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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.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Our resolve provides certainty for families in South Sudan whose world is very uncertain right now

Communities in South Sudan face great uncertainty as a much politicized conflict rages. Lives have been lost and catastrophe, in the form of a massive famine, looms.

Almost ten years ago, when a seemingly elusive peace finally took hold, HOPE International Development Agency began providing relief support, and shortly thereafter, started helping people rebuild their lives. We knew it would be challenging and we knew our resolve to help needed to be unwavering.

Today, our resolve still stands firm as we continue to help families in communities throughout rural Ibba, located near South Sudan’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

If we were to rely solely on international news to gain a picture of life in Ibba, our perception would be that everything has once again changed for the worst amidst the political conflict that has engulfed parts of South Sudan.

Yet we know, from colleagues working with families in Ibba, that life is not as dramatically affected by the bursts of conflict as we might expect or perceive based on the international news.

The biggest concern mothers and fathers are dealing with in Ibba is providing for their children in the face of a lack of potable water, repeated crop failures, unreliable rains, and occasional attacks from small, marauding militant groups that are only loosely, if at all, connected to the larger conflicts covered in the international news.

So what are we to make of all this?

For HOPE International Development Agency and our colleagues in Ibba, we continue to address the issues communities face. We know that the country is in turmoil, and we also know that these families have received little public attention. Their day-to-day struggle goes all but unnoticed as they continue to plant the few seeds they have and send their children to 'tree schools' in the hope of giving them a more promising future. Hundreds of children meet under trees and receive instruction from semi-literate community members who are doing their best to pass on and teach what they know.

Our focus continues to be helping one community at a time, enabling them to build proper schools for their children and drill water wells that provide clean water.

We know that it is not easy. The challenges faced by each community are daunting.

Yet we also know that we are helping change the lives, and futures, of children and adults, even in the face of uncertainty.

The evidence is in the notes of thanks we regularly receive from people in Ibba, who often say, “We have been praying for clean water. We thank God because we have it now. Thank you!”

So while the conflicts continue around the people of Ibba, we continue in our resolve to help families rebuild their lives, whatever may come.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

At the very least, now we know we can survive, somehow

Resiliency has become a bit of a buzz word these days in various forums as world leaders consider how to prepare for and address the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Resilience is the ability to spring back into shape after being bent, stretched or compressed; it is the capacity to withstand or recover quickly from challenging conditions.

In the Philippines, we are humbled when we see the personal resiliency of men, women, and families that have survived and lived through months of hardship and challenging circumstances.

Over 7 months ago, Super Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Typhoon Haiyan) hit the Philippines, affecting more the 16 million people. It was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history.

HOPE International Development Agency has been working alongside families in communities where no one else was helping; this started with food relief and helping to make emergency repairs on buildings such as schools.

Now, as the focus has shifted to rebuilding infrastructure, life is returning to a 'new normal'. Local staff are helping families create safe shelters, grow nutritious food, including eggplant, okra, tomatoes, peppers, squash, spinach, long beans, and corn.

HOPE International Development Agency is also helping families regain their livelihoods by helping fisherfolk whose boats and nets have been destroyed. This work will continue helping thousands of families take the next step towards regaining their self-reliance.

In the meantime, families have been sharing with local staff what the support provided has meant to them. This statement is simple and hopeful, yet also encapsulates the profound change in perspective regarding fragility, vulnerability, and most of all, a new sense of resiliency in the face of future adversity.

Reynaldo, a 55 year old, from Tacloban says:

“I have lost a family member and now I have felt somehow our life will never be going back to normalcy. But with the help of people like you, it felt good to have some semblance of hope.

At the very least, now we know we can survive, somehow.

Before I die, it is good to know that my family will have a roof on their heads.  We are starting to eat three meals a day again — just like what we had before.”

* HOPE International Development gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Government of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development towards the ongoing work in the Philippines.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mom Peng discovers the secret to happiness

In just one year, Mom Peng and her family have gone from hungry to happy and they owe much of their success to a tiny rice seed that defies the odds during Cambodia’s scorching dry season.

Before the arrival of this impressive little seed, Mom Peng and her family, along with every other family in her community, would go without rice for as many as 5 months. But that was only part of the problem. Despite the best efforts of families like Mom Peng’s, when the rice ran out the money ran out as well. With no rice to sell for income, families were forced to scavenge for food or trade their labor for meager bowls of rice too small to sustain their health.

In impoverished situations, a lack of money can be equally as deadly as a lack of food, as Mom Peng and her children found out when they couldn’t put together the small amount of money needed to take her husband to the hospital, which, in the end, cost him his life.

Fortunately, in 2013, Mom Peng received the training and practical support she needed in order to grow all the food her family needs. She also significantly increased her income.

Today, Mom Peng and her family grow 3 huge crops of rice every year rather than just one small crop. The rice that the family doesn’t eat or store for future use is sold at the local market, generating a much needed source of consistent income.

The family enjoys three nutritious meals every day – hunger is a thing of the past. The children are in school and have a much better life than Mom Peng experienced as a child. The family even has two bicycles and plans are in the works for improving the sturdiness and size of her modest home.

The family enjoys three nutritious meals every day – hunger is a thing of the past. The children are in school and have a much better life than Mom Peng experienced as a child. The family even has two bicycles and plans are in the works for improving the sturdiness and size of her modest home.

Unfortunately, right now, however, there are families in the villages of Bakan and Kab Krolang, Cambodia, who urgently need the same kind of help Mom Peng received.

If you would like to help a family put food on the table all year round and earn a sustainable income, you can give a gift that will help provide:

  • High-quality dry season rice seeds that require less water, mature quickly, and produce 2 to 3 times as much harvest
  • Training on how to maximize the productivity of rice fields, without harming the environment or the long-term sustainability of the rice harvests
  • The knowledge and support needed in order to earn much more income on a consistent and sustainable basis
  • A community “seed bank” for members of the community
  • Water pumps needed to irrigate the rice fields at certain times

Friday, May 30, 2014

New beginnings for farm families in Haiti

Historically, Haiti is a country rich in agriculture, but in recent years, natural disasters, soil erosion, droughts, and flooding have made life for farmers extremely difficult.

In just 15 years, Haiti has become one of the most food-insecure countries in the world.

Mother and farmer Jeannette Exarin knows what it means to live with chronic food shortages.

Jeannette and her four children live on a small piece of land she inherited from her grandparents. Of her four children, Jeanette can only afford to send one of her daughters to school. The other children stay home and work alongside their mother, trying to coax crops from the soil. Despite their best efforts, hardly anything grows.

In May of last year, however, life changed for Jeannette and her children when they joined a HOPE International Development Agency cooperative of more than 100 farming families.

The goal of the cooperative is to increase access to food, create sustainable and improved incomes for farmers, and provide ongoing access to quality, drought-resistant seeds.

Jeannette received seeds to grow nutritious vegetables such as carrots, Swiss chard, spinach, sweet corn, and beans. The seeds are drought resistant and have a much greater chance of surviving from planting to harvest. She also received agricultural training and tools for rehabilitating her land, making it much more fertile.

As a result, this season Jeannette and her children grew a bountiful harvest of vegetables and also earned more than $80 selling extra harvest at the market - money that she used to send her children to school, and buy 4 hens that now have 8 chicks each.

Jeanette and her family are an example of the transformation that happens when people come together around a common goal.

The farmers cooperatives, which range in size from 100 to 500 farmers not only provide physical support, they create a community where positive change takes place. They also enable farmers to exchange valuable information quickly, and provide a collective voice, rallying government for more investment in agriculture.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What does it look like to have hope?

Last week we looked at what life would be if you lived like some of the world’s poorest people.

But how would life change if you had hope? This week, we take a glimpse at some of the things that would change.

One - your children would be able to get an education. Education means access to better work opportunities in the future.

Two - your family would have access to the health care that they desperately need to fight off the illness and disease that threaten them every day.

Three - your children would never have to drink water that was contaminated with bacteria. They would have clean water that wouldn’t take hours to fetch.

Four - your family would have a chance at a new life. A life free from poverty. A life filled with hope.

All of this is made possible by generous people like you and we thank you for over 39 years of bringing hope to people all over the world!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What would you do if you lived like 80% of the world’s population who manage to survive on less than $10 a day?

If you lived like the world’s poorest people, what would be your biggest struggles? How would you fare? Here is a brief glimpse into what your world would look like.

You wake up every morning as part of the 80% of humanity who somehow survive on less than $10 a day. More likely than not, you will earn a mere $2 for an entire day’s labor.

Living in abject poverty, literally at the bottom of it all, can have deadly consequences for your children - most of whom would likely be among the 27% of children in the developing world who grow up underweight. It is entirely possible that at least one of your children will be among the 22,000 children worldwide who perish every day due to poverty. There are 31 countries in the developing world where 10 percent of children do not reach the age of 5.

Would your children be educated? If you could, by chance, afford to send your kids to school, they may not feel well enough to go because of the bacteria infested water they drink every day. And yes, this is the same water that you walk hours to fetch - unclean water is better than no water at all.

When evening comes, you go to bed feeling unwell and ill at ease, mostly because you mourn for your family.

You desperately want to provide for your children. You want them to grow up strong and healthy. You want them to be successful. You want them to have dreams. You want them to live.

Having had a glimpse of what life would be like if you were among the poorest of the poor, you can see how the life you have today is so important to the poor. It is the fact that you are not among the poorest of the poor that makes it possible for the poor to get the help they so desperately need.

Our mission is to help families replace this image of poverty with an image of hope and self-reliance. We partner with them and help them live strong and healthy lives, be successful, and dreams again.

We do this by providing families with access to clean water, training in sustainable agriculture, micro-financing to fund small business start ups, and cooperatives that strengthen families and their communities. It is your giving that enables people and communities to come together to fight poverty and create amazing new lives for themselves.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Meet Siriyawathie: mother, farmer, and community leader

Siriyawathie is a 40 year old mother of two hardworking children, a son and a daughter. She lives in Pettagamwela, Sri Lanka with her husband, a carpenter. The majority of his monthly wages goes to buying food and paying tuition fees for his son, studying technology in grade 13, and daughter, studying in grade 11.

Siriyawathie has always been a leader in her community: she was a founding member of a small group of villagers from her area who have worked together for several years. However, with training and support provided by HOPE International Development Agency, Siriyawathie has been able to take even greater strides forward. She received training in bookkeeping and conservation farming, as well as a small loan of around $65. With this, she set up a small organic farm where she daily puts into practice the composting, soil conservation, and other techniques she learned about.

Her success has been tremendous.

At various times of the year, Siriyawathie and her family grow tomatoes, bitter gourd, capsicum, cowpea, lentils, and beans. She understands what crops can be planted at drier times and still do well, so she grows crops year-round.

Siriyawathie sells her surplus fruits and vegetables, all chemical-free, earning about $50 per month. There is a strong demand for her produce as it is all chemical-free and widely known to be so in the area. Her own family eats the produce, contributing to continued good health and higher savings since they used to have to buy vegetables.

Her children’s tuition is always paid, and Siriyawathie has proved her continued commitment to her neighbours: she shares her seed with other farmers in her village so that they do not need to buy expensive imported seed which cannot be reused in subsequent planting seasons.

Siriyawathie values most the opportunity she has now to work collectively with her peers in the community, in small self-help groups.

She says all this has been achieved with the greatest possible support from her family – her husband and two children – and from HOPE International Development Agency.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Water brings new life to the Philippine community of Calibran

In 2012 we introduced some of the work being done in Calibran, a small community in the Philippines that needed clean water. 

At the time, families had no choice but to walk long distances to fetch their drinking water, most of which was contaminated with oil and waste. The water, completely unsafe to drink, took the lives of many young children in the community - their immune systems couldn’t cope with the contaminants.

Today, Calibran has a much different story to tell. The community, and its neighbour, Malagalad, now have 6 communal water points that provide clean water to 66 families. The children grow up healthy and happy and are able to attend school rather than spend their days in search of water.

Clean water means life for the communities of Calibran and Malagalad. It means stronger families, and it also means families can dream again and create ways of further improving their communities.

It’s hard to imagine life without it, and yet the community of Calibran struggled without clean water for decades. Thank you for being a part of helping them begin their new story.

See the entire story here by watching HOPE In The Philippines.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

@runforwater visits Ethiopia

This past month, a group of eight teachers, one student and 2 society members of the Run for Water embarked on a journey to Ethiopia to visit some of our projects that they support. We could not be more grateful for all that they to do bring clean water to families in Ethiopia. It’s exciting for them to have the opportunity to visit the families they’ve touched.

The team visited three communities: one that had a completed water system, one with a project that is set to be complete in the next few weeks, and one that is going to be underway shortly.

The Run for Water team have spent years raising funds so that families in Ethiopia can have access to clean water and the opportunity to transform their lives.

The pipeline they’ve funded that’s soon to be completed will provide clean water for more than 2,000 people. They were able to see just how close it is to reaching the village, and the excitement of everyone involved as the pipe stretches further each day.

(L) Original, unprotected water source  (R) New, disease-free water source

Later on this year, the village of Yella will also be getting a pipeline starting from this fresh water source that will be come down from an altitude of 9,000ft.

This clean water will mean an enormous difference in the lives of thousands of people – such a simple thing as clean water can absolutely transform lives. It will free up hours everyday currently spent fetching water and it will improve overall health as it’s a clean source, free of bacteria.

That means an opportunity to focus on making more income. It means children going to school. It means families that are strong and independent.

The team had an amazing experience and they return to Canada more inspired and motivated than ever to keep fighting for families that need clean water. Again, thank you to Run for Water for being a part of this incredible work and for their ongoing fight to bring clean water to families in Ethiopia.

Learn more about Run For Water and upcoming events.