Empathy, Listening and Love

Written by Barry Childs, Founder and Board Member

A question I have often been asked is “What makes me qualified to found a non profit organization 5,000 miles away in a very different culture?”

My answer is that I have the intellectual knowledge and a visceral understanding of the context within which Africa Bridge works. I grew up in Tanzania. From the age of four I would go on safari with my father who was an Agricultural Officer. I watched how he worked with the villagers. It was a process of involving the whole community, providing training, and demonstrations, supporting early adopters, and following up. He loved the work and the people. Before going to university, I worked for a year on a dairy farm.

I had the good fortune to work for two of the best managed corporations in the world, Exxon and Abbott Laboratories in the UK, Germany, and the US. I worked as an individual contributor, manager and director, at regional, national and international levels. I served in multiple functions, marketing, sales, HR, IT, operations, leadership development and TQM (Total Quality Management). I learned how to get results in many different functions, countries and cultures. I came to understand that to run an effective project one must have the “hard stuff” such as capital, staff, volunteers, and technical skills but, also the “soft stuff” such as empathy, listening, and love.

In 2000 I took early retirement from Abbott and founded Africa Bridge. I had few resources. However, Africa Bridge has gone from serving 1 village to 37, reaching approximately 10,000 MVC Most Vulnerable Children) and thousands more care givers. The critical factors are working from the bottom up, enrolling others, taking a holistic perspective, and having the courage to move toward challenges.