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Thursday, July 31, 2008

ETHIOPIA: Surviving today, stronger tomorrow

Our field staff in Ethiopia continue to update us on conditions in drought-afflicted villages where we are planning to provide clean water systems. It’s difficult to hear stories about severe malnutrition of infants, tuberculosis epidemics, and families who are picking up and walking away because they have nothing left to eat. It’s also very difficult to hear the sadness in the voice of somebody seeing the suffering first-hand.

The Ethiopians who work with HOPE International Development Agency are dedicated to providing clean water systems to every person who would otherwise scavenge unclean water, losing hours of every day to the task of finding and carrying it, and losing family members to horrific diseases like cholera. Because of their hard work, a district in Ethiopia that formerly had only 11% clean water access is now approaching full coverage, and rates of many waterborne diseases have dropped by 80%. Our staff bring hope to families by living in tents, on-site, for weeks and months. They do this by consulting with communities, building friendships and trust. They do this by being constantly available to provide high-quality training and support to villagers who must manage and maintain their precious new resource.

These same people are now keeping children alive through emergency food rations, re-hydration kits, and medical care. They are hoping that, by keeping people alive in their villages, they can save them from being refugees, wandering with nowhere to go and no help in sight. Then, when things are a little better, they’ll start the work that will help spare future generations from these horrors. Clean water, community development, and good health are still on the horizon.

Like with every emergency situation, HOPE International Development Agency is helping people make it through this terrible time because we know that the survivors are capable of building back communities that are more resilient. The next time drought comes, we pray that we will have put these villages in a better position to hold on and endure - it’s the hope that justifies all of this hard work and every donation that supporters see fit to give during this time of emergency.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Food crisis deepens in Ethiopia

The food crisis in Ethiopia continues to pose a threat for millions of men, women and children.

HOPE International Development Agency is already sending that are being used to supply therapeutic formulas for babies and children and emergency food rations for adults.

Right now, more than 4.6 million people are facing starvation and recent estimates indicate a growing number of children, more than 126,000, are at risk of dying from starvation.

HOPE International Development Agency is responding to a call for help from the Derashe region of Ethiopia and our field staff promised that we would expand our emergency work right away.

We’ve been working with families in Derashe for more than a decade, developing sources of clean drinking water, providing health education, and vocational training. Today, we need to expand our work and provide emergency supplies.

Failed rains, failed harvests, and dramatic increases in food prices over the past 6 months due to world-wide shortages of staple foods - as much as 150% in some areas - are putting lives at risk.

Your gift to HOPE International Development Agency will provide life-saving therapeutic formula for babies and children, medical attention and emergency food rations for families who will not survive without your help.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The evidence is in...

We continue to receive stories from our Cambodian staff members about the people who inspire them. In fact, these stories should further inspire us all to do more to help the poor.

Making smart investments in the lives of motivated, intelligent, and terribly under-privileged people is a wonderful and meaningful use of our time, energy, and money.

This becomes acutely clear when we look at the evidence that life in HOPE International Development Agency - supported communities presents to us.

Our Cambodian staff member Sophorn, shares this story with us. She did the translation herself as part of her English studies.

"Nhem Sophal is a 55 year old man who lost his hand while he was in the army.

Sophal’s family is poor. Only one of his sons has gone to school, and he had to live in a pagoda near the school because his family’s house was so far away.

Before Sophal's family received a water buffalo from HOPE International Development Agency, they found it very difficult to take care of their rice field and grow vegetables. The family always had to hire someone else’s buffalo or ox and as such, they could only farm 0.5 hectares of land.

Of the 30-40 thung rice crop they would harvest, 20 thungs of rice paddy had to be paid to the owner of the buffalo or ox. Sometimes they could not hire a buffalo because not many people had draft animals and those that did were busy with their own fields. When this happened, the family’s crop was even smaller. They would not have enough rice to eat and had to borrow at 150% interest. They often ate sweet potato or other kinds of potato instead of rice. With an income of only $25 to $50 a month, the family often had to work for other people.

With the water buffalo provided by HOPE International Development Agency, Sophal’s family is now much better off. They can farm a bigger piece of land than before (1 hectare) and can grow more vegetables. They now get 40-80 thungs of rice from their fields, rather than just 30, and grow vegetables throughout the year.

The family also shares their buffalo with their married son. Growing vegetables and farming rice allows Sophal and his family to make more money and have enough food to eat. Today they are happy. Their buffalo is pregnant and she will give birth soon. Their son is almost ready to graduate as a primary school teacher.

In the future, Sophal hopes to have three or four buffalo, wants to buy a water pump to irrigate his fields, and wants to dig a pond so he’ll always have access to water."

It makes us think… if a person like Sophal can do all of this with one draft animal, what are we capable of doing with everything we have available to us?

Have we challenged ourselves enough? Especially when we know for a fact that what we do and what we give can bring this much prosperity. How much more, then, do we want to do and give? How many more people like Sophal and his family are waiting for our answer to that question?

Friday, July 11, 2008

New high school will bring new hope to families in Pursat, Cambodia

Above is a picture of a high school currently being constructed in Pursat Province, Cambodia, by HOPE International Development Agency.

The new school is an incredible addition to the region and it will provide young Cambodians from surrounding villages with the opportunity to further their education.

In the rural areas of Pursat Province, investment in education falls terribly short. A place of learning, built specially for communities and their families, is a marvelous, unexpected gift.

When families begin to rise above the most severe levels of poverty, they send their children to school. But when families are constantly ill, constantly foraging for water to drink and food to eat, their children’s time cannot be spared.

The poorest children are rarely healthy enough to attend school because sickness and malnutrition make them far too weak to make the trek to the school.

When people are too poor, too sick, and too hopeless, a school building is just a lifeless husk. In fact, it would be pointless to build one. But thankfully, in Pursat Province, the families that have clean water, better food crops, and income-generating opportunities – provided through the support of HOPE International Development Agency donors - have progressed to a point where they can make education a priority. This is the “tipping point” for these families, all of whom were once stuck in an intergenerational rut of mere survival. These families now have choices, investments, plans, and dreams. Pursat’s next generation is being born into a different kind of world – a world full of opportunities and hope.

So this photograph, in fact, depicts more than just a building. This new school is about Cambodians who have worked incredibly hard to be in a position to attend it.

But there is something else noteworthy about the new school - its construction is the result of one single individual’s generous gift. A gift inspired by the real progress made by the families of Pursat Province.

Ultimately, this school represents realized dreams: those of Cambodians who are doing more than just surviving, and that of a giver who is doing more than just sympathizing.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Field Report: Helping survivors plant the next rice harvest in Myanmar

It is rice planting season here in Myanmar and, two months after cyclone Nargis, many of the more able-bodied survivors are experiencing a sense of urgency to get their rice crops started. If they can plant now, they have much better likelihood of re-establishing their homes and lives, hopefully harvesting rice in 6 months rather than having to wait until December 2009.

One major barrier standing in the way of timely planting is the condition of the fields and villages that survivors are returning to in order to plant. Some survivors have not been back to their villages since the cyclone hit. When villagers do return, they do not have the equipment, the help or the energy to do anything but build crude, temporary shelters.

Fields and waterways are still full of large amounts of debris. In many cases, the carcasses of animals and the bodies of community members are still trapped under fallen buildings or tangled tree roots. Survivors returning to their villages struggle to find the physical and emotional energy required to tackle the clean up process and burials that must take place before the villages are habitable and the fields can be plowed and planted.

In addition to the ongoing work of providing emergency relief supplies, HOPE International Development Agency is helping survivors clean up their villages and rice fields by matching local volunteers with community members from a set of villages near one another. Currently, 1,431 volunteers and community members are involved in the clean up effort.

HOPE International Development Agency is providing basic clean up equipment and supplies to each of these teams and feeds team members during the clean up process. We are also helping people define the organizing and operating principles the teams use and we continue to provide much need counseling regarding the inevitable trauma that the clean up process evokes.

The clean up teams select leadership from among community members and then work together to clean up not only their own village, but those of their nearby neighbors as well. The cyclone clean up is creating a unique opportunity to help people reach across former boundaries to create a new sense of community and sharing where the old community and community relationships may no longer exist.

The continuing story of this disaster response and its successes thus far includes people from both inside and outside the country. But the heroes continue to be the local people who, time and time again, rally to overcome the insurmountable. I’m reminded constantly what a privilege it is to be present here at this time.