Choice Humanitarian is incredible. They use every dollar wisely and are truly trying to make a difference for communities living in extreme poverty. Instead of just sending in supplies or money, they have teams on the ground that bring real change to make the communities self-sufficient and stronger on their own, thus allowing them to be independently prosperous. What a great model!
The CHOICE Humanitarian model of development is extremely effective in capacity development, leadership training, connecting village leaders to community resources, producing sustainable industry/income through education, training and and the use of natural resources as well as laying a strong foundation of trust, commitment and vision for the villages where the CHOICE model is at work.
I have the advantage of witnessing the power of the CHOICE model from the viewpoint of volunteer as well as an expedition leader and understand the amazing results that are produced. CHOICE values individual dignity, creativity, leadership and the necessity of self-reliance to overcome the heavy weight and stigma of poverty. There is an undeniable power associated with the strength and unity that comes from community-driven growth and development. This is what CHOICE does!
CHOICE Humanitarian is one of the few NGOs working around the world in a constructive, grass-roots way to completely eradicate extreme poverty. Their inclusive model is designed to lift entire communities out of poverty, giving them access to the global economy. They leverage donor funds multiple times through matching grants, government and local participation. Their model has been developed over 30 years of field work and relies neither on simplistic self-reliance or "leave them to weep" training nor on dependency-building donations. This is the one to support.
I've been passionate about gender issues and root causes of chronic persistent hunger and extreme poverty since the late 1970s. CHOICE is one of the very best organizations around that is effective and strategic. CHOICE's model is about empowering its village partners in figuring out their vision for their future and then supporting them through leadership training and other tools, to realize those visions. This model works.
The other thing I love about CHOICE is this: too often people in developed countries think we have so much to offer "poor" people, as if we had a superior way of life. Of course we have access to numerous opportunities and technologies and those scales are unbalanced, but the CHOICE model really allows those of us in developed countries to appreciate the tremendous assets, skills, and rich traditions of our human family who lives in poverty. The most resourceful, creative, and hard-working people I've met are those who scrape together what they need daily to keep their families alive. Often, in developed countries, we seem to lack a deep sense of connectedness to the world, so while our hunger is more of a spiritual nature, we have a great deal to learn from those in other parts of the world. Go on an expedition with CHOICE! Heal yourself. Change the world! CHOICE is doing just that.
Not only is the Choice model of empowerment and village development a great one, but involving donors in expeditions where they have a chance to meet the people who will be benefiting from their donation is actually brilliant! When a person goes on a Choice expedition 2/3rds of the expedition cost actually goes towards the costs of the projects being worked on in that country. After my first trip to Nepal I realized that when a volunteer goes on a Choice Expedition, they are in the target country LESS to 'work on a project' and MORE to 'Make a connection with the people'. When volunteers feel 'connected' to the people of a certain country, as I do to Nepal, they will continue to donate to causes connected with Choice Humanitarian in that country and hopefully continue to go on expeditions as well. The Choice Humanitarian in country staff in Nepal is well educated, professional, enthusiastic, and a model for all other NGO's operating in Nepal. In fact the Nepal in country director Bishnu was invited to meet the President of Nepal who is quite interested in the Choice model and the success that Bishnu and Choice Humanitarian has had in helping to improve the standard of living in rural villages in Nepal. I am blessed to be involved with this organization.
Review from CharityNavigator
The one negative reviewer of Choice doesn't understand that the labor contributed by US expeditioners is not intended to be a primary factor in getting projects built -- it is to give expeditioners an on-the-ground feel for the quality, importance and philosophy of the work being done, with the hope that will lead them down the path to becoming future financial supporters, not to provide an exotic vacation. I am also amazed at the comment on excess staffing. I have been intimately familiar with Choice's staffing levels for over 10 years, find that their lack of adequate staffing limits the amount good that can be done under their unique development philosophy and am very impressed with the amount of volunteer effort that makes up much of the Choice work. The overwhelming focus of Choice's funding is on showing indigenous peoples how to build self-sustaining health, educational and small business projects and develop local leadership in the process so that those local leaders can lead their villages and regions toward further independence and well-being without continuing support from donors.
Review from CharityNavigator
Everyone at CHOICE has the highest priority of outreach and helping others become self reliant. It is an organization run by love, compassion, hard work and dedication to help others. They are highly experienced and organized. I could not recommend any Humanitarian Organization more highly.
Choice is a decent organization with a great philosophy for sustainable development (teaching villagers how to tackle big projects so that they can progress on their own).
However, I disagree with how Choice utilizes (or rather, underutilizes) expeditioners.
Choice Humanitarian teaches that it's about the villagers and the journey, and that we need to immerse ourselves in "village time" as part of our experience. The conclusion that they make is that we shouldn't impose developed world processes, urgency, efficiency, and increased production to projects. For example, we're told not to form bucket lines passing materials one to another and saving the energy of trekking back and forth, because the villager way of doing things is to plod along the entire way. Others tell stories of jumping into projects and generating a flurry of activity and progress, only to be asked by Choice staff to step aside and allow villagers to work at their own pace, and using their own methods.
While I agree that it needs to be about the villagers, and that experiencing and gaining an appreciation for "village time" is valuable, I don't agree with their conclusion of not helping the villagers to apply developed world processes, urgency, efficiency, and increased production. Using that philosophy, expeditioners become tourists — dead weight. We're there to experience, and to fund, but not to improve. The villagers do 80% of the work, and the soft foreigners gamely do our best but can't hope to match the villager hardiness and endurance. The end result is that Choice involves expeditioners for the purpose of making them tourists and to get them to fund projects. We're no more than dead weight pocketbooks. We're just there on a REALLY expensive vacation. Additionally, this pigeon-holes villagers into the role of "gentle savages" who can only learn so much, and achieve so much. Choice tells us not to expect too much from them.
LDS senior missionaries, on the other hand, are sent on service missions specifically to help developing nations improve their processes, efficiency, and productive capacity. Industrialized techniques and technologies are taught to those in developed areas. This opens up entirely new possibilities to them.
There are many projects and achievements which villagers believe to be impossible, because with their current processes such achievements WOULD be impossible. If we can teach them new ways of doing things, then we can open up to them new possibilities and accomplishments. Instead of capping their progress, we can make it equal to our own.
The cynic in me says that Choice may intentionally limit progress in order to minimize the actual amount of work that they have to do. Building relationships with villages is difficult, time intensive work, and if villages progress too quickly, then Choice has to spend more time developing those relationships rather than focusing on fund raising, which is what Choice would rather be doing. The idealist in me, however, just hopes that its a case of Choice drawing the wrong conclusions from their philosophies on village interactions.
The other aspect of Choice Humanitarian that I find troubling is how many paid staff they have. I know a lot of people who have worked extensively with Choice over the years, and almost all of them left because of what they viewed as waste, and excessive overhead. There are more cost efficient organizations out there. The Choice philosophy about this seems to be "We're doing great things so we deserve to reward ourselves and our staff" rather than "We're doing great things and we're willing to make personal sacrifices in order to achieve them."
We are not sure who left this comment. Michael Gnost has never been on a CHOICE expedition. If Michael is commenting anonymously, we would invite you to call or email our office to discuss your comment. Expeditions are a vital component of our organization in that they reaffirm to villagers that we support their efforts and will work shoulder to shoulder with them in executing a project. CHOICE is not about the project, but about the people and the process. Building leadership capacity in the village, teaching them to network and mobilize resources, helping them find other willing partners, are keys for these villagers to conquer poverty. CHOICE provides the tools! The villagers, for the most part, know already the solutions. What they lack is an opportunity. The CHOICE in country field teams (all skilled, professional, indigenous, local staff) work with the village leadership and help them develop the tools necessary, using existing resources, and willing partners helping to put them on a path of real sustainable development. Your comments were very confusing to us. Our expeditioners have nothing to do with being tourists! We encourage cultural and social interaction....it is this very interaction that encourage villagers to formulate a vision for their future. Obviously, we introduce to them all kinds of proven 1st world appropriate technologies in an effort to help them improve their economic condition. We specifically take issue with your last comment about our 'paid' staff. We have one of the highest ratings at Charity Navigator, specifically for our excellent program/administration ratios. Our HQ employs only 6 persons! As an HQ staff, we work tirelessly and endlessly, giving up many after work hours and weekends in relentlessly pursuing the end to poverty. For many of us, this organization is our life's passion. Almost 87% of all donations go to our FIELD PROJECTS AND PROGRAMS! where, more often than not, that donated dollar is leveraged 5-7 times by a trained and efficient field operation. I would personally challenge anyone to find a more efficient nonprofit. We're sorry that you feel you had to post such a negative comment about the organization...and quite frankly, by your comment, we are not convinced that you have even had a CHOICE experience.
Review from CharityNavigator
A good organization for family volunteerism. CHOICE partners with motivated village leadership to choose self-sustaining projects in poverty striken areas. Expeditioners are then brought in to work side by side with entire communities building schools, clinics, and water sources.
Review from CharityNavigator
CHOICE is an organization that creates opportunities for everyone to get involved! They wisely use their resources and efficiently engage community members to donate their time and talents to the organization. By doing this, they save money on administration and in turn focus funds on the projects. After seeing this model of administration, I was quickly impressed to get involved.
Review from CharityNavigator