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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A place to call home

Last week we brought you the story of Mazegbo, a mother who used to trek up to five hours a day to fetch her family’s drinking and cooking water from a muddy river bank.

Today, Mazegbo has safe, clean water within steps from her home and it has made a world of difference for her and her family – they are healthier, happier, and more prosperous because of this gift of clean water.

But the story doesn’t really end there.

Before HOPE International Development Agency’s support, Mazegbo and her neighbours, all of whom are cattle herders, lived a semi-nomadic life.  During the dry season they moved from place to place in search of water and nutrient-rich grasses to sustain their animals. When the little water and grasses they could find were depleted, they moved on. Unfortunately for Mazegbo and the other families, every dry season a large number of cows – their most valuable asset – died from dehydration. The death of a cow was always a heartbreaking loss to these families, both emotionally and financially.

Since the clean water began flowing from the new water system in Koshale, families are healthier and so are their livelihoods. Their cows and other animals are thriving and families have been able to settle in the village.

“No more cattle death! At any moment when the family needs money we just exchange with goats. I have no words to talk how my family and the entire community is satisfied with the support of HOPE International Development Agency’s good work,” says Mazegbo.

One water system, from a single, protected water spring, now supplies clean water to the entire village of Koshale. For the first time in their lives, Mazegbo and the other cattle herders of the area have established roots in one place. They no longer have to fear the oncoming dry season and what sorrow it will bring. Because of clean water, easily accessible in their village, their children have a home and a community to grow up in.

Clean water, especially in Koshale, Ethiopia, truly is life. Along with the gift of water flow changes that are much greater and deeper than the eye can see. It nourishes people, it sustains communities, and it revitalizes landscapes.

Stayed tuned for next week’s post as we continue to explore all the spectacular changes happening in Koshale and we see how Mazegbo and the other villagers are using clean water to transform their lives.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Changing lives in Koshale, Ethiopia, with a nearby source of clean water

Last year, we partnered with the people of Koshale, Ethiopia, to build a water system. Today, thousands of families living in this extremely rural and difficult to access location have clean water to drink.

Recently, local HOPE International Development Agency staff visited the village of Koshale to see how things are going and how families are doing.

Once again, mothers have attested to the positive changes they continue to see in their lives and their families, and we want to share these stories with you.

Mazegbo's previous source of water - a muddy river bank.
For Mazegbo, a nearby source of clean water means that she has reclaimed at least five hours per day which she can spend on activities other than walking to fetch water.

Before the water system was built, Mazegbo would carry at least 20kg of water she had collected from a shallow hole in the sand on the river bank. The walk home would take about two and a half hours as she laboured up steep, rocky trails back to her home.

"For 38 years I traveled five hours a day to fetch water for my family, but now I have water point in my neighborhood", says  Mazegbo, who is now able to use her new found time in the garden, growing vegetables for her family, as well as on other activities around her home. Mazegbo no longer worries about the water making her children sick. She knows the water is clean and safe for her family.

Mazegbo's new source of clean water - a tap (water point) right in her village.
We have written about the impact that a clean, nearby source of water has on families often, and will continue to do so in the future, because it never ceases to raise profound stories from mothers, children, and fathers that are benefiting.

In the next few weeks we are excited to explore with you a few of the myriad of ways lives are being changed. We will look into some nooks and crannies of how these women, men, and children express the changes they are making and seeing in their lives.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The strongest people we know

The kind of strength we see among the families we work with in the world’s poorest communities is not characterized by blazing speed or the ability to lift, carry, push, pull, or throw the heaviest of objects. Nor is it glamorized or rewarded with medals, trophies, and parades. The kind of strength we see is the kind that can bring even the mentally strongest and athletically gifted here at home to tears.

The strength we see is the kind that enables a mother to walk 4-hours a day, in what would be unbearable conditions for us, to find and gather water for her thirsty children. It is the strength that drives her to work from dawn to dusk to grow the few vegetables she will feed to her children, knowing there she will most likely go hungry. It is the strength that makes it possible for her to lift, carry, push, or throw well beyond her physical stature in order to provide for her family, even though her back-breaking labor produces less than $1.50 per day. It is the strength to wake up every day and do what must be done in order to care for the ones she loves, even though she is suffering from a debilitating illness.

These are the strong people HOPE International Development Agency connects to and works with every day. We work with people who, despite being in their darkest days, are eager and motivated to do better for themselves and their families – all they need is a little help and a little hope.

For nearly four decades, we have worked with strong people who despite their impoverished circumstance, find a way. It is grandmothers who find a way to become sole providers for their grandchildren as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic having taken their grandchildren’s parents. It is rural indigenous youth who find a way to succeed academically and become leaders in their communities. It is communities that find a way to build, with your help, their own wells, clinics, schools, and cooperatives.

You will never find this kind of strength gracing the cover of a magazine, but you will find it in the hearts and minds of the families and communities we are so privileged to work with because of the support people like you provide.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

You do not always know how profound your support can be for families in need

It was three years ago when the United Nations estimated that 50,000 people in Mynamar, a small country in Southeast Asia, were displaced due to conflict between the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Myanmar government.

Ever since, HOPE international Development Agency has been working to provide life-saving support to internally displaced people living in an informal camp in Kachin state.

Recently, we met with one of our female staff that had just visited a camp of families displaced by conflict in Myanmar. With great emotion she tearfully recalled how dramatically our support has positively impacted these families. She described how when violence broke out between the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Myanmar government, families did not know what to do or where to go to flee the violence. So they withdrew to the borderlands of Myanmar, literally a stone's throw from China.

Unfortunately, these families did not realize that by fleeing into KIO territory, larger international organizations that usually provide support in refugee camps were not able to access the area to provide any relief support. So for many, many months, families languished in the camps with no outside support. They had fled from their homes empty handed, and when they arrived at a place that felt safer than where they left, there was no help: no shelter, no food rations, no water.

It was a tragedy, and when we heard about the situation, we responded. We knew that our support was relatively small in comparison to the great need, but we also knew that we could not stand by as these displaced families suffered.

What we did not know at the time was that our support served as a catalyst for other international organizations to also move in and support these families. Since then, many other organizations saw that it was possible to access the area where these families are, and are now also providing life saving food, shelter, water, and latrines.

Listening to our colleague, we were reminded that we do not always know how profoundly our support will impact mothers and their children who have fled from violence. No matter how many emergencies that families are facing all around the world, we know that we will continue to provide whatever support we can. And when that support is able to somehow make it possible for others to help these families as well, we are profoundly humbled and moved knowing that somehow what we did helped reach more than we ever hoped or imagined.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

South Sudan is slipping towards famine - millions of people are at risk right now

A massive crisis is happening in South Sudan, yet it remains largely unnoticed as international news remains focused on the turmoil in Gaza and Ukraine.

South Sudan, Africa’s newest nation, is on the brink of famine, the likes of which has not been seen since the 1984 famine in Ethiopia which killed hundreds of thousands of people and left millions destitute.

A desperate situation
  • Nearly 1 million people on the move in search of food and safety
  • In total, nearly 5.3 million people are in crisis right now
  • Prices for food that can be found have soared by 135%
  • Nearly 1 in 3 children under the age of 5 are abnormally small
The Ibba region, where we’ve been helping families displaced by the crisis, remains a safe haven. But the food shortage is becoming more acute every day. We urgently need to increase our efforts to save lives.

You can save lives right now

An emergency gift from you today of just $65 will provide 1 person with food for three months, until the next harvest. A very generous gift of $390 will ensure an entire family survives.

Your gift today also helps provide seeds families can plant right away and harvest in December, ensuring that they will have enough to eat in December and into the New Year.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Growing hope, one garden at a time

The season of barbecues, bike riding, and farmer’s markets is upon us. As I peruse the bountiful selection of brilliantly coloured produce and take in the delicious aromas of freshly baked home-style breads and artisan cheeses, with which I will fill the basket on my treasured two-wheeled speedster for tonight’s family feast, I’m left with a deep sense of gratitude and wonder. How amazing it is to have all we need, and more, come straight from the earth that surrounds us. Here at home,, summer is truly a time to be thankful.

But for millions of farmers in communities far less fortunate than mine, the harvest season is full of apprehension. If you are a farming family, it’s the time of year that decides how well (or not) your family will live in the coming months. If you are a family without a vegetable garden or farm, the season has little to offer other than a continuation of the chronic hunger you live with all year long.

Unlike here at home, in many of the communities where HOPE International Development Agency works, the link between the harvest and life is unmistakable and unforgiving. A good harvest means a better tomorrow. A bad harvest means hunger, illness, or worse.

The world’s poorest subsistence farmers have no safety net - they have no access to credit or insurance that will protect them and their families if their fields flood, their crops spoil, or the harvest fails.

The earth is a wonderful resource, and with the proper skills and support, even the poorest of the poor can thrive off of the earth’s bounty.

In South Africa, for example, a group of grandmothers, many of whom have become the primary caregivers to their grandchildren as a result of the devastating impact of AIDS, are proving hope is never lost when you are given the opportunity to support yourself and the ones you love.

These grannies are successfully using the tools and the training provided by HOPE International Development Agency to start their own gardens and provide for their families. And, it’s not just their families that are thriving. Their communities are too as a result of abundance of fresh and healthy vegetables for sale in their small local markets. In South Africa, hope grows among the lettuce and the bell peppers.

So the next time you find yourself at your local market preparing for that  family barbecue, please take a moment to reflect on what those rows of carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers mean to so many around the world. We are so fortunate and we have the ability to help others feel that way too – so why wouldn’t we?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Youth are breaking the cycle of conflict in Sri Lanka

More than 25 years of violent conflict in Sri Lanka ended in 2009, yet the country remains traumatized.

Ethnic tension, between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority persists, and sometimes it seems as if nothing has been learned through the trauma of decades of civil war.

It’s been 5-years since the brutal civil war ended, yet there are still few opportunities for the two groups to interact and forge a true and lasting peace that would benefit everyone, especially families whose villages were ravaged by the conflict.

Reconciliation between ethnic groups has fallen to the wayside as the country tackles the extensive rebuilding process. Yet if tensions are not adequately addressed, reducing animosity between ethnic groups becomes less and less feasible.

Communities have been profoundly impacted, in a negative way, by the discord between the Sinhalese and Tamil populations. The events and violence of the decades-long conflict are not easily undone or reconciled, as evidenced by the fact that a culture of violence is still very present.

Learning is an effective way to overcome the legacy of violence.

In the midst of the enduring hostility, there is an opportunity to foster unity among youth.

In Nuiwara Eliya, east of Colombo and about half-way across the island, HOPE International Development Agency is working with students to eradicate hatred and animosity among their ethnic groups and families.

Youth from all ethnic groups are participating. Opportunities for open and respectful discussion between students regarding ethnicity are woven into the process of helping young people learn basic skills that increase their employability, including languages, math, and practical skills such as sewing. Over the course of their education, youth are learning from each other and are connecting on a new level, the results of which are peace and understanding rather than conflict.

Young people are beginning to see humanity in each other, where before there was only hostility regarding their ethnicity. Timely, positive direction, as well as education, is enabling youth to be engaged in promoting non-violence, learning to work together, educating each other, and resisting cultural discourses that promote violence.

In meeting people’s practical needs we’re also meeting an equally important need - peace. 

Rebuilding Sri Lanka's social fabric continues to be a challenge. HOPE International Development Agency is committed to addressing the challenge of ethnic reconciliation and peace in whatever way we can.

In the face of a legacy of violence, our efforts sometimes feel like the proverbial drop in the bucket, yet what is a bucket of water but a multitude of drops?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Water is dangerous to get and drink in Pachalum, Guatemala

Gathering water is a stressful and dangerous endeavor in Antonia’s community of Pachalum, in Guatemala’s impoverished El Quiché region.

Antonia, a 40-year old mother of four young children, can attest to the danger, “I was carrying my full water barrel and slipped on a rock, breaking my leg and my barrel”.

Other mothers in Pachalum worry as well, and for good reason.

“My children drink contaminated water,” says 25-year old Rubidia, knowing that there’s literally nothing she can do about it or the skin infections caused by the water they gather.

Catarina, a 30-year old mother, experiences chronic back pain from carrying heavy water containers every morning, some of which can weigh as much as 10 to 20 kilograms when full. Her bigger concern, however, is that her children are constantly sick from drinking the contaminated water from their current water hole.

HOPE International Development Agency is helping Antonia, Rubidia, and Catrina gain access to safe drinking water.

When the water system is complete, the safe water will be piped right into Pachalum, saving mothers, and their children, a lot of time and stress.

Their new community water source will make it possible for mothers to cook without fear that they water they are using could harm their children. Their children will be able to drink the water without fear of getting sick. The children will also be able to bathe more than once a week, and never have to worry about getting skin infections, like the ones that scar their bodies now.

If you’d like to help Antonia, Rubidia, and Catarina, please donate what you can today.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Our resolve provides certainty for families in South Sudan whose world is very uncertain right now

Communities in South Sudan face great uncertainty as a much politicized conflict rages. Lives have been lost and catastrophe, in the form of a massive famine, looms.

Almost ten years ago, when a seemingly elusive peace finally took hold, HOPE International Development Agency began providing relief support, and shortly thereafter, started helping people rebuild their lives. We knew it would be challenging and we knew our resolve to help needed to be unwavering.

Today, our resolve still stands firm as we continue to help families in communities throughout rural Ibba, located near South Sudan’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

If we were to rely solely on international news to gain a picture of life in Ibba, our perception would be that everything has once again changed for the worst amidst the political conflict that has engulfed parts of South Sudan.

Yet we know, from colleagues working with families in Ibba, that life is not as dramatically affected by the bursts of conflict as we might expect or perceive based on the international news.

The biggest concern mothers and fathers are dealing with in Ibba is providing for their children in the face of a lack of potable water, repeated crop failures, unreliable rains, and occasional attacks from small, marauding militant groups that are only loosely, if at all, connected to the larger conflicts covered in the international news.

So what are we to make of all this?

For HOPE International Development Agency and our colleagues in Ibba, we continue to address the issues communities face. We know that the country is in turmoil, and we also know that these families have received little public attention. Their day-to-day struggle goes all but unnoticed as they continue to plant the few seeds they have and send their children to 'tree schools' in the hope of giving them a more promising future. Hundreds of children meet under trees and receive instruction from semi-literate community members who are doing their best to pass on and teach what they know.

Our focus continues to be helping one community at a time, enabling them to build proper schools for their children and drill water wells that provide clean water.

We know that it is not easy. The challenges faced by each community are daunting.

Yet we also know that we are helping change the lives, and futures, of children and adults, even in the face of uncertainty.

The evidence is in the notes of thanks we regularly receive from people in Ibba, who often say, “We have been praying for clean water. We thank God because we have it now. Thank you!”

So while the conflicts continue around the people of Ibba, we continue in our resolve to help families rebuild their lives, whatever may come.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

At the very least, now we know we can survive, somehow

Resiliency has become a bit of a buzz word these days in various forums as world leaders consider how to prepare for and address the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Resilience is the ability to spring back into shape after being bent, stretched or compressed; it is the capacity to withstand or recover quickly from challenging conditions.

In the Philippines, we are humbled when we see the personal resiliency of men, women, and families that have survived and lived through months of hardship and challenging circumstances.

Over 7 months ago, Super Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Typhoon Haiyan) hit the Philippines, affecting more the 16 million people. It was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history.

HOPE International Development Agency has been working alongside families in communities where no one else was helping; this started with food relief and helping to make emergency repairs on buildings such as schools.

Now, as the focus has shifted to rebuilding infrastructure, life is returning to a 'new normal'. Local staff are helping families create safe shelters, grow nutritious food, including eggplant, okra, tomatoes, peppers, squash, spinach, long beans, and corn.

HOPE International Development Agency is also helping families regain their livelihoods by helping fisherfolk whose boats and nets have been destroyed. This work will continue helping thousands of families take the next step towards regaining their self-reliance.

In the meantime, families have been sharing with local staff what the support provided has meant to them. This statement is simple and hopeful, yet also encapsulates the profound change in perspective regarding fragility, vulnerability, and most of all, a new sense of resiliency in the face of future adversity.

Reynaldo, a 55 year old, from Tacloban says:

“I have lost a family member and now I have felt somehow our life will never be going back to normalcy. But with the help of people like you, it felt good to have some semblance of hope.

At the very least, now we know we can survive, somehow.

Before I die, it is good to know that my family will have a roof on their heads.  We are starting to eat three meals a day again — just like what we had before.”

* HOPE International Development gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Government of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development towards the ongoing work in the Philippines.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mom Peng discovers the secret to happiness

In just one year, Mom Peng and her family have gone from hungry to happy and they owe much of their success to a tiny rice seed that defies the odds during Cambodia’s scorching dry season.

Before the arrival of this impressive little seed, Mom Peng and her family, along with every other family in her community, would go without rice for as many as 5 months. But that was only part of the problem. Despite the best efforts of families like Mom Peng’s, when the rice ran out the money ran out as well. With no rice to sell for income, families were forced to scavenge for food or trade their labor for meager bowls of rice too small to sustain their health.

In impoverished situations, a lack of money can be equally as deadly as a lack of food, as Mom Peng and her children found out when they couldn’t put together the small amount of money needed to take her husband to the hospital, which, in the end, cost him his life.

Fortunately, in 2013, Mom Peng received the training and practical support she needed in order to grow all the food her family needs. She also significantly increased her income.

Today, Mom Peng and her family grow 3 huge crops of rice every year rather than just one small crop. The rice that the family doesn’t eat or store for future use is sold at the local market, generating a much needed source of consistent income.

The family enjoys three nutritious meals every day – hunger is a thing of the past. The children are in school and have a much better life than Mom Peng experienced as a child. The family even has two bicycles and plans are in the works for improving the sturdiness and size of her modest home.

The family enjoys three nutritious meals every day – hunger is a thing of the past. The children are in school and have a much better life than Mom Peng experienced as a child. The family even has two bicycles and plans are in the works for improving the sturdiness and size of her modest home.

Unfortunately, right now, however, there are families in the villages of Bakan and Kab Krolang, Cambodia, who urgently need the same kind of help Mom Peng received.

If you would like to help a family put food on the table all year round and earn a sustainable income, you can give a gift that will help provide:

  • High-quality dry season rice seeds that require less water, mature quickly, and produce 2 to 3 times as much harvest
  • Training on how to maximize the productivity of rice fields, without harming the environment or the long-term sustainability of the rice harvests
  • The knowledge and support needed in order to earn much more income on a consistent and sustainable basis
  • A community “seed bank” for members of the community
  • Water pumps needed to irrigate the rice fields at certain times

Friday, May 30, 2014

New beginnings for farm families in Haiti

Historically, Haiti is a country rich in agriculture, but in recent years, natural disasters, soil erosion, droughts, and flooding have made life for farmers extremely difficult.

In just 15 years, Haiti has become one of the most food-insecure countries in the world.

Mother and farmer Jeannette Exarin knows what it means to live with chronic food shortages.

Jeannette and her four children live on a small piece of land she inherited from her grandparents. Of her four children, Jeanette can only afford to send one of her daughters to school. The other children stay home and work alongside their mother, trying to coax crops from the soil. Despite their best efforts, hardly anything grows.

In May of last year, however, life changed for Jeannette and her children when they joined a HOPE International Development Agency cooperative of more than 100 farming families.

The goal of the cooperative is to increase access to food, create sustainable and improved incomes for farmers, and provide ongoing access to quality, drought-resistant seeds.

Jeannette received seeds to grow nutritious vegetables such as carrots, Swiss chard, spinach, sweet corn, and beans. The seeds are drought resistant and have a much greater chance of surviving from planting to harvest. She also received agricultural training and tools for rehabilitating her land, making it much more fertile.

As a result, this season Jeannette and her children grew a bountiful harvest of vegetables and also earned more than $80 selling extra harvest at the market - money that she used to send her children to school, and buy 4 hens that now have 8 chicks each.

Jeanette and her family are an example of the transformation that happens when people come together around a common goal.

The farmers cooperatives, which range in size from 100 to 500 farmers not only provide physical support, they create a community where positive change takes place. They also enable farmers to exchange valuable information quickly, and provide a collective voice, rallying government for more investment in agriculture.