It all started with Darius Coulibaly, a Vanderbilt University graduate, from the villages of Tongon, Gaba, Olibroubouo, and Benguebougou, in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, who founded Empowering The Poor, Inc in December 2007. Darius was born and raised in a poor and rural environment in northern and southern Côte d’Ivoire, where he witnessed poverty firsthand. Darius grew up without electricity, clean and running water, health centers, and indoor plumbing. Like millions of boys and girls in impoverished and rural Sub Saharan Africa, Darius walked long distances to fetch water, wood, farm, and go to school. He witnessed firsthand children, women, and men dying from preventable and curable diseases like yellow fever, malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, etc. By God’s grace, Darius survived several episodes of malaria, infectious diseases, and two near-death experiences due to illness. As a youngster, Darius witnessed firsthand children dying in the powerless hands of their parents. Darius discovered his lifelong purpose at age 12 when his mom and other adults could not answer his questions about poverty and social injustice. For example, the 12-year-old Darius wanted to know why poor people cannot have access to a pre-K12 education, toilets, running water, medicines, health clinics, electricity? Why poor children have to die so young and pregnant women have to die while delivering God’s most precious gift, a baby? The lack of answers increased his frustrations with poverty and prompted him to dedicate his life to combat poverty in Africa and wherever it exists. After he graduated from Vanderbilt University, Darius started Empowering The Poor, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, to tackle the root causes of poverty and not its symptoms.
In the first 10 years of its young existence, Empowering The Poor made a few mistakes. We got involved in multiple programs and projects despite our limited funds and resources because we were driven by passion and compassion. As a result, we did not make a lasting impact in the village of Princes Town, Ghana where we delivered bed nets to combat malaria, a literacy program in the town of Korhogo that lasted one (1) year (2009-2010) due to limited funds, a health clinic in the village of Tongon in 2009 that lasted 11 months, Project Health Clinic in Leogane in 2010, Haiti after the earthquake in March 2010 where we delivered 5 suitcases of medical supplies to a health clinic to treat people injured and displaced by the deadly earthquake. Although we are proud of the changes we fostered in the lives of a few thousands of economically disadvantaged people in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Haiti, we recognized our shortcomings. We have learned from our mistakes and have changed our approach and focus. We have become more methodical in our approach and are driven by scientific evidence only. We live in the communities or villages we serve, we learn from local populations, we collect and analyze real-time data, we learn their way of life and thinking, we respect their culture, and we work together to build and evaluate culturally tailored need-based programs and projects. Inspired and guided by the principles of Ubuntu, an African philosophy and ethics, we empower local populations. We focus on the root causes of poverty rather than treating its symptoms.