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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!

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.

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.

DONATE TODAY

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.