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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Celebrating 40 years by telling the story that matters most.

Our story began 40 years ago when a few people here at home came together to find ways to help the world’s poorest families lift themselves out of poverty.

Our story, however, is not ours at all – it belongs to the poor.

The poorest of the poor author our story, and a new chapter is written every time a person or family becomes free from poverty.

Compassionate people here at home also author our story. It is their generosity that has enabled 20 million people to transform their lives over the past 40 years.

This year, as we celebrate 40 years and 20 million lives changed, we invite you to join us at one of our 2015 Film Premiere & Dinner events across Canada.

You will enjoy a wonderful meal, the company of friends, live music, silent and live auctions, and have an important opportunity to transform lives in Cambodia through your giving.

This year’s film, shot on location in Cambodia earlier in 2015, gives you an intimate glimpse into the lives of families living in rural Cambodia. You will also see the amazing work that is being done by these families to lift themselves out of poverty.

Look for events in your area this April and May and plan to join us as we celebrate 40 years and 20 million lives changed.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sasikala overcomes her disability and poverty!

When Sasikala permanently injured her left arm and leg she knew life was going to get even harder.

Sasikala’s first concern wasn’t for herself. She was used to hardship. War had torn through her small Sri Lankan community years earlier and her family lost everything when they fled the violence.

Her biggest fear was that she wouldn’t be able to care for her family like she had before her injury. Three young daughters and an ailing husband were depending on her, but her disability was making it almost impossible to earn even a little bit of income.

Yet amidst all the suffering and worry, Sasikala and her family found hope!

Sasikala joined a self-help group in her community. The group helped her overcome her disability by providing training, a small low-interest loan to purchase a few goats, and a connection to her community that’s restored her self-esteem.

Today, Sasikala continues to raise goats. There’s ample income from the sale of milk and meat, and even more to come as she expands her herd.

There’s food on the table, and money to care for her chronically ill husband and put her children through school.

You can enable people in Sri Lanka, just like Sasikala, overcome disabilities and become self-reliant. And when you do, you’re also helping the entire family of a person with a disability.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reducing Malnutrition in Honduras

Throughout Honduras, rural communities are deprived of food, water, and other basic needs. Families are vulnerable to malnutrition and a variety of illnesses.

In 2013, HOPE International Development Agency started working to improve the living conditions and health of people in Comayagua County, one of the most isolated and neglected communities in Honduras. A large majority of rural Hondurans lack the basic knowledge and know-how to protect and nourish their health.

A World Bank study shows that 10% of newborn babies in Honduras are underweight due to malnutrition, 50% of children between 2 and 6 months of age suffer from anemia, and 29% of Honduran children 5 years and younger have a slow growth rate.

HOPE International Development Agency began to working with families in Comayagua County to help lower these percentages and increase the overall health of their communities.

At the beginning of 2013, the program’s area of operation had a malnutrition index of 10%, but by the end of the year the overall malnutrition index was reduced to just 7% in the 248 communities where the program has been implemented.

Nelson, a young child from one of the communities of Comayagua County, exemplifies how a small amount of support can build up and empower families with knowledge and capacity that enables them to live healthy lives.

Nelson’s mother shares their story...

“My fifth son Nelson was born weighing 6lbs, 12oz. He was a beautiful baby.

Twelve days after his birth, I took Nelson to his first weight monitoring appointment with the HOPE program in my community.

I learned that my son had lost 1lb, 4oz. in just a few days. I told the health volunteer that I was not producing enough milk. The health volunteer taught me how to make soy milk and to add ferrous sulfate. I gave this to my son for a couple of months and he began to improve little by little.

But then I stopped the treatment. I didn’t know it was so serious that he wasn’t gaining more weight. When Nelson was 4 months old, he became constantly sick with diarrhea. I was told that he was extremely dehydrated and he was given an electrolyte solution from the medical volunteer team that HOPE brought to my community. I started treating Nelson with this solution and he became much better in a week’s time.

Today, Nelson is 13 months old and is at an adequate weight for his age. I am so happy to see him healthy and gaining weight!”

The story of Nelson and his mother shows how the poorest of the poor have the ability to care for themselves if they have the knowledge and support needed.

HOPE International Development Agency’s mandate is to build up people like Nelson and his mother and help them learn how to lead healthy lives.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Alex tells her story of hope from Cambodia

Since 1975, HOPE International Development Agency has been helping the world’s poorest people change their lives for the better. The generosity of donors has enabled us to touch the lives of 20 million people worldwide over the past 40 years.

Throughout much the organization’s history, HOPE International Development Agency has also been providing opportunities for Canadians of all ages to experience life in the developing world by participating in our Understanding Needs in Other Nations (UNION) volunteer program.

Last summer, Alex Taneda, a student at Walnut Grove Secondary School, travelled to Cambodia with a UNION team to gain greater insights into how poverty affects people in the developing world and see first-hand how small contributions – both financial and physical – can make a tremendous difference in people’s lives.

Alex documents her amazing experience in this short film that helps shine a light on the exciting work happening in Cambodia and the types of life-changing experiences that HOPE International Development Agency is helping create for Cambodians and Canadians alike.

HOPE International Development Agency has been working to improve the lives of people in rural Cambodia since 1979. As one of its flagship initiatives, it is only fitting that this year’s annual fundraising dinners, held across Canada, will showcase the organization’s history and work in Cambodia.

You can learn more about our work in Cambodia and help us celebrate 40 years and 20 million lives changed by joining us at one of our upcoming 2015 Film Premiere and Dinner events in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. Our first event is on Friday, April 17, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

For more information on UNION opportunities, or to join the next UNION team travelling to Cambodia from July 6 to July 24, 2015, please contact Rainbow Choi, UNION Program Manager, at or toll-free at 1 (866) 525-4673, ext. 20.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

40 years of helping the world's poorest families

“What is past is prologue.”
William Shakespeare, The Tempest

As we reflect on the past 40 years and what has been accomplished through the commitment of so many supporters of HOPE International Development Agency, we also reflect on who we are as an organization.

An obvious focus of our organization revolves around the attribute of hope - it’s in our name, after all.

Dr. Gordon Livingston, a psychiatrist who has studied human happiness for more than 30 years, says there are three things that make people happy: meaningful work, meaningful relationships, and a sense of hope for the future.

While the first two points seem relatively straightforward, we reflect the third. How do we find hope for the future?

Dr. Livingston points out that we must reflect on the past objectively, and not romanticize it with too much nostalgia. Nostalgia is the enemy of hope, tricking us to believe that our best days are gone. If we have a realistic perspective of history, recognizing both the triumphs and challenges, we open up possibility for change. We look forward to our best days being ahead, not behind.

What a poignant reminder for us as supporters, volunteers, and staff of HOPE International Development Agency. We do not forget what is behind. We value the lessons we have learned over the past 40 years.

No period in our history is superior to another. Each period of time unfolds with its own merits, as we struggle to help the poor in different unique contexts. We wrestle with the world we live in. And at the same time, we grow in our understanding of what helping the poor means as we continue to strive forward, looking to the possibilities of change for so many disadvantaged communities around the world and to the changes we experience ourselves as history unfolds.

What is past is prologue. Our past forms who we are today as the next story of extending compassion to the neglected poor unfolds.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A little encouragement and help goes a long way!

Farming families in the Ubangi region of Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo have been through a lot lately.

A difficult growing season, and fear caused by Ebola as it spread across West Africa, made life very difficult this past year. Yet despite the difficulties, the families thrived - growing nearly five times more corn than usual because of the training, tools, seeds, and other support they’ve received.

A recent event, however, has shaken their confidence. A catastrophic barge accident, caused by a massive windstorm, sent one-third of their hard-earned corn harvest to the bottom of the Congo River. Had the corn reached its destination it would have earned the families four times more than if sold locally.

You can help these families recover from their loss, increase the amount of corn they plant and harvest, and significantly increase their income this year.

A portion of your gift helps provide low interest loans, immediately after harvest, to cover the cost of transporting some of the corn to the big markets where it fetches four times as much money as it does at local markets. The corn that isn’t transported to the big markets is sold in local markets or kept for personal consumption, ensuring that the community and families benefit locally as well.

Growing and selling more corn, at a fair but higher price, is crucial to the success of families in Ubangi as they work their way out of poverty.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Grannies and Gardens: Taking steps to improve resiliency for victims of HIV/AIDS in South Africa

Today, approximately 35 million people are currently living with HIV worldwide. Since the 1980s, the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa has been at the heart of global development efforts.

Although prevalence rates have remained relatively stable since the early 2000s, at nearly 18%, South Africa has one of the highest prevalence rates in the world. What’s more, in the province of KwaZulu Natal, where HOPE International Development Agency has worked since 1981, the prevalence rate is dramatically higher. The most recent available data has assessed KwaZulu Natal’s HIV prevalence rate at 39% – double the national average.

The crisis in KwaZulu Natal is exacerbated by the fact that roughly half of the province’s 10.2 million inhabitants live in poverty. Lack of access to proper nutrition and healthcare increase the likelihood that those who are afflicted with HIV/AIDS will fall victim to complications associated with the disease.

Sadly, many who die leave children behind. These children are usually cared for by relatives, often elderly, who are themselves deeply impoverished and struggle to meet the children’s nutritional needs.

Over the past four years, our work in the province has taken the form of providing direct food aid for 40 vulnerable families headed by elderly women (“grannies”) with no other means to support the 120 orphaned children they care for.

In 2014, we helped these 40 grannies establish gardens in two communities in the township of Pietermaritzburg to significantly increase the fresh and nutritious food available to them and the orphaned children under their care.

Fresh spinach is now readily available and cabbage is a staple
With the support of their communities, grannies like Ma Thembi have begun gardening activities that are not only improving general health and nutrition, they are also increasing individual self-sufficiency and reducing community reliance on direct food aid.

Ma Thembi showing the successful lettuce harvest
Even the children are excited to help Ma Thembi in the garden
Through sustainable gardening activities, entire communities are now working alongside the needy, helping to reduce existing stigmas associated with poverty and HIV/AIDS.

In Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, communities are coming together to address both the physical and social needs of those most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Over the long-term, these important activities will lay a foundation for the empowerment, education, and transformation of these communities by increasing their independence and enhancing their resiliency against future hardships.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

40 years is cause for celebration!

We’re celebrating 40 years and 20 million lives changed and you’re invited!

Join us at one of our spring 2015 HOPE International Development Agency 40th Year Celebration Film Premiere & Dinner events in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.

You’ll enjoy a wonderful meal, the company of friends, live music, and an opportunity to transform lives in Cambodia through your giving.

This year’s film, shot on location in Cambodia, will give you an intimate glimpse into the lives of families living in rural Cambodia. You’ll also see the amazing work that's being done by Cambodia’s poorest families as they lift themselves out of poverty.

Look for events in your province this April and May and plan to join us as we celebrate 40 years and 20 million lives changed.

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.