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Thursday, October 23, 2014

From arms to farms in Kauswagan, Philippines


  Creating a harvest of hope, one family at a time.
People living in places like Kauswagan, on the Philippine island of Mindanao, have suffered for decades.

Conflict, economic disparity and social strife, rather than peace and productivity, have been the defining features of the area which has a wide range of religions, cultures, and value systems.

Despite efforts to build peace in the area, conflict prevailed. When HOPE International Development Agency first asked how we could help, the common response was, “We can’t eat peace training”. A completely understandable response when you consider that nearly 80% of the people in the area lived in poverty and were constantly hungry because of conflict and instability.

To have peace basic needs have to be met

In 2010, HOPE International Development Agency began supporting peace through an integrated program that addresses the basic needs of families through a partnership focused on providing them with access to clean water and agricultural training while working with communities to understand and address the roots of conflict.

  Laying water pipe that will carry clean water to the community.

  Tilling the soil and growing food rather than participating in conflict.



Laying down weapons and picking up farm tools

At the same time, and as part of its transformation from conflict to peace, Kauswagan implemented an “arms to farms” program that provided opportunities for people involved in armed conflict to participate in a new way of life centered on farming rather than fighting.

The local government committed itself to creating and implementing initiatives relevant to the needs of everyone in the area, including those involved in conflict.

As a result, and over a period of time, nine rebel commanders and more than 100 of their men laid down their weapons, picked up farm tools, and embraced organic farming.

Finding a way to trust and prosper together

Years of distrust and skepticism were slowly set aside and today, former rebels are busy planting crops, raising livestock, and managing fish ponds that produce fish for the area.

The increase in the number of farmers in Kauswagan and the corresponding reduction in conflict, has helped reduce the poverty rate in the area from nearly 80 per cent to just below 48 per cent. A remarkable transformation!

Peace is well worth the effort

Bringing peace to areas like Kauswagan, where poverty and conflict have caused decades of suffering, is not easy to achieve. Addressing basic needs can be an important part of increasing trust and cooperation and decreasing conflict.

The effort and long-term commitment are well worth it when the result is peace and a significant reduction in poverty.

In fact, the results are so profound that Kauswagan is often visited by officials from other areas who want to discover how to bring peace and promote development in their areas.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Being thankful is a way of life for Sujon and his family

Family, friendship, and thankfulness, that’s what Canadians had an opportunity to experience this past Thanksgiving weekend.

Here at home, being thankful is most often reserved for days like Thanksgiving, but for Sujon and his family, being thankful is a daily occurrence in their home in southern Bangladesh.

Sujon was just 4-years-old when his mother left him, his two brothers, and father. Living in a constant state of extreme poverty was simply too much for Sujon’s mother.

In the years that followed, Sujon and his family continued to languish in poverty.

Despite his best efforts, Sujon’s father, a 3-wheel cart puller, struggled to earn enough income to keep his family fed and housed. The situation became so desperate that Sujon and his two brothers had to quit school and become day labourers.

One day, when Sujon was looking for daily labour work, he heard about HOPE International Development Agency and a program that provides small, ultra-low interest loans to help families, like his, improve their lives.

Within minutes of hearing of the exciting news Sujon ran off to find his father to tell him about the loan program. A short while later Sujon’s father applied for a small loan, and with the money he received he was able to buy a 3-wheel cart of his own and also begin cultivating rice.

Years have passed since Sujon’s father received the first small loan that began to transform his family from poor to self-reliant.

Today, Sujon is 17-years-old and much has changed. His father’s business continues to thrive, as it has for years. Sujon recently passed his high school exam and is preparing to continue his education at the next level and his brothers have achieved as well.

“My family is thankful for the support we received from HOPE International Development Agency. It made it possible for us to start a new life,” says Sujon, who hopes that other families can get the same kind of help that his family received so many years ago.

Nearly 40 Thanksgiving Days have passed since HOPE International Development Agency began helping the world’s poorest families, like Sujon’s, transform their lives, and we are thankful every day for each person who has received the help they needed.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Koshale is now a place of hope because of clean water

Our 6-part series about clean water in Koshale, Ethiopia, concludes with Werkinshe’s story.

Before clean water was available in the community of Koshale, women, including pregnant women like Werkinshe, who was 9-months pregnant at the time of this story, trekked up to 5-hours a day in search of water.

A dangerous journey
Their journey took them through dusty valleys and up incredibly steep paths best described as rock-strewn goat trails. The footing on the hillside trails was treacherous at best, especially in the rainy season.

Women, including expectant mothers, have been injured when they lost their footing in the muck and slippery rock that cover the trails during the seasonal rains. If a pregnant woman fell down the hillside there could be dire consequences for her unborn child.

A potentially tragic outcome
For expectant mothers, surviving the daily trek in search of clean water was only half of the battle. Giving birth in a community without enough water, let alone clean water, could be deadly for mother and child.

Clean water protects and nurtures life
The arrival of clean water in Koshale, via pipes that bring the water from a protected spring in the hills surrounding the community, means that women, including expectant mothers, can gather water from community taps, mere minutes from their homes.

The treacherous trek through the hills is no longer necessary. Women, especially expectant mothers, no longer worry about being injured or dying during the trek. Mother and baby survival rates have increased dramatically in Koshale as a result of clean water being readily available right in the community.



Werkinshe (shown above) and her baby will be among the first to benefit from having clean water near her home in Koshale. She will not have to worry that her baby will be infected with parasites when born because the community health worker will have plenty of clean, safe water on hand. And if more is needed, it’s just minutes away.

A new focus for Koshale
Having clean water available in Koshale is enabling families to transform their lives. Diseases that used to be brought to the community by contaminated water gathered from filthy ponds and streambeds in the hills, is no longer a threat.

Time, formerly spent gathering water, is now invested in growing more food, educating children, and improving life in the community. The worry, caused by not having clean water readily available, is gone and has been replaced by hope.

A child from Koshale summed it up best when she said, “We have no more sickness from water. Clean water is new life to us!”

What a rich reward to see these children healthy and happy. While this ends our series on Koshale, we know it is just the beginning for families in the community.

Read previous posts in this series:
Proper sanitation ensures that gains made in Koshale are not lost
Securing more than just a future with clean water
Being in one place makes all the difference
A place to call home
Changing lives in Koshale
http://www.hope-international.blogspot.ca/2014/09/proper-sanitation-ensures-that-gains.html

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Typhoon Haiyan is long gone, but the devastation remains for millions of people in the Philippines



When Typhoon Haiyan departed the Philippines 11 months ago it left 16 million people devastated and 6,000 dead.

Today, the effects of Haiyan are still very present. Millions of Filipinos continue to struggle as they attempt to rebuild their lives after losing everything.

People like Nancy (shown above) and her husband Efren, parents of two young children, are among the families we are helping.

Nancy remembers the killer storm all too well.

“Our house just flew away,” recalls Nancy. “We were clinging to each other and praying that the storm would subside soon! It was like being inside a washing machine,” says Nancy, remembering the terror of having no way to escape the vicious storm.

Winds, gusting as high as 300 kilometers per hour, combined with torrential rain, and flash floods choked with debris, destroyed everything in storm’s path.

“At first we panicked. Then fear set in when we realized that nothing remained but the soaked, torn clothes on our backs. Within hours our children were hungry and this continued for days. We ate anything we could scavenge,” recalls Nancy.

The task is massive. Families, like Nancy and Efren’s, need to rebuild the homes, food supply, and livelihoods taken by the storm.

What’s Been Done
We began helping survivors the moment the storm left the Philippines. More than 58 tonnes of rice, 90,000 cans of sardines, tonnes of clean water, and emergency shelter kits have been provided, helping care for nearly 10,000 people in the months following the disaster.

What’s Happening Now
Our help continues today and will do so until as many families as possible have rebuilt their lives. In the coming months alone, we will be helping more than 6,000 families rebuild their homes, food supply, and livelihoods.

HOPE International Development Agency is providing housing repair kits that will enable families to repair their modest homes or, where needed, build new, sturdy homes.

Seeds, tools, and the training needed to create family vegetable gardens that will help families regain their food self-sufficiency are also being provided.

In addition, small, seaworthy fishing boats that will be shared by 3 families are being provided in order to help families rebuild their livelihoods.

During the killer storm Nancy and Efren prayed that they would survive.

Today, they, and other families not yet helped, are praying that a compassionate person will help them rebuild their lives and become self-reliant again.

Help a family in the Philippines as they struggle to recover from Typhoon Haiyan.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A field of possibilities

The transforming power of water, seeds, and farm animals is clearly evident among the poorest families of Cambodia’s Pursat Province. Water quenches thirst. Seeds grow into food. Farm animals provide labour and food.

But there’s another, equally transforming benefit of having clean water, seeds, and farm animals - freedom from fear and worry.

Nara and his wife Chek used to live in a state of fear and worry. Providing for their 6 children, as well as Nara’s mother and older sister, was always a struggle.

The family of 10, all of whom live under one roof in the village of Kab Korlanh in Pursat Province, did the best they could to grow enough rice to eat. Yet despite their effort, the 1.2 hectares of land they own only managed to yield around 2,000 kg of rice per year.

After selling about three quarters of their harvest to pay back loans they took in order buy seeds, fertilizer, food, other items for their farm, they would end up with only enough rice to last 4 months. This meant 8 months of hard times where there was never enough to eat.

To make up the shortage, Nara, Chek, and Nara’s mother and sister would work as day labourers, planting and harvesting rice in the fields of other farmers. The small income they managed to earn, however, was never enough. Nara and Chek would be forced to take yet another loan just to make sure no one in the family went hungry.

Today, however, it’s a completely different story.

Nara and his family no longer live in a state of fear and worry. Their precarious situation has been replaced with freedom from fear and worry – all because of the support they received from friends of HOPE International Development Agency who gave to transform the lives of Nara and his family.

Through this support Nara and his family learned new techniques for growing rice. They also gained access to a variety of rice seed that can be planted up to three times per year as opposed to once per year when using the rice seed that is traditionally used in the area.

The family’s first harvest this year yielded 4,000 kg of rice, more than double what they managed to harvest in the entire previous year. This year alone, they’ll plant and harvest a total of three times, rather than just once.

Nara and Chek are overjoyed at their success. They know that their entire family will have more than enough to eat. Today, Nara doesn’t worry that his children will not have enough to eat. The happiness and pride he feels as a father able to provide for his family is so profound that he has a hard time putting it into words.

The benefits of gaining access to training and better rice seed don’t end with simply having enough to eat.

The extra income Nara and Chek now earn as a result of selling excess rice from their three harvests has enabled them to buy a bicycle for their children, giving them a more reliable and much safer way to get to school. For Nara, it’s not so much the bicycle itself, but rather, the fact that he and Chek can now afford to improve the lives of their children. Being able to get to school means that the children will have a chance at a much better life than Nara and Chek experienced when they were children.

All of this has resulted in Nara and Chek no longer living in fear and worry.

All it took to transform their lives was some training and a new variety of rice seed. This family of 10 people now has a new outlook on life and the 6 children are excited, rather than fearful, about their future as an entirely different set of possibilities have begun to sprout.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Proper sanitation ensures that the gains made in Koshale by having clean water are not lost

Over the past few weeks we’ve been sharing stories of how clean water transforms lives in Koshale, including how having access to clean water, right in a community, increases personal safety for women and children, improves health, and makes it possible to grow more food.

Yet all of these dramatic improvements can be put at risk if proper sanitation is not present.

Potentially deadly diseases, eradicated at the original water source by protecting it from contamination from people and animals, can show up in the community, not at the water tap, but everywhere else because of uninformed sanitation practices.

At first glance you’d think it would be easy for people to change these practices. But just think of how uncomfortable it can be for you to use a public washroom stall in a shopping mall and you can get a sense of how challenging it can be to encourage community members to use walled pit latrines, rather than type of personal privacy they’re used to in the great outdoors.

Walled pit latrines – our equivalent would be a toilet in a bathroom – make it possible to safely manage human waste.

Without proper sanitation facilities and practices, the gains made by having access to clean water can be quickly reduced or erased.

Next to clean water, proper sanitation, or the use of pit latrines, is one of the biggest factors in improving the health of families in rural communities.

It’s not the most glamorous aspect of what we do in communities in Ethiopia, but it’s incredibly important. Why? Not only is it awkward and smelly to accidentally walk into something another person has left behind, open defecation is also a huge public health challenge. It can expose people to diseases such as polio, giardiasis, hepatitis A and infectious diarrhoea.

Families in Koshale are learning about the importance of proper personal sanitation, including hand-washing, and the construction and use of walled pit latrines. Ethiopian staff visit with communities and individual families, teaching them how to prevent the occurrence or spread of diseases related to improper sanitation practices that can harm and kill.

In Koshale, reducing open defecation is not about spending money to build fancy toilets like we would expect in a public place or our homes. It’s about changing behaviours. It is not always easy to change the way you have been doing something all your life, but staff are persistent in helping families understand why it is important and how it is done.

Something we take for granted, and frankly many of us still do not do, like washing our hands before preparing food, or after using the washroom, are concepts that families in Koshale have never been exposed to.

But once families learn about the importance of proper sanitation, and know what to do, they exchange their old habits for healthier habits, construct their owned walled pit latrines, keep them clean, and even create small washing stations just outside the latrine.

Now, instead of feeling ashamed and embarrassed about bodily functions and trying to search for a private place in the great outdoors every time they need to relieve themselves, mothers, fathers and children use the latrines.

When we visit families they often proudly show off their latrines. And we are so honoured to help them show off because we can see evidence of how the change they have made has positively impacted their health!

Read previous posts in this series:
Securing more than just a future with clean water
Being in one place makes all the difference
A place to call home
Changing lives in Koshale

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Securing more than just a future with clean water

Clean water dramatically changes people’s lives.

This is especially true for women and children whose daily physical burden is greatly reduced by not having to fetch water located far from their village.

Clean water also improves the health of vital livestock, enhances household farming activities, and provides a center-point around which families can build their communities and have hope for the future.

For women and children in Koshale, the community wash-basin has become a symbol of safety, security, and a place to socialize.

Prior to having water available right in their communities, women and children traveled to isolated water sources to fetch water. Sometimes they were alone, in the early or late hours of the day, gathering water or completing household chores such as laundry and washing. Unfortunately, they were always vulnerable to a number of threats to their own personal security.

These threats included attacks by dangerous wild animals, unexpected environmental changes such as storms or flash floods, and victimization from people outside of their protective community groups.

Today, with the installation of a cement wash basin in Koshale, women and children are able to complete their household tasks safely and securely, within steps of their homes. The basin has become a place where women and children gather together to work, converse, and support one another.

Beyond having clean water and a safe place to congregate and do household chores, there are other ways in which a sense of increased security continues to thrive in Koshale.


HOPE International Development Agency has ensured that the community is protected from future hardship by providing a large water reservoir that guarantees fresh, clean, safe drinking water for the entire community even in the event that all other sources run dry due to drought.

Clean water does so much more than alleviate thirst – it has the power to protect entire communities, especially women and children, from the threat of violence and insecurity. Clean water represents health, safety, and hope.

Please stay tuned for the final installment of this five-part series on the changes happening in Koshale because your support and the gift of clean water.

Read previous posts in this series:
Being in one place makes all the difference
A place to call home
Changing lives in Koshale

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Freedom from poverty in Moneragala, Sri Lanka

  Siriyawathie and husband with their cows.


Families in Moneragala, Sri Lanka, are among the poorest in the country. Yet the soil beneath their feet and the surrounding environment are considered resource-rich.

We’re helping families in Moneragala learn how to use the resources around them in a way that transforms their lives and sustains their environment.

Siriyawathie, a 40-year old Sri Lankan mother of two children, is a wonderful example of the kind of transformation that takes place when people are able to learn how to use the resources around them.

Siriyawathie faced the same hunger, sickness, and lack of opportunity currently being experienced by families in Moneragala. But the difference is she received the help she needed.

Today, Siriyawathie is a leader in her community, and a role model for other families who aspire to be free from poverty.

The training Siriyawathie received in bookkeeping and farming, along with a modest low-interest loan, enabled her family to establish a small, but highly productive organic farm. The produce, harvested throughout the year, is in high demand, earning the family $50 per month in additional income. Seeds from her farm are freely shared with other families in her community, enabling them to avoid the high cost of buying seeds. Her children, currently in grades 11 and 13, are excelling in school.

In short, life is very good!

The same transformation will happen to families in Moneragala when they receive the help they so desperately need and we’re hoping that you’ll be able to help today.

Learn more about how you can help with a gift today.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Being in one place makes all the difference

Bordele and his wife inside their vegetable garden.


Last week, we shared how Mazegbo and her family have been able to permanently settle in their community and no longer need to migrate in search of water for their cattle.

This week, we are sharing another positive outcome associated with being able to settle in one place and have clean water.

Being in one place, in one community, with a reliable source of clean water, has enabled families like Bordele’s to cultivate crops and plant a vegetable garden.

Before, when water was not close by, it was impossible to grow a crops or vegetables. There simply was not enough water for cultivation and growing during the dry season. On top of this, the family could not count on being around all the time as they would often have to migrate to care for their cattle.

Today, with a garden and some crops already planted, families in Koshale, like Bordele’s, are growing and harvesting many different vegetables and grains. This means people have a greater variety in their diet and are much healthier. It also means families do not have to buy their vegetables from the local market, which they could rarely afford. Now, Bordele and his family often have enough harvest to sell for some extra cash to pay for medical or educational expenses.

The work of planting crops and tending a vegetable garden is not always easy, but Bordele and his wife are grateful for training they have received from our local staff and the opportunity they have to cultivate a better life for themselves and their children.

We are excited about the changes in Koshale that have resulted from bringing clean water to the community. Stay tuned

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.