Reimagining Social Impact During COVID-19 with Christey West

FEW Nov MM 2020 blurred

Christey West, co-founder of “Just Peoples” gave an inspiring presentation on what it takes to tackle world poverty especially with the compounded challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before becoming a wife and mother, Christey travelled to Nepal where she first encountered children in need of appropriate outerwear and shoes. Following the advice of a local man, she bought such necessities to give to the street children only to find that they did not wear them the next day. She learned the kids had sold their new shoes to buy glue (drugs) to suppress their appetites as they didn’t have enough food to eat. This was the start of Christey’s learning curve to navigate the ways to empower local leaders in tackling poverty and amplifying their missions most effectively.

Just Peoples currently supports several local leaders to empower their community. They often have the leaders invest in their project as well to ensure commitment in creating local solutions for a greater impact. Christey introduced several inspiring and insightful examples of such projects supporting local leaders.

In Vietnam, single mom Tang Duyen Hong is the Project Leader for an online support group of 30,000 single mothers providing beneficial information to enable them to work towards financial independence. Hong designs the projects and Just Peoples find the funds to make it happen.

In Bangladesh, the pandemic was causing distress especially for women who require menstrual sanitary necessities. Job losses were increasing causing the heavily relied on income for food to alarmingly decrease. Due to cultural taboos, young girls particularly found it challenging to talk about requiring such menstrual sanitary products especially when purchasing food took absolute priority. Just Peoples was able to focus on responding to the urgent request from the Local Project leader, Sharmin to provide such sanitary necessities. This in turn saved the dignity and health of the local girls and women.

Lastly we heard from Kenya’s local Project Leader, Elizabeth Njuguna
who provides disability support for the Maasai people. Children with disabilities face stiff stigmas and are automatically outcast making it difficult for them to take part in society equally. Facilities for the disabled are not available and thus disabled children are hidden away from the public. Elizabeth plays a crucial and dedicated role in educating mothers and locals to help remove such stigmas so that ultimately the mothers become empowered. She works at changing attitudes so locals accept that disabilities are beyond anyone’s control and the vulnerable can be taken care of without shame. The pandemic has brought challenges. However educating about proper hygiene such as hand washing and the need for cleaner water has resulted in healthier mothers and children among the Masaai people.

Regarding the challenges Just Peoples as an NPO has faced from the beginning of 2020, Christey listed the following:

-The funding model doesn’t work for emergency relief
-Fundraising is not as easy when donors are also in financial hardships

Realizations of these challenges provided Just Peoples with some key takeaways to help propel its mission beyond 2020. Firstly, the ultimate goal in Just Peoples is to support vulnerable people. Secondly, difficult changes can lead to unexpected benefits, and lastly the belief in humanity is crucial.

How do Just Peoples choose which projects to focus on? Christey replied that the organization focuses on what they can do without being overly idealistic, and they try to avoid the “noise” of the overwhelming number of factors to consider.

FEW Japan would like to thank Christey, and her co-founder Johanna for joining us along with several Project Leaders to inspire us to think from a different angle regarding poverty and giving us an effective channel to make a difference.

Visit Just Peoples to learn more about how you can contribute to more than 20 ongoing projects and appreciate how this organization is empowering local leaders around the world.