A sponsored walk from Bakewell to Oxford raised enough money to run the charity from his parent’s dining room table in Bakewell. Partnerships with local organisations were developed and programmes in The Gambia started to take shape.
Village Aid was formally established, chaired by Sir David Hubbie, a Bakewell resident. International programmes had already begun, so the groundwork for a successful organisation was underway.
Village Aid established a programme working with rural communities in Sierra Leone, and we had a number of well-established partnerships by the time the civil war broke out. Throughout the long war the difficulties of continuing to reach the most rural communities vastly increased, yet we were one of the few development organisations that continued to work with our partners in Freetown throughout the war.
By 1992, Village Aid had grown at a rapid rate, and we moved from Andrew’s parents kitchen table to offices in the old Bakewell hotel. We worked nationally to raise awareness and funds for our work across West Africa from our Bakewell office.
By 1993, we set up our Ghana programme. Concentrating on providing loans for developing rural livelihoods. It would go from strength to strength, and the programme continues to see results to this day, and new communities continue to be reached through the programme with support from local community groups in Derbyshire.
In 1997, we were proudly able to stop financially supporting one of our partners in Northern Ghana. We were able to see the partner continue to deliver excellent programmatic work to rural communities in Northern Ghana with no reliance on funding from UK organisations – a great success story!
In 1998, we formally started working in Cameroon with MBOSCUDA, a community organisation working to promote the rights of a marginilised indigenous community, the Mbororo Felani.
Having witnessed their own community persecuted for a long-time, MBOSCUDA was a revolutionary group set up to give the traditional cow herding community a voice. Village Aid provided MBOSCUDA with the resource to give scholoarships to a few individuals to train them to become barristers. By the early 2000’s, the first ever Mbororo lawyer was defending many Mbororo’s in court to defend their basic human rights.
Robert Fon, the first Mbororo barrister, still works with MBOSCUDA and Village Aid today representing many Mbororo human rights cases in Cameroonian courts as a part of our conflict resolution programme. (pictured)
Following the turn of the milenium Village Aid implemented a new appraoch to development and our partners were trained in using REFLECT literacy. REFLECT is a literacy programme designed to empower people to bring about social change while learning to read and write. REFLECT was used across all four countries and enabled our beneficiaries to access services, such as health centres and legal advice, become politically active and understand their finances. The principles behind this continue to be at the heart of our programmes today. Download this learning paper to find out more: Literacy for Life – a VA & Partners Publication
Village Aid continues to work with rural communities in Gambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Cameroon.
In March 2015 we merged with Concern Universal, a charity with a strong track record of delivering programmes with a similar approach to Village Aid. Crucially, their country programme offices in West Africa are supporting our partners to continue to deliver our programmes to disadvantaged rural communities. Thanks to the merger we are more sustainable, we have reduced overheads, recieve support with admin, governance and management. Our UK office has slimmed down, but we continue to be based in Bakewell, and continue to adhere to Andrew Kingman’s key beliefs with the support of Concern Universal.
Our work ranges from conflict reduction between farmers and grazers in north west Cameroon, supporting communities to diversify their livelihoods in Ghana. We have also funded a programme in Guinea that is helping rural communities to develop and diversify their livelihoods in the aftermath of the ebola epidemic.