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Friday, April 29, 2011

Solving the problem of chronic hunger in rural Cambodia

Food and hope are in short supply in rural Cambodia these days. Impoverished families, held captive by a particularly oppressive form of poverty, are unable to grow enough food to sustain themselves.

Forced to scavenge for food scraps and eat roots, leaves, and a nutrient depleted mixture of rice and water, families are chronically malnourished.

HOPE International Development Agency is providing a solution to hunger among Cambodia’s poorest families by helping them transform the soil beneath their feet into gardens of hope that produce a bountiful harvest of nutritious vegetables throughout the year.

You can help us bring health and happiness to families in rural Cambodia. Learn more by visiting today.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

India: Clean Water and the Benefits of Flexibility

It’s probably fair to say that our work with Ethiopian families has distinguished HOPE International Development Agency as an organization devoted to the issue of clean water. But while we deal mainly in protecting springs in Ethiopia, that doesn’t mean our methods look the same elsewhere. Where a lack of potable water might be a (frankly astonishingly) common problem in developing world communities, we don’t claim there is one single solution, one single model for delivering clean water to families in need. Among the other hard lessons we have learned over the years: it never pays to be inflexible.

In India, we’re proud to report that we have had great success providing ‘biosand filters’ to both urban and farming families in Madurai. Biosand filters are a relatively simple technology; in fact, versions of it have been used for centuries. Skipping over a great deal of technical detail, the filters basically work by straining water slowly through layers of sand and gravel, removing 90-95% of contaminants like bacteria, viruses, and worms.

Even simple technologies, ones that work with local conditions and cultures, need to be fully accepted by the poor in order to be useful. Just ask Mr. Nagrendran.

Mr. Nagendran lives in a township where the system supplied by the government is not maintained properly and people are regularly sickened by the water. He took it upon himself to organize a community group to research the problem and brainstorm solutions. We connected with them, and supplied biosand filters after they confirmed that the technology would work best.

Mr. Nagendran, of course, received a filter for his own home. But it took his wife some time to warm up to the new addition. She thought it took up too much space and wasn’t totally sold on its benefits, despite her husband’s activism. (Imagine how charmed by her stance he must have been!) After a while, although she wouldn’t drink the water, she succumbed to using some of it to cook rice. To her surprise, the rice turned out whiter and tastier than it had ever been. When she saw that it lasted for many more hours without spoiling than was normal, she finally came around. Now the entire family uses the filter and everyone is quick to sing its praises. So perhaps at this point Mrs. Nagendran shares our view on the virtue of flexibility.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Meaning of “Hope”

On the week of our flagship gala celebrating our work with Haitian families, we’re working hard to ensure that people come away from the experience Saturday night with insight into the lives of the poor. It’s a good time to reflect on the essence of our mission.

These words, from HOPE Myamnar colleague David Tegenfeldt, are a rich reflection on the meaning of ‘hope’—both the word and the organization we are a part of:

“Commonly today, people use the term “hope” to express a wish, desire, or something they dream of. However, if we look at the Indo-European root of the word “hope” and at the Hebrew and Greek equivalents of the word “hope”, we get a somewhat different understanding of the word than how it is used in common parlance.

The Indo-European root of the word “hope” is the same root from which the word “curve” (to bend) comes from. Therefore, the root of the word “hope” gives us the connotation of a change in direction; going in a different way.

The Hebrew and Greek equivalent of our English word “hope” has the meaning of a strong and confident expectation. This meaning stands in contrast to “wishful thinking.”

Putting the Indo-European root and the Hebrew and Greek equivalent together, yields a meaning of the word “hope” as a confident expectation that a desirable change is likely to happen.

Percy Shelley, the 19th century romantic poet, in talking about “the moral imagination” said, “a man to be greatly good must imagine clearly, he must see himself and the world through the eyes of another and of many others.”

At HOPE International Development Agency, we engage in action which sparks and grows “hope” in the hearts and minds of vulnerable communities so that they can bring positive change to their lives and their futures. This positive change is both physical (i.e. reducing material poverty) and relational (i.e. transforming how individuals and communities see and relate to one another). Of equal importance is to spark the “moral imagination” in each of us – to arise out of and to go beyond our ordinary selves. Together, we can live out our hope for a better world.”

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ethiopia and Abbotsford: To Dream is a Privilege

With the annual Run for Water coming up in less than two months, and an Abbotsford-based UNION team having just traveled to Ethiopia’s Bonke region, consciousness of Ethiopian families at the crossroads remains high in Abbotsford, BC.

A rather remarkable relationship has formed between this first world community and the developing world districts that are notable for having the most dreadful clean water access rates around (only around 11% in Bonke when we first started our work there). Ethiopian families working with HOPE International Development Agency have the opportunity to changes things for good in their villages. The changes are so profound they amaze even our staff in Ethiopia, who are long accustomed to seeing the poor go a long way with only a little assistance - 80% drops in disease rates, children attending school rather than spending all day searching for water, women becoming leaders in their water system maintenance committees. All developments which were unimaginable before the clean water came.

The potential for transformation in Ethiopia is inspiring the people of Abbotsford. Since the Run for Water started up three years ago, a groundswell of support for clean water in Ethiopia has been growing in British Columbia’s fifth largest city. The Run for Water is a powerfully uniting event, and more than a one-day event, it’s a movement for advocacy and education. Their work in spreading knowledge of the situation of Ethiopian families is particularly prominent in Abbotsford’s school system.

An entire volunteer team was assembled from Yale Secondary School. They traveled to Bonke last month and brought back incredible stories and insights. Local media outlets have also chronicled their trip extensively - an indicator of just how much interest there is in this issue. The stories are worth reading.

Before their trip, they were featured on CTV News, and in the Abbotsford Times. Since their return, they were in the newspaper again.

In the words of one student, “I have hundreds and thousands of hopes and dreams. It is a part of life in Canada. I didn't know it was a privilege and a gift to have hopes and dreams.” These are words that cut to the quick. She is right. It is encouraging to see so many people use their capacity to dream to raise the standard of living for chronically poor families. This is exactly what Abbotsford’s relationship with Bonke district represents.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Writing a new chapter in the life story of the world's most marginalized children

If the early years of an orphaned child’s life were set before you in a book, without a doubt it would be a difficult read.

As each chapter unfolded, your descent into the oppressive world of poverty would leave you more and more desperate for relief. And as the book draws to a close, you might even have to put it down as you approach the inevitable moment when poverty claims yet another child.

There can be a completely different ending however. One that is full of hope, happiness, and health for orphaned children in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Swaziland.

If compassionate people whose gift at birth is something just shy of limitless opportunity, share with children whose birthright is anything but, a new chapter can be written in the life story of some of the world’s poorest, most marginalized children.

The new chapter includes a safe place to live, education, nutritious food, medical care, dental care, and counseling to help heal the emotional trauma of losing parents or being abandoned. For teens, their new chapter also includes vocational training that will ensure they can earn a sustainable living as they enter the workforce.

Learn more about what HOPE International Development Agency is doing to help these children and how you can help.