Bergnek ZA

Bergnek, South Africa has been selected to be among the first eight pilot sites of a new worldwide group of Mutual Aid Networks (MANs). The BIG challenges in the Bergnek Community are the total lack of access to Water, Food, Education, Employment and Health Services. This is having direct impact on both the current generations as well as the children who will be the next generation within the community.

Part of how My Arms Wide Open and the community are dealing with this is to set up a Mutual Aid Network so that the community can work to solve these problems sustainably, instead of just for a period of time. To this end, we have been approved to become a MAN pilot site. We are asking for your support to help us sustain these efforts for the long-term.

Our Story

Started in 2010 and formally organized as a Coop in 2010, the Bergnek Mutual Aid Network Pilot Site – in collaboration with My Arms Wide Open and Bergnek Community Projects – is a community development initiative to empower and support women and youth through sustainable business ventures. This initiative provides access to food, clean water, and reproductive health care for girls and women. It currently involves more than 300 people, mainly women, in the rural village of Bergnek in South Africa’s Northeast. Its newest effort is the creation of a health care center for community wellness and brick manufacturing to combat the unemployment in the community at a larger scale.

The affiliation with the worldwide Mutual Aid Network offers a unique opportunity to attract resources and share ideas with urban and rural innovators around the world. In addition to Bergnek, the first cohort of MAN pilot sites includes Allentown, Pennsylvania; Hull, U.K.; Lansing, Michigan; Madison, Wisconsin; Providence, Rhode Island; St. Louis, Missouri; and Waterville, Kansas.

The beauty of the Mutual Aid Network is that its focuses on social, spiritual, cultural, educational and economic assets instead of just “needs” and problems that divide us. We recognize that poverty, social isolation, ill health and injustice exist and the approach of a Mutual Aid Network is to harness the energy of participants so that individuals, families, organizations and the community can benefit.

MAN pilot programs range from community-owned groceries, restorative justice youth courts and wellness cooperatives to TimeBanks, where members share skills, talents and service with others who request them. Some programs focus on local foods and gardens. Others build networks around the arts, personal care or non-monetary exchanges.

What brings us together is the desire to test new ways to enhance the quality of life for everyone in a community. We want to learn and share what we learn.

Here in the Northeast of South Africa, the Bergnek MAN pilot site is already working with the community to provide a 2500-plant vertical garden that helps provide food to the underprivileged in the community. We also manufacture and supply reusable cloth sanitary pads, which are washable, last up to a year, are cost effective and environmentally friendly. This replaced the primitive alternatives, such as newspapers, cloth rags and banana leaves, which are both ineffective and unhygienic, leading to long term health risk, such as reproductive tract Infections, Toxic Shock Syndrome or cervical cancer. Research shows that girls miss up to 50 school days annually due to menstruation. In most rural communities, a shocking 300 million girls and women are under ‘house arrest’ monthly during menstruation. In regards to clean water, we have supplied and installed a diesel water pump that meets some of the water needs of the Bergnek community. We have collaborated with Engineers without Borders from the USA to install two bigger solar powered electrical pumps that will help in making sure we have sufficient water for the community.

Our newest effort is the creation of a health care center for community wellness and brick manufacturing to combat the unemployment in the community at a larger scale. We encourage anyone who shares our interests and wants to participate to contact us at Tel: (604) 601-8500, email:, web: No matter what your age or background, we welcome participation.


The funds we are raising will be used to:

  • Establish our WOMAN – $1,500
  • Establish of the Bergnek Time Bank – $1,000
  • Go towards the purchase and installation of technology – $4,000
  • Purchase and installation a reliable internet connection – $2,000
  • Training & education for local residents – $1,500

Help us support the children of Bergnek create the future they want for their Community

We are The MAN: Mutual Aid Networks

What would it look like if everyone were doing the work they loved; what they felt called to do?

What if everyone had the opportunity to build their skills to their maximum capabilities and then apply them to making their communities whole and beautiful?

Mutual Aid Networks are a new type of cooperative, designed to connect us in a network of mutual support that creates means for us to do exactly what we want to do with our lives, from solving hard problems to taking care of loved ones and neighbors to making art. We can be the Job Creators!

The aim of Mutual Aid Networks is to redesign how we work; to apply what we know about economic and community building tools to create a new vision for work. Instead of getting jobs so we can afford to live, we decide how we want to live and create community supports for each other to do what we want to do. We want everyone to become the inventors, freelancers, entrepreneurs, homemakers, artists, and caregivers they want to be, with some material security because we choose to provide that to each other.

Help support an economy that values, rewards, and catalyzes abundance

We are 1 of 8 pilot sites are currently forming MANs to:

  • Provide healthcare and wellness within the community (including disability inclusion) (Allentown, PA; Providence, RI; Waterville, KS; and Bergnek, South Africa)
  • Increase energy conservation and renewable energy production (Madison, WI; Lansing, Michigan)
  • Provide food security through locally and cooperatively owned and operated food production and preservation
  • (Allied Community Coop in Madison, Bergnek, South Africa; WI; Hull, UK; Waterville KS; and Lansing, MI)
  • Provide transportation to meet basic human needs, such as food and medical services
 (Allentown, PA and Madison, WI)
  • Re-engage disenfranchised segments of society (ex., youth, the homeless) through restorative justice youth courts led comprised of peers
 (Madison, WI; St. Louis, MO; and Hull, UK)