The aim of Yokefellows: Partnerships for Progress is to provide people in abject poverty with practical solutions to better their lives. We believe that God created all men, and cares deeply about the suffering of each one. Yokefellows attempts to live out the bible by extending a hand in partnership to those in dire conditions. Help is offered by providing technical advice and expertise to bring technologies that are affordable, sustainable and appropriate, and by partnering with local leaders to implement local building projects.
One of the critical elements of Yokefellows is the idea of partnering. It is an idea that is reflected in the name Yokefellows, which comes from Philippians 4:3 in which Paul refers to the recipient of the letter as a loyal yokefellow, or one who struggles under the same burden like two oxen who are yoked together. It is an appropriate analogy as Yokefellows attempts to capture that same ideal, where each member of the partnership brings his or her own strength, and works together to reach a common goal. For Yokefellows this partnership works by the organization providing technical expertise in areas like building construction, agriculture, and alternative energy sources as well as providing financial capacity. The other side of the partnership is the local community who provide funding if it is available, but more importantly labor to actually undertake these projects. The goal is not to provide a handout, but rather to provide an opportunity where people can work to help themselves.
The model for our projects is to approach a smaller village which would typically be overlooked by other aid organizations because of its size. Then a representative of the organization would meet with the elders of the village, working within existing social hierarchies and listen to what the people feel that they need in order to help the community. If it is something the organization can help with, a plan is worked out with the local leadership, to determine the local capacity, and to see in what areas we can help. Those providing technical expertise will live with and share food and life with the community they are working with. As much as possible all employees and workers will be locals. This not only gives us the benefit of local knowledge, it also helps build local leadership.
Part of the process of bringing in new technologies is not only to finish specific projects, but also train locals in specific trades that can later be used as income generating microenterprises. An example of this is Compressed Earth Block, which is a compacted earthen brick that is far superior to the locally available fired bricks, and also much less environmentally damaging. Workers can be trained to build these bricks, and install them. At the end of the project, these workers can take the press that was used during the project, and they will now have a very marketable skill that can help to bring them out of poverty.
Another core belief of Yokefellows is that the technologies and services we provide should be affordable, sustainable, and appropriate. Affordable because it should be something that goes beyond the organizations involvement, and be purchased and perpetuated by locals. Sustainble in both the long and short term environmental impact, and the ability to repair and keep everything in working order with local knowledge. The idea of appropriate technology has numerous ramifications, but in essence it is looking at the local conditions and culture, and utilizing technology that will fit well in a cultural context, will actual be utilized, and provide real benefit to the people