Success starts with a

Poverty can be overcome and researchers at the NWU have found a way to do it: the key is the LIFEPLAN® programme.


This programme was launched earlier this year to equip facilitators at non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community development organisations with skills that they can share with communities. This will help families to become self-sustainable and will address poverty and social issues head on.






The focus of the LIFEPLAN® launch was “A personal development journey – my journey, your journey, our journey”. Three workshops were held, followed by a webinar with esteemed speakers such as Prof Andrew Robinson, Prof Petra Bester, Prof Lanthe Kruger and Christelle Liversage.

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LIFEPLAN® restores dignity


Christi says that one of the most important results of the LIFEPLAN® programme is that it restores people’s dignity. “We have seen that with dignity comes confidence. This enables people to reach their full potential. It especially helps women to overcome social barriers and become successful entrepreneurs and responsible citizens.”


She explains that it is not always in the first generation where the effects of the programme such as LIFEPLAN® can be seen.


“As I said, it is all about the transfer of skills. These women share the skills with their spouses and children and we have seen that it is usually the next generation that especially reaps the benefits of the programme. This is exactly what LIFEPLAN® is all about: empowering families and communities now and bringing change for generations to come.”







How does LIFEPLAN® work?


The programme follows a path of core lecturing exercises and activities that build knowledge and promote interpersonal skills and trust through contact and sharing. It builds thinking and planning skills, motivation and commitment to action.


The programme activities are presentations, interactive sessions and discussions focusing on mobilising participants to participate and collaborate.



LIFEPLAN® is a holistic approach to personal development. This training and empowerment programme is the initiative of the Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research (AUTHeR) of the Faculty of Health Sciences.


Dr Christi Niesing, manager of the programme, says it addresses poverty among the most vulnerable through human development and training in life skills. LIFEPLAN® aims to improve communities’ and families’ wellbeing not only in terms of health and nutrition but also of choice. “It is one of the first successful transdisciplinary projects of AUTHeR and we are very proud of it.”


Researchers from various disciplines within AUTHeR have been part of the research. Their fields include nutrition, social work, psychology, physiology, nursing, consumer sciences, economics and technology.


“We at AUTHeR believe that true sustainability takes place when skills are transferred. This is exactly what happens during the programme.”


Christi says in August, 15 facilitators were trained and empowered with LIFEPLAN® to teach life-changing skills to communities in the North West Province. These facilitators are the central figures in enabling learning through interaction and participation.


Starting out


Christi explains that LIFEPLAN® was born out of the NWU’s Holding Hands project. This project provided women with the skills they need to generate their own income. It initially focused mainly on the spouses of farm workers.


“The assumption was that if a family has a better income, they could make better overall health and sustainability choices because they would be able to afford it.” Unfortunately, other factors such as the abuse of alcohol – which the household could now afford – came to the fore in some cases. “We realised that it was important that a skills development programme should be part of an income-generating programme to promote responsible citizenship.”


Development began in 2004 and the programme was introduced in 2008. This version was revised in 2012 and the newly adapted version was launched this year. The basis of LIFEPLAN®, a personal development journey, has stayed the same but the target groups have changed to include NGOs.


Participants have already started reaping the rewards. Christi says during the previous version of the programme a target group of 30 jobless people from the community of Ganspan in Jan Kempdorp were chosen to work for a temporary glass recycling project. After completing LIFEPLAN® and becoming part of the income-generating community project, 27 of these workers found formal employment.