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Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Dominican Republic: resourceful when receiving

HOPE International Development Agency delivered a medical shipment to our partners in the Dominican Republic shortly after New Year’s and these supplies have been put to excellent use in the last four months. Happily, all clinics serving the poor in Ocoa province are completely stocked for the first time our Dominican friends can remember.

A staff member from the Canadian office visited the area last month and was reminded why we treasure working with our Dominican counterparts so much. The thoroughgoing hospitality of Dominicans is world-famous, but they often don’t get enough credit for their creativity and resourcefulness. These are people who will make a kingdom out of a pittance.

For example, when the distribution to the various clinics was complete, there was a supply of small items like gloves and cotton swabs left over. Not wanting to waste a single part of the donation, Dominican staff made small packages that they gave to community businesses like barber shops after performing short demonstrations of good hygienic practice. A few bits of cotton and rubber were transformed into an opportunity for community education.

In Ocoa, few opportunities are wasted and no resource is squandered. Any generosity we show in this place is generally multiplied as Ocoan people practice their particular brand of community solidarity.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Philippines: Jeana and her clean water

Clean water is the first step out of the worst kind of poverty for the world's poorest families.

Jeana Pangcato, a Filipino mother of five children, tells her story of how clean water has transformed her family’s life.

Before we had access to a HOPE International Development Agency water system, we used to get our drinking water from the nearby river, about one kilometer down a steep hill.

We would dig a small shallow pit just beside the river to try and filter the water a bit, but it did not work very well. My children and I always had diarrhea, stomach problems, and even skin problems because of drinking the river water.

Often, there was not enough water for use near the river and we had to look elsewhere. There is another tap available from a system constructed by the government many years ago, but the water is contaminated because sewage has entered the system. Even still, there were lineups for water there every day at the single faucet meant to serve the entire community.

Today, we have a new water source from HOPE International Development Agency. I only have to walk about 100 meters from my house to access a tap that has clean water, with enough water for everyone, everyday.

There are taps throughout our community so that everyone can have water. I come to use the taps almost every hour for washing, cleaning, and cooking - it is so convenient. My family is much healthier and not sick with waterborne diseases anymore.

Throughout the day, I now have extra time now to keep my household clean, and my husband does not need to stay home to work. He can go do income-generating activities.

Visit and learn more about our efforts to bring abundant supplies of clean water to the world’s poorest families.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cambodia: farmers break with tradition - shyly, not unsuccessfully

On a Canadian staff member’s recent visit to the village of Toul Ankrong in Cambodia, the effectiveness of ‘dry-rice’ farming was demonstrated to her in a somewhat amusing way.

Farmers practicing the farming techniques that HOPE International Development Agency promotes are apparently so embarrassed about employing non-traditional methods that they occasionally run and hide behind bushes if they see people approaching. She witnessed this behaviour a few times on a walk through the fields surrounding the village.

Despite this, out of a community of forty-four families, only four are opting out - and only because they don’t yet have draft animals. In previous years, families were hungry for most of the year, with smaller yields that only came during the rainy season. Most husbands and fathers were forced to seek temporary employment on the Thai border to make ends meet. But the food supply in Toul Ankgrong has tremendously improved due to these different methods, a new seed variety, and an emerging spirit of collaboration between villagers. This collaboration is best evidenced by the seed bank they built together. This structure houses a supply of seed, deposited by individual farmers, which can be loaned out to other farmers in times of need. Read more about ‘dry rice farming’ - or year-round rice farming.

Villagers were extremely reluctant to try the new seed and farming style, and the break with tradition is still not totally comfortable for them - as the mad dash for cover demonstrates! However, it’s clear that Cambodian families are willing to work through their shyness and hesitancy if they are given options that produce good results.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ethiopia: update on survivors of 2008 drought

A HOPE International Development Agency Ethiopia staff member sends us this update on the communities in Southern Ethiopia where we provided emergency aid during the 2008 drought.

The year 2008 was a difficult one for the people of the district of Derashe in Southern Ethiopia. The spring rains had failed. That is a major disaster for people who barely grow enough to feed their families at the best of times. Also, such periods of drought exacerbate underlying tribal tensions that are caused by the competition for meager resources.

As a result of all these factors the communities of Lockte, Degamashille, Addis Oltoma, Delbena and Tsemaha where HOPE is working were severely affected by the drought as well as displacement as a result of conflict. As is usually the case in these situations, children are the first to fall sick and die.

HOPE responded quickly to stop that. Highly nutritional children’s food, wheat flour, maize and cooking oil as well as medical supplies and blankets for the displaced were quickly distributed by HOPE staff, reaching thousands of people.

This kept the people alive until it started to rain again. But in order to avoid this happening again a long-term solution is needed: a water system that will be available year round.

The HOPE team went back in February this year and developed several springs in the villages of Addis Oltoma and Tsemaha. The people who, a year ago, were on the verge of dying from drought, were working together with our staff this year to put in the water system that will guarantee their survival in the coming years. That is the long term solution that gives them hope.

As per HOPE’s mandate of long-term development, not only did these families survive, but they are now well poised to withstand difficulties in the future. In a short span of time, they’ve crossed the threshold from mere survival to the beginnings of self-reliance. We thank every donor that made this incredible outcome possible.