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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Dominican Republic: Over Thirty Years of Friendship

This year, we’re going to do our best to shine a light on a place where we have worked with people to turn the tide of chronic poverty for over thirty years: the Dominican Republic. This beautiful country is known as a tourist hotspot, but outside the boundaries of these hermetically sealed resort-style communities, Dominicans struggle hard for a meager standard of living.

It’s a place that inspires and excites us. It’s a place where we’ve collaborated with local people to reforest miles and miles of desertified hillsides, where together we’ve built roads and schools and aqueducts and greenhouses and much more. We’ve seen fantastic progress in the Dominican Republic and it continues to be a place where we simply enjoy seeing our friends.

Rainbow Choi, who coordinates overseas volunteers for HOPE International Development Agency, recently led a team to the Dominican Republic, and she’s recorded her experiences in a blog. It’s well worth visiting, especially if you are someone who has wanted to experience a different way of life, in a less materialistic, more vibrant kind of community. If you’re someone who is interested in deeper friendships, you’re probably a great fit for our volunteer programme, UNION.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Canada: Looking Back at World Food Day

Back in October, HOPE International Development Agency’s International President David S. McKenzie, was invited to be a keynote speaker at World Food Day 2012.

Here is a short video that includes a few clips of David speaking.

World Food Day
is a fantastic event, so if you are a Fraser Valley native, you should consider checking it out next year. Learn more about what the day is about.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pakistan: $3 Brought Muhammad Out of Hell

When you place yourself in Muhammad Zaman’s shoes, even just for a moment, the idea of donations of medical supplies for clinics serving the poorest of the poor becomes incredibly exciting.

Muhammad is 14 years old and suffers from rickets. Many in the west will not be familiar with this ailment, since it is linked to chronically deficient diets, and this is not something your typical Westerner has to deal with. Rickets is a disorder in which the bones become soft and weak. The symptoms include dental deformities, muscle cramps, and ferocious bone pain. Frankly speaking, this is a disorder that makes a hell out of life.

The District Headquarter Hospital in Karak, Pakistan, has been operating for the past six months thanks to shipments of medicine and medical supplies that HOPE International Development Agency’s donors have funded. This hospital serves the poorest people in a very indigent region, and it is chronically under-supplied, although the doctors and nurses  who work there are incredibly devoted to their patients.

Muhammed’s pain became so severe that his father, a daily wage labourer, took him to the Hospital in Karak. The doctor there discovered that one leg was fractured. Elastic bandages costing a little more than $3 were required for the treatment. This was far more than Muhammed’s father could afford to pay. Luckily, the doctor consulted our colleagues in Pakistan and the shipment they had received included the bandages. So instead of sending Muhammed out into the world in unimaginable pain, with no hope of relief - which is what happens over and over again in developing world villages with under-supplied clinics - the doctor was able to treat this young boy.

Muhammed’s experiences are very real. There are so many people like him. We don’t know about their pain, for the most part. But there is so much that we can do to help. $3 brought one boy relief beyond words. Thanks to our donors, this kind of thing is happening all of the time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pakistan: Gardens for the ‘Landless’

In the West, where the living we earn typically has no direct relationship with the ground we stand upon, we could never really understand the pain of being landless.

Across the developing world, where most families keep body and soul together by growing food, those without enough land to produce most crops are in a special category of poverty. The instability, insecurity, and vulnerability they experience doesn’t ever let up, not for a day. Creative solutions are needed to make their situation more viable, so that the children of landless families can at least have enough stability and health to possibly make a better life for themselves when they grow up.

HOPE International Development Agency has been working with 70 landless women in Muzaffargarh and Jhang, Pakistan, over the past four months to promote kitchen gardening. These women and their families learned how to make a small kitchen garden work on the property that they have, typically an extremely small plot only large enough for a small hut. These are gardens that can produce a lot of food in minimal space, vegetables like bitter gourd, beans, ash gourd, spinach, coriander, and lady finger. The women are being taught to prepare the land they have for best results, cultivate it intensively, and reduce losses by pests.

This is about making the best of a difficult situation. We’ve found the women can improve their lives substantially through using what they do possess more efficiently. It’s making a difference.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cambodia: The Health Fund for a Healing Society

Poverty doesn’t end when you merely enrich or enable the individual. An organized and interdependent community is the best hope against chronic need.

Cambodians had their strong sense of community perverted and destroyed by the Khmer Rouge era. People in this country want for many things, but trust in one another is the lack that possibly cuts deepest. When we see our work in Cambodia begin to repair these social bonds, we are truly encouraged.

The Health Fund our partnering families have created is a wonderful testament to the power of interdependence. Pech Van, a 57-year old widow from the village of Prey Omal, knows its power first-hand. Pech is not an abjectly poor woman; she has a good home garden and a chicken-raising business. But in the past when her family members fell sick, she felt the brunt of a different kind of poverty, a more pervasive kind: she lived in a village without a ‘safety net’. If her family members became sick at a time when she couldn’t sell chickens or harvest her garden, she had no means for paying doctors. In other words, she had no health insurance and no place to get any.

In May 2008, Pech joined one of HOPE International Development Agency’s new village health funds. Every month, Pech started paying 25 cents into the fund, along with almost 100 other families in her village; HOPE added money to this fund as well. From these pooled funds, the village health fund gives no-interest loans to fund contributors to pay for healthcare expenses. This has been a lifesaver for Pech’s family. In January 2009, Pech borrowed $40 to treat her mother for typhoid. She was able to pay this back in April, as soon as she harvested her vegetable crop. In August 2009, Pech again borrowed money from the fund - this time, she borrowed $50 to bring her young grandson, who had dengue, to the hospital. And again, Pech was able to pay back the loan within a few months with money from her home garden and chicken raising business. Since then, Pech has again borrowed and repaid money, and plans to do so in the future.

The Health Fund is an indication of a village that is confidently organizing itself. This is beyond good news for a place where in former decades neighbors were killing each other. There is trust in these communities, and a growing sense that they can move forward together.