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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Our resolve provides certainty for families in South Sudan whose world is very uncertain right now

Communities in South Sudan face great uncertainty as a much politicized conflict rages. Lives have been lost and catastrophe, in the form of a massive famine, looms.

Almost ten years ago, when a seemingly elusive peace finally took hold, HOPE International Development Agency began providing relief support, and shortly thereafter, started helping people rebuild their lives. We knew it would be challenging and we knew our resolve to help needed to be unwavering.

Today, our resolve still stands firm as we continue to help families in communities throughout rural Ibba, located near South Sudan’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

If we were to rely solely on international news to gain a picture of life in Ibba, our perception would be that everything has once again changed for the worst amidst the political conflict that has engulfed parts of South Sudan.

Yet we know, from colleagues working with families in Ibba, that life is not as dramatically affected by the bursts of conflict as we might expect or perceive based on the international news.

The biggest concern mothers and fathers are dealing with in Ibba is providing for their children in the face of a lack of potable water, repeated crop failures, unreliable rains, and occasional attacks from small, marauding militant groups that are only loosely, if at all, connected to the larger conflicts covered in the international news.

So what are we to make of all this?

For HOPE International Development Agency and our colleagues in Ibba, we continue to address the issues communities face. We know that the country is in turmoil, and we also know that these families have received little public attention. Their day-to-day struggle goes all but unnoticed as they continue to plant the few seeds they have and send their children to 'tree schools' in the hope of giving them a more promising future. Hundreds of children meet under trees and receive instruction from semi-literate community members who are doing their best to pass on and teach what they know.

Our focus continues to be helping one community at a time, enabling them to build proper schools for their children and drill water wells that provide clean water.

We know that it is not easy. The challenges faced by each community are daunting.

Yet we also know that we are helping change the lives, and futures, of children and adults, even in the face of uncertainty.

The evidence is in the notes of thanks we regularly receive from people in Ibba, who often say, “We have been praying for clean water. We thank God because we have it now. Thank you!”

So while the conflicts continue around the people of Ibba, we continue in our resolve to help families rebuild their lives, whatever may come.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

At the very least, now we know we can survive, somehow

Resiliency has become a bit of a buzz word these days in various forums as world leaders consider how to prepare for and address the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Resilience is the ability to spring back into shape after being bent, stretched or compressed; it is the capacity to withstand or recover quickly from challenging conditions.

In the Philippines, we are humbled when we see the personal resiliency of men, women, and families that have survived and lived through months of hardship and challenging circumstances.

Over 7 months ago, Super Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Typhoon Haiyan) hit the Philippines, affecting more the 16 million people. It was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history.

HOPE International Development Agency has been working alongside families in communities where no one else was helping; this started with food relief and helping to make emergency repairs on buildings such as schools.

Now, as the focus has shifted to rebuilding infrastructure, life is returning to a 'new normal'. Local staff are helping families create safe shelters, grow nutritious food, including eggplant, okra, tomatoes, peppers, squash, spinach, long beans, and corn.

HOPE International Development Agency is also helping families regain their livelihoods by helping fisherfolk whose boats and nets have been destroyed. This work will continue helping thousands of families take the next step towards regaining their self-reliance.

In the meantime, families have been sharing with local staff what the support provided has meant to them. This statement is simple and hopeful, yet also encapsulates the profound change in perspective regarding fragility, vulnerability, and most of all, a new sense of resiliency in the face of future adversity.

Reynaldo, a 55 year old, from Tacloban says:

“I have lost a family member and now I have felt somehow our life will never be going back to normalcy. But with the help of people like you, it felt good to have some semblance of hope.

At the very least, now we know we can survive, somehow.

Before I die, it is good to know that my family will have a roof on their heads.  We are starting to eat three meals a day again — just like what we had before.”

* HOPE International Development gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Government of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development towards the ongoing work in the Philippines.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mom Peng discovers the secret to happiness

In just one year, Mom Peng and her family have gone from hungry to happy and they owe much of their success to a tiny rice seed that defies the odds during Cambodia’s scorching dry season.

Before the arrival of this impressive little seed, Mom Peng and her family, along with every other family in her community, would go without rice for as many as 5 months. But that was only part of the problem. Despite the best efforts of families like Mom Peng’s, when the rice ran out the money ran out as well. With no rice to sell for income, families were forced to scavenge for food or trade their labor for meager bowls of rice too small to sustain their health.

In impoverished situations, a lack of money can be equally as deadly as a lack of food, as Mom Peng and her children found out when they couldn’t put together the small amount of money needed to take her husband to the hospital, which, in the end, cost him his life.

Fortunately, in 2013, Mom Peng received the training and practical support she needed in order to grow all the food her family needs. She also significantly increased her income.

Today, Mom Peng and her family grow 3 huge crops of rice every year rather than just one small crop. The rice that the family doesn’t eat or store for future use is sold at the local market, generating a much needed source of consistent income.

The family enjoys three nutritious meals every day – hunger is a thing of the past. The children are in school and have a much better life than Mom Peng experienced as a child. The family even has two bicycles and plans are in the works for improving the sturdiness and size of her modest home.

The family enjoys three nutritious meals every day – hunger is a thing of the past. The children are in school and have a much better life than Mom Peng experienced as a child. The family even has two bicycles and plans are in the works for improving the sturdiness and size of her modest home.

Unfortunately, right now, however, there are families in the villages of Bakan and Kab Krolang, Cambodia, who urgently need the same kind of help Mom Peng received.

If you would like to help a family put food on the table all year round and earn a sustainable income, you can give a gift that will help provide:

  • High-quality dry season rice seeds that require less water, mature quickly, and produce 2 to 3 times as much harvest
  • Training on how to maximize the productivity of rice fields, without harming the environment or the long-term sustainability of the rice harvests
  • The knowledge and support needed in order to earn much more income on a consistent and sustainable basis
  • A community “seed bank” for members of the community
  • Water pumps needed to irrigate the rice fields at certain times