Africa Bridge founder Barry Childs calls Africa home. He grew up in rural Tanzania, went to high school and university in South Africa, and eventually made his way to the United States. When he traveled back to Tanzania 35 years later, he was overwhelmed by the impact of poverty and HIV/AIDS on vulnerable children, and he knew he had to go home and help.
In 2000, Barry retired early from Abbott Laboratories in order to start Africa Bridge. His search for a sustainable program that would transform the lives of these children led him to conduct 80 interviews with physicians, politicians, businesspersons, church leaders, villagers, and children. It was from these interviews that the mission, values, and practices of Africa Bridge evolved.
I know how lucky I was to come of age in a place where people know we can’t be human in isolation. It’s only when we help each other that we find our true strength. This is one of the great lessons Africa has to teach the West, and the word “bridge” in our name is there to show that in helping Tanzanians care for their children and restore the promise of a future, we are enriched ourselves and become more human. Africa Bridge is based on the idea that this mutual exchange is essential to create real change.”Barry Childs in accepting the Purpose Prize, 2010
The openness of the villagers and their children inspired Barry to build on the community’s strengths to design and deliver sustainable solutions to combat poverty and disease.
In 2002, Africa Bridge began its first project in the village of Idweli in Isongole Ward in southeastern Tanzania. Since then, the organization has received funding from individuals and foundations to expand into 37 additional villages in the Masoko, Mpombo, Lufingo, Kisondela, and Kambasegela Wards.
Over the last 21 years, Africa Bridge has trained over 300 village volunteers in 38 Most Vulnerable Children’s Committees and formed 82 agricultural and farm animal cooperatives caring for avocados, corn, potatoes, dairy cows, pigs, or chickens. Other support includes the provision of school supplies, the planting of indigenous and firewood trees, and projects to improve school and health infrastructure.
These interventions have resulted in the transformation of the well-being of over 10,000 Most Vulnerable Children and their families.