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Friday, June 27, 2008

Heroes Required in Jeloucha, Afghanistan

Esmat, our director in Afghanistan, is currently visiting with us and we wanted to share one of his most recent achievements with you – the establishment of a medical clinic in Jeloucha, Northern Afghanistan, made possible with the help of HOPE International Development Agency supporters.

Until recently, the ill, injured, and pregnant had to make torturous journeys by foot or donkey over mountain trails to get medical attention. The medicines and advice received at the end of the journey was often inconsistent and expensive. Many people died from a lack of medical attention or as a result of the difficult journey. Many more fell into crippling debt.

Today, Jeloucha’s medical clinic receives over 100 patients every day, many of whom travel great distances (although significantly less than before). This change is an incredible improvement to the health of local families - the clinic is considered the best in the region.

The fact that people here at home and elsewhere cared enough to fund the clinic is wonderful. But money alone cannot bring about such an effective clinic in a remote place like Jeloucha. Heroic human beings need to be present as well. Esmat and his staff are such people. They deal with tremendous obstacles: geographic isolation, a lack of infrastructure, and unwieldy bureaucratic processes. Often, in his quest to make good things happen for his people, Esmat is navigating a system that would cause most of us to give up in despair. Instead, he persists until he prevails.

Recently, Esmat told us about an encounter with a local official who had the power to prevent the clinic’s construction. When good reason and appeals to compassion seemed insufficient, he employed a more powerful form of persuasion. Remembering that people had come to trust him and HOPE International Development Agency over the past few years, Esmat simply told this man: ‘You can say no to me, and that’s fine. But tomorrow, I will bring two hundred others, and you will need to say no to each of them.’

As you already know by now, this official did not say ‘no’ two hundred times.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cyclone Nargis fades from the news but our hope for the people of Myanmar does not

It’s been 7 weeks since cyclone Nargis slammed into Myanmar, leaving more than 130,000 people dead or missing and as many as 2.4 million people struggling to survive in the aftermath.

HOPE International Development Agency’s field staff were providing emergency assistance within hours of the storm retreating and continue with these efforts today.

With every week that passed, we extended our work beyond the 24 villages we were able to reach in the early days following the disaster.

Our initial efforts focused on providing emergency care packages to survivors, ensuring that they received the medical care, medicine, clean water, food and shelter they so desperately needed. These efforts, made possible by the generosity of our donors, have saved thousands of lives.

Our Myanmar field staff was in a unique position to provide immediate assistance and went into action right away, using emergency supplies purchased locally with funds given by HOPE International Development Agency donors world-wide.

Today, we continue to provide emergency care packages to people in need and have already begun initial recovery efforts focused on helping survivors rebuild their lives and restore their livelihoods. Homes need to be rebuilt and basic necessities need to be provided, including household items such as cooking utensils and tools. Crops need to be replanted and livelihoods need to be restored. If we don’t this, surviving families will slip even deeper into poverty.

Equally importantly, our staff continues to provide emotional support to grieving children, parents and grandparents as they struggle, even these many weeks later, with the terrible loss they have experienced.

Our work in the coming weeks and months is as crucial as our work in the days immediately following the disaster, and we intend to increase our efforts even as the aftermath of cyclone Nargis fades from the public eye.

The people of Myanmar have shown their resilience and we need to show them our resolve by continuing to help them as they work to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Women Inspiring Women in Cambodia

Pursat, where HOPE International Development Agency has worked for nearly twenty years, is consistently ranked as one of Cambodia’s “worst off” provinces. Basic services such as clean water, schools, and sanitation facilities are often absent.

In many of the Pursat villages where we work, rates of poverty approach 70%, and 30% of all families are headed by widows.

Recognizing the key role that women play in sustaining and improving family life in Cambodia, our work is focused on addressing the serious challenges women face every day. Our staff in Cambodia are women, and they all have first-hand experience with poverty and the challenges women face in the country.

Recently, we asked our Cambodian staff to tell us stories about the people who inspire them and make them happy to do the jobs they do. They did the translation themselves as part of their English classes, and here is what Chantorn, one of our staff members, shared with us:

“Horng Nan is a woman who lives in Prey Omal village. She is 39 years old. Her husband’s name is Horng; he is 41 years old. They have five children. Horng Nan is a self-help group member. Before she joined the group, Horng lived in a very small house. Her family grew a few vegetables for eating and did not have enough money to send their children to school. After she joined the self-help group, her life improved.

Her group was formed in January 2006 and has borrowed from a HOPE International Development Agency loan fund two times. Horng first borrowed $50 and bought seeds, then she borrowed $100 to buy more seeds and a bike.

Now she grows more vegetables and she has enough to eat and sell. With her extra income, she has saved to build a better home for her family and her children now go to school. She is happy and in the future she hopes that she will be able to buy a water pump to water her vegetable garden.”

Horng Nan continues to inspire Chantorn, and we are inspired by both!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

‘Nothing’ becomes ‘something’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Many people who attended HOPE International Development Agency events last year will remember Mawa, a father featured in ‘Heart of Hope’, our film about families who are rebuilding their lives in post-war Democratic Republic of Congo.

When our volunteer film crew met Mawa in the small Congolese village of Bodigia-Moke, his family and extended family were in a frightening situation. Mawa, in his early twenties, provides for a wife, a mother, an older sister, four children under the age of five, and half a dozen village children and disabled people. (As is the case across Africa and much of the developing world, ‘family’ is a different kind of affair than here in the West).

Sadly, his family’s situation was typical of what so many families were experiencing. The war had forced them to flee their homes and hide in the jungle, lest they be tortured or killed. In 2007, following a peace agreement, they were starting over in a new village and had absolutely nothing. Not enough food to eat. Not enough money to even purchase modest farming tools needed for growing food.

Recently, one of our field workers visited Mawa’s village and told us that in the year since the filming, Mawa’s life has already changed in important ways. His family and hundreds of other families now have clean water to drink as a result of a HOPE International Development Agency spring capping project. Last October, Mawa also received a wheelbarrow, machete, shovels, and money to buy seeds. He immediately cleared a small patch of land and planted peanuts, which he harvested in January. His plan was to sell a portion of this 110kg harvest, use some to replant fields next season, and keep some as food.

Our colleague described the way Mawa stood next to two large bags of peanuts, leaning on the machete and smiling, as he told her about the “big change” in his life. Before, he had nothing, he said, and now he has something; granted, it is not much yet, but it is something.

Mawa also told her about his plans for the future: to start a fish pond in the next few months, to extend his peanut fields, to plant other crops, to buy a few goats, and to build a better house that he can leave as an inheritance for his children. This is the substance of self-reliance—the beginning of an end to chronic, intergenerational poverty. It’s as simple as a step up from nothing into something.

Just as Mawa’s former desperation was typical of families in the Democratic Republic of Congo, so too is his present-day industry and security. Opportunities for a self-sustaining lifestyle are starting to be the norm for the families we work with.

Many of you, through HOPE International Development Agency, have invested in these families, and you should know that they are making good upon your investment.

See Mawa’s story in our film, ‘Heart of Hope’.

Help Congolese families today by giving to HOPE International Development Agency.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Myanmar - the ‘big story’ is not the whole story

The big story in the news, up until recently, has been the extreme difficulty of getting Western aid into Myanmar.

As with many ‘big stories’, this one tended to obscure another story, equally true, and equally as important for people to know about - especially for people who follow the news and crave to know how to really help.

So the other story is this: there were many people who were serving vulnerable people in Myanmar before the cyclone hit. There are westerners, but many are Myanmar-born.

When this horrifying event happened, they were at work right away, doing what needed to be done, before the news reports began to build up in volume and pitch.

HOPE International Development Agency staff members are honored to be among this network of caring, intelligent, effective aid-givers drawn from all sectors of Myanmarese society. For us, there was no period of waiting: the delivery of aid was immediate, and is ongoing.

In the words of a HOPE International Development Agency field worker:

"What you are hearing on the news would have you believe that until the United Nations (UN) agencies get here, there is nothing and can be nothing happening. This is inaccurate. There has been a lot going on, and it isn’t just because of the UN agencies. In any disaster, the UN actually relies on the smaller, non-UN agencies to do a lot of the distribution of supplies.

Whether through orderly distribution of UN supplies or the orderly distribution of supplies like the bags of rice that HOPE purchased on the local markets and then coordinated to be delivered to several areas right away, most aid delivery is done in a responsible fashion, with good coordination and cooperation between international and local agencies and community people. The delivery of rice was greeted with joy, but there was no frenzy."




Emergency rations of rice were being delivered to survivors right away.

We are living in a skeptical age, and for good reason. HOPE International Development Agency asks for your help because it is able to assist people in very great need.

To a certain extent, we fight against the pessimism that the ‘big story’ tends to inspire in people who would otherwise be glad to help.

Remember to be skeptical of what you learn in the news: not because the story it tells is untrue, but simply because it’s not the whole story.

We’re telling you our story, in the hope that you become a part of it by giving confidently.