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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.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hardship leads to harder choices in Cambodia

Huot (second from right) with her youngest son (right), her two daughters (immediate left and center), and two nieces (left) who came to help prepare the family garden. Missing: Huot’s husband and 2 sons.

For more than 20 years, HOPE International Development Agency has been working with families in Cambodia, enabling them to lift themselves out of poverty and become self-reliant.

In a previous post, “A Field of Possibilities”, we shared the story of Nara and Chek and their journey to freedom from poverty.

Today, we bring you Huot’s story as we continue a series focused on how poverty impacts families around the world.

Huot’s story demonstrates how poverty defines people’s choices, and that no choice, small or big, is ever easy when you are trapped in poverty.

Looking at the recent photo of Huot and her family (shown above) you would never know that poverty had once nearly tore them apart.

Today, thanks to friends of HOPE International Development Agency, Huot, her husband, and their five children are thriving. They have a well that provides them with clean water every day, and a lush vegetable garden that supplies them with nutrient-rich food to eat. They also earn additional income by selling surplus vegetables from their garden at the local market.

Yet just a year ago, life was completely different for Huot and her family. Poverty had them in its grasp.

Huot’s family. Due to a family debt, their eldest son (far left) worked for another family as a domestic helper.

Shortly before this photo was taken, Huot’s husband had fallen gravely ill. As a result, the family was forced to take out a loan to pay for his medical treatment.

At the time, Huot’s husband was supporting the entire family on his meagre wages as a day labourer. The income he earned was simply not enough to cover the debt, but nonetheless, the debt had to be paid.

Huot and her husband were left with a choice no parent would ever want to face.

As the eldest child, Huot’s son (shown on the far left in the above photo) would have to leave home to live with another family in another community, as a domestic helper to repay the family debt. In doing so, he was unable to attend school or see his family or friends. Huot’s family tried visiting her son when they could, but they were only allowed to see him sporadically and the trip was costly and difficult for everyone.

Thankfully, because of the support Huot and her family received from friends of HOPE International Development Agency, they no longer live in this devastating situation. Huot’s son has since returned home and the family has successfully paid off all of its debt.

Sadly, the situation Huot and her family found themselves in is not only heartbreaking, but far too common in the developing world. Families living in poverty are often torn apart.

When deeply impoverished families like Huot’s are faced with crisis – whether it be health-related like a sudden illness, accident, or death or environmental like a natural disaster, fire, or crop failure – choices are limited and painful. The savings or credit needed for families to manage unexpected events or emergencies simply do not exist because of the depths of poverty they face.

Situations of utter desperation, like the one Huot and her family faced, force many families into extortionate financial arrangements that leave them with insurmountable debt and unthinkable choices.

With the gift of clean water and agricultural training, Huot and her family received, they are now much healthier and happier. Huot’s son and his siblings are able to regularly attend school with their friends and are eager to learn so that they have a chance at a better future.

Most importantly, Huot’s family is self-sufficient and able to save some of the income they earn through their gardening activities so that they are better prepared should they ever be faced with another family emergency.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Poverty affects the mind as much as the body

New research from the International Food Policy Research Institute shows that people’s aspirations are closely tied to their present well-being. We need look no further than our own lives to know that this is true.

Our aspirations, or lack there of, influence the decisions we make on a daily basis, as well as those that shape our future.

If we constantly face extreme challenges, such as those faced by people who live in poverty, poor health, and uncertainty, it can be difficult to make good decisions, let alone seek out help or support, even if it is readily available.

The most vulnerable in our world – women, rural families, and those living in areas of instability caused by conflict or climate change – live in extremely challenging situations, and as a result, often believe that they have little control their own well-being.

In essence, poverty victimizes people not only in their daily lives, but in their minds as well, as it crushes any aspirations for a better life. Poverty is perpetuated when people lose hope.

Families, for example, often need help and encouragement in order to see the opportunities available to them. They need help with nurturing their hopes, dreams, and aspirations for a better future.

It is not that these families do not aspire to a better life, it just that after so many years of disappointment and hardship it can be hard to look beyond trying to find the next meal.

In Cambodia, HOPE International Development Agency seeks out families living on the margins of society, literally at the edge of the jungle, visiting them week after week in an effort to convince them that a better life is possible.

In Ethiopia, part of our work is to show families and community leaders that we are committed to them, and will help them envision a better life and then make it happen, together.

Helping families and communities aspire to be free from poverty is as important as the work of helping them gain access to clean water, grow more food, receive an education, improve their health, and generate a sustainable income.

The goal is to free people from poverty, both in their everyday lives and in their minds. A body free from poverty is a healthy body. A mind free from poverty is a mind that can aspire to a way of life that remains free from poverty.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Poverty forces people to make unthinkable choices

The impact of poverty throughout the developing world is devastating.

Families in countries like Bangladesh endure chronic hunger, illness, and homelessness, to name just a few of the obvious challenges people live with every day. And without the ability to break the cycle of poverty, generations of families have few options and even less hope as each year passes.

Over the next several weeks a new series of stories will explore a few of the less obvious, but equally devastating challenges faced by the families living in poverty. Many of whom are forced to make unthinkable choices they would never otherwise consider – all because of poverty.

We begin the series with Sujon. In a recent story, we learned how Sujon and his family became hopeful and optimistic about their future thanks to the support they received from friends of HOPE International Development Agency. The road that led them to this point, however, was not without its challenges and heartbreak.

Sujon’s heartbreak came on a sunny afternoon when he was 4-years old.

Today, 13-years later, Sujon still vividly remembers his mother saying to him, “Babu, I am going to buy apples for you.” At the time, he had no idea that these words were the last he would hear from his mother. She never returned – it was the last time he saw her.

The level of poverty and deprivation Sujon and his family lived in was simply too overwhelming for his mother and forced her to make an unthinkable decision – a decision she would never otherwise consider had it not been for poverty. Sujon’s mother felt that in order to survive she would have to leave her children and husband behind.

The impact of poverty is often obvious. But as you can see, what it does to a person’s heart and mind can be less obvious, yet equally devastating, as was the case with Sujon’s mother.

The entire situation was and is tragic. And although what happened to Sujon is rare, many families around the world lose a parent to the destructive forces of poverty.

When families live in extreme poverty, life is difficult beyond anything we can imagine. This is why HOPE International Development Agency works to enable families throughout the developing world to gain access to life-changing things like clean water, livelihood training, medical care, and education.

Having clean water, income, medical care, and an education make it possible for families facing unthinkable choices to make much better decisions than they would if poverty was not overwhelming their lives. They are able to make different decisions, together, with much better outcomes.

It is not possible to replace what Sujon and his family lost because of poverty, but it is possible to enable them to create a much better life for themselves – a life that is free from poverty and the unthinkable choices it forces.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gifts of Hope Christmas Catalogue brings joy to the giver and hope to the receiver!

HOPE International Development Agency’s Gifts of Hope Christmas giving catalogue is full of gifts that will lift people out of poverty.

Each gift in this year's catalogue will bring hope to people in great need and joy to you as you give.

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, 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

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