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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

UNION Opportunities: ‘Powerful, Unifying, Spectacular’

We are actively recruiting members for our UNION overseas volunteer teams. There are a lot of placements this year, including a special team for families that is being dispatched to Ethiopia. See if there is an opportunity that suits you. It may be your time to make this important investment in yourself and the overseas families that HOPE International Development Agency partners with.

Why should you? Let’s allow Maya Tong, a Cambodia team veteran, to answer:

“The most significant part of the UNION trip for me was the intense focus on respecting and understanding other cultures. Just because North America is considered a first world country while parts of Cambodia are still considered to be third world, it does not mean that a North American way of thinking or problem solving will best suit the problems that another country faces. I felt that it was very important to understand that we were guests in their country, and that the primary focus was not to change the lives of the people we met, but to understand the lives of the people we met. Understanding of someone else's perspective is probably the most important part in being able to significantly help them in ways that will be sustainable and long-term.

Another part of the trip that I found very significant was the diversity of the UNION team of Canadians. Everyone is so different that we probably would not otherwise have all been friends, except for this single, powerful, unifying trip that we all took together. The unity that can result in diverse peoples with a common cause is really spectacular.”

Learn more about HOPE International Development Agency UNION teams.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Southern Sudan: Carter’s Gaffe a Subtle Reminder

Last week former US President Jimmy Carter provided a sad, but perhaps darkly amusing, wrinkle in the swathe of commentary surrounding the Sudanese referendum.

In a field report for CNN Carter was discussing the issues surrounding the possible split of Africa’s largest nation, one of which is the question of how its debt load will be split between North and South. He stated that President Omar al-Bashir "said the entire debt should be assigned to north Sudan and not to the southern part of Sudan. So, in effect, Southern Sudan is starting with a clean sheet on debt. They'll have to make some arrangements for other sources of income, of course."

All of which would be great news for the South. Except that it is, unfortunately, categorically false. The Sudan News Agency released a refutation of Carter’s statements immediately.

Carter’s contributions to the world notwithstanding, the venerable statesmen looked like the very picture of baffled grandstanding. Perhaps after we and the Sudan foreign affairs folks forgive him for his tenuous interpretations of al-Bashir’s intentions, we can also use his example as a reminder of just how complex the issues are that the Sudanese people must face. They most certainly defy soundbite-making.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti: The Big Story, One Year Later

Major media outlets like CNN are in Haiti today to report to you on what has been accomplished so far on the anniversary of the earthquake that leveled the western hemisphere’s poorest nation and inspired a worldwide outpouring of aid. So are we.

The story you are hearing on radio, television, print media, and the blogosphere is this: an enormous amount of money has been donated to Haiti; an enormous amount of money has been presumably wasted. The ‘recovery process’ is slow, disappointing, almost difficult to discern.

In fact, we knew what the story would be a year ago, when disaster struck. The pitch and volume of giving assured us that there would be disenchantment down the road. We were determined not to be a part of that. We knew that our Haitian colleagues were more than capable of ramping up their work with the poor, and we’d be foolish not to trust them with all of the largesse of our supporters.

Throughout the year, we’ve reported on our work in Haiti, which has involved aiding people in the immediate aftermath, and helping survivors to thrive, building better communities and livelihoods than the ones they lost.

For example, we’re very excited about the work we are doing to help farmers to grow more food for communities that have grown by a stunning 30% because ‘earthquake refugees’ have been taken into almost every household. Food security is one of the priorities that the Haitian government has identified in its own official plan for recovery. We’re excited to be a part of real change on that front.

From on the ground in Haiti right now, we continue to report good news. There is progress. Our involvement in Haiti doesn’t span the nation. CNN won’t be reporting on the people we know.

A team of volunteers with HOPE International Development Agency is right now traveling in Haiti, meeting with the people who you have touched with your outsized compassion. We will share their stories upon their return. There is good news.

If you are one of the many people who have questioned whether or not you were too generous when you sent whatever you could to help Haitians survive, we don’t blame you. It’s understandable, given all you’ve heard. But it’s our mission to make sure you never regret your generosity, and thanks primarily to the good Haitians we have working with us, we are right on track. Giving generously was and continues to be a good choice.

Learn more about what HOPE International Development Agency's work in Haiti.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rescuing Children from an Epidemic of Suffering in the Philippines

Tonight, a 10-year old Filipino girl will find herself forced into the arms of an abuser bent on taking advantage of her deeply impoverished situation.

As unbelievable as this tragic situation might seem, it becomes even more jarring when you take into account that more than 60,000 Filipino children are being trafficked in the sex trade right now throughout the Philippines. In fact, some estimates put the total number of trafficked children even higher, at 100,000.

This heartbreaking and horrifying situation can only be described as an epidemic of suffering.

HOPE International Development Agency has made great strides in helping families and their children free themselves from poverty throughout the Philippines, but our focus today is to rescue children that poverty claimed well before we could reach them and their families.

A gift from you of just $65 will rescue a young child from a life that is leading to destruction, and possibly, death. Your gift will provide a safe place to live, learn and heal.

The child your gift can rescue will receive an education - giving her the ability to learn her way out of poverty.

She will also receive vocation skills training that will enable her to have a skill or trade that will generate a livable wage when she grows up.

Counseling will also be available in order to help her transition to her new life.

Learn more about how you can rescue a child today.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011 - Time to be a Hero?

To begin the New Year on the right foot, how about participating in a simple imaginative exercise.

First, imagine that you are taking your morning walk, a stroll through a meadow behind your house. You are approaching a shallow pool of water, a trough that sometimes fills with rain. To your horror, you see that an infant is struggling in the pool, about to drown.
What do you do next?

You are probably wondering why I would even ask. Of course the answer is simple. You are going to lift this baby out of the water. Fine.

Next, I want you to imagine that the same baby is drowning in another pool of water, but the pool is located thousands of miles away. Perhaps you can see this happening on a television screen, or perhaps you have simply been told that it is happening by somebody reputable. Even though you can’t use your physical arms to lift up the child, you could do something just about as strenuous, like pushing a button or speaking a command, to initiate the rescue. Do you do it?

Are you doing it?

This exercise comes from a moral philosopher’s work on compassion and aid, in a 1971 essay titled “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”. The philosopher famously asserted that failing to devote a greater portion of Western wealth to the cause of ending poverty was equivalent to opting out of rescuing a drowning child.

Why?

Because giving a small portion of our wealth is easy- as easy as pausing in your morning walk to rescue a child.

Because, contrary to a lot of bad press that charitable aid has received, making intelligent investments into anti-poverty solutions is effective- as effective as lifting that child out of shallow water.

If nothing else, it’s something to chew on, when you are considering how much you are willing to do for the poor this year.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

South Sudan: A Happy New Year for Africa’s Undecided Nation?

It’s nearly New Year’s eve, and Southern Sudanese people are celebrating while they consider what the future of their nation should be. Meanwhile, the UN is stockpiling food in case the January referendum to decide whether the Christian/animist south will separate from the largely Islam north results in violence.

It’s a tense time for Africa’s largest country. While the referendum puts into motion a shift that will either bring stability, change, violence, or progression for the nation as a whole, at the village level, South Sudanese people are struggling to establish peaceful lives.

While HOPE International Development Agency’s Sudanese colleagues have many success stories to share and their skill in bringing permanent positive changes to communities is growing they are also adept at responding to crisis - unfortunately due to much hard experience. It is not uncommon for them to need to move quickly in order to supply food, shelter, and care to people who have had to leave their villages due to attacks from unsympathetic tribes.

Decades of civil war leaves a legacy of mistrust and violence. Poverty can make neighbours turn on each other if they feel it will aid in their survival. The reality of life on the ground in South Sudan is one of great difficulty and uncertainty.

It is also one in which extraordinary people are trying to make a good life. While we can’t guarantee nation-wide stability or just political outcomes, we can invest in capable and worthy people. They will be the ones to lead their neighbours, slowly and with some difficulty, into a South Sudan that might someday mark their holidays with a little less anxiety.