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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Development Done Properly

The long-term effectiveness of foreign aid – government or non-government - is often questioned; and rightly so given what’s at stake for the people on the receiving end of massive amounts of good intention and resources. Foreign aid can enable positive transformation among beneficiaries and it can disable it as well. It’s all in how the work is done.

When disaster strikes or when people become aware of a crisis facing the world’s poorest families everyone responds differently; but without a doubt, everyone is moved by the situation.

For some, their initial instinct is to get their hands dirty – to hop on a plane and do something.  A laudable idea for sure, but in many cases, our need to help exceeds their need to be helped and we’re not needed, at least in a hands-on sense. For others, being generous with their resources is seen as the most appropriate solution.

In both cases, the long-term effectiveness of help is for the most part nearly always dependent on how the aid is applied to any given situation. In reality, beneficiaries of people’s generosity are capable of doing the work and for that matter, desperately want to do the work. They are the best solution to what they’re facing at any given time; they just need an opportunity to get started – something we can do through our support.

Take, for example, a village in Cambodia whose children need access to an education. Neither the families nor the village have the funds needed to build the facility that will give their children an opportunity to learn their way out of poverty.

The families have access to the knowledge and skills needed to build a school; they simply lack the financial resources to make it happen. We are the guests on their journey out of poverty – they are in the driver’s seat.

So can foreign aid, more precisely the help that you provide, be effective from a beneficiary’s perspective? Absolutely. The success lies in how it’s done as much as what is done.

Our role is to raise awareness of the challenges facing the world’s poorest families as well as their capability to solve their own challenges by primarily providing funds, and where needed, transferring knowledge, either from us, from other individuals, or from village to village.

That’s why we focus on investing in building the capacity of the beneficiaries at all levels. Their insight into the challenges facing impoverished families in their country or region far exceeds ours. Their solutions are community-based, grass roots solutions that enable families to create their own sustainability. 

Our role is to help people bring themselves out of poverty by providing the necessary resources they need. Our experience, over 38 years of helping the world’s poorest families, is that help is effective when it enables people to create their own solutions.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Medicine Brings Hope and Healing To Honduras

Maricela was on the verge of tears when she and her five-year old son, Alonzo, entered the rural health clinic we support in rural Honduras.

Alonzo, her pride and joy, was very ill. His little body ached from head to toe, and his fever, already dangerously high, was continuing to climb.

After careful examination, Dr. Avila, a physician at the health clinic, had good news for little Alonzo and his distraught mother. Alonzo had a severe flu, but he would make a full recovery. The medicines previously provided by friends of HOPE International Development Agency would ensure it!

Not every health center and clinic, however, has the medicines and medical supplies like Dr. Avila’s center.

Doctors and nurses are telling us that medicines and medical supplies are running critically low in many of the centers, clinics, and community pharmacies where they deliver life-saving services.

Our last shipment of medicine and medical supplies provided enough medicine and medical supplies to stock health centers, rural health clinics, and community pharmacies serving a population of nearly 250,000 people living in 400 Honduran communities.

Today, we urgently need your help to raise the funds needed to ship two massive transport containers of medicines and medical supplies to Honduras. There’s enough medicine and medical supplies in the containers to help as many as 40,000 people in the next 12 months, primarily children.

Learn more about how you can help send urgently needed medicines and medical supplies to Honduras.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How 6 Steps Led to Self Help Groups in Ethiopia

When Obse Tolesa, a 25 year old widow from the Oromia Region in Ethiopia, lost her husband, she was left to care for herself and their 4 children; with no source of income.

She knew she had to do something but she didn’t know what, until she discovered one of our self help groups.

The groups, help women like Obse form strong bonds with other women in similar situations, receive skills training, and gain access to low-interest loans that enable them to farm, raise livestock, and start businesses.

Obse’s journey toward self reliance, like many other women, began by becoming involved in creating her own solutions.

The first step was to uncover the root issues. Women like Obse are clearly the most vulnerable to the growing poverty. No matter how desperately they try, the situation is often so dire that to put food on the table meant begging or even being forced into the sex trade.

Like everyone around her, Obse had dreams and aspirations for what she could be. She hoped to raise animals that she could sell at the market and, most of all, to become self-sufficient. Not having to worry about whether her children would survive from one day to the next was her goal.

Obse and others in the community came together and began discussing a long-term vision for how they could create a sustainable income, grow more food, and improve opportunities for their children.

The vision needed to fit their situation and they had to be able to grow and maintain it. They built teams and, as a cooperative, they began to support one another through low-interest microloans. Generous friends of HOPE International Development Agency provided the initial funds and the groups voted on how to lend them out.

We provided Obse and the other groups with training on how to manage the funds, how to run the group in a way that members felt was fair, and how to pass the knowledge on to others.

As the women began to flourish and earn more income, they would pay back their loans and eventually help other groups of women.

Our role was to provide the initial funding, the training, and the process that women like Obse needed to create a new life for her family that is healthy, secure, stable, and free from fear.

When we move on to other communities, we have every confidence that Obse and the groups in her region will keep growing and thriving. Once our part is done, we will leave the work in their capable hands because we know they will continue to transform their lives in incredible ways.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

6 Steps to a Sustainable Transformation

As we mentioned previously, creating lasting transformations is very important; but how do we actually achieve this?

When people do something for themselves, they are the authors of their own transformation. They know what they need – they understand their struggles. Having them involved in every step of the process solidifies their commitment to the work and ensures a successful outcome.

Root Issue.
The longevity of the solution relies on solving the root issue. It can be easy to confuse the problem with it’s symptoms; if crops aren’t growing, is it because of a lack of irrigation, or because they’re not the right seeds for the climate? When we help them identify the root issue, they can develop an effective response.

Long-Term Vision.
People that feel inspired by what they’re building towards will be committed to its success. A clearly defined vision keeps everyone aligned with the work at hand and keeps the community inspired long after our part is complete.

They need to be able to grow and maintain the solution they implement. An innovative technology that requires a technician with years of training isn’t going to create this lasting transformation. We have to target our solutions to the resource and skill capacities of the people using them.

Once our part is done, the community won’t have to rely on us anymore. Proper training ensures that they can implement a solution from start to finish and can share this knowledge with others in need.

The end goal is to have the community grow and spread the work on their own. A slow transition out provides time to identify weaknesses or issues that may need to be solved. This way, the people are left feeling confident and empowered by what they’ve created.

When people are involved in building something for themselves, they create their own transformation. Our job is simply to help support the process.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How Sustainable Is It?

There’s a lot of innovative work aimed at helping the poor. This work is highlighted in the media and creates excitement because it often involves leading-edge technologies and solutions; but is it sustainable?

A solar powered water filter that creates 15 litres of clean drinking water per day, or a state-of-the-art water system that gives hundreds of people access to clean water are both innovative, but also require technicians to maintain or repair.

Real innovation is focused on ensuring that people, in this case the poorest of the poor, can build whatever they need, and maintain whatever they’ve built.

Real innovation results in people being able to sustain themselves.

In our work, being sustainable means that once an initiative is running smoothly, it no longer requires help from the outside world. The people involved are able and committed to continue transforming their lives and no longer need our support. This approach to sustainability is crucial to the success of our work overseas.

We are constantly re-evaluating our work and outcomes.

Are we creating opportunities for people to transform their own lives? Are we confident people will carry on the work of transformation when our part is complete? Will people share their new knowledge, expertise, and success with others in their community or region?

The sustainability of the transformation relies on the ability of the people being helped to grow, and thrive, through their own efforts, long after our involvement.

This approach transforms lives exponentially. It teaches people how to create solutions for themselves and allows them to spread that help to others around them.

What kind of innovation do you want to create in the world; how do you want to help?