Last year, Randall Pratt, a life-long supporter and former board member got to experience life in the Bolivian communities we work in for the first time.
Outreach International: Tell me about your experiences with families in Bolivia.
Randall Pratt: It was great to directly experience the ways the power of community can transform lives. We sat in on a community meeting and each person told us how they were individually impacted by the work of Outreach International. For example, many mentioned the simple greenhouses they built that allowed them to successfully grow vegetables other than potatoes at high altitude for the first time. These successes empowered them and provided the humble confidence they needed to address the challenges of poverty together.
OI: What surprised you about families in Bolivia?
RP: The bold initiative they took to complete projects—for the sake of their families and for each other. They’re not waiting around; they’re seizing the day.
Florencia, the country director of Bolivia, told me that she uses a bicycle to get around from village to village. One day, a large group stopped her en route to plead with her to come back and teach their community the Outreach process (Participatory Human Development) so they could end poverty in their village, too.
OI: What did you learn from communities in Bolivia?
RP: I was inspired by the simple, tangible ways their lives were enriched because of the Outreach process. Instead of abstract statistics or theories, we saw the practical results and improved conditions that came from working together. I saw firsthand that lasting solutions don’t come from the outside—they come from within.
OI: What was the most memorable part of the trip? What did you take away from the experience?
RP: Before we left, we were able to share a potluck meal with one of the communities. We brought food, like cheese sandwiches, and they prepared potatoes and some of the other vegetables grown in their greenhouses. The meal we shared was symbolic. We gathered as a community and experienced the Outreach process together.
OI: What has been the most exciting part about your time spent on the Outreach Board of Directors?
RP: The way I think about poverty and abundance has completely changed since I’ve been on the Outreach board. I used to think that the solution to poverty was a top-down approach—in other words, the rich helped the poor by sending money or food. But Outreach takes a horizontal approach—our process connects and organizes people in villages to address their own challenges. We work in direct partnership and collaboration with the people we serve. And it’s moments like those I experienced in Bolivia that makes all the time spent on the board worthwhile. Together, our efforts bring tangible, sustainable change.
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