bathrooms or building toilets.

While the stove program has really taken off so well in this village, there are still many other needs the community can come together to address. One issue is access to clean water, which I discovered when I noticed that all the women were wearing gomesi. This is a very special dress for special occasions, and you would not expect women to wear them while building stoves. In our meeting, I asked what the special occasion was since all the women had their gomesi on. They said that it was not a special occasion, but that almost all their clothes were dirty. The rain took too long to come back, and the little water they get from the swamp is better used for drinking than washing clothes.

Jennifer talked of how many kids have died of diarrhea, typhoid and other diseases caused by dirty water. Death has become a normal thing in this village, and she talked about it like it was a very casual thing. The dirty swamp water is all they have to drink.

We thank you all for everything you do for Kibo to reach those who are still in need here in the Busoga region of Uganda.

Be blessed and have a good evening,




The True Cost of Clean Water

My wife and I live in Tulsa, OK. We usually pay about $50 a month for water. For that fifty dollars we get to take showers or turn on the faucet to get some clean water to drink. Sometimes I water our little vegetable garden. We clean our clothes and make ice. Seems like a really good deal to me!

Our water bill went up a lot in one month, a ridiculous amount in fact. So, I did some checking and sure enough we had a water leak in the pipe that feeds our house. I poked around a bit in the yard and started digging. Our house is 80 years old, so I was not particularly surprised to find an old rusty steel pipe leaking water.

Only one thing to do: call a plumber. We decided to just replace the whole pipe instead of trying to patch it.

A few days later they replaced the pipe. It took a whole day, 4 people working at various times, 2 big expensive pieces of equipment (a mini trackhoe and directional boring machine), 3 shovels, a blowtorch, two pex expanders, a copper pipe cutter, a bucket, concrete, a masonry drill, 2 pex cutters, 3 vans, 2 trailers, and miscellaneous parts. Oh, and a city inspector. All that just to put 60 feet of pipe in the ground. My $50 a month water did not seem so cheap any more. This month it was costing me $2,150! I started wondering what it really cost for me to have clean water.

The people and equipment that it took to replace our pipe is only a tiny part of the huge system that provides clean water to our city of 400,000 people. Tulsa water treatment plants treat 100 millions gallons of water on an average day, with a capacity to treat 220 million gallons per day. The Yellow Pages lists 430 plumbing companies. The city water department changes out 16,000 water meters a year.

All this infrastructure is kind of expensive. In fiscal year 2014 the operating budget for providing water to the city was $112,040,000. There were $15,425,000 of water system capital projects like replacing or relocating water mains and facility improvements. These were not big projects.

Big water projects cost a lot of money. Chelssa, MI recently spent $4,600,000 to build a water treatment plant that processes .85 million gallons a day. It would take 117 such plants to supply Tulsa with water. That is $538,200,000 just to build the plants. Keep in mind that this is Tulsa, a small city. New York City is in the middle of a $6 billion water project which started in 1970 and will not be done until 2020. Twenty three people have died working on the project. The United States makes massive investments in water infrastructure, and arguably it is still not enough.

Our investment in water is more than a financial system. We have a culture that values and insists on clean water. When our pipe broke it did not even cross our mind to not fix it. We did not decide to just go get water from the neighbors. We could have saved some money by putting a faucet in the yard right next to the water meter and just carrying water into the house every now and then, but we did not consider that either. In fact in some cities a house will be condemned if it does not have running water. Across the country the vast majority of houses have full plumbing and running water, although not all. Many households without water are from low income or minority groups. I’m sure there are a few hippie off the grid types as well.

We don’t have a constitutional right to clean water in the United States, but we do have an expectation of access to clean water. Tulsa’s water system is run by the city. Some cities have water systems which have been privatized. However, outside of rural settings there are few municipalities that don’t have some provision for providing water to it’s residents. Imagine if one day Tulsa announced that the water system would be shut down, and no private industry would take over. Everybody was on their own to find water. In time the market would produce some solution, but imagine the impact. Tulsa would cease to exist in its current form, although the abandoned city could be used as a set for some awesome apocalyptic movies.

Over a hundred years of investment in infrastructure, culture, regulations, and expectations all come together so that I can pay $50 a month for all the clean water I can possible use, and when one old pipe broke I had massive resources to call on to fix it quickly. We didn’t even miss a shower.

There is some irony in the fact that I was having trouble getting clean water in my house. I work for Kibo Group, and a big part of what we do is help village communities in Uganda gain access to water. Some of our staff, Alex and Steven among others, work every day in Uganda to build and fix water infrastructure. I wondered what they would think of my situation. I even thought they might be a bit jealous of the resources I had to solve my own water access problem. But, it is a mistake to assume that there are no resources dedicated to water or no water infrastructure or investment in Uganda. A lot of money is invested in water projects. A public utility provides piped water to densely populated areas, and there is a network of hand pump mechanics who maintain wells. Kibo Group has a company we work almost exclusively with to drill boreholes, and district governments dig wells and invest in other infrastructure. The scale and effectiveness of the infrastructure is different, but it exists.

Not long ago the United States water infrastructure was more comparable to Uganda than what we have now. In 1924 more than 88 percent of the population in cities of over 100,000 disposed of their wastewater directly into waterways or into the ground without being treated. It was not until the Federal Water Pollution Control Act was passed in 1948 that wastewater treatment was the norm. It was only 150 years ago that major cities in the United States started building centralized water supplies. At that time water was not treated in any way. It just came from clean water sources (consider the above statement about sewer discharge when imagining the clean water sources). In 1849 John Snow proposed the idea that water contaminated by fecal matter could spread disease, his theory was rejected. It was another 50 years before the Germ Theory of Disease was finally applied to city water and treatment systems were developed. It has taken our culture of clean water centuries to develop, and we still have a long way to go. The same is true of Uganda, their culture of clean water is still developing, and they have a long way to go.

We hope that someday everyone in Uganda and the rest of Africa will have clean water. But don’t be deceived. Kibo Group will never dig that many wells. It is an impossible task for a western NGO to accomplish. But we do think that we can be part of building a culture that invests in long term water access. Every time we work in a village we help the community plan for future repairs. Our CLTS project teaches people about the exact same concepts that John Snow was figuring out back in the 1800’s that took 50 years to be accepted: open defecation contaminates water and spreads disease. We are working a village at a time to build a culture of clean water in Uganda. This is a long term project!

I do not feel guilty for the ease at which I have water, or how simple it was for me to get my pipe fixed compared to people in other parts of the world. Thankful, but not guilty. It is a clear picture of the hard work it takes to have a stable water infrastructure. This is work we need your help with. We need people willing to make patient long term investments of money in our work. We need people to learn as much as they can about water access issues and think deeply about them. And we need people to tell their friends, family, and colleagues about Kibo Group.

How will you be part of helping the world have long lasting access to clean water? One thing you can do is run in our 5K Run in March!


Harding University Homecoming

If you are at Harding University this weekend for homecoming we we would love to see you! Kibo Group is part of several events this year, so come find us at one of the places below.

Ross Cochran is donating the proceeds from his new book, Not Off Limits: Questions You Wish You Could Ask at Church, to Kibo Group. Stop by the bookstore Saturday, November 1 from 10:45am – 12pm for the Harding Authors Book Signing to pick up a signed copy.

Stop by Midnight Oil Coffeehouse to grab some coffee and learn about how Midnight Oil in Searcy is supporting Kibo’s work in Uganda.

Come to The Father’s Business: Our Call to Discipleship event. Men like Randy Harris, Dusty Rush, Ross Cochran, Andrew Baker, Monte Cox, Gary Selby, Jacob Robertson, Larry James and Landon Saunders will deliver several powerful messages based on Gospel of Luke.

Come find us in MCINTEER 150. This event is open to the public. Harding students may attend for college credit. For a full schedule download this PDF.

The Father’s Business: Our Call to Discipleship Schedule:

Thursday, Oct 30th: 6:00pm – 10:00pm – Andrew Baker, Ross Cochran, Gary Selby, Randy Harris

Friday, Oct 31st: 6:30pm – 10:30pm – Monte Cox, Landon Saunders, Randy Harris, Andrew Baker, Larry James, Gary Selby, Dusty Rush, Jacob Robertson

Saturday, Nov 1st: 8:30AM – 1:00PM – Larry James, Dusty Rush, Landon Saunders, Randy Harris

For a full schedule download this PDF.