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Friday, July 30, 2010

Clean water brings more than health to the people of Wiro, South Sudan, it brings hope!

Jessalyn Jacob and other women from her village of Wiro in South Sudan used to spend their nights far from the village, sleeping on the cold ground beside a shallow, hand-dug watering hole.

Some mornings, the women would go home empty-handed because not enough water had percolated up through the earth into the small hole. When there was enough water, it was murky and teeming with unseen but deadly parasites and disease. But Jessalyn had no choice but to bring back what ever water she could gather – the small hole in the ground was the only source of water for her family and her village of 3,000 people.

In spring of this year, HOPE International Development Agency completed a bore-hole water well in Wiro. For Jessalyn and the other women of Wiro, having access to clean water right in the village has transformed their lives. Gathering water is quicker and much safer.

“The water is clean like the water that comes in bottles”, says Jessalyn. These benefits are not surprising; this is what we expect will come from providing villages with a stable, convenient source of clean water. Thanks to the borehole, the people of Wiro will be healthier, suffering from fewer waterborne diseases like typhoid, parasites, and skin infections.

In addition to the health benefits of having clean water, there is another very important benefit of having clean water available right in the village. Families like Jessalyn’s will not have to abandon their ancestral lands where they have lived for decades. Throughout even the worst years of the war, when nearby SPLM soldiers relied on the village for labour and food, Jessalyn was committed to staying on her land, in her house, cultivating cassava, maize, and sorghum to feed her four children and eleven grandchildren. Because her father’s grave is nearby, she did not want to leave her home. But at the height of the dry season earlier in the year, Wiro’s villagers met and decided that it was time to move closer to a more reliable and abundant source of water. They did not feel that they had any other options. They made plans to relocate.

Thanks to the borehole, the people of Wiro will not have to move. Indeed, they have begun to imagine what else might be possible for their village: more water points, a school, micro-credit to build income generating businesses. Jessalyn would like to open a small shop.

Learn more about how you can help other villages in South Sudan who are in desperate need of clean water.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sudan: Lazaro Sumbeiywo and The Power of Peace

In June, HOPE International Development Agency’s International President David S. McKenzie took a small group to visit our colleagues and friends in southern Sudan.

En route to Sudan, while they waited for their visas to be processed in Nairobi, Kenya, they had the great fortune to spend an afternoon with Lazaro Sumbeiywo.

General Lazaro Sumbeiywo served as Kenya’s Special Envoy to the Sudanese peace process (1997-98) and then as mediator (2001-05). His role was instrumental to the cessation of one of Africa’s worst conflicts, a multiple-decade civil war that claimed upwards of two million lives.

Helmut Fandrich, one of HOPE International Development Agency’s delegates, recounted this meeting, among other events, in his memoir of the trip, The Power of Peace.

The former chief of the Kenyan army told us how Kenya’s then-President Daniel arap Moi had asked him to negotiate a peace in Sudan.

I was surprised to learn that Kenya’s top general started a three-day fast to get close to God before he accepted the challenge to end Africa’s longest-running civil war, an 18-year conflict between Muslim Arab northerners and mostly Christian black southerners. I was amazed how modest the General was about his accomplishments and how casually he talked about God.

In his calm, soothing voice the General talked about starting his “ventilation sessions” in 2002 with a basic question: Why are you at war? The representatives from the Khartoum government in the north, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLA) led by rebel leader John Garang in the south, were told to stay put until they came to an agreement on the basic issues that divided them.

From what I learned I concluded that the root cause of conflict in Africa’s largest country was division between Arabs and non Arabs, between Muslims and Christians. Among the big issues was how to split up Sudan’s oil wealth, as the south has huge oil reserves and the north has refineries. Also, the Christian south did not want to have Islamic law (sharia) imposed on them, and they wanted to have economic and political power. The Muslims in the north had taken the oil but had not put money back into the south, and the Christians felt powerless to do anything about it. Apparently similar feelings of marginalization also sparked the separate 2003 rebellion in Sudan’s western Darfur region, which led to US charges of genocide against the Sudanese government.

The ventilation sessions helped Sumbeiywo see that the conflict was about who was in control. “War,” he said, “is about power.” When Sudan’s military leader, President Omar al-Bashir, read the early draft peace proposal his raging response was for Sumbeiywo to take the draft and “go to hell.” Instead, the General went to his hotel room, sank to his knees and sought God’s will.’

I looked the General in the eye. “How was it possible that you were able to broker a peace,” I asked, “when previous peacemaking efforts had failed?”

“Both sides were tired of the conflict,” he said. Both north and south were losing sons and daughters and relatives in the conflict. “Some two million people had already died,” he added.

“What would be required for peace to come about?” I asked. “Education is the only solution to peace,” the former chief of Kenyan Intelligence said. “Unschooled people have to be educated.”

As is obvious from Helmut’s reflections, the trip was an excellent opportunity to connect on a personal level with the fine people that HOPE International Development Agency is fortunate to work with in Sudan and elsewhere. Though the material conditions there are as challenging as anywhere in the world, the people working for peace and prosperity for all of Sudan’s people are truly easy to support.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Afghanistan: A Rationale For Giving in War-Times

This past week, with a few exceptions, HOPE International Development Agency’s global staff congregated in Canada for a biannual summit. During this occasion, people who are not often in the same country—let alone office building—get to connect, share stories, and most importantly, plan for the future.

Esmat Nazaryar, Director of HOPE Afghanistan, is typically an anticipated presenter despite the fact that he claims he is ‘no good’ at speaking. He works in the most isolated setting and under extraordinarily challenging circumstances. Starvation, which is arguably the hallmark of the worst kind of poverty, is a seasonal reality for his people. He works with families too poor to get through droughts—they will eat their seed stock to survive and have nothing for the next planting season.

At one point in the discussion, Esmat was asked how we should respond to people who are unsure of investing into Afghanistan’s poor. Couldn’t the war, if it continues or worsens, simply sweep away any gains for the people? Will their donations be ultimately wasted?

After expressing his very defensible opinion that the situation in Afghanistan—especially where he lives in the remote north—will not deteriorate, Esmat reminded all present why his perspective at our gatherings is so valued. He said that the reason to continue to give despite war or instability is this: when you do, you help his people, who hate war. You do not help the warlords or the politicians, or any party that makes war in his nation. By taking away your investment, you weaken those who hate war, and those who make war grow stronger by comparison.

It reminds us: peace is yet another reason to give. Even war is no excuse for neglect of the world’s poorest people.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Local Solutions to Poverty Offer the Best Hope

William Easterly, speaking at the London School of Economics, argued that we do not know how to solve global poverty – but that this is a good thing.

This is an uncomfortable statement. It seems unconscionable to stare into the face of a problem that kills 35,000 children every 24 hours and say “I don’t know.”

But, as Easterly argues, scepticism and uncertainty do not have to paralyze us. Rather, they can be creative forces in their own right by forcing us to consider anew our foundational values and by moving us to consider, with optimism, creative solutions to complex problems.

The key, perhaps, is in recognizing that saying “I don’t know,” and even “we don’t know,” is not the same thing as saying “nobody knows”. We, in the developed world, may not have the answers, but people across the developing world have creative, thoughtful ideas about how best to help their own communities.

Our role then, as compassionate people with a desire to help, becomes supporting these people as they implement local solutions to local problems. This is why we at HOPE International Development Agency are grateful for our colleagues and friends in the developing world, who live with and learn with the poor in their countries every day.

Thanks to their tireless work, we do know what solutions work in Derashe, Ethiopia; in Pursat, Cambodia; in Rokon, South Sudan; and in dozens of other communities where HOPE International Development Agency works. We know that access to clean water is a crucial first step towards healthier, more productive, more self-sufficient communities. We know that education, sustainable agriculture, literacy, skills training, and micro-credit all have a role to play in providing the poor with the tools they need.

We know this because we see change happening in communities across the world.

But we also know that the constellation of needed programs is different in every country, in every community, and in every family. It is vital that each community participate in setting their own development priorities. It is vital that we listen to and learn from them. And this is, indeed, a good thing.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rescuing Orphans in Swaziland's Malkern's Valley

Nearly an entire generation of parents in Africa has fallen victim to the HIV/AIDS pandemic that continues to wreak havoc throughout the continent.

Swaziland, one of Africa’s more impoverished countries, has not escaped the devastation.

Today, it’s estimated that there are as many as 70,000 orphaned children in Swaziland, a chilling testament to the human destruction caused by the pandemic.

The most fortunate among Swaziland’s orphans find themselves in the care of their elders, most of whom can barely afford to sustain themselves given the extreme poverty within which they exist.

The least fortunate find themselves living on the streets, begging and scavenging in an effort to survive.

Either way, the suffering continues and threatens to worsen for all involved as elderly households use up the limited resources they possess and children living on the streets weaken day by day.

The people of Swaziland’s impoverished Malkern’s Valley have not been spared the suffering and heartache brought upon them by the HIV/AIDS crisis. They have done what they can for the orphaned children among them, but the enormity of the situation has overwhelmed their meager resources and the suffering, despite their best efforts, continues unabated.

HOPE International Development Agency is helping the people of Malkern’s Valley do more for orphaned children in their communities. HOPE donors are helping build Neighborhood Care Point facilities throughout Malkern's Valley that will provide shelter, care, food, and education for orphaned children.

We need your help in order to enable the people of Malkern's Valley to rescue more orphaned children and provide them with the care they so urgently need.

Learn more about how you can help. Please visit today.