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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

UBUNTU

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.