How We WorkEn Français
How We Work
There are simple, low-cost and proven solutions for preventing the world’s most devastating causes of blindness and malnutrition. The challenge is finding ways to deliver them to the deeply vulnerable people around the world. And that’s where Helen Keller International’s expertise comes in.
- We find the most effective Pathways to People, whether it’s through healthcare, schools, informal social systems, or even local or national food supplies. Read more
- We develop Productive Partnerships with governments, health organizations, and community groups, often in places that lack basic health systems, trained personnel, and even roads. Read more
- Once we are working within local community structures, we magnify our impact by Integrating Solutions into existing health, education and food systems so that they become sustainable through being community-owned and led. Read more
More about How We Work
To help more people, we find ways to deliver solutions through the most effective channels.
HKI plays a critical role in figuring out the best way to deliver proven solutions to hard-to-reach people, so that they are integrated into the fabric of daily life in ways that are truly sustainable. To do this, we examine on-the-ground conditions to help us design programs that respond effectively to local needs and cultural contexts, and we conduct research to identify potential obstacles which, if not addressed, could prevent adoption of optimal practices.
The health systems, infrastructure and community outreach in many countries are often inadequate and compartmentalized, and do not provide the most vulnerable populations with sufficient access to those basic services that could prevent and treat the disabling conditions of blindness, low vision and undernutrition that affect them disproportionately. To overcome these distribution barriers, we look to utilize or improve upon existing distribution and delivery systems, and we come up with creative ways to leverage work being done in other sectors.
For example, in many countries, capsules for our successful Vitamin A Supplementation (VAS) programs were initially distributed through National Immunization Days (NIDs) established to distribute the polio vaccine. When the NIDs were phased out, HKI and UNICEF worked with government partners to develop new community- based strategies, such as Child Health Weeks, to deliver this crucial intervention. VAS was also incorporated into routine services at health centers to maintain high coverage rates for children and improve those for post-partum women.
Partnerships are fundamental to how we work. We partner with hundreds of organizations – some as large as UNICEF, or as small as a village farming project established by two industrious mothers. Government ministries, international NGOs, food manufacturers, micro-finance lenders, school districts – the array of partnerships is as diverse as the circumstances on the ground that compel us to join forces.
Partners enable HKI to understand local customs, respect religious and cultural traditions, and navigate delicate issues related to gender, politics and pride. Many times, our partners adopt our good ideas and intentions and bring them to scale, such as when we work with a consortium of cooking oil manufacturers in West Africa to fortify their product with essential nutrients, or when local NGOs integrate our Homestead Food Production into their ongoing activities.
Partners fill in the blanks in situations where HKI seeks to implement solutions such as the World Health Organization’s SAFE strategy to conquer trachoma: while we deliver the “S” (surgery) and the “F” (face-washing education), we work with organizational partners such as WaterAid to help deliver the “E” (environmental changes such as access to clean water), and with corporate partners like Pfizer to supply the “A” (antibiotic), in this case Zithromax®.
Our relationship with our partners is a two-way street: again and again, our partners seek our expertise for help in delivering services such as primary eye care to rural villages, or supplying the seeds, starter animals and agricultural training needed to create a flourishing and profitable homestead garden.
Because redundancy is the enemy of efficiency, we strive to provide solutions for multiple challenges simultaneously and in the most cost-effective manner. For example, volunteer networks that distribute onchocerciasis-preventing drugs are now simultaneously delivering vitamin A capsules, screening for cataract or providing primary eye care. HKI is also integrating the delivery of interventions to control Neglected Tropical Diseases by providing drugs that treat one or more disease at the same time. Similar integrations are continually being explored and implemented, to make the most of every available dollar and hour.
HKI is increasingly merging blindness prevention and nutrition strategies into unified programs that holistically improve the health and welfare of local communities. Our school health, for example, programs have become especially efficient delivery vehicles for multiple interventions. In Asia-Pacific and Africa, school programs address malnutrition, anemia, Neglected Tropical Diseases (especially Trachoma and Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STHs)), and Refractive Error. By integrating these interventions into one program, they are all more likely to be fully incorporated into various systems at the individual, family, community and national levels.
Sustainability: A hallmark of our work is our proven success in making our vision and health interventions a permanent feature of government and community structures. We are committed to transferring our knowledge and skills to local and national governments as well as to private sector and community-based partners, thereby permanently expanding their technical and operational capacities.
We adapt our programs and strategies depending on the needs and realities of each community, and create systemic, sustainable change that fosters both immediate and long-term impact. We also cultivate their sense of ownership, long-term commitment, and adoption of advocacy and public outreach practices necessary to ensure that new capacities achieve their fullest potential.