PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A Portland-based non-profit that helps communities around the world get power and clean water is celebrating its 25th year ensuring communities in need are self-sustaining.

Over the span of a quarter century, Green Empowerment has helped 500,000 people in 500 communities by building renewable energy and clean water systems.

The planning starts thousands of miles away at the Green Empowerment offices in Portland, Oregon.

Executive Director Andrea Johnson says many of the countries, like Nicaragua, were impacted by colonization and almost always the work was “top down” — with the engineers coming in to set up power grids or water systems, and then leaving.

While the non-profit provides funding and resources, it also works with people who are local to the areas that need the help.

“We believe these local leaders understand the culture, understand the politics…they know how to navigate things that, as foreigners, we wouldn’t know,” Johnson said.

The non-profit is changing the approach to humanitarian efforts — empowering these communities to be self-sustaining for years to come.

With many rural communities contacting Green Empowerment for help, the organization works in 10 countries.

“There just is so much more of this work to be done. And how do we continue to shift that decision making into the hands of local leaders, because we have evidence our approach works,” Johnson said.

Recently, Green Empowerment had an assessment done of projects they’ve completed between two and 10 years ago and found that 97% are still functional.