Tim Evans DDS, a dentist by trade, spent time in Peru in his 20s and gained a deep appreciation for the people and their culture. In 1982, after opening his dental practice, he heard from a patient the story of a young girl who had died needlessly after drinking contaminated water. The girl was living in the Bolivian Altiplano not far from where Tim had lived in Peru. An urgent desire to make clean water a reality for Altiplano villagers on both sides of the border lead him to found CHOICE’s precursor, The Andean Children's Foundation (ACF).
He established this foundation with the goal of providing greater awareness of global poverty and to do something about it. It grew quicker than anyone imagined. While Tim had intended to start in Peru, terrorist groups made the country unstable. It was at that juncture that Tim heard about little Hilda’s death from waterborne diarrhea and received a report on a devastating drought in the Altiplano of both Peru and Bolivia. He realized water resources were critical to any development initiative, so he coordinated with Utah-Bolivia Partners to install the first hand-dug wells in Bolivia.
Understanding that you can't move the poverty needle without income generation, organizers of the new foundation hoped the wells might mitigate water-retrieval time so women and children might focus more on education and income-generating activities.
The problem was that the ACF were emphasizing the health benefits of clean water. Under a microscope, Tim’s team would show the families all kinds of disease-causing micro-organisms in their water supply. The locals were unimpressed. They would explain that they had been drinking that water forever, that yes, sometimes children die, but they had no money to buy new wells.
Once the villagers realized that simple high-discharge hand-pumps fitted to their wells could help them make money by irrigating small plots, their attitudes changed dramatically. They saw that they could save their regular crops during frequent droughts as well as grow cash crops even during the dry season. Suddenly a well with a hand pump and possibly a greenhouse became attractive new technologies they could not afford to disregard.
This reality underscored the need to respect the culture and only recommend projects through the eyes and interests of the people. The proposed hand dug well technology was new to the area and cutting-edge protocol. Dr. Evans could see that this could address the drought and as well as the fact that waterborne diarrhea was the number one cause of childhood mortality in Bolivia.
"It is critical for people to understand that they have options and opportunities.
Without these, moving from poverty to prosperity can't be accomplished," James B. Mayfield, PhD
Soon his proposals were accepted, and wells began to proliferate in Bolivia. Tim continued to write grants for the cause and hired in-country staff. His understanding and expertise of water technology grew significantly. However, a peer reviewer of one of his grant proposals questioned that a dentist could know anything about water technology let alone international development. It was no small serendipity that during this process Tim was introduced to James B. Mayfield, PhD whose experience and credentials became an enormous boost to the effort.
Dr. Mayfield was a political science professor at the University of Utah and had studied village development for nearly twenty years, beginning in 1966 as a Fulbright Scholar in Egypt. He had also consulted for USAID, UNESCO, and the United Nations. Jim also asserted that international development was not about doing something for or even with, local populations; it was about working through them, for the community to become “self-developing.”
Dr. Mayfield accepted a seat on ACF’s Board of Directors, and Dr. Evans enrolled in several of his rural development courses. They joined forces and continued writing grants and administering the money, but grants were cyclical, so gaps in the funding cycles were frequent. Moreover, a professional field staff precluded involvement by lay volunteers, thwarting the Foundation’s hands-on awareness-building objectives.
At one point, there was a four-month gap between funding, so following the example of an organization called Earth Watch, Tim set up an expedition program as a way to incorporate individual contributions and to increase awareness of global poverty. He was concerned about bringing lay people on professional projects and did not want to harm the reputation of the ACF so they created a separate entity called CHOICE Humanitarian to raise the funds and donate to the ACF specifically for the completion of projects during the outreach expeditions. They decided to start their first expedition with eight people building a well for the family whose daughter had died from the water-borne illness. They asked each person to give $600 over the cost of the trip. They were hopeful that eight people would be interested in joining them. In two days, there were 30 people wanting to go. They split the group in two. One group installed a well in Villa Anta, and the other built a school in Sora Sora, Bolivia.
While in Bolivia, volunteers and local staff, including several Rural Development Facilitators (RDFs) trained by Dr. Mayfield, lived with the families in the respective villages. In the evenings the RDFs led discussions about extreme poverty, local cultures, simple solutions to reduce the effects of poverty, and the application of appropriate technologies. The expedition was a major success, and the participant-funded approach, aka expeditions, was born.
It became immediately apparent that the expedition model was a good concept to incorporate into the organization to not only fund specific projects but to address the original goals of creating awareness about global poverty and doing something about it. CHOICE Humanitarian rapidly became the major funder for the Andean Children Foundation, and soon the two organizations merged.
As CHOICE grew, more countries and more focus areas were brought on board. Today, CHOICE operates in 7 countries and focuses on health, education, the environment, economic development, culture preservation.
James B. Mayfield, PhD- Co-Founder of CHOICE Humanitarian
Beginning in 1967, Dr. Mayfield was a Professor of Political Science at the University of Utah where he taught courses in the Issues of Development in the Third World, Development Administration (Project Management), Public Management Training and Development, Organization Development (OD) in the Public Sector, Basic and Advanced Political Statistics and the Political Economy of Peasant Society. Dr. Mayfield was the Director of the International Development Administration Program, a graduate program for students specializing in rural project management and implementation. After 35 years, Dr. Mayfield is now retired from the Department of Political Science, University of Utah, as Professor Emeritus.
In over his 50-year career, he has also worked as a research and training consultant for USAID, UNDP, CANIDA, World Bank and numerous consulting firms in 27 countries. His specialty is Local Government Reform in less developed countries, especially in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
In 2004 and 2005, Jim spent over a year in Iraq as the Director of Local Government Reform helping to introduce democracy into the provinces, cities, towns, districts and villages in south-central Iraq. Jim is either sole author or co-author of 24 scholarly articles, publications and books covering a wide range of political science topics, especially in the Middle East.
He has conducted research and management training in 18 countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
Dr. Mayfield is the author of five published books:
- Go To the People The People's School System As a Strategy for Integrated Rural Development (widely used by Peace Corps)
- The Time Has Come A Strategy To Confront the Tragedy of World Poverty
- One Can Make A Difference: Challenges and Opportunities of Dealing with World Poverty
- Field of Reeds Social, Economic and Political Change in Rural Egypt: In Search of Civil Society and Good Governance
In 2013 he launched the Nepal Self Developing District Program, an initiative supported by the Nepali government to end extreme poverty in a designated area that can be replicated worldwide and will help Nepal to become the first developing country in the world to end extreme poverty.
With 40 years of experience in village development, Dr. Mayfield continues to define and shape CHOICE's approach to poverty alleviation, specifically the CHOICE Humanitarian Leadership Model of Development at the village level and the district level.