In this Exchange  


Working Gifts
Where small gifts make a big impact

In communities around the world, ICA projects are making a difference in the lives of people in need. Whether it is an HIV and AIDS prevention initiative in the townships of South Africa, an environmental conservation project in rural Togo, a community empowerment program in the highlands of Peru, or a women’s employment project in Bangladesh, ICAs are helping individuals and communities to solve persistent development challenges.

ICA International is constantly seeking ways to highlight these initiatives, share learning from these projects and find creative ways to broaden and deepen the impact of this extraordinary work. One of the ways to achieve this broadened awareness and increased support is through the Working Gifts program.

The idea is simple: In the communities where ICAs work, small gifts can create important impact. At the same time, in response to our increasingly consumerist societies, many of us are seeking to give alternative gifts to friends and loved ones that are both thoughtful and meaningful. Thus, in collaboration with national ICAs who are working directly with the communities in need, and with the help of a dedicated volunteer webmaster,  ICAI developed a program that gives each person a simple opportunity to create a positive impact for an individual or community. The goal is to allow people to select a gift of their choice in support of a development project and to give that gift in honour of a friend, family member or other loved one.

Rather than giving a standard gift this holiday season, you can now choose to give a Working Gift that helps a mother of eight access the support she needs to be successful in her new sewing business, that improves the community well to make the water safe, that ensures a vulnerable child receives desperately needed medical care, that allows an orphan to continue in school and advance through education, or that supports many other live-changing initiatives. In addition to providing targeted support where it is most needed, the program promotes awareness of the issues facing people around the world and highlights some of the initiatives underway.

In recent months we have worked hard to develop and strengthen this program and we are proud to launch the new Working Gifts site –  On the website, you can select gifts by country, category, or price, and read a description of how the gift will make a difference in the lives of the recipients.  There are gifts to suit all budgets and all types of people, so everyone can take part and support these initiatives. The Working Gifts program has already raised thousands of dollars for grassroots projects around the world, and with the new design and organization of the website we are confident that this is just the beginning of what we can achieve.

The program needs your support.  Purchase a gift today at Tell your family and friends about the program, join us on Facebook and add the Working Gifts logo and link to your email signature and website.  Every bit helps, as small gifts really can make a big impact.

ICA International


ICA Kenya: Responding to Crisis and Impacting Lives

The widely disputed presidential election in Kenya in December 2007 created a serious political conflict that led to the deaths of 1,300 people and resulted in over 650,000 people being internally displaced. By December 2008, just over half of that number - less than 350,000 people - had been re-settled.

In June of this year, the group TAABCO Consultants (Transforming, Analyzing, Accompanying and Building Change Organizations) published a report exploring the situation, entitled “Political, Social, Technological, and Environment Analysis”.  The report states that the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) has not been easy and that animosity still exists between the people being resettled and others in the community. The report calls for significant effort from government, and from civil society community and faith based organizations, to enable peace and reconciliation between the IDPs and their neighbours. 

On the economic front, statistics released in mid June by the Kenyan Ministry of Planning indicate that the economic growth rate had dropped from 7.1 per cent in 2007 to 1.7 per cent in 2008. This low rate is thought to be linked to the post-election violence, drought, and the high cost of food and fuel prices. In a country prone to drought, hydroelectricity is also not the most reliable and dependent form of power generation. As the drought continues, the water level in the Masinga Dam along the Tana river has decreased, and Kenya has been forced to institute electricity rationing, furthering hampering economic activity.

Despite these challenges, the country has undertaken some very positive measures in the past year.
In June, Kenya made dramatic advances in information and communications technology. A fibre-optic communication system was launched, setting the ground for faster, cheaper and more reliable internet connection.  Also, in this year’s budget, the Government of Kenya allocated 105 million Ksh. (approx. 1.4 million USD) to each constituency as an economic stimulus package. This money is to be used to finance various projects at the grassroots level.
During the year, ICA Kenya (ICAK) continued with the implementation of the Leadership Training and Integrated Program in Ikalaasa, in the Mwala district. This three-year program began in 2006 with the following objectives:

  • Increase agricultural production by training farmers to use modern farming methods.
  • Reduce HIV/AIDS infection rates through voluntary counselling and testing and through education and training for behaviour change.
  • Empower people living with HIV/AIDS by training them in the Positive Self Management program.
  • Increase gender issues awareness through training and campaigns.
  • Increase local leaders’ knowledge and skills through leadership and Group Facilitation Methods (GFM) training.
  • Strengthen the capacity of widows to fight exploitation through paralegal training.

Since the launch of the program, individuals have taken part in various training, testing and counselling opportunities. The program has been a major success, with over 600 individuals participating and taking advantage of program activities. 

Importantly, the program is empowering people to think about and talk about issues that affect them more openly. Mrs. Jemimah Wambua, a participant in the HIV and AIDS prevention training program says, Before the ICAK training on HIV and AIDS prevention I found it hard to speak to my children on how to protect ourselves as family; this was a difficult topic to share with my children.  The ICAK training made it easier for me to share with my husband and children on how we can protect ourselves against the pandemic. Thank you to ICAK for the empowerment.”

Throughout the program, ICAK has benefited from the support of TAABCO on capacity building initiatives. The mission of TAABCO is to catalyze change in organizations through accompaniment and partnerships. TAABCO is the local representative of Bread for the World Germany, an organization who is providing financial support to the program. The program is an excellent example of how organizations can collaborate and work together with local people to respond to crisis and catalyze positive change within communities.

Edward Mutiso
National Director ICA Kenya


Young Community Leaders in Canada

ICA Canada’s Youth as Facilitative Leaders (YFL) Program is a youth-led leadership training and mentorship initiative that works with young people from diverse backgrounds to develop the confidence, values and skills necessary to take the lead in building vibrant, inclusive communities.  In North Bay, Sudbury and surrounding communities in Ontario, Canada, ICA Canada’s YFL Program, in partnership with the North Bay and Sudbury YMCAs, has embarked on an exciting three and a half year initiative to bring enthusiasm, intelligence and perspectives of young people to the forefront in building healthy and sustainable communities.

Phase One

When the project launched in early September 2008, it began with leadership training sessions for a group of young people from diverse backgrounds from North Bay and Sudbury. In early November, these youth began conducting community consultations with their peers, organizations, businesses and other stakeholders to develop a complete picture of the current situation in North Bay & Sudbury when it comes to engaging young people in community leadership roles. Community Consultation Reports are now complete and available for viewing on the following websites:, or

Phase Two

In Phase Two, beginning in September 2009, ICA Canada is recruiting youth aged 15-30 to develop and implement their own community projects in North Bay and Sudbury. The intent is to support local youth in addressing some of the issues that were identified in ICA Canada’s Community Consultation process. Young Community Leaders (YCL) will again provide extensive leadership and skills training, as well as support and guidance for youth volunteers.

ICA Canada.



The Phulki Project: New Hope for Street Children in Bangladesh

The Institute of Cultural Affairs in Bangladesh (ICA Bangladesh) works to improve the life of underprivileged groups and disadvantaged communities through participatory training, facilitation, education, advocacy and human development projects.
Currently, ICA Bangladesh is helping improve the quality of life and increase opportunities for street children in Dhaka City through their Phulki project. The word ‘phulki’ is a Bengali term which means ‘spark’or a small piece of a burning substance produced by friction or combustion. The term also refers to something that acts as a stimulant, inspiration, or catalyst. The main emphasis of the program is to address practical but essential needs of the children, which can serve as a catalyst for profound changes in their lives.

Bangladesh has been undergoing a dramatic demographic shift, and children under the age of fifteen comprise about 40% of Bangladesh’s population of 140 million.  It is estimated that around two million children are on the streets in urban Bangladesh, with more than 215,000 in Dhaka City alone. These children have no fixed address and live on the streets or in overcrowded slums or squatter settlements. Unfortunately, incidence of destitute children (tokai) is increasing.

The street children often work as vendors, car cleaners, beggars, newspaper or flower sellers, or in very hazardous jobs such as brick chipping, rag picking, or factory work.  The average working age starts anywhere between 6 to 8 years old, with the average work day ranging from 8 to 12 hours. This labour yields an income of about Tk.350 (5 US$) per month. Given the trauma of their existence and the lack of societal support, the potential within these children is being lost to the streets. The government has made a commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), but it is widely acknowledged that more must be done to recognize and provide for the needs of the most vulnerable children.

The Phulki project was initiated to address the immediate needs of these children, and offers educational development and life skills training. The project focuses on homeless children, orphans and others at high risk, and provides an informal ‘school’ which students attend six days a week. The school provides support for teaching basic literacy, life skills and leadership training and awareness-raising. Students are taught to understand their rights, develop communication and facilitative leadership skills, gain confidence to make good decisions, and gain awareness on issues of health and hygiene, and how to prevent diseases such as HIV/AIDS and STDs. The project is support by the Tokyo Union Church (TUC) and the goal is to realize improvements in their education, health, environment, income and security.

The project was inaugurated on April 15th 2009 by the chairperson of ICA Bangladesh and Honorable MP and Managing Director of Desh TV, Asaduzzaman Noor. Since the success of the project requires understanding and support from within the local communities, a community orientation meeting was held at the outset. The meeting was attended by approximately 50 people, including city officials, local club representatives and ICA officials.
Over thirty children now regularly attend classes. The children who are involved were asked what the project means to them. Here are two of their stories: 

Md. Rabin Miah is an 11 year old boy who is a student of the Phulki school. He is an only child and lives in a slum with his mother. Last year he lost his father, who was the only wage-earning member of the family. At that time he was 10 years old and was attending primary school in class four. After his father’s death, he was forced to quit his education and start working in a bread factory to assist his mother. His mother also began work as a maidservant in the homes of wealthier families. Rabin is a meritorious student who has a passion for study. He was devastated when he had to quit school. When his mother learned about the ICA education and skills training project in the neighborhood she was very interested to have her son join the project. Now he is a regular student. Rabin has strong leadership skills and was recently selected as the class captain. For life skills training he has chosen computer training. The project has provided motivation and opportunity to continue his studies, and he now hopes to work in a computer shop.

Lucky Akter is a 12 year old girl who lives in the slum of Khilgaon with her parents. Her father, Mr. Abdul Gafur, is a rickshaw driver and her mother, Ms. Sharifa Begum, is a housewife. Because she is a girl, and there are strong negative social values and norms regarding girls and education, her parents did not enroll her in school. However, she is very interested in studying. When the ICA team visited the slum, Lucky asked if she could join. The ICA team spoke to her parents, who were initially reluctant to allow her to become involved. Eventually Lucky and the ICA team were able to convince her parents that the project would offer valuable education and skills trainings, which would be important as she grew older. A small monthly stipend, intended to compensate for the fact that Lucky would not be working, was also important in convincing her parents. Now she is receiving basic education and life skills. She is particularly interested in dressmaking and wants to learn to use the sewing machine. Lucky is happy and excited about the changes to her life that she is experiencing as a result of the project.   

Feedback from students shows that they love the project, and the new opportunities that are available. The training is exciting and they are continuously learning new things. Thanks to the program, they believe that they are the future leaders of their communities and feel empowered to make a difference. These children want to change society and are now gaining the skills and confidence to make it happen.  

Dhaka Institute of Cultural Affairs
(ICA Bangladesh)



Tackling HIV and AIDS in a Fractured Country: Prevention,
Treatment and Care in Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire has been divided since the coup attempt that spiralled into a rebel uprising against President Laurent Gbagbo in 2002. This political crisis was triggered by socio-political tensions, which were caused by the adoption of a new constitution and by the election of Laurent Gbagbo as President of the Republic.

The crisis intensified military and economic problems, and has dramatically disrupted health services in the most disadvantaged areas, particularly in the northern and western regions of Côte d’Ivoire. Most of the existing HIV services are concentrated in the urban southern parts of the country, which means that the disruption of health services in the north and west have caused a disturbing increase in HIV infections within the country.

In response to the crisis, ICA Côte d’Ivoire has implemented a project that targets HIV/AIDS sufferers and vulnerable populations at risk of contracting the disease. Of particular concern are young people under the age of 24. The program is being implemented over a period of six months, beginning in august 2009 and ending in January 2010.

This project is reaching out to approximately 6,500 people in order to raise awareness, prevent infection, and provide services to those affected. It is expected that 150 people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) will benefit from palliative care, 312 home visits will be made to help those struggling with the disease, and 150 people will be given access to health centres for visits, medical treatments and/or screening tests.

The specific goals include the integration of PLWHAs into society, the provision of adequate medical care, and the development of the confidence required for staying healthy while living with the disease.

With the success of the project to date, ICA Côte d’Ivoire is now looking for additional support from donors for the new community health centre.  The centre is open and running, but the demand has been greater than expected and equipment and medicines are in short supply. Unfortunately, unless additional support is received soon, patients will need to be turned away.

Readers who would like to find out more about this project, including how they can offer their support, may contact ICA International at We would like to thank all those who support this important work during this time of crisis and need.

ICA Côte D’Ivoire



A Tribute to Don Elliott
Structural Care Embodied

Don Elliott in Pune, India, January 2009.  Presenting a laptop to Archana Pawar, Renuka Jadhav and Kayo Goda.

Don Elliott was a successful heart surgeon when he first encountered the programs of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) in 1971.  He attended a week-end seminar in Boulder, Colorado and participated in the research assembly in Chicago later that summer. In the following years, Don played an important part in seeing that the courses offered by the Institute were offered in his church and community.  He became a part of a cadre within his church, which recommended a cooperative leadership team for the congregation.  This model was then adopted and has continued to exist through the past decades.

As the Institute’s international work began to expand, Don became one of the first people to take a Global Odyssey; visiting people, sites and sacred places around the globe. This experience opened his eyes and heart to the world in which he lived and in which he would continue to serve.

Don became involved in the international work of the Institute of Cultural Affairs both at the local project level and in leadership roles.  He served on the Board of ICA International between 1996 and 2000.  He was Board President from 1998 to 2000, where he presided over the hosting of the Institute’s 5th Global Conference on Human Development, which was held in Denver in the spring of 2000.  He also served several terms on the ICA USA Board of Directors, including time as President.

After the Global Conference in 2000, Don visited many of the ICAs in Africa. In 2002, he went to the village of Golokwati in Ghana to help launch the ICA HIV/AIDS Prevention Initiative.  He spent a week riding in tutus (should this be tro-tro, Ghana’s local public transit buses?), visiting all the health facilities in the district to spread the word about the project and to assess the available health related resources. Working with representatives from each African ICA office, he helped figure out how to train local people to be health educators.  In the following years Don returned several times to conduct HIV/AIDS training programs with national ICAs.

At every level of the ICA network, Don has been an enthusiastic supporter of an ambitious vision for what was possible. He helped establish an ICA office in Denver, spent years on the ICA Board and was faithful for years to the work of ICA International. 

Don also maintained close ties with the ICA programs in India and Nepal.  He frequently visited a hospital in India, where he provided medical services. He also made a point to visit the local ICA projects and supported them both financially, and with his indefatigable enthusiasm.  On a particular visit to Nepal, he walked seven hours over hills and across river gorges to visit a group of tribal women who had participated in the ICA’s literacy programs.  Among other things he did in support of ICA India, Don financed the construction of a women’s training center in Malegaon, which he dedicated to the memory of his daughter.

Don Elliott – doctor, friend and leader – cared about the planet and its people.  He invested his energy and resources in building sustainable communities and structures. Don’s energy was always felt in a room and gave it a lift; he was hard to describe in a few short words, and it was impossible to know where his passionate spirit would turn up next. He will be greatly missed.

Nelson Stover
President, Board of Directors
ICA International


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