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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chinchiron: a Party That Started In Edmonton and Ended in A Haitian Village

Roughly a year ago, a group of very fine people in Edmonton threw a party. Their aim was to raise enough funds for a village in Haiti. The village, Chinchiron, was a place where 500 families were suffering water-borne diseases and fatalities constantly - one of the many crushing burdens chronic poverty had conferred to them.

We’re happy to report that our Edmontonian friends—who included Margaret McPhedran, Gregg Oldring, Kate Duffield Somerville, and Beth Duffield—were resoundingly successful, and as a result, the people of Chinchiron are getting their first taste of success.

Chinchiron’s water reservoir and rainwater catchment system has been completed. Construction was hampered at many points by poor weather, including typhoons, but thanks to the hard work of community members who contributed voluntary labour, the system was made in time to be filled with water when heavy seasonal rain falls in the next few weeks. This system captures rainwater off of the community grain storage silo, feeds it via gutters to a sloped reservoir, and directs it to gravity-fed taps. In total, the reservoir will hold 150,000 liters of water.

The families are anticipating the filling of the reservoir with great excitement and gratitude. All 3,000 of them will have access to enough water for irrigating gardens, bathing, washing clothing, and drinking/cooking (after it is boiled or treated). Families in Chinchiron have formed a committee to manage the new water resource and ensure that everyone has fair access to the water.

We have nothing but gratitude and respect for the friends who initiated this. Their idea was simple: let’s have a party and let’s celebrate our capacity to give at the same time. The notion that so many people have had their lives saved and transformed by an act of simply having fun is inspiring. Thank you.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cambodia: The Link Between Confidence and Innovation

Farming families in Cambodia are taking great strides towards self-reliance. We’re excited by how well the dry-rice farming initiative is going among the families who wanted to try raising a new, hardy varietal of rice using sustainable methodology. They have taken to the new style of farming with enthusiasm and the success they’ve experienced has made them increasingly more confident.

One shouldn’t underestimate the significance of confidence among these families. Fearfulness is the hallmark of poverty: people who have been poor for generations are typically unwilling to take risks and endanger whatever resources they do have. But confidence is the secret ingredient that allows for innovations, and innovations can usher in great transformations and unexpected windfalls.

Mok Tal is a 37 year-old farmer. He and his family have been through every conceivable hardship in trying to cobble together a barely-secure life. They have worked as laborers on other farmers’ fields. Mok Tal had to travel to the Thai border to find jobs that often endangered his life.

Since 2009, Mok Tal and his family have been working with us to grow Dry Season rice. Little by little, life has improved. They had enough to eat and began saving money and purchasing more land.

In 2011, Mok Tal acquired a ploughing machine. Dissatisfied with the design of the machine, he replaced various parts with salvaged parts from a motor shop and made a new model that allowed him to plough comfortably for longer periods of time.  Other farmers asked him to make them their own. Last December the Ministry of Agriculture invited Mok Tal to present his tractor at a gathering for farmers in the region.

This is what we mean by confidence. This is the element that takes hold in the poor once they experience a little success. This is the factor that makes real, sustained changes possible. We only need to help the poor to get over that initial hump, and then they proceed to go the distance. The ‘help’ we offer to families like Mok Tal’s is really such a very minor part of their journey if it’s the right kind of help. Our assistance must instill confidence, not dependence. Mok Tal is a wonderful example of the former.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Ethiopia: A Milestone in Generosity

This week, Lyle Hatton visited the village of Toniya for the first time and saw the clean water system that was recently installed there. Although he had never before had the chance to see them, shake their hands, and hear their voices, he and his family back in Alberta had thought about Toniya’s people many times over the past few years.

David S. McKenzie, HOPE International Development Agency’s International President, received this email from Sherri, Lyle’s wife, in November 2009:

“Hi Mr. McKenzie ~

Thank you for taking my telephone call this morning.  My five-year old son, having been adopted from Ethiopia, was touched deeply by the gentleman’s comment at the Calgary [fundraising] dinner that 2 out of 5 children die from the water in Ethiopia.  It sunk in very deep for him.  He even remembers carrying very heavy water a long ways when he was 2 years old.

The day after the dinner, my son sat down with the pastor at our church and told him some of the things he’s learned.  He ended up doing a video interview, which was then played to the congregation the following week.  Many people were in tears listening to this five year old talking about children dying and how we all need to be doing something to help them.

My husband and I both dream of being heavily involved in projects happening in either one, or many, countries of Africa.  We want to be part of a ministry, or doing something on our own, like starting a clinic or orphanage.  With my son’s hope of helping the children already, we thought it would be a great opportunity to see what we could begin to campaign for now, and possibly see some of the effects of that when we return to Ethiopia next year to pick up our daughter.

I understand the huge cost associated with the springs in Ethiopia. I also understand that these goings-on are outside of Addis and we are prepared to cover our cost of visiting anything that we may be involved in, whether contributions towards a spring, or a different type of project.  […]

I look forward to discussing further plans with you in the future.
God bless,
Sheri Hatton”

The Hattons worked hard as a family to raise the tens of thousands of dollars required for Toniya’s water system. Their passionate advocacy attracted the attention of their community, the media, and many generous donors over the years. Lyle’s trip to Ethiopia this month, with David and a few other friends of HOPE, marks a tremendous milestone for the Hattons.

We salute the Hattons for all they have done. They have our respect and gratitude.  We can’t even adequately convey how the people of Toniya feel about them.

If you want to know more about the Hatton’s experiences, please take a look at their wonderful blog, The Family Expansion.