FAQ

Program overview

What is Join My Village?
Join My Village is a global community and platform that is open to anyone who is interested in supporting positive change in the world’s most vulnerable and isolated communities. Powered by a unique partnership between General Mills and the humanitarian organization CARE, Join My Village combines the capabilities of online & social technology with the power of human community to help individuals s in Malawi and India create lasting change for themselves, their families and their broader communities.

Through ongoing field updates, photos, and videos, Join My Village provides a window into the lives of girls and women in India and Malawi as they gain to access to education, maternal health care and economic development opportunities that help them support themselves and their families and improve their communities. By breaking down barriers of culture and geography, Join My Village strengthens the bonds that unite people everywhere.

Why do you focus on women and girls?
Statistics show that women are the largest single group impacted by poverty, and also the greatest potential agents of change in the fight against global poverty.

Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, but earn only 10% of the income. They own less than 1% of the world’s property. Women represent two-thirds of the adults who cannot read or write, and girls are 55% of the children not attending primary school.

But even one pebble of opportunity creates ripples that benefit an entire community. For example, research shows that each extra year of primary education that a girl receives boosts her future earnings by 10% to 20%.

Join My Village shares the belief that women everywhere are a powerful force for change – and that empowering women empowers families and communities. By investing in women, Join My Village believes we can help change lives in some of the world’s most impoverished communities. That being said, our work does not exclude boys or men. Join My Village recognizes the importance of inclusiveness in community-building and welcomes the involvement of all those who are invested in sparking positive change in today’s world.

Can anyone support Join My Village?
Yes. You can help simply by following Join My Village on our website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, by sharing our social media updates with your friends and networks, or by donating to CARE through Join My Village.

What are the goals of Join My Village?
We aim to help women and girls in Malawi and India to become empowered to be champions of their own prosperity – to realize sustainable change that also nourishes their families and communities. The mission of General Mills, the founding sponsor of Join My Village, is Nourishing Lives, and one of the ways that mission comes to life is through the company’s charitable support of partners like CARE. As a leading humanitarian organization, CARE works to increase economic and educational opportunities in some of the world’s most impoverished countries to create sustainable solutions to poverty. These programs provide a foundation upon which communities can build for years to come.


Projects in Malawi

Where is Malawi?
Malawi is an inland country located in the southern part of Africa. Tanzania lies to the north and Mozambique lies to the south. Malawi shares its western border with Zambia.

Why Malawi?
The United Nations’ Human Development Index, which measures life expectancy and standard of living, ranks Malawi 164th out of 177 countries worldwide. It is one of the earth’s most desperate areas. It is also one of the most promising – because positive change is already occurring there. General Mills has been investing in Malawi, in partnership with CARE, since 2007. Previous support has enabled communities to learn new farming techniques to improve crop yield and storage, and gain training on new businesses that complement their agricultural skills infrastructure. Join My Village seeks to build on the existing momentum in Malawi by introducing programs that empower women to build a better future for themselves and their families. Lessons learned here can be applied in other parts of Malawi and beyond.

Why is General Mills investing in African relief projects when there is so much need in the U.S. right now?
General Mills is a global food company with a proud tradition of philanthropy – and a stated commitment to Nourishing Lives, both domestically and abroad. As alleviating hunger is one of the company’s philanthropic focus areas, General Mills has a number of charitable programs aimed at increasing food insecurity and reducing poverty on the African continent, which is home to some of the world’s most impoverished communities. Among these signature philanthropic programs are Partners In Food Solutions and Join My Village. For more information on General Mills philanthropy, please visit www.generalmills.com/responsibility.

What is a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA)?
To empower women economically, CARE has been implementing village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) in Malawi since 1999. Through Join My Village, CARE has established more than 732 VSLAs in Malawi since 2009, which have more than 18,000 members who have saved more than $480,000. More than 85% of the participants are women. CARE’s research shows that VSLA programs enable women to increase their families’ income, and build self-confidence, independence, and leadership skills in the process.

The VSLA model was created by CARE in Niger in 1991 and has since been expanded and adapted in communities around the world to help women who don’t have access to formal banking services to save money and grow businesses. Each VSLA is an informal, self-selecting group consisting of 15 to 25 members. The members contribute small, individual savings into an association fund. Each association sets its own “charter” which specifies loan terms. Savings are accumulated for a period and then the association determines how to loan the money to members. All transactions are carried out at meetings in front of all the members, promoting transparency and accountability. Members pay back the loans based on the guidelines specified by the charter. Loans are generally used to start small businesses or pay for family needs often related to sending children to school. After a year, the group pays out the total savings in a lump sum payment to each member based on his or her contribution plus interest. This lump sum distribution provides otherwise unavailable sums of money that each member can then apply to his or her own families’ needs.

How does Join My Village support the advancement of education?
CARE’s field officers work with school management committee (SMCs) at approximately 40 primary schools in the Kasungu district of Malawi. In the first year of Join My Village, 15 schools benefited and each year 5 more schools are added and by 2015, 40 schools will be supported with each primary school serving approximately five villages. The committees and CARE staff will prioritize the needs of these schools from a list of program needs, such as textbooks and reference materials, secondary school scholarships for girls graduating from primary school, construction of sanitation facilities, and construction of housing for female teachers. Field officers will work with SMCs to conduct baseline studies for each school and identify which areas need improvement. Once the SMC has set a course of action for the school, CARE will support the village in securing the necessary materials and expertise to implement their plan.

How are women and girls in Malawi really benefiting from this program?
Through the introduction of VSLAs into the villages, women will have a new opportunity to contribute to their families’ income. VSLAs enable small groups of village members, primarily women, to pool their savings and loan money to members within their group. When women have the opportunity to borrow money, they can start a small business, access transportation to local markets where they can get higher prices for their goods, or purchase school uniforms and books for their children. Furthermore, the VSLAs have created scholarship fund committees to identify vulnerable children in their communities for whom they can provide school fees. To date, a scholarship fund committee has been established in each 30 of the primary schools that Join My Village supports.

Additionally, Join My Village will provide school materials, improved school facilities and increased access to secondary education to children in the villages we are serving, with the primary focus on girls. Of the 75 million primary-school aged children in the world who do not have access to education, 55% are girls. And, of those who are enrolled in school, girls’ achievement rates are often below their male classmates. Join My Village is working to ensure that girls have equal access to education, which will in turn help to increase their opportunities in life.

Projects in India

Why India?
With a population of 1.2 billion people, India is the second largest country in the world and although it is developing quickly, more than 75% of the population still lives on less than $2 a day. Inequity remains a challenge; recent legislation in India ensures that all children have access to education however many girls, especially from minority communities and specific castes, are still out of school. In India’s state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) more than one third of students drop out by primary school. However, the highest rate in India of girls who have dropped out of school, at approximately 50%, is in the Mewat district of Haryana, near the high-tech center of New Delhi.

How will Join My Village help in India?
Join My Village has supported girls’ education initiatives to create equitable opportunities for girls in selected districts of Uttar Pradesh and Mewat in Haryana since 2012.

Improving Girls’ Education in Mewat, Haryana: In many parts of India, girls’ education is undermined by factors such as poverty, customary beliefs and attitudes devaluing girls, a limited number of schools in remote areas, and poorly trained teachers. In response, CARE is helping to provide access to education to some of the hardest to reach children, especially girls. CARE has piloted and refined a residential education camp model called Udaan (which means “to soar” in Hindi), designed to help girls aged 10-14 who are at extreme social and economic risk and who have dropped out of or never started school. Udaan has been running successfully in Uttar Pradesh for more than a decade and through Join My Village, CARE expanded the Udaan model to the Mewat district in the state of Haryana in 2012.

Each annual Udaan camp session educates approximately 100 girls, who live on a residential campus together in a tight-knit community setting, along with their instructors. The accelerated courses allow girls who never attended school or dropped out early, to complete their basic primary education (grades 1-5) in just 11 months, and transition to formal schooling in upper primary (grades 6-8) and secondary school. The program’s curriculum includes activities relating to basic competencies in subjects such as science, language and math, but also emphasizes a Social Learning curriculum aimed at sharpening girls’ critical thinking and leadership skills.

Strengthening Quality of Education in Government Schools in Uttar Pradesh: CARE has partnered with the Government of India to help girls from isolated and minority communities with low female literacy rates to achieve an education at government schools known as Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalay (KGBV) which are boarding schools where girls receive upper primary school education (grades 6-8).

Girls enrolling in KGBVs come from diverse academic backgrounds and learning levels, ranging from never enrolled students to primary school graduates. Some Udaan students continue their education at a KGBV school. Because the students come from such varied academic backgrounds, school authorities need help planning for diverse learning needs so CARE, with support from Join My Village, provides support to teachers, students, and their families that strengthen the KGBV school system in Uttar Pradesh.

Many girls entering KGBV schools are not yet at the sixth-grade level so CARE developed a “bridge program” to help navigate the gap between education levels to ensure that girls are prepared to enter upper primary school. The bridge program is similar to the Udaan model, where girls live on campus and participate in an accelerated learning program to ensure they have a basic primary school education. CARE’s bridge programs have been so successful that they have now been made compulsory in all KGBVs in Uttar Pradesh.

Similar to the Udaan program, KGBV schools provide a Social Learning curriculum that helps students develop self-confidence, team-work, critical thinking, problem solving, persistence in the face of difficulty and respect for others. CARE also helps train teachers to be more effective in the classroom by providing practical tools they can use to engage students from a variety of backgrounds and help them learn in and out of the classroom.

Adolescent Leadership Development Programs in Uttar Pradesh: The Join My Village Girls’ Leadership Program provides mentors to work with groups of adolescent girls to become champions for their own rights and encourage them to continue their educations. This program recruits community leaders to act as mentors in safe spaces such as schools and other locations to teach the girls a rigorous leadership curriculum. The Girls Leadership Program, with support from Join My Village, is taking place in three districts of Uttar Pradesh- Balrampur, Bahraich and Shravasti. To date, more than 100 girls’ collectives, known as Kishori Samoohs, with a cumulative membership of 5,500 adolescent girls, have been supported. Thanks to this program, many previously out-of-school girls have re-enrolled in KGBVs and other government-run schools, and more than 68,000 girls in 722 KGBV schools have gained learning skills that will help them lead dignified, educated and self-reliant lives.

Why General Mills, Merck and CARE?

Who is General Mills?
General Mills is a global food company with trusted brands known the world over. Cheerios™, Betty Crocker™, Nature Valley™, Progresso™, Pillsbury™, and Green Giant™ are just a few that may be familiar to you and your family. Just as importantly, General Mills is widely recognized for its giving culture and was recently named to The Civic 50 list for our commitment to improving quality of life in communities. More than 80% of our U.S. employees volunteer locally in their communities. Programs like Box Tops for Education and Yoplait’s Save Lids to Save Liveshave collectively raised hundreds of millions of dollars over the years in the U.S. And others, such as General Mills’ Science and Technology Transfer Initiative, are already benefiting other parts of the world, including Africa. It’s all part of our mission of Nourishing Lives – making lives healthier, easier, and richer.

Who is Merck?
A global leader in healthcare, Merck is dedicated to helping the world be well through its innovative health and medical initiatives and its strong charitable giving program. Through Join My Village, Merck and its global employees are having a positive impact on women and girls, particularly in India, through community-based health and education programs. Join My Village is linked to Merck’s 10-year plan called “Merck for Mothers,” committed to improving maternal mortality around the world.

Who is CARE?
Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty.

Our six decades of experience show that when you empower a girl or woman, she becomes a catalyst, creating ripples of positive change that lift up everyone around her. That’s why girls and women are at the heart of CARE’s community-based efforts to improve education, health and economic opportunity for everyone. We also work with girls and women to promote social justice, respond to emergencies and confront hunger and climate change. Last year CARE worked in 87 countries and reached more than 97 million people around the world. To learn more, visit www.care.org.


How to participate in Join My Village

How can I participate?
You can participate in Join My Village simply by visiting our site, viewing our videos, Liking our content on Facebook, following Join My Village on Twitter (@JoinMyVillage) and Instagram and sharing our stories with friends. No registration is required.


Making Personal Donations

Can I do more by donating?
Yes! If you’d like to help CARE support programs that are part of the Join My Village platform, you may donate by check or credit card.

Can I make donations by personal check?
It is possible to make donations to Join My Village by personal check. To donate by check, simply contact CARE’s donor support team at 1-800-422-7385, and they will guide you through the process.

Can I make a donation by international credit card?
Yes.

Is making a donation online secure?
Yes. Online donations are processed through CARE via its data management partner VeriSign, which is certified as being in compliance with the Payment Care Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard.

Who benefits from my personal donation?
All funds that are donated to the Join My Village program go into a Join My Village fund at CARE that support projects in India and Malawi. 100% of your donation goes to help in Malawi and India.

Is my donation tax deductible?
Yes, your contribution is tax-deductible as described on the receipt you will receive immediately following your donation, and to the extent allowed by law.

Troubleshooting

If you have questions about your donation, please contact CARE at info@care.org, or 1-800-422-7385.

I want to talk to someone about this program
Please direct general questions about Join My Village to General Mills Consumer Services at 1-800-248-7310 between (7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. CT, weekdays).

How can my company take part in Join My Village?
Join My Village was created by General Mills and CARE, and Merck joined the platform in 2011. In addition to the consumer engagement provided by Join My Village, the program also provides employee engagement and other benefits to companies that participate. If you are interested in learning about how your company can take part, please contact info@joinmyvillage.com.