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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Answering the challenges of life in South Sudan



In June of 2014 we wrote about how challenging life is in communities throughout South Sudan, Africa's newest nation.

Assisting these communities by helping them access clean water, build schools, and provide for their basic needs, is especially important amidst the conflict and uncertainty that is present South Sudan.

HOPE International Development Agency is continuing to work with families and communities in South Sudan's Ibba Diocese, helping them access education for their children, clean water for all, seeds for growing healthy vegetables, and information about basic hygiene and sanitation practices that prevent disease.

Despite 2014 being a difficult year for people throughout South Sudan, it was an exciting time for the more than 400 families who live in and around the small community of Maroko, 16 kilometers west of the center of Ibba Diocese.

Life got a little bit easier for families in Maroko as they experienced the success that comes from having clean water and access to education for their children.

In April, families in Maroko rejoiced as clean water flowed from a borehole they drilled. One mother described the feeling best when she said, “We have been praying for clean water and we thank God because now we have it”. The community of Maroko, recognizing the importance of managing their new opportunity, formed a committee that is responsible for the management of their new resource. They have also learned how to maintain the well and its surroundings.

Following the completion of the community well, construction of a 4-classroom primary school began in earnest for the children of Maroko, and in September, the first students stepped through the door into their new classrooms.

There are 87 girls and 92 boys registered at the school the community named “Maroko Kpiapai (Model) Primary School”. A Parent-Teacher Association, formed when the school opened, works to support the two teachers, administer the school, and ensure that children receive a quality education.

In addition to being incredibly enthused about their children’s education, families offer whatever they can through “in-kind” support to help with the maintenance of the school and borehole. They may not have much money, but they give whatever they can to ensure their children’s future is one that includes clean water and education.

Though the journey to self-reliance will be a long one for the people of Maroko, the steps they have taken in this last year are evidence that they will make it!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Changing the way we think about poverty

A common misperception about poverty is that bad choices create poverty. But what if the exact opposite is true? What if bad choices are the result of poverty, not the cause?

In recent weeks, we’ve looked at the difficult choices poverty imposes on impoverished families. We’ve seen how hunger and malnutrition can damage both the body and mind. Most recently, we learned about how poverty affects decision-making, motivation, and hope.

In this final post on poverty and choices, we delve a little bit deeper into the relationship between poverty and decision-making.

A recent study, published in the journal Science by Mani et al., found that poverty impedes people’s ability to think.

The study revealed that poverty doesn’t necessarily make people less intelligent. But it does negatively impact their ability to think effectively. In other words, when people are consumed by challenges brought about by poverty, they are left with fewer mental resources to make good choices and this, in turn, leads to bad choices.

So how does this knowledge influence how we view and help the global poor? As author Matthew Yglesias succinctly puts it, “one of the best way to help the poor help themselves… is to simply make them less poor”. This is precisely the approach HOPE International Development Agency takes throughout the world. What we’ve found to be true in our work with families trapped in poverty is supported by sound research.

Gaining access to capital – even just a little – can be truly life changing. A joint-study, done by Columbia University, the German Institute for Economic Research, and the Inter-American Development Bank found that simply increasing the poor’s financial resources led to better decision-making, greater skills acquisition, and increased savings over the long term.

Strikingly, the study also found that once the poor accessed more income they actually worked more hours (nearly 20% more), not less, debunking another common misperception about the causes of poverty – that the poor are poor because they are unmotivated to work.

Indeed, money itself is the gateway to better economic opportunity. This is why HOPE International Development Agency is committed to improving economic opportunities for the world’s most vulnerable people in some of the most remote parts of the world.

As we see it, the poorest of the poor are deserving of the opportunity to improve themselves, and each person trapped in poverty deserves to have hope.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The role of local knowledge in eliminating hunger and malnutrition

In an earlier post, we talked about “hidden hunger” and the devastating impact it has on more than 2 billion people worldwide.

Today we look at the role local knowledge, passed down through many generations, can play in reducing malnutrition and the importance of not being too quick to replace local knowledge with new knowledge in some cases.

In 40 years of working with the world’s poorest people and their communities, we’ve learned that the best approach is to look for opportunities to partner local knowledge with new knowledge in the effort to eliminate hunger.

One example of the power of local knowledge is the Enset plant, or "false banana" as it’s known among communities in Bonke, southern Ethiopia.

The Enset plant been around as long as anyone can remember. In fact, it’s mentioned as far back as 1640, when a Portuguese priest called Enset the “tree against hunger” because of its drought resilience and long shelf life.

This odd looking plant (shown in the photo above) can survive lengthy periods of drought, protect the soil from erosion during heavy rains and floods, and once processed, it can be stored, underground for at least 1-year without decaying. To those without the benefit of local knowledge the Enset plant looks like a banana plant without the bananas. The stalk of the plant is the food and is a staple in the diet of most families in Bonke. The presence of the Enset plant is not by chance either. Families have been cultivating it for generations, and as a result, it’s abundant throughout the Bonke region.

Agricultural specialists recently studied the nutritional value of Enset plant and found that pregnant women with Enset-based diets have higher levels of vitamin B-12 and zinc, both of which protect against certain pregnancy complications, than women who have corn-based diets.

An Enset-based diet is obviously not a total solution to the nutritional deficiencies that families face in Bonke, but it is an important reminder that helping families reduce hunger and malnutrition requires listening to their ideas and building on their knowledge.

Families in Bonke might not know what vitamin B-12 and zinc are and the important role they play in keeping pregnant women and their yet-to-be-born children healthy, but generation after generation have passed down the knowledge of the Enset plant and benefited from its nutritional value.

HOPE International Development Agency approaches families and communities with respect and openness to “new to us” ideas - ideas that have shown their value in reducing poverty.

In this case, it’s about the merits of the Enset plant, or "false banana". A plant that seemingly bears no fruit, but in reality is an important food and nutrient source to families in Bonke.

So, while we provide nutritional education and encourage families to diversify their diet by adding backyard gardens full of fruits and vegetables, we are always sure not to discount the local indigenous knowledge of the families and communities that we partner with in an effort to free people from poverty, and in this case, hunger and malnutrition.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The long hard journey to recovery in Haiti


When a massive earthquake destroyed the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince five years ago, it triggered a series of events still causing suffering today.

In the hours, days, and weeks following the earthquake, thousands of survivors fled to the mountains surrounding Port-au-Prince in search of safety, food, and shelter.

Families living in the mountains before the disaster were already struggling to survive. Immediately following the disaster, they were overwhelmed as the population of their area grew by nearly 30 percent. Today, as survivors continue returning to their home communities, the families and communities they leave behind find themselves without adequate supplies of food. In fact, they have fallen into an even deeper level of poverty.

These families have become a living reminder of the terrible consequences of such an enormous disaster and the devastating impact it continues to have even today.

Nearly 90 percent of Haiti’s children continue to suffer from preventable diseases. Close to 80 percent of the country’s families remain forced to survive on less than $2 a day. Chronic hunger is one of the biggest challenges families face today and it is preventing them from moving forward.

Our work alongside the poorest of the poor in Haiti began well before the earthquake of 2010, and continues today. You can help a Haitian family lift themselves out of poverty and finally put the horrific disaster behind them.

It costs $600 to provide a vegetable garden irrigation kit, as well as a variety of vegetable seeds, garden tools, and the training families need in order to grow nutritious food throughout the year.

If you'd like to contribute toward the cost of helping Haitian families you can donate online or call us toll-free at 1-866-525-4673.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Poverty's profound impact on decisions

Recently, the Economist published a piece on the theory of behavioural economics – a field of study designed to explore how socio-economic status shapes basic behaviours and decision-making processes.

According to the 2015 World Development Report, published by the World Bank, research is now showing that poverty influences economic decisions in a way that can be detrimental to a person’s well-being.

It has been found that the poor are more likely to make decisions that could be perceived as irrational or illogical, not because they are foolish or careless, but because of the various challenges that come along with poverty that limit their ability to make choices that might otherwise improve their situation.

In this third post in our series exploring choices and poverty, the World Bank report and the Economist article are among a new and growing body of literature that is helping shed light on the key factors influencing the impossible decisions that people in the developing world make on a daily basis.

Over the years, HOPE International Development Agency has seen, first-hand, how systemic poverty – such as the lack of resources like roads, food, schools, work – alters how people experience their own poverty and this in turn shapes their behaviours and attitudes in managing their situation.

Because everyone experiences poverty differently, HOPE International Development Agency works with individuals and their families to provide them with the resources they need to help them help themselves out of poverty. These resources include things like tools and equipment, training and education, advice and psycho-social support.

In this way, we are working to build communities that are made up of strong and resilient people who, in the face of adversity, are enabled to make sound decisions and take positive steps towards their own well-being. Our goal is always to equip and empower the poor in ways that ultimately change the decision-making paradigm, leading to real and long-lasting transformation.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Increase your impact and reduce your cost of giving in the final days of 2014


Increase your impact among the world's poorest families and reduce your cost of giving by as much as 40 - 50%.

As 2014 draws to a close we want to take this opportunity to thank you for your support this year.

We also want to remind you that you have just a few days left this year to reduce your cost of giving by as much as 40 - 50% through the income tax savings your gift creates.

Many donors make their end-of-year gift one of their most generous, increasing their impact among the poor and making full use of the final tax-saving opportunity of the year.

To claim your donation on your 2014 income tax, please ensure you make your online donation on or before December 31, 2014. If you choose to mail-in your donation, make sure to date and mail (post mark) your donation on or before December 31, 2014.

Donate Online
Make your online donation on or before December 31, 2014.

DONATE ONLINE TODAY

By Mail
Date and mail (post mark) your donation on or before December 31, 2014. Please indicate what your gift is for on your cheque. Our mailing address is:

HOPE International Development Agency
214 Sixth Street
New Westminster, BC  V3L 3A2

By Phone
Call us toll-free on or before December 31, 2014 at 1-866-525-4673.

Learn more about HOPE International Development Agency

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Ending hunger in Kunduz, Afghanistan

Last week we discussed the hunger families in Afghanistan face. This week, the story continues as we share the renewed hope that families are finding as they gain the capacity to store grain in their villages.

In Afghanistan, families are forced sell their produce at harvest time because they no way of storing the harvest – the worst time of year to sell because demand for grain is low and the supply is abundant. As a result, families receive little for their hard work and are only able to set aside a small amount of grain for themselves until the harvest the following year.

As autumn gives way to winter, families hand-grind their wheat, making flour, which will be carefully rationed out until spring. Ironically, it’s in the spring, when the next crop is planted and growing, that families experience hunger at its worst. They’ve planted the last of their grain and the flour has run out. Or maybe worse, they ate their grain, driven by hunger, and now had nothing left to plant.

Ending hunger among the families in Kunduz, Afghanistan

Initially, HOPE International Development Agency assisted hungry families by providing emergency grain supplies, both for eating and planting.

After ensuring that families had enough to eat and were able to grow a reasonable harvest, we helped them form a committee responsible for building up and managing a community grain supply. The next step was to help them build simple storage buildings to store the grain after each harvest.

The grain storage buildings made it possible for families to safely store their harvests and avoid having to sell a portion of the harvest when prices were at their lowest.

Families now have food all winter long, and if needed, can borrow grain for planting in the spring. Excess grain is now sold at a good market price in the spring when it is in high demand. But most importantly, families and their communities have a reliable source of grain throughout the year.

All of this means that families are building up their supply of grain and food. They are rebuilding their health and today, always have enough to eat. With their nutritional needs met, families are building healthy lives, strong and resilient livelihoods, and contributing to improving the local economy.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The consequences of hunger - a closer look

In a recent post we highlighted the devastating consequences of hunger and what’s being done to ensure the world’s poorest families have enough to eat.

In this, the first of two posts, we explore how hunger affects families in one of the most rugged places on earth - Afghanistan.

Hunger is a major problem for families living in the rugged region of Afghanistan’s Kunduz province. Families go hungry regularly and suffer from chronic undernourishment. In fact, 59 percent of children under the age of five are well below the norm in terms of height and weight.

The most striking physical feature of Kunduz, particularly, the village of Jeloucha where HOPE International Development Agency has been helping families for nearly a decade, is what you don’t see when you cast your gaze to the river that borders one side of the village and the mountains that rise up behind the village.

There are no trees, no grasslands, and no vegetation, not even at the foot of the steep, barren mountains that tower over the village. Deforested decades ago during times of conflict, nothing has grown back.

The only way in and out of the Jeloucha is via roads best described as goat trails. These trails connect the people of the village to other villages and markets for buying or selling a bit of wheat, a few melons, or perhaps a small cow. Wintertime is especially challenging and bleak.

The most striking thing about the people Jeloucha is what decades of adversity has done to them. There’s been little opportunity to replant forests or rebuild crumbling infrastructure. Put differently, there’s been no incentive to do so when the only life they have known has been chronically unstable.

Living in a place like Canada, surrounded by abundance, especially during the Christmas season, it’s nearly impossible to imagine what it must be like to live in a village like Jeloucha.

Over the years, families in Jeloucha have sold nearly everything they own in an effort to survive and many are simply out of options. Meager harvests have made the situation even worse, especially in the winter, when it’s not uncommon for families to eat only one small meal per day because they’re dangerously low on food.

HOPE International Development Agency is working to overcome chronic hunger by providing food in lean times and helping rebuild grain stocks and establish food grain banks in an effort to help families grow more food throughout the year. As a result, families who were once downtrodden and overwhelmed by the constant struggle to survive are now finding hope.

Next week we will share more about what hope looks like for families who are doing everything they can order to ensure that they have enough food to eat throughout the year.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A greater challenge begins to emerge in the aftermath of Typhoon Hagupit


Dec 11, 2014 - Meeting the immediate needs of families in the aftermath of Typhoon Hagupit, a massive storm that slammed into the Philippines this past weekend, is challenging.

An equal or perhaps even greater challenge, however, will be helping families rebuild their lives as the recovery process begins in earnest this week and in the coming weeks.

Nearly a million people are returning to their homes, uncertain of what they will find.

Many families had their homes damaged and livelihood activities severely disrupted and need to get back to earning income as quickly as possible.

In addition, families who were in the process of harvesting crops may have lost a portion or all of their harvest because of the disaster.

Families who were beginning to plant crops need to repair their fields and get back to planting their next harvest.

HOPE International Development Agency is helping storm-affected families get back on their feet and we need your help – because recovery, for families who endured the storm, begins with your donation.

Donate Today


Monday, December 8, 2014

The Philippines - Recovery efforts need to begin immediately as nearly 1 million people return to their homes after Typhoon Hagupit


Dec 8, 2014 - The situation in battered communities throughout the Philippines this week remains uncertain in the aftermath of Typhoon Hagupit, a massive storm that lashed the country on the weekend.

Amidst the uncertainty, one thing, however, is certain - families who braved the storm’s 180 kilometer per hour wind gusts and 600 millimeters of rain need our help as soon as possible. Our colleagues are on the ground in the storm-affected areas and are already assessing the damage and offering assistance.

Recovery efforts need to begin right away. Homes have been damaged or destroyed and many families have lost their food supply for the coming weeks.

Donations to HOPE International Development Agency will provide direct support for families in the aftermath of the storm, helping them recover as quickly as possible.

The storm, the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane here at home, has dealt a cruel blow to families in its path, especially those who were still struggling to recover from last year’s killer storm, Typhoon Haiyan.

Still traumatized by the destruction and loss of life caused by Typhoon Haiyan last year, nearly 1 million people fled their homes, seeking shelter and safe places.

The 1 million people making their way home this week do not know what awaits them – this is especially sad as Christmas approaches.

We are working to ensure that hope awaits their return and help is readily available.

Recovery, for families affected by the storm, begins with your gift.

Donate Today


Thursday, December 4, 2014

No electronic gizmos or big screen TVs - just gifts that transform lives in the poorest places on earth

None of the latest electronic gadgets or large flat screen TVs appear in this catalogue – just huge opportunities to transform lives.

Every gift inside this year’s HOPE International Development Agency GIFTS OF HOPE Christmas Catalogue has the power to help lift people out of poverty.

As little as $60 gives shelter, food, clothing, and much more, including an education, to a child in Ethiopia orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

Education kits give children everything they need to be successful in learning.

Desks, for rural classrooms, give children a place to do their schoolwork.

Chickens, pigs, and sheep give families a way of becoming self-sufficient and healthy.

Training, tools, and seeds provide a way for families to become self-reliant.

Clean water reduces disease and enables families to focus on improving their lives rather than constantly searching for water.

You'll find all of this, plus more, in HOPE International Development Agency’s 2014 Gifts of Hope Christmas giving catalogue.

Give as many gifts as you wish. You can even give gifts on behalf of loved ones, friends, or co-workers. We'll send them a personal note, telling them about the gift and the give

Browse this year's Gifts of Hope giving catalogue.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Hidden hunger" a major problem in developing countries despite gains made in reducing hunger


Great strides have been made in reducing hunger in the developing world over the past 2 decades, according to the 2014 Global Hunger Index (GHI).

The state of hunger in developing countries, as a group, has fallen by 39 percent since 1990. Yet despite this progress, 805 million people are still chronically undernourished because they don’t get enough to eat.

Equally important, but harder to measure because it goes beyond simply counting calories, is the fact that a staggering 2 billion people within the 120 developing countries measured in the GHI consume so few essential vitamins and minerals from the food they eat that they are undernourished, even though they consume enough calories per day to be considered free from hunger.

This type of undernourishment, referred to as “hidden hunger”, is an aspect of hunger often overlooked. The impact of hidden hunger on the poor is devastating. It weakens the immune system, impedes physical and intellectual growth, and often leads to death.

Eating the right food is as important as having enough to eat

In the developing countries where HOPE International Development Agency partners with families and communities, both hunger and hidden hunger must be addressed if families are to have any hope of moving beyond poverty.

Helping families and communities grow more food is just one part of the solution. Helping them grow the right kind of food - those rich in the essential vitamins and minerals people need in order to avoid chronic undernourishment - is equally important. One without the other simply leads to full stomachs but chronically undernourished bodies.

Ensuring families are free from hunger and undernourishment

Eliminating hunger and undernourishment is part of every effort made to help families lift themselves out of poverty.

For example, when working with communities to provide reliable sources of clean water, health education is also provided, ensuring that families, particularly mothers, know the kinds of foods that provide a high level of nutrition.

In addition to health education, families are provided with the training and resources needed to grow nutritious food in their home gardens made possible by having access to water, rather than just calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods.

Helping the 805 million and the hidden 2 billion

Regardless of the initiative, every HOPE International Development Agency partnership with communities and families in the developing world works to address hunger, both the obvious kind and the hidden kind, in an effort to help families become self-sufficient and healthy.