Transformational Community Development

header pic_africa 2014

I met Jeff Power, US Director for Global Hope Network International, at a social media un-conference in 2012. After hearing about how the organization was influencing powerful changes through a program called Transformational Community Development, I decided I wanted to pledge my support. I began with a small $15 monthly commitment and in the summer of 2014 I took a trip to Kenya to see the progress for myself.

Transformational Community Development, or TCD©, is a coaching-based process for helping a village transform itself out of severe poverty by focusing on five areas of sustainability: water, food, health, education, and income. The program provides very small amounts of money to villages as the organization’s main focus is transforming the culture from a “give me” mindset to a “teach me” mindset. The community agrees that their worldwide partners’ investments are there to selectively multiply their own investments, never to replace them.  GHNI was asked to present the case study of one village success story to United Nations in Geneva. Here are some of the amazing changes made by the Gambella Village in East Africa.. 

Gambella began the TCD program in early 2008 and graduated in 2013. In those five years, the people of Gambella worked together to:

  • Create enough clean water for the whole village.
  • Grow abundant crops (in a drought area) to reverse their previous starvation.
  • Lower their disease and infant mortality.
  • Start numerous small businesses that have multiplied family incomes, in some cases tenfold.
  • Built an award winning primary school where they previously had no school at all.

A journey far, far away

I arrived in Nairobi in the evening and was met at the airport by my friend Jeff and Wubshet, a local GHNI staff member.

to Africa map

We would stay the night in Nairobi before heading to Isiolo, about 4 hours northeast, the next morning. Nairobi is a big city, not unlike most major cities around the world. Much, much different however, from the dry dusty town of Isiolo that we would call home for the week.

Africa room 2014The Catholic Center we stayed in for our overnight in Nairobi

Isiolo town JMcKinney pic

Downtown Isiolo, Kenya is about three blocks of buildings and shanty style businesses. 80,000 people live in the rural outback of Isiolo, which lies 177 miles north of Nairobi.*

Day 1: Attir Village

Jeep Attir

(left) Driving into Attir  (right) view of Attir driving in

The Attir are from the Turkana Tribe, a pastoralist community that still maintains a very traditional way of life. The environment they live in is harsh. There is no electricity, inconsistent water (which is nowhere nearby), they eat only one meal per day, have no income, and a high infant mortality rate.

Prior to the trip, local GHNI staff had been working with Attir in an unofficial capacity through the Gambella village. They had recently formed a legal farming co-op. This co-op was a powerful sign of the change possible through TCD. Just a few years earlier the Attir had attacked Gambella, killing 8 men and stealing thousands of cattle. Now they are working side-by-side to provide food and income for their respective villages.

Another benefit was Attir asking to be accepted into the TCD program. They had seen the changes in Gambella and wanted change for their village. A tribal meeting was setup to meet with Jeff and some of the local supporters that would sponsor the village.

Attir meeting(upper left) tribal meeting w/ Attir (upper right) me with Chief Albino of the Attir*
(lower left) mama, elder, of the Attir*  (lower right) non-working water tower built by another NGO


In meeting with the Attir we learned that the biggest area of concern was water. A previous NGO had come and built a water tower, but it never worked and the NGO has had no contact with the village since. This is not uncommon for a typical NGO. They raise money and do project based work. This is much different than GHNI’s 5 year educational program.

“If you are going to build us another statue we are not interested in your help. We are looking for change.” said Mama, the eldest woman in the Attir. The nearest water source is somewhere between 2 and 3 miles away, and the women make this trip 2 to 3 times a day. The harsh, uneven terrain makes using a cart impossible, so the women have to carry the water to and from the source. When we reached the water source, Chief Albino spoke about the journey across lion and hyena country to retrieve water. Yes, I walked through lion and hyena country. Good thing he mentioned that after. 

Attir Water

(upper) *Attir woman with her water bucket.
(lower left) Attir woman gathering water from a stream. (lower right) close up of polluted water

I am not sure what I was expecting, but it was not what we found. The stream was murky and had animal foot prints and excrement in it. An Attir woman dipped her water bucket and drank – this is the water she and the others would drink as we continued our walk upstream. Drinking purified water from my camelback bottle gave me an uncomfortable feeling in my gut. That didn’t compare to the emotion the images upstream of the water source, a watering hole for local camel and cow herders.

Attir camel hole

Camels at the watering hole upstream

Water for Attir was going to be a very expensive project. So in the short-term GHNI will teach purification methods to limit water-born illness until we can work with Attir to raise the capital for a well.


A shorter term project that we were able to help with was moving a school building closer to the village. This is the small school house that was in Attir when I visited. With a little bit of help from donations and a lot of sweat equity from Attir Villagers they now have a proper school building for the children. I’m looking forward to seeing this progress when I return.

Attir School old

Attir School Summer of 2014

Here are some pictures the local GHNI team sent me during construction of the new school.

Attir School building projectattir school new

If you would like to learn more please leave a reply and I will get back to you. To support a village visit the GHNI Village Support page.

*photo credit: Jennifer McKinney