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Friday, December 14, 2012

Somalia: Fundraising in a Refugee Camp

Again, we are reminded by our friends in Somalia that the poor families we are trying to help are not passive victims, not simply open mouths that we pour aid into.

The strength of these families is critically under-reported. HOPE International Development Agency does not even do an adequate job of conveying their dignity and strength, especially when the need to secure help for them behooves us to present their need as clearly as possible.

But to give to someone and know that they are working alongside your gift, that they are the forces that gives your gift potency. Throwing money at a problem never solved it. Investing money into a solid partner can reap great dividends. This is what we are honestly tying to do: find families that can work with us as partners.

In the wake of one of history’s greatest famines, families in Mogadishu, Somalia, have been taking valiant steps from survival mode to something resembling self-sufficiency. Last year we were giving famine-affected families food aid but with time it made sense to help them drill a borehole for clean water in their camp. The really extraordinary thing is that to make this happen, the families took it upon themselves to raise the money. Their contribution of $4,000 might seem paltry by our standards, but it is a huge sum of money considering the fact that they were utterly destitute, literally owning nothing but the clothes of their backs, when they entered the camp.

The borehole is now being drilled and the community of survivors is pouring themselves into seeing the project through. From fundraising to construction, they are making it happen.

This is just one example of the proactive spirit inhabiting the poor communities we choose to work with. Honestly, this is the rule and not the exception. If you give your money, know that it is going to people who know how to benefit from it, to realize its maximum potential to transform their lives.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Philippines Emergency: Survivors of Typhoon Bopha urgently need help.

Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless after one of the most powerful storms in decades tore through the impoverished Philippine island of Mindanao last weekend.

At its peak, the storm was 400 kms in diameter and had winds approaching speeds of 175 kms per hour. Families caught in the teeth of the storm lost everything, including loved ones and friends.

Visit to learn how you can help families who are struggling to survive in the aftermath of Typhoon Bopha.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving: “We have only used HOPE as a conduit”

We received this email from an individual who has chosen to give very generously over the years, and thought these words were worth sharing.

This person, together with his family, has been responsible for helping poor people transform entire villages into places where they can drink clean water, grow enough food, start businesses, and send their children to school.

We say all of this not to glorify the givers, who would not want us to do so, but to emphasize that they are people who know what they are talking about when they talk about the subject of giving. This friend writes:

“I can't help thinking about what you said about people donating to [HOPE International Development Agency] or to David McKenzie [ed. whether people think of their gifts as going to the charity itself or to the people like International President David McKenzie who might be exhorting donors to give]. 

Really thinking about it, that has never occurred to me.  We…have always thought that our donations went to the people of Cambodia, Ethiopia, the Philippines or whatever country that has a population of really poor people. 

We have only used [HOPE] as a conduit to get the funds to the country of our designation.  AND the only reason that we use [HOPE] in that way is because you and [HOPE] have set in place a mechanism to make sure that the funds reach their intended destination and attain their intended results.

Maybe it would be wise to let the people know that Hope is only a conduit to get funds to their intended destination and that none of the funds stay with [HOPE].”

We agree and we think this man has put it beautifully. If you can trust your charity to be a conduit rather than a final destination for your gifts, then you may be inspired to give more joyfully.

We are all tired of feeling like we are bankrolling charity executives. The ‘intended results’ are those transformed villages that these givers have stood alongside and given a push towards self-sufficiency. So we believe that the more power we can give to donors and to the poor, the less power that we, as the charitable ‘conduit’ will have. That’s just exactly as it should be.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Dominican Republic: ‘More Than Simple Housewives’

The mountains of San Jose de Ocoa, Dominican Republic, are home to some of the poorest families in the western hemisphere. Difficult terrain, poor growing conditions, recurring and destructive hurricanes, and a lack of economic opportunities mean that many families cannot access basic necessities. Most families eke out a living from small-scale farming, simply eating what they grow.

Through decades of experience, HOPE International Development Agency has learned that community-based greenhouses run by women’s associations can be a very effective means of increasing food production and incomes. Each greenhouse is constructed of a breathable fabric with no open-air windows, sides that extend into the earth, and a hygienic air-lock entry to prevent the introduction of diseases and pests. Families farming in greenhouses can produce significantly more food than families farming in traditional outdoor plots of land.

Since the beginning of 2012, HOPE International Development Agency has helped 40 women in 5 associations in San Jose de Ocoa maintain efficient greenhouses by reinstalling roofing and insect-proof meshing, improving soil quality, rebuilding soil beds, and improving irrigation systems. Seeds have also been distributed and families have participated in extensive training.

These activities have all helped families to grow food more efficiently and with a smaller chance of losing crops to pests or weather. For women like Josefa Emilia Castillo, who works with six other women in her group, the Asociacion des Mujeres Maria Trinidad Sanchez in the community of El Naranjal, this is making a significant difference:

“Now, we can be more than just simple housewives. With the greenhouse, we are able to obtain some economic benefits and knowledge in various aspects. In training, we have acquired much knowledge about the organization, division of labor, and technical assistance in managing the greenhouses with the identification of pests and diseases. 

We have established a small family business, providing to the family some economic benefits, among others. The family now gets better food, is healthier, and has more time available. Having a greenhouse has improved my family’s life in an agreeable way because now we have been able to acquire the resources of production. 

Food comes to us that was previously not available to us, was not in our reach. In this way, the greenhouse has improved our quality of life.”

What these women are doing with their greenhouses is inspiring to us. We’ve included these greenhouses in our annual gift catalogue if you want to make their success part of your holiday celebrations.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gifts that bring hope to people who need it most

The most meaningful gift you can give this Christmas season is the gift of hope.

For the seven year-old child traumatized by the loss of her parents because of HIV/AIDS, your gift means safety, education, and all the care she will need to move beyond life on the streets of Addis Ababa.

For the mother in South Sudan who weeps because she knows the filthy pond water her children are forced to drink may very well take their lives, your gift of clean water means good health for her children and freedom from heartbreak.

For the children and young people in Cambodia destined to continue living a life of oppressive poverty because they lack an education, your gift of learning will be their way out of poverty.

For the parents in the Democratic Republic of Congo whose impoverished life is a recurring nightmare that began when they were children, your gift of training, tools, seeds, and other much needed help means their families can become self-sufficient and free from poverty.

No store-bought gift can compare to the hope and transformation a gift from this year’s catalogue can bring to a poor child or family in desperate need right now.

You can give as many gifts as you wish. You can even give gifts on behalf of loved ones, friends, or co-workers. We will send them a personal note, telling them about the gift and the giver.

See this year’s selection of life transforming gifts you can give.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Haitian families dealt another cruel blow with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy

Families, still trying to recover from Tropical Storm Isaac in late August were dealt another cruel blow when Hurricane Sandy pelted the highly impoverished country with three days of relentless rain. In addition to widespread flooding and destruction, 51 Haitians have lost their lives as a result of the storm.

You can support our efforts to help Haiti's poorest families recover by visiting today.

Monday, October 15, 2012

South Sudan: On the Frontline of Health Care for the Poor

This excellent BBC photo-essay on a nurse’s life in South Sudan reminds us why we love to help health workers in this fledgling nation. South Sudan is the youngest country in the world, unbelievably beset with challenges, ranging from extreme poverty to post-war recovery.

There are far too few health workers in South Sudan and those who faithfully serve their people are plagued with a lack of infrastructure, of medicines, and of equipment.

We’re proud to send medicines and medical supplies to South Sudanese clinics that serve the very poor.

Check out the BBC photo-essay here and you can see the conditions that people like Nurse James are working in, attempting to serve people who are ‘starting from zero’

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In Pueblo Libre, starting school is not the issue. Staying in school is the challenge.

For every 200 children who start school in Pueblo Libre, one of the poorest neighborhoods in all of Peru, only 17 will go on to graduate.

It’s not easy to learn when you are the first among your family to go to school. Parents, the vast majority of whom never had the opportunity to attend school, are not well equipped to support their children in their learning journey. It’s not that parents don’t want to support their children, they just don’t have the first-hand experience or understanding of the benefits education can provide.

The situation is equally challenging for young people who are approaching a time when they will enter the workforce. Without the appropriate skills training, finding a job with a livable wage is next to impossible.

Both scenarios do not offer much hope and result in people remaining trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.

With your help, however, children can stay in school, and young people can receive the training they need in order to get a good job.

With your help, children can receive tutoring twice a week. This will ensure that they understand what they are being taught, and are able to apply what they are learning. In addition, children also receive all of the school supplies they need, including items like notebooks, pencils, and paper.  In addition, a portion of your gift is used to teach parents how to support their children in their learning journey.  All of this help gives a child everything they need to feel supported in their learning efforts and to be successful.

You can also support the young people of Pueblo Libre by helping fund scholarships that will ensure they have access to the job skills training they need in order to secure a job with a livable wage and good future.

In Pueblo Libre, education and job skills training are two of the most important ways to become free from the poverty that has held people captive for generations.

Help the children and young people of Pueblo Libre today.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ethiopia: “Like a Mother and Father, HOPE International Development Agency Supported Me”

We are helping hundreds of children and young adults in Addis, Ethiopia, to transition out of a tragic past into a promising future. Most, but not all of these young people have been affected by HIV/AIDS, losing one or both parents to the disease. Helen Tekele’s family was not destroyed by the epidemic, but she still ended up, at a very young age, with no adults to fend for her. Her experience is typical of the children we work with:

"My name is Helen Tekele. I am 16 years old and living in the Gotera area of Addis Ababa. I am one of 7 children. We had been living off the pension of our retired father, but since my mother was an asthmatic patient she was not able to support us and medical care for her was expensive. Though our living standards were very low, my parents were happy. To increase the family’s income, my father started working as a guard in one organization. However, after some time my father became ill with Tuberculosis. When the case became serious, he was admitted at Zewditu Hospital. Shortly after, he passed away. So as not to be a burden on our family, four of my brothers married. My brother who remained at home was forced to put his education on hold because the tuition fees were too high. When my mother’s asthma became worse, I too dropped out of school to care for her. After being hospitalized for quite some time, she passed away. It was at that time that a HOPE International Development Agency employee introduced me to the organization. When I shared my story with them, they were very willing to support me. Like a mother and a father, HOPE supported me to continue my education, providing necessary school materials. The organization also has been providing me wheat, oil, and Famix monthly. With the support of the Almighty God and HOPE, I am studying the 11th grade. If it is God’s will, I want to support children who have lost parents like myself to complete their education."

We have no reason to doubt that Helen will go on to be an incredibly supportive and compassionate adult. This is what we see happen with ‘our kids’.

If supporting someone like Helen is something you’re interested in doing, learn more by visiting today.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cambodia: Khmer Rouge’s ‘First Lady’ Released

It still remains to be seen whether survivors of the Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge nightmare — like the families we work with — will be served any semblance of justice. 

Ieng Thirith, otherwise known as the ‘First Lady’ of the Khmer Rouge and one of the few senior players of that regime to ever face justice for their crimes, was released by Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court due to her failing mental health. The charges against her for crimes committed as social affairs minister have not been dropped. However, as with other Cambodian officials accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, Thirith is dogged in her refusal to take responsibility.

It is believed that Thirith is responsible for crafting the policies that were meant to reshape Cambodian society according to the Khmer Rouge’s bizarre vision of an agrarian utopia. Because of this woman, children were separated from parents, wives from husbands. The trauma suffered by Cambodians under her leadership is unfathomable.

Thirith, although judged unfit to stand trial, was reportedly energetic in her defense in a 2009 hearing. She repeatedly claimed that the Khmer Rouge’s top ideologue was responsible for “everything.” She cursed her accusers to the “seventh circle of hell.”

It is nauseating to think of what Thirith’s victims feel when they hear her words. We stand with our friends in Cambodia in hoping for as much justice as can be realized at this late stage in the world’s accounting of this atrocious regime.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Haiti: Picking up the Pieces in the Aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac.

Families in remote mountainside communities throughout the Fon Batis and Delis regions of Haiti are picking up the pieces of their lives in the aftermath of tropical storm Isaac.

Already incredibly poor, and still trying to recover from the earthquake that devastated the country a few years ago, many families in Fon Batis and Delis lost their homes, food supplies, vegetable gardens, crops, and livestock.

This couldn't have happened at a worse time given that the most recent harvest of corn and beans never happened due to a recent drought throughout the area.

HOPE International Development Agency is responding with urgently needed items such as emergency food rations, crop seeds, tools, animals, basic household tools, and home repairs or reconstruction.

You can help the families of Fon Batis and Delis today.

Please visit to make a donation.

Ethiopia: A boost in the uphill battle of providing health care to the poor

Recently, Aklilu Mulat, HOPE International Development Agency’s Acting Executive Director, visited Ethiopia, the country of his birth, where he witnessed the delivery of a large shipment of medical supplies that we had arranged for a rural hospital to receive.

This is something we do all over the world: help struggling hospitals and clinics that serve the poorest of the poor to be better stocked and equipped.

We secure high quality medications and medical equipment (not expired pills and broken or useless tools!), and ship large quantities of them to health centers that can put them to good use.

Aklilu’s observations highlight the deprivation and struggle that these health centers experience on a day to day basis. The Hosana Hospital is typical of the institutions across the world that we are trying to help.

Aklilu writes...

The tour of Hosana Hospital was overwhelming. Supplies were in serious lack, which meant that services could not be delivered at the level necessary to ensure proper treatment of patients. It also meant that the hospital itself was unsanitary. The delivery room and the room in which they carried out some surgery, for example, were not clean, let alone sterile. Dr. Ayano (the medical director of the hospital) attributes this to lack of consistent supply of water, lack of cleaning and sterilizing supplies, and failure of some of their equipment.

There were very few pieces of equipment that actually worked.  Most concerning was that the sterilizing equipment did not work at all.

Overall, the hospital and regional officials expressed deep gratitude to HOPE International Development Agency as the medical supplies will enable the hospital - which has a service area of nearly 1 million people - to provide better care to patients. “Items like gauze, scissors, gloves, and syringes may seem ordinary,” said Dr. Avano, “but they save lives.”

It is encouraging to see the shipment of medical supplies received by the good people at Hosana Hospital, knowing that it will help the doctors and nurses - not to mention the patients - in their need. Because their need is beyond acute.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pakistan: After Survival, is Thriving Possible?

When Pakistan flooded in late July 2010, the western world didn’t hear too much about it, despite the fact that one fifth of Pakistan was underwater, 2,000 people died, and 20 million were affected. It was a disaster of epic proportions.

With your help, we tended to survivors in the immediate aftermath. But once the clean water, medicine, food, and shelter were distributed, there was still so much to do. As with other post-disaster scenarios, we wanted to know if we could make people more resilient in the face of future disasters, and raise the standard of living to a higher level than it had been before tragedy struck.

We wanted to make sure the poorest families had better livelihoods. For example, we found ultra-poor landless women and gave them goats and cattle and training on how to raise these animals and treat common livestock diseases.

Shahnaz Mai has five boys and three daughters. The floods destroyed her home, drowned her four goats, and wiped out all of the food she had. Her situation was beyond desperate. She says when she heard how HOPE International Development Agency was helping women like herself she had a ‘glimmer of hope for [her] betterment.’ She said she felt she might be able to stand on her feet again. She was right.

Shahnaz now has a goat that she has been fully trained in the care of. She sells the milk for 30 rupees a day. When the goat has a kid, she’ll sell it for a ‘windfall profit’. At this stage of the game, she says that she and her family now depend on nobody for charity.

Two years after losing everything, Shahnaz and her children are doing well. They did not only survive mind-numbing catastrophe, they are strong and self-sufficient in their new post-flood reality. Fortunately, there are many others like them. We have the privilege of working with them.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cambodia: Personal reflections on choices

We are pleased to share some reflections on the work we are doing in Cambodia, as expressed by Jennie Hofeling, a friend of HOPE International Development Agency, who recently visited our friends in that country.

Here's what our friend Jennie has to say about her experience...

My life is a constant stream of choices. Will I take a bath or a shower? Will I eat in or go out? Will I look through my fridge or freezer and find something to cook, or will I go to the market? Choices, so many choices.

I recently returned from my third trip to Cambodia, and was reminded how lucky I have been to be born in North America.

In Pursat province, where the poorest of the poor live, there are not many choices.

When we arrived, at the tail end of the dry season in over 100 degree temperatures, a typical day was simply a matter of survival. Get up at first light when it is still cool enough to work hard, and start walking long distances to try to find water. Hope that it isn’t too dirty, or too late, and that the small amount that has pooled in the night has already been collected. Have your first of two meals, a serving of rice porridge – hopefully enough to keep your belly from aching until you eat again. Go out to collect and forage for food - small gardens are almost nonexistent. Things don’t grow without water, so small critters, forest plants, and fruits are collected in ever growing distances from your home. How many ants does it take to feed a family of five? Hope that you find enough to keep your children quiet throughout the night, sleep, start again.

Somehow, Cambodians still have hope, and they ask for help. They ask and ask until someone listens. In Pursat province, Hope International Development Agency has listened and is helping.

Three years ago, we met families that had just received access to a well, or clean water provided by simple water filters. This trip, we met more families whose lives have changed dramatically. After having access to water for only 4 - 5 months, life is no longer the same. The house and yard have been tidied after training and education is provided by the Hope International Development Agency staff. A composting latrine dug. The father of the house takes us to his back yard and proudly hand cranks a simple pump, and cool water gushes. A large garden is flourishing. Additional land is being cleared. Time has been made available to plan. A son who was ill, who needed to help collect food and water, comes home from his day at school and hangs on to his mother’s leg, staring at us with clear brown eyes. She talks excitedly about what life was like and how it is going to be now.

Three years ago, we went to the opening of a brand new 3-room schoolhouse that was stuffed with beautiful, healthy, shy, curious, playful children. This trip, the same schoolhouse is now flanked by two additional school buildings, brimming with small hopeful faces who have learned to plan and dream, to be a teacher, a builder, a seamstress.

Once confined to a life of poor health, poor nutrition, endless work, children can now be children. The memories of fear, hunger, and pain are replaced by a teacher’s praise, learning to read, and a swing set.

We got to see real and simple solutions, and how they continue to work. A growing “dry season rice” program that creates up to two additional crops a year. Small businesses start or expand with a 100% success rate. Micro loan programs, and women’s self help groups. Farm animal banks, and health care programs.

Needs are addressed and solutions found by a passionate and tireless local staff that understand the restrictions of local customs, government, and tradition. Slowly, but consistently, life in this district is starting to improve. What seemed like overwhelming problems, endless poverty, and immeasurable need has become manageable projects with real enduring solutions.

My life is still full of choices and now after being inspired, changed, educated, humbled, and challenged by Cambodia, I am faced with another choice: what I will do about all that I have seen?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hunger – Caused by People, Solved by People.

Previously, we noted that hunger rarely shows up uninvited.

More often than not, people invite hunger into their lives and the lives of others.

Sometimes the invite is issued unknowingly. A lack of knowledge, for example, can result in hunger appearing on the scene in a home or village.

Other times, hunger appears because of greed, or for the gain of the powerful.

Further discussion of hunger, however, must include some consideration of our perception of nature’s role in the prevalence and persistence of hunger throughout the developing world.

At first glance it would appear easy, if not convenient, to blame nature for much of what ails the developing world.

Upon closer examination, however, it becomes evident that blaming nature may be both unwise and disastrous, especially for the poor.

Without a doubt, nature has the ability destroy lives. A tsunami or earthquake, for example, can end life in a heartbeat. Prolonged drought, on the other hand, ends life slowly and agonizingly.

Yet if we take a moment to look beyond the obvious, the fury of a killer storm or the silent death caused by drought, we find, yet again, people.

Choices made before a natural disaster occurs have as much impact on a post-disaster outcome as the choices made in response to a disaster. In fact, poor choices, made by impoverished families through a lack of knowledge or resources, or by knowledgeable people for their own advancement, are the real disaster, and put multitudes more people at risk than any disaster.

Our daily inaction against the root causes of hunger, for example, is massively amplified in the aftermath of a disaster.

The fact that it often takes an act of nature to force issues of chronic hunger into our consciousness is a sad testament to the human condition these days, especially when you consider that the hunger we are concerned about existed long before the disaster happened.

In essence, hunger has been hiding in plain sight all along.

Yes, we can blame nature. In fact, we can blame whomever or whatever we choose. In the end, however, hunger is most often caused by people, exacerbated by people, and allowed to persist by people.

And therein lies the hope. If people, through the choices they make, invite hunger into their lives, they can, with the right knowledge and resources, send hunger packing.

You can help the poor learn to make choices that make them both self-reliant and resilient.

The question is, will you?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Somalia: The Long Road Home

Somalia’s rapid descent into famine was well underway when the UN declared the East African country to be a state of famine nearly a year ago.

The UN has since rescinded its declaration of famine, but this does not mean Somali families, especially those currently living in displaced person camps, are not at risk.

Currently, around 2.5 million people in Somalia continue to need assistance, and an additional 1.2 million could fall back into crisis very quickly without the type of sustained assistance provided by organizations like HOPE International Development Agency.

Without a doubt, the ascent out of famine is going to be much slower than the descent.

Recent rains have helped in some areas of the country, but other areas remain much like they were before the famine.

In some areas, modest gains are expected in harvests where families were able to plant crops.

Yet for millions of Somalia’s population, talk of rains and harvests borders on the irrelevant as they are still living in displaced persons camps and unable to return home at this point. The conditions that forced them to flee their homes in search of shelter, food, and water persist today, but then again, so does our resolve to help!

From the outset of the crisis, and even before famine was declared, it has been HOPE International Development Agency’s desire to accomplish two key things with and for displaced families in Somalia.

Firstly, we want to do everything we can to ensure that families survive and become healthy enough to make the journey home when the time comes. We had hoped that many would have been able to return home this year, but the conditions simply are not right at this time. Families would be inviting suffering and death into their lives if they left the camps at this time.

Secondly, we want to ensure that when families do return home, they have access to the knowledge, supplies, and tools they will need to become self-reliant again.

The sum of these two initiatives will ensure that returning families and their communities become drought resistant and as such, are able to survive and thrive in the challenging conditions that are characteristic of this region of Africa.

Right now, however, our attention is focused on two major concerns related to our work among families in Taagwey camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, the nation's capital city:

Food supplies are running critically low
The emergency food supplies that are keeping families alive until they can return home are starting to run out. We need to restock these vital supplies as soon as possible.

Water is in short supply
The camp water supply, a borehole well with an insufficient pump and no storage capacity, is failing to keep up with even the minimal needs of Taagwey, whose population has swelled to 12,000 from its original population of 3,200 people before the crisis began.

Visit today to learn how you can help.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hunger Rarely Shows Up Uninvited.

Previously, we acknowledged that hunger threatens the present and robs the future. But are we willing to take the next step in our journey through the not so obvious and acknowledge that hunger rarely shows up uninvited?

We, through our decisions, either invite hunger into the lives of the poor or force it to leave.

Follow the money, or as is so often the case, the breadcrumbs that fall from the table.
In nearly every situation where chronic hunger is present and busy laying waste to families, countries, and regions, we observe that hunger’s presence, more often than not, originates in decisions made by people. Sometimes the decision-makers are affected by their decisions. Most times, however, they are not.

The problem for the poor of our world is that a marginal decision, made either directly or indirectly by someone else, can have dire consequences. The poor can be forgiven for making decisions that end up harming them – in nearly every situation, they simply do not have the resources or knowledge needed to make beneficial decisions in an environment that has become increasingly hostile and marginally livable. The same, however, cannot be said of others, whose decisions are based solely on profitability or power.

For example, someone decided that food would be no different than a barrel of crude oil and should be traded as such.
The commoditization of food contributes to the persistence and broad presence of hunger in our world. The extraordinary concentration of power and dollars within the global grain trade is but one example. Estimates show that as few as four massive transnational corporations control somewhere between 70 to 90 per cent of the global grain trade. Billions of dollars are up for grabs. One of these corporations alone generated 62 billion dollars in earnings in one year. With billions of dollars at stake and millions of people at risk, it is not hard to guess which number will win out in the end.

In the end, the common element  is people and the decisions they make.

Next week... Caused by people, solved by people.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hunger – The Real Story is in the Not So Obvious.

Even the infrequent news watchers among us can grasp the obvious - hunger is and will continue to be a major threat to the well-being of families in the developing world. In fact, hunger is firmly entrenched in first place on the list of the world’s top ten health risks.

What is not so obvious, however, is the scale of the threat, let alone the long-term consequences.

In moving from the obvious to the not so obvious we discover that worldwide, nearly one billion people live in a state of chronic hunger. This means that 1 of every 7 of us is going to bed hungry tonight. Narrow the geographic scope a bit and you find, in sub-Saharan Africa for example, that 1 in every 4, or 240 million people, will go to bed hungry tonight.

Focus on the plight of children in the developing world for a moment and we discover a very sobering fact. Hungry, undernourished children will account for at least half of the 10 million child deaths worldwide this year.

Mothers are not spared the suffering of their children. While women make up just over half of the world’s population, they account for more than 60 per cent of the 1 billion hungry people in the world today.

What happens to mothers happens to their children. Mothers who are undernourished often give birth to underweight babies. These babies are 20 percent more likely to die before the age of five. And when we consider that as many as 17 million children are born underweight every year, the consequences come into sharp focus.

Drilling down a bit deeper, we find that chronically undernourished children suffer up to 160 days of illness annually. Their bodies, beaten down by hunger, are simply unable to cope with the relentless assault of poverty.

Delving a bit deeper still, we see tangible evidence of the long-term ramifications of hunger in that more than 178 million children under the age of 5 are well below the average height for their age - their growth stunted by chronic hunger and undernourishment.

Without taking anything away from the tragedy that is the short-term consequences of hunger, the long-term consequences are equally troubling. Hunger impairs learning and human development in all age groups. It feeds hopelessness, and it enables a status quo that no person of conscience can abide.

In essence, hunger threatens the present and robs from the future.

Even economies are negatively impacted by hunger. In countries with elevated levels of child undernourishment, the loss, in economic terms, can be as high as 3 percent of gross domestic product.

You know the situation is well beyond tragic and well within the realm of the unconscionable when the number of people killed by hunger worldwide pales in comparison to the number of people who survive but remain in a state of chronic hunger and risk.

Next week... Hunger Rarely Shows Up Uninvited

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Putting Tools in Hands, Hope in Hearts, and Food on Tables

Decades of poverty and war has left the families of Bogalengba, in Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo, trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.

Hunger is the norm and earning a livable wage is as rare as having enough food to eat, or a child not being terribly sick every second or third day.

The years have not been kind to these families. Poverty has prevented them from attaining the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to coax both a bountiful harvest and livable income from the soil. This despite the fact that the soil beneath their feet is fertile enough to grow almost anything you can imagine.

In essence, the soil is incredibly rich and the people are incredibly poor.

Unable to grow enough food to feed themselves, chronic hunger and severe malnutrition are considered a way of life.

But thankfully, with your help, we can put tools in their hands, knowledge in their minds, and a sustainable supply of nutritious food on their tables.

With an armload of sturdy gardening tools, a huge bag of seeds, and agricultural training specifically developed to help families learn how to do everything from planning for a bountiful harvest right through to transporting and selling a portion of the harvest at the best price possible, families will be able to free themselves from poverty.

Their desire and your support will ensure that the families of Bogalengba become as rich as the soil they walk upon every day. And by rich, we mean having enough food to eat, earning a livable wage, and having hope in their hearts.

Learn how you can help the families of Bogalengba today.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cambodia: Chan’s ‘Look-You-In-The-Eye Confidence’

A North American-based member of our staff recently traveled to Cambodia. The last time he’d been in the country, he was assisting the film crew that annually donates their professional services to create the films showcasing our work with the poor.

One of the families depicted in that year’s film, ‘The Journey of a Promise’, was headed by a woman named Chan (shown above). In the film, her extremely harsh existence is on display as she and her children eat the thin rice gruel that constitutes their main daily meal.

Chan was one of the first people that our staff member wanted to visit. Inspired by what he saw, he wrote this email to the film crew:

“I am just back from Cambodia. I am always interested to see how the individuals we show in our films are doing.  My first field visit was to Chan's family and her home and community (from the 2009 film). Her life and that of her family have really improved!

A well and now a safe and plentiful and close-by water supply (shared with other nearby families).  Garden and nutrition from vegetable crops, and new income from produce sales.  Participation in a Self Help Group and all the social capital that comes from that. Raising livestock (her own cow from the Cow Bank, and tending other people's goats).  She has now has an income from all of these activities.  Her husband is a more active contributor/participant in the family.  All her children are in school, including the 16 year old who gets to start in grade 2 or 3 (now that is one brave woman!), except the youngest who will start when she is old enough (but she wants to go NOW!).

The confirmation of all this good is the clear sparkle in Chan's eyes and the look-you-in-the-eye confidence that comes with the knowledge she is on a good path (and from all the interaction with the HOPE International Development Agency staff that has completely affirmed her).  That was a great moment for me to see that in her!

A few of my pictures attached. A big THANK YOU from me for all you do in support of what we together try to do with and for the poor.”

Seeing as you (dear Reader) might be one of those people who were moved by Chan’s story to give towards families like hers back in 2009, we figure the ‘thank you’ applies equally to you! We hope the update is as encouraging to you as it is to us.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Another Look at Kony12: ‘Post-Humanitarian Advertising’

Think Africa Press has published an incredibly insightful article by James Wan about how charities communicate their message through advertising. It is well worth the read.

The article focuses on the famous Kony12 campaign, which saw a short video produced by the Kony12 organization go viral on a scale never before seen.

Wan’s analysis — namely that the Kony12 campaign distinguished itself from the type of advertising charities have used in the past by mirroring the consumerist, narcissistic qualities that prevail in today’s Western culture — cuts deeply.

It’s all of especially interest to us because, of course, one of HOPE International Development Agency’s mandates — and, indeed, the only way we can go forward with any other mandate to serve the poor — is to communicate the problem of poverty to people who can do something about it.

When we do this, we have to do it right. It’s not an easy task. Do you best serve the cause by shocking people with the depth of poverty suffered by people a whole world away? Or do you encourage positive feelings by emphasizing the good that you, as a donor, can do? Or do you appeal to the Western desire to be heroic, a kind of humanitarian super-star like George Clooney or the notorious makers of the Kony12 video?

All of these ‘trends’ in humanitarian advertising can do a lot of damage, and miss the mark entirely: letting people know that that others—just as human as they are—are suffering and could be helped. It’s incredible to think that such a simple message can be so difficult to convey without demonstrating the worst tendencies in our culture

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ethiopia: A ‘Simple Repair’ is Success Beyond Measure

A professor from McGill who recently traveled to Ethiopia to evaluate our work helping the poor to develop clean water systems in their villages observed something that he found very encouraging.

When a tap on a system broke, the villagers organized someone to leave the village, purchase a replacement in the correct model, and install it upon his or her return. Of course that’s what they did, you might be saying. But this simple act of repairing a tap demonstrated something profound, a milestone that the community had reached in the non-linear and often-bewildering journey out of chronic poverty. They might have gotten their water system installed but never reached this milestone and then in five to ten years time they would be a community with a broken-down system and a sense of poverty more firmly entrenched than ever.

Jeffery Matuella writes an illuminating article for the publication D+C about the kind of ‘development’ that can lead to an even deeper kind of poverty. He describes a community called Bluefield in Nicaragua who resists tackling the problem of contaminated water by investing into an enterprise that would produce ceramic filters and teach poor people how to use them. 

As it turns out, the community was turned off of the idea because UNICEF at one point chose to import filters from the United States and distribute them to everybody in Bluefield. UNICEF did not teach people how to use the filters and, as Matuella writes “[they] gave the people very little incentive to actually use the filters. People value things in proportion to the sacrifice they invested to obtain them. The filters were likely perceived to be worth exactly what the recipients paid in effort and money: nothing.” Like manna from heaven, the filters came raining down on the people of Bluefield. And UNICEF did little to dispel the notion of aid organizations as God-like, vast in their power, arbitrary and mysterious in their doings. The filters eventually broke or were discarded and the reaction, by and large, was shrugging. So when a clean-water plan that required greater ownership and local initiative was presented to the people, they rejected it. Why? They had been made to believe that a ‘clean water’ initiative was something that big, powerful, aid organizations did—not they themselves—and because these initiatives were shown to ‘not work’ and not be worth the effort.

In the Ethiopian districts where we help villages to access clean water, the actual clean water technology is distributed more slowly than it would be if we poured 100% of our manpower and energy and focus into ‘building systems’. The water system in Ethiopia — just like the ceramic filter in Nicaragua — is only the tip of the iceberg. In order for this technology to be of any use at all, it must be accompanied by social investment. The people themselves construct the systems—it is clear to them that the systems are valuable because they have paid for them in sweat and sacrifice. They are carefully taught how to use and maintain them. And HOPE International Development Agency only enters a community to help install a system if the people have invited us—we only help out with what the people specifically ask us to help out with. They want clean water—we don’t tell them to want it.

So when we hear about systems being faithfully maintained and repaired, we know that our efforts to help have not been in vain. We know that these Ethiopian villagers are tackling the real root of poverty — the mentality that insists they are not capable of saving themselves. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Afghanistan: Jalalabad Clinic a Bastion Against Poverty’s Worst Ravages

Looking at the pictures of people who have received treatment at the clinic HOPE International Development Agency supports in Jalalahad, Afghanistan, is inspiring but sobering too. It makes us ask that perennial question: what if the help was not there?

How does a person, like the young woman shown above, burn their entire arm and not have any place to go to have it treated? How is it that a boy’s foot can be injured while chopping wood with an axe and nobody is there to clean and bandage it? Billions of people scrape by without much or any money, but if something goes terribly wrong with their bodies, that’s when poverty becomes a real horror show.

Thankfully, the Jalalabad clinic is running well and caring for poor people who would not be able to afford the fees at other clinics. This is a place of mercy, where our staff treat their patients with a high degree of sensitivity and devotion. When staff tell us about what they spend the lion’s share of their time treating, we know that they are dealing with a very deprived population indeed: parasites, waterborne diseases, malaria, TB, the ailments that most of the Western world has long left behind. They are meeting critical needs — from presiding over complicated deliveries that, without assistance, would have killed both mother and child, to counseling women from traditional communities regarding their options for birth control.

Because the help is there, real people are being saved from the worst kind of poverty—the loss of health, of life itself. We are grateful for the work our clinic staff are doing and honoured to support them in it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bahamani, South Sudan: The raiders are long gone but the suffering remains

When a heavily armed militia group attacked the village of Bahamani in South Sudan, families ran for their lives. Everything was left behind.

In a matter of moments, the families of Bahamani became refugees and remain as such even today.

Our work among the refugee families began in the aftermath of the attack and continues today. We've been assisting with the provision of food, basic household items, hand-tools, seeds, and agricultural training - all in an effort to help them return to self-sufficiency, even amidst this very difficult situation.

In the aftermath of the attack, 28,000 needed immediate help. And while we are thankful that we've been able to help the survivors begin returning to self-sufficiency, we also have become aware that there are families who need more help or have not yet received the help they need.

Today, we need your support in order to increase the amount of help we are providing to these refugees. Please visit and learn more about how you can help the families of Bahamani today.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Peru: Stemming the Tide of Tragedy

Though you may not hear about it in the news, Peru is experiencing its worst floods in history. To date, at least 246,000 people have been affected. More than 52,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, along with 1,604 schools, 50 health centres, and over 500km of roads. At least 26,000 hectares of farmland are flooded – half the crops grown in Loreto – and over 55,000 farm animals (representing the livelihoods of thousands of families) drowned.

We are trying to be there for these families. We are going to help them to prevent this crisis from creating more tragedies than it already has.

The major challenge currently is preventing the spread of disease. When a population is poor to begin with, and then their clean water supply is cut off (because of damaged water lines), they don’t have enough food to eat, their infrastructure (hospitals, roads, etc.) is destroyed, and huge quantities of mosquitoes are breeding in standing water, this population is going to get sick.

Our goal is to get mosquito nets and medicine into the hands of these flood victims. We are also going to make sure they are taught what they need to know to prevent falling sick. If we can do anything to prevent epidemics, then we will have served these families well. The flood has destroyed enough; the least we can do is prevent further unnecessary suffering.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Somalia: A Job Well Done, But Also Only Partly Done

The United Nations has officially declared the famine in Somalia to be over. For our part, we are reflecting on our food distributions in ‘Zone K’ refugee camp in Mogadishu with gratitude toward how smooth the process was, and humility when we consider how many more people need food acutely.

Since the crisis hit we have been able to distribute flour, oil, sugar, maize, and rice to hundreds and hundreds of families on multiple occasions. Each distribution was designed to provide a family with enough food for two months. We purchased the food locally. We feel confident that our donors’ generosity was maximized as we got the best price for the food purchased by accepting multiple bids from different suppliers. We collaborated with elders in the camps who were able to direct us to the most needy families. The distributions were calm; a spirit of gratitude and community respect prevailed. All in all, our aid plan in Zone K was executed as well as we could have possibly hoped.

But the reality is that despite yesterday’s job well done and the declarations of the UN, people are still pouring into these refugee camps. The reality is that 13 million people have been affected by this drought—a nearly unimaginable figure. The need has outstripped the aid. This sobers us and presses us to continue doing what we can to help.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Manuella: A Haitian Success Story, One Year Later

If you’ve never had the chance to see what we’ve been able to accomplish in post-earthquake Haiti, take a moment to watch the film we premiered in 2011, ‘Hope in Haiti’. At about the 7 minute mark, you are introduced to Manuella, a woman who typifies the situation of young mothers in the developing world: fearful and depressed, constantly labouring to keep her many children alive and well.

Just a few weeks ago, we met with Manuella to see how life has changed for her since she received help through our 2011 campaign on behalf of Haitian families.

HOPE International Development Agency's Director of International Relations, Clifferd Dick, reports that...

‘Real positive change is beginning to happen in her life!  The new tarps that [we] were able to get her continue to provide her and her family significant temporary shelter.  Manuella is also now a member of the local Chinchiron cooperative!  She participates in all the training and education services that [we provide] to farm families…Manuella and her husband have been able to access improved seed and participate in agricultural training as they work to improve their farm yield.  Finally, the water situation is about to change for Manuella!  A part of the storage silo structure that is just beginning to be built is a large water cistern.  This will gather and hold for community use water that runs off from the roof of this building.  The cistern will hold tens of thousands of litres of water, reducing greatly the time and effort required by Manuella's family to collect water.’

It is gratifying to revisit the struggles depicted so candidly on film, and then to consider the changes that have taken place since. Now she is epitomizing the flip-side of the typical developing world mother’s situation: a success story who was just waiting for a small investment of tools and training.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fear replaced with hope in Cambodia

To live in poverty is to live in fear.

Fear that your family will not have enough to eat. Chan, a mother from Pursat, Cambodia, knows this fear all to well. “Four of my family members would work all day long for just enough rice for one, maybe two meals that day,” says Chan. “We just kept getting weaker, and our situation continued to get worse. We had nothing left to hope for.”

Fear that your children will not survive. In the region of Cambodia that Chan lives in, one in eight children die before reaching their fifth birthday. Chan knows the heartache that comes from having to bury one of your children.

Chan’s life has changed significantly since receiving help from HOPE International Development Agency donors who gave her the hand up she needed. Today she is well on her way to being free from poverty and her family is healthy and happy. Fear has been replaced with hope!

The same, however, cannot be said of other families in Chan’s home province of Pursat, Cambodia. They too need help to lift themselves up out of poverty.

You can give that help today with and ensure that families receive the resources and training they need in order to transform their lives and free themselves from poverty – just like Chan and her family did.

Learn more about how you can help today.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Guatemala: Time Saved and Dream’s Realized for Juana San Amparas

Last year we met Juana San Amparas, a woman living in the village of Chinantón, Guatemala. Juana is a widow with several children. In addition to chores too numerous to list, she collected water each day so that her family could drink, cook, and bathe. This task became a tremendous burden during the dry season when the local spring dried up and she had to walk several hours to collect water of extremely poor quality. Juana is like so many women we’ve met - inestimable hours of their lives are lost to water-collection. It boggles the mind.

As of last November, with the help of HOPE International Development Agency, the people of Chinantón, including Juana, were volunteering their time and energy on a gravity-fed water system that would bring clean water from the nearby mountains right to the village, throughout the year.

We are happy to report that this work is now complete; Juana is now able to collect the clean water for her family from nearby her home. Our efforts to help the poorest of the poor in Guatemala to gain access to reliable clean water sources continue. We are now looking at providing water for another community called Los Llanos. You can rest assured that there are many more like Juana there.

Friday, April 13, 2012

African Stories and ‘Comment Culture’: Where Compassion and Callousness Meet

The Globe and Mail has published an excellent article about dealing with famine before it becomes a catastrophe, and about UNICEF’s efforts, in particular (although make no mistake — plenty of other organizations, HOPE International Development Agency included, try to take preemptive action against famine).

The editorial is thoughtful. It’s helpful to let people know how hard aid organizations work to address a crisis like that brewing in the Sahel region of Africa right now, before they become media spectacles. Unfortunately, it is the media spectacle that inevitably provokes the greatest response from concerned donors.

As eye-opening as the article is, the reader comments below are far more revelatory. Although one must always remember that the comments section of most online publications are the natural habitat of people who are spoiling for a fight, eager to express their polarizing views with convenient anonymity, they are still worth a read. That is, if you are someone who cares for the poorest of the poor and tries to create the conditions on this planet that would give them something that almost approaches a fair shake in life.

It is beyond the scope of this blog to address the extremely complicated feelings that Westerners habour towards Africans. But it’s fair to say that there is a tenor of extreme disgust and impatience towards the perceived ‘failures’ of this continent, economically, politically, and otherwise. This impatience makes rallying support for intelligent investments into the abilities of poor African families to become self-reliant (something we try to do) quite the uphill battle.

If you are like many of the commentators of this article and you believe that sending aid to famine-afflicted starving people directly causes problems like overpopulation, you have a perfect excuse not to care very much at all whether the next batch of miserable African victims die off or not. Not caring is being part of the solution, rather than the problem! One wonders at the thought process which leads the very intelligent-sounding ‘Dieter HH’ to state that aid organizations “may in fact have made the situation much worse by encouraging irresponsible and unsustainable population increases ( y factors of 3X to 4X ) in what is/was under the best of circumstances a marginal and unforgiving eco system.”

What does he picture in his mind’s eye? That presumably once she’s watched her child with toonie-sized biceps ingest a rehydration packet, the typical African mother immediately makes plans to give birth to many more children, seeing as the experience of depending on emergency aid has relieved her of much of the stress of figuring out how to keep body and soul together? Maybe African mothers and fathers are sort of like entitled teenagers and they have children just to test the patience of Western donors?

We say this: beware of the type of logic that encourages hardness of heart. Beware of the thoughts that conveniently allow you to forgo even the most modest shows of generosity. Consider carefully what commentator ‘KateCanadian’ has to say:

“The responses to this article so far are not responses to human beings in trouble. They sound like the callous English landlords who sneered at the Irish in the midst of the potato famine. The 8-year-old child whose brain is being clouded and body twisted by lack of protein and vitamins -- the child does not know that thirty years ago relief funds were stolen by strongmen who died before they were born. The child is living now, today, and needs help in a situation created by adults.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Today, many families are preparing to celebrate Easter, a holiday that is rich with symbols that celebrate life and the thing that makes life truly good — love.

We have often considered it our mission at HOPE International Development Agency to get people who have been given a lot to understand how full life can be when they give generously — when they give more than they thought they would be comfortable giving. But it is difficult to convey the joy of sharing in a culture where lonely self-protection rules the day.

As you mark Easter this year, and you think about how to be on the side of life, on the side of love and generosity, perhaps think about this story:

An anthropologist proposed a game to a group of African tribal children. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told them that whoever got there first would win the sweet fruits. When he told them to run they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that, as one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said: “UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”

UBUNTU in the Xhosa culture means: "I am because we are."

Happy Easter and remember — you are because we are.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

UNION: Beyond the Consumer’s ‘Voluntourism’

For those interested in traveling for a purpose beyond merely taking in the sights, consider volunteering with HOPE International Development Agency's UNION program. If you have a few minutes, watch this short film about UNION.

In recent years, we’ve become aware of the term ‘voluntourism’, which refers to overseas tourism that incorporates some sort of volunteering. The term is fairly glib and in many respects, it should be. The idea of rich westerners taking excursions to the poorest, most desolate places on earth for their own sense of personal enrichment should make us all a little squeamish. The idea that one can buy the experience of feeling like a good person — because, let’s face it, it is costly to fly, costly to travel to far flung places — should give one pause.

We have been sending volunteers to the communities where we are at work since the early 80s, long before there was a market for this kind of travel experience. Since that time, we have been telling people that, in fact, they are really not that useful to us as school-builders, nurses, teachers, or any of the myriad roles that people take on as overseas volunteers. Even if those are exactly the sort of jobs our volunteers do, the purpose has never been to replace indigenous school-builders, nurses, and teachers with Western travelers — the purpose has been to allow our volunteers to simply experience life in these villages.

The most useful work our volunteers do takes place when they return home — our volunteers have raised untold sums of money for the communities that they grew to love, they have become formidable advocates, they have found ways to support and strengthen the work of HOPE. We could hand out a million pamphlets on poverty and their impact would be inconsequential compared to the experience of a handful of people who had actually traveled to a poor village and befriended the people there. Information breeds opinions, but experience stokes the fire of activism.

So while the term ‘voluntourism’ summons images of the perfect consumer package — a travel experience designed to provide moral satisfaction in a few convenient weeks — please understand that the UNION experience is a little different. We want your time overseas to be the beginning of something a lot less convenient, tidy, and short-term, but ultimately much, much more satisfying