Every year since 1991, Canadians have taken International Development Week (IDW) to shine a spotlight on the development work they are doing around the world to build a fairer and more inclusive world.

Given that ADRA stands for Adventist Development & Relief Agency, it is no surprise that development projects comprise a significant part of our work. A cornerstone of ADRA’s philosophy is the importance of empowering communities to lift themselves out of poverty. Building up people’s resources and capacity to ultimately turn their own stories around is precisely what makes ADRA’s approach to development work an example of compassion in action. We desire to see people not only receive help but to be able to help themselves in the long run.

Two of ADRA’s key development projects are BRIGHT (Breaking Barriers, Improving Girls Education, Hope, and Totality) and TOGETHER (Uniting Towards Gender Equality for the Total Health and Rights of Women and Girls). Through these projects, spanning 7 countries between them, ADRA fosters trust and stability. These development projects are making a real difference at multiple levels.

Strengthening Health Systems

With generous support from Global Affairs Canada, the TOGETHER project works with remote and indigenous communities in Cambodia, Kenya, the Philippines, and Uganda to ensure that the most vulnerable people, especially girls and women, can exercise their health-related human rights. The project establishes youth-friendly health centers that promote awareness among youth on sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, and unwanted pregnancies ADRA and partners provide mentorship, coaching, and capacity building to healthcare providers, reducing challenges at health centres and enhancing service delivery.

Gender Equality

In underserved areas, Village Health Teams (VHT) trained by ADRA and local partners bridge staffing gaps, ensuring integrated outreach and follow-up on cases of SGBV (Sexual and Gender-Based Violence). Increasing the capacity of women’s grassroots organizations and boosting healthcare worker capabilities ultimately means creating a resilient foundation for communities in crisis. In this way and more, ADRA is supporting healthcare providers with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to deliver quality, inclusive healthcare.

Strengthening Governance

Whether during an emergency or a longer-term situation, good leadership is crucial. This is why ADRA helps to orchestrate meetings with local governments and NGOs to help better coordinate aid work. When everyone is working efficiently together, people receive help more quickly and effectively. Part of that process involves promoting transparent decision-making processes and collaboration between governments and their people. When there is true participation and accountability, sustainable development goals can take shape more smoothly.

The work that goes into supporting grassroots organizations also compounds with the benefits of enhancing the capacity of local authorities. The better equipped people are at every level, the more effectively they can work together!


The BRIGHT project has been addressing the unique challenges faced by communities residing in remote areas. The complex political landscape – with its armed militias and ethnic conflict – creates an environment of fear and mistrust. With many people effectively stateless due to their unrecognized citizenship status in the face of an ethnically discriminatory military government, many people end up lacking access to basic services such as healthcare.

After visiting six villages facing such circumstances, ADRA came to understand the nature of the problem. With approximately 50 households each, these communities face economic hardships, relying on bartering within very small networks for survival. Civil conflict has led to a high dropout rate among children, leaving them vulnerable to military recruitment and human trafficking.

In this context, the BRIGHT project focuses on empowering girls, challenging traditional norms, and creating structures that protect children from the volatile environment. BRIGHT established an Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) to help children who had been forced to drop out of school (or never had a school to attend) to gain essential life skills and knowledge. The two-year ALP compresses primary education topics into the first year and offers choices for further development and training in the second.

At the same time, BRIGHT creates opportunities beyond the classroom for whole communities to contribute to group thriving. Schools require teachers and must be paid, housed, and fed. ADRA’s development work incentivizes the communities around BRIGHT schools to contribute to the well-being of teachers, providing for their basic needs like food. This, in turn, promotes the growth and development of the children being served in the schools.

As the community becomes more internally self-supporting, it becomes more viable for recently graduated project participants to remain in their communities with their higher education and skills and become positive contributors.

Agriculture and Food Security

Meanwhile, with funding from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC), ADRA Canada is able to tackle issues of food insecurity in comprehensive ways. ADRA’s development programs ensure the availability and accessibility of nutritious food for communities around the world. The programs range from organic farming to permaculture. They revolve around boosting productivity, sustainable agriculture, and effective resource management.

Compassion In Action

The result is unmistakable: in communities plagued by food insecurity, violence, gender inequality, and low rates of education, we begin to see sustainable agriculture practices feeding teachers and students, who go on to become the architects of new norms. People with newly developed skill sets feel empowered to contribute to their communities, and grassroots organizations interface with local governments to foster greater cooperation between people. Women and children are protected, men and boys are educated as champions against violence, and people become more active participants in promoting their own health.

This year, ADRA Canada sees International Development Week as a chance to celebrate how good projects like BRIGHT and TOGETHER and NATURE+ help people in challenging circumstances become agents of change. With the help of our generous supporters, we help people around the world put compassion into action.