Follow us by email

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ethiopia: ‘Staying’ Power

We talk a lot about what it means to stay somewhere for the long haul. ‘Staying’ is probably one of our cardinal values as an organization of people devoted to helping the poorest of the poor.

Crisis is usually what attracts the attention of westerners to the poorest places in the world. When suddenly life, for whatever reason, becomes unbearable or utterly tenuous for significant numbers of people in one place. With attention comes donations, and so many organizations are most visible when they are taking part in aiding people in crisis.

Over the long term, the crisis is resolved or it simply becomes an embedded part of life for the poor (like a war that results in various tribes mistrusting one another for decades, leading to occasional violence and a general inability to cooperate). Over the long term, people no longer pay attention. This is when we do our best work with the poor.

Ethiopia is probably the best example of this. We started our work there in a time of famine, but we’ve stayed for decades. Over time, we’ve learned how to help the poor in the most efficient and effective way, through zeroing in on the lack of clean, abundant drinking water. The longer we stay, the better able we are to serve the poor well, to maximize on the finances that caring supporters entrust us with.

We marvel at the growing expertise of our Ethiopian staff. They took a decade to bring clean water to the entire district of Dereshe, which began with only 11% of families having disease-free water—and this was a tremendous accomplishment. But consider the fact that since Dereshe’s completion, they have been working Bonke district for only two years and by this year’s end, we project that 40% of the district will be finished. Ten years ago, we were approached to bring water to an area called Gewada. The project necessitates laying 17 kilometres of pipe, which is a mammoth engineering feat. We said we couldn’t do it then. Now, we are on track to ensure that the people of Gewada are all drinking safe, nearby water.

This is the power of ‘staying’—you get better at what you do. You stand a chance to really get somewhere in the fight against poverty.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Horn of Africa: Therapeutic Food Makes the Difference for Starving Children

At latest count, over 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are in deadly serious need of help. Over a third of these people are in Ethiopia, where we have long worked with families to bring clean water and prosperity to their villages.

It’s an overwhelming crisis. As nearly impossible as it is for us to imagine, this huge number is made up of real mothers, fathers, little boys, little girls, and babies. To get a sense of this, picture the Ethiopian district of Alle Woreda.

Alle Woreda saw so little rain this year that their summertime harvests simply didn’t come. Life here before the drought was not easy to begin with. It’s a place where fighting between different tribes (typically over scarce resources like water, which we are working with the people to make accessible for all), has put people out of their homes. Many in Alle Woreda have been living under plastic sheets that we provided as temporary shelters during the fighting, and they have no back-up supply of food.

Now over 20,000 people in this district—and 15,000 of them children—are badly malnourished and very afraid. Their livestock are dying in droves. Malaria and typhoid are claiming many lives—normally they might be strong enough to weather an infection, but in their weakened state, they succumb easily to these diseases.

Right now we are tending to children who are living in an emergency center. These children are currently unable to eat regular food to get needed nutrients and instead need ready-to-use therapeutic food that allows the rapid weight gain that can mean the difference between life and death. They’ll need to have this special food for several months.

Believe us—and bear with us, as you may find this to be such a statement of the obvious as to be insulting—the parents of these children intensely want their children to survive. Many, many others want the same thing and they will not have their wish granted. We need to make sure there are as few parents in the second category as is humanly possible. That’s all we know.

We know that our supporters agree, but bluntly speaking, our call for help needs a bigger response. We need to do more and we can’t without help.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ethiopia and Dawson’s Creek: McLeod Students are ‘Thinking Globally’

A little earlier in the summer, a school in Dawson’s Creek, British Columbia called McLeod Elementary approached our representatives David and Teresa Plante with a desire to raise a thousand dollars for clean water projects in Ethiopia. The fact that they outdid themselves by raising $1,307.95 is pretty incredible — considering that the school has an enrollment of 39 students. They did this by selling tote bags and water bottles.

The kids were moved by what they had learned about Ethiopia through their own research as well as through a presentation conducted by Teresa and David. Teresa told them:

“The first time we went there [to Ethiopia], the children would have a lot of sores on their face and legs and distended bellies and parasites are fairly common, and when we went back that was quite a bit better. If you can see such a difference in just three months, you can just imagine what a year will bring.”

We’re excited to be working with children not even out of elementary school to save lives. It’s a huge encouragement to the people of Ethiopia who are working very hard to bring clean water, health, and prosperity into their villages. Read the whole story about McLeod students.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Crisis in Africa: Three things that we know

Our call to help people in the Horn of Africa who are dealing with the worst drought in 60 years continues. Many of you have already helped. We anticipate that many more of you will.

As always, when there is a crisis, we are painfully aware of two things. First, we know what the suffering is. We know about whole villages on the move, very hungry and afraid. We know there a more than 10 million people in this situation. Second, we know just how often people like you are asked to help and we know just how often we ask you to help people in crisis.

Sometimes it seems as though these record-breaking crises are becoming the norm. Will the frequency with which poor people face calamity affect your desire to help them? Will disaster become more and more acceptable to us - so long as it does not involve us directly?

The reality is, we’ve been blessed to keep helping the poor because you continue to care. We trust that you will remain open to the plight of the poor.

There is a third thing that we are very aware of: we are able to do something. Because we are able, we will do something. All we can do is invite you to join us.