The Concept: The Daniel Plan

The core of The Daniel Plan programme is building small health communities around the five pillars of Friendship, Faith, Fitness, Focus (mind health) and Food. The strap line for the programme is ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’ or TEAM. Small groups of between 2 and 8 people come together once a week for six weeks.

They hold themselves accountable for one another and encourage and support each other. Together they learn from others in a friendly and supportive home environment. Relationships can enhance healing and wholeness, as people who have gone through The Daniel Plan testify.

The Daniel Plan was initially put together by Pastor Rick Warren – author of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ – and three doctors. In 2011 it was rolled out in Saddleback Church in Southern California. It has now been re-worked by a number of experts from a range of health areas, incorporating lessons that have been learnt over the last two years. It will be launched in South Africa at the start of 2014.

There is a series of six DVD talks by Rick Warren and health practitioners who are also skilled communicators. The science and faith aspects of health and wellness are well researched and grounded in practice. The DVD comes with a book on ‘The Daniel Plan’ and a series of videos and worksheets, published by Zondervan.

Group counselling is as good as individual counselling. It is less expensive (note #1) because as trained counsellor can facilitate more than one person. Black people in South Africa have a strong sense of community (ubuntu), so weddings and funerals are very important community events. At a funeral, an ox is slaughtered and people come from near and far to attend. The family will often get into debt rather than not honour their family and friends, and the person who has passed away. I am sure this programme will work very well in South Africa, but we will probably need to alter some of the content for the local situation.

The Current Situation in South Africa: Needs and Challenges

1)    HIV and TB
HIV and TB represent the biggest health challenge in South Africa. These are lifestyle diseases, and community efforts and education offer a much more effective way forward than the current ineffective plan of thinking that encouraging condom use will bring about a change. About 12{be6871294f3f29402c95d74738919e0f5649a19f08275ffafda9af1392636fa3} of a population of over 50 million have been infected with HIV. Over 35{be6871294f3f29402c95d74738919e0f5649a19f08275ffafda9af1392636fa3} of mothers who are first-time patients at anti-natal clinics are HIV positive and there is a risk that they will pass the infection on to their new-born children.  But the condom message has been well advertised and effectively promoted, so much so that for many couples the concept of faithfulness has been replaced by the lie of ‘condomise’. This does not build a stable and healthy community. In my view, the condom message is not only killing people with HIV, it is destroying relationships and fuelling domestic violence.  HIV could have been eradicated if the proven effective strategy of encouraging faithfulness and abstinence had been followed. The Pretoria Daniel Plan can, I believe, contribute to the reversing of the trend of promiscuity and growth of HIV. For those who have HIV the most effective way to prevent the disease from taking hold of a person’s body and developing into AIDS is to live a lifestyle that is balance, honest and outwardly focused.  The Daniel plan will lead to these aspects of life.

2)    Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol
These medical conditions are often referred to as ‘life-style’ diseases, and in some communities they have reached epidemic levels. Sedentary life-styles, cheap carbohydrates and stress are probably the main reasons for the growth of these medical problems. The Daniel Plan has such life-style diseases as one of its main priorities.

3)    Trauma
Sexual and domestic violence, crime, road rage and motor accidents – often caused by the abuse of alcohol – are responsible for emergency services being overloaded. On a personal note: I had two younger brothers, Craig and Simon.  Craig died in 1998 at the age of 43. Five years later, Simon aged 44 died. Both died in car accidents and in both cases alcohol was at least partly to blame. The Head of Emergency at a large State hospital told me how often she would find a couple comforting each other in the emergency room about the massive injuries they has inflicted on each other only a few hours earlier. Building community, learning to relate, overcoming addiction and dealing with stress are almost certainly going to be some of the spinoffs of the Daniel Plan.

4)    Rising Costs and Crumbling Health Services
It is my perception that across the world the cost of health care is growing faster than inflation. It is true in the UK, the USA and South Africa. Health care professionals I have come across agree that education and self-care needs to have a much higher priority. The Daniel Plan will address in a real way for all those who go through the program. Our health sector is in serious trouble and the Daniel Plan offers a viable way to teach and inspire community members to self care.

The Focus Area: Pretoria

plan Daniel focus area

The city is known as Jacaranda City, because of the trees that line the streets and flower in October and November each year. It is the seat of government, and the Union Buildings is a dominant feature overlooking the city.

All the main government departments, such as health and education, are in Pretoria, which also has numerous embassies and consulates. The University of Pretoria has an excellent reputation for research and

teaching, and a large medical faculty for the training of students from all over Africa. Also in this city is the University of South Africa, one of the Mega Universities in the world and the largest open distance-learning institution in Africa. It offers tertiary education to several hundred thousand students from Africa and the world. There are many excellent schools and colleges in Pretoria. I spent 10 years at boarding schools in Pretoria from age 9-19 – now over 40 years ago. 

It makes sense that we focus on Pretoria to roll out The Daniel Plan. Local newspapers like The Pretoria News and the various editions of the Record, as well as a number of local radio stations are almost certain to get behind the Daniel Plan because it offers real hope and will build community. Hope and Community are precious realities that people in the city will be excited to invest their time and energy in.

Pretoria has 7 regions and each region has on average 15 political wards. There are a total of 103 wards, each with a paid Counsellor and Social Worker. There are a number of medical and social services that are well resourced and have a good structure. We need to be wise and socially and politically astute to tap into the local, provincial and state resources and structures. This I see as one of the most important strategic challenges The Daniel Plan faces in Pretoria.

Diversity, Religion, Faith, Economic status, Language and Culture

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Often religion does seem to divide people: even Christian groups are often divided, as are Muslims and Jews from each other. While we would encourage faith (it is one of the pillars of The Daniel Plan) we want to find an understanding of religion that will unite us. James 1:27 (note #2) contains a definition that I think many people can unite around. It says that true religion is taking care of those who are vulnerable, such as widows and orphans, and keeping oneself pure. It is also summarized by the injunction: “Love you neighbour as you love yourself.”  We could take as a strap line Rick Warren words: “The only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve.”

I hope the Pretoria Daniel Plan can bridge the divisions of religion, economic status and culture. The wealthy predominately live in the east of Pretoria. In contrast, there are many poor people living in shacks, mostly far from the CBD. There are some areas that are reasonably culturally homogenous, such as the large community of Asians who live in and around Laudium and others where they are mixed. Part of my vision for Pretoria Daniel Plan is to have people from diverse communities to become friends.

(note #1) Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom and Molyn Leszcz
(note #2) Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.