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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Philippines: No Lost Causes

It’s a very hard read, but the Interpress Services website has a short but incisive article about child prostitution in the Philippines that we recommend reading.

This industry is truly nauseating. Trying to imagine what could possibly be done for victims like 13-year old Sharon is an exercise in being overwhelmed. This article itself does not draw conclusions on this score. In fact the experts the author consults are divided in their opinions. Some believe that only pre-emptive measures offer hope — that is, eradicating the sex trade before children are ensnared, because children who work in the trade long enough are, effectively, lost causes.

We can’t subscribe to the view these children are lost causes. Our mandate — ‘extending compassion to the neglected poor’, the neediest of the needy — compels us to aid victims of the sex trade.

Since August 2010, we’ve worked with our wonderful colleagues in the Philippines to provide affected children with better ways of earning income if they can’t live with their families. Most of them fled bad situations, and it’s no solution for them to go back. Depending on their interest, the girls can learn how to cook, make accessories, or practice cosmetology. This is just the start. These are children who need therapy, education, a solid sense that people are looking out for them.

You can help us to do all of this. If you believe that these children shouldn’t be considered lost causes, let them know by helping them today.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Guatemala: One Village Celebrates, One Anticipates

Recently, the rural Mayan community of Rijuyup in Guatemala held a two-day celebration of the completion of a HOPE International Development Agency-supported community water supply project. Prior to this happy occasion, the 500 households that constitute this village were without clean water. Now it is piped directly to their homes.

Women prepare traditional Mayan tortillas for the celebration.

Jorge Luis Castro León (left) warmly greets a friend in Rijuyup on the celebration day.

Nearby Rijuyup is the village of Chinanton. Here, there is no cause for celebration as of yet. Chinanton’s water source, an unprotected spring, dries up for several months a year. Before this water disappears each year, women begin queuing at 5 am and must wait many hours in the heat. Once there is no more water at this source women are forced to walk a couple hours one way to a stream where they collect dirty water. Juana San Amparas (pictured in blue and pink below) – a widow with several children – spoke to us passionately about this hardship. The burden of collecting water has been compounded for many women in Chinanton who are making do without a spouse as a result of systematic violence that devastated the community in the 1980s.

The people of Chinanton are both extremely eager and organized in their effort to develop a clean water system. There is clean spring water in the adjacent hills that can be capped and brought to the community, but this costs much more than the community has so they are requesting help. HOPE International Development Agency, of course, is there for the families of Chinanton. Wherever there are motivated poor communities, our work finds very promising conditions for transformation. Hopefully their celebration is not long in coming.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ethiopia: ‘I cannot be quiet about it.’

We have a lot of reasons to celebrate the clean water systems that we’ve been able to help Ethiopian villages to create. But one of the changes that clean water brings is particularly close to our hearts: the tremendous and undeniably positive impact that it has for women.

This impact was clear to behold on a recent visit with Ethiopian families who have had their water systems for a while. As is the norm, families in the village of Deshkille totally operate and maintain their system in accordance with community standards that they create and enforce through committees that include both male and female members. One of these committee members, a Mrs. Abebech, shared with us that ‘When I was chosen to serve as one of the health and sanitation committee members, I was unsure because I never spoke in public before about anything. But with the training and information received, I am now able to speak in my house, in the village and to anyone that I meet. It is not about being shy anymore; I have information that is saving and changing lives. I cannot be quiet about it.’

We also spoke with Mr. Abebech about his wife’s community involvement. We were, we must admit, surprised — pleasantly — but his unambiguously positive take on what must have been a dramatic change in his wife’s demeanor. ‘I am surprised,’ he said, ‘and impressed at how she is now thinking about everything that we do in this house. It is not only about herself changing, my whole family is changing because of her, and that is a good thing.’

Indeed, Mrs. Abebech told us that she visits about 80 homes a month to share the knowledge she has gained about health and sanitation. She especially relishes helping other women to understand and take charge of their own reproductive health. A man could never do what she does. She is able to broach delicate topics and create an environment of safety and trust with the women through whom the health and function of the whole family flows. The impact that Mrs. Abebech is having should not be underestimated — Mr. Abebech certainly doesn’t.