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Thursday, September 25, 2014

A field of possibilities

The transforming power of water, seeds, and farm animals is clearly evident among the poorest families of Cambodia’s Pursat Province. Water quenches thirst. Seeds grow into food. Farm animals provide labour and food.

But there’s another, equally transforming benefit of having clean water, seeds, and farm animals - freedom from fear and worry.

Nara and his wife Chek used to live in a state of fear and worry. Providing for their 6 children, as well as Nara’s mother and older sister, was always a struggle.

The family of 10, all of whom live under one roof in the village of Kab Korlanh in Pursat Province, did the best they could to grow enough rice to eat. Yet despite their effort, the 1.2 hectares of land they own only managed to yield around 2,000 kg of rice per year.

After selling about three quarters of their harvest to pay back loans they took in order buy seeds, fertilizer, food, other items for their farm, they would end up with only enough rice to last 4 months. This meant 8 months of hard times where there was never enough to eat.

To make up the shortage, Nara, Chek, and Nara’s mother and sister would work as day labourers, planting and harvesting rice in the fields of other farmers. The small income they managed to earn, however, was never enough. Nara and Chek would be forced to take yet another loan just to make sure no one in the family went hungry.

Today, however, it’s a completely different story.

Nara and his family no longer live in a state of fear and worry. Their precarious situation has been replaced with freedom from fear and worry – all because of the support they received from friends of HOPE International Development Agency who gave to transform the lives of Nara and his family.

Through this support Nara and his family learned new techniques for growing rice. They also gained access to a variety of rice seed that can be planted up to three times per year as opposed to once per year when using the rice seed that is traditionally used in the area.

The family’s first harvest this year yielded 4,000 kg of rice, more than double what they managed to harvest in the entire previous year. This year alone, they’ll plant and harvest a total of three times, rather than just once.

Nara and Chek are overjoyed at their success. They know that their entire family will have more than enough to eat. Today, Nara doesn’t worry that his children will not have enough to eat. The happiness and pride he feels as a father able to provide for his family is so profound that he has a hard time putting it into words.

The benefits of gaining access to training and better rice seed don’t end with simply having enough to eat.

The extra income Nara and Chek now earn as a result of selling excess rice from their three harvests has enabled them to buy a bicycle for their children, giving them a more reliable and much safer way to get to school. For Nara, it’s not so much the bicycle itself, but rather, the fact that he and Chek can now afford to improve the lives of their children. Being able to get to school means that the children will have a chance at a much better life than Nara and Chek experienced when they were children.

All of this has resulted in Nara and Chek no longer living in fear and worry.

All it took to transform their lives was some training and a new variety of rice seed. This family of 10 people now has a new outlook on life and the 6 children are excited, rather than fearful, about their future as an entirely different set of possibilities have begun to sprout.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Proper sanitation ensures that the gains made in Koshale by having clean water are not lost

Over the past few weeks we’ve been sharing stories of how clean water transforms lives in Koshale, including how having access to clean water, right in a community, increases personal safety for women and children, improves health, and makes it possible to grow more food.

Yet all of these dramatic improvements can be put at risk if proper sanitation is not present.

Potentially deadly diseases, eradicated at the original water source by protecting it from contamination from people and animals, can show up in the community, not at the water tap, but everywhere else because of uninformed sanitation practices.

At first glance you’d think it would be easy for people to change these practices. But just think of how uncomfortable it can be for you to use a public washroom stall in a shopping mall and you can get a sense of how challenging it can be to encourage community members to use walled pit latrines, rather than type of personal privacy they’re used to in the great outdoors.

Walled pit latrines – our equivalent would be a toilet in a bathroom – make it possible to safely manage human waste.

Without proper sanitation facilities and practices, the gains made by having access to clean water can be quickly reduced or erased.

Next to clean water, proper sanitation, or the use of pit latrines, is one of the biggest factors in improving the health of families in rural communities.

It’s not the most glamorous aspect of what we do in communities in Ethiopia, but it’s incredibly important. Why? Not only is it awkward and smelly to accidentally walk into something another person has left behind, open defecation is also a huge public health challenge. It can expose people to diseases such as polio, giardiasis, hepatitis A and infectious diarrhoea.

Families in Koshale are learning about the importance of proper personal sanitation, including hand-washing, and the construction and use of walled pit latrines. Ethiopian staff visit with communities and individual families, teaching them how to prevent the occurrence or spread of diseases related to improper sanitation practices that can harm and kill.

In Koshale, reducing open defecation is not about spending money to build fancy toilets like we would expect in a public place or our homes. It’s about changing behaviours. It is not always easy to change the way you have been doing something all your life, but staff are persistent in helping families understand why it is important and how it is done.

Something we take for granted, and frankly many of us still do not do, like washing our hands before preparing food, or after using the washroom, are concepts that families in Koshale have never been exposed to.

But once families learn about the importance of proper sanitation, and know what to do, they exchange their old habits for healthier habits, construct their owned walled pit latrines, keep them clean, and even create small washing stations just outside the latrine.

Now, instead of feeling ashamed and embarrassed about bodily functions and trying to search for a private place in the great outdoors every time they need to relieve themselves, mothers, fathers and children use the latrines.

When we visit families they often proudly show off their latrines. And we are so honoured to help them show off because we can see evidence of how the change they have made has positively impacted their health!

Read previous posts in this series:
Securing more than just a future with clean water
Being in one place makes all the difference
A place to call home
Changing lives in Koshale

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Securing more than just a future with clean water

Clean water dramatically changes people’s lives.

This is especially true for women and children whose daily physical burden is greatly reduced by not having to fetch water located far from their village.

Clean water also improves the health of vital livestock, enhances household farming activities, and provides a center-point around which families can build their communities and have hope for the future.

For women and children in Koshale, the community wash-basin has become a symbol of safety, security, and a place to socialize.

Prior to having water available right in their communities, women and children traveled to isolated water sources to fetch water. Sometimes they were alone, in the early or late hours of the day, gathering water or completing household chores such as laundry and washing. Unfortunately, they were always vulnerable to a number of threats to their own personal security.

These threats included attacks by dangerous wild animals, unexpected environmental changes such as storms or flash floods, and victimization from people outside of their protective community groups.

Today, with the installation of a cement wash basin in Koshale, women and children are able to complete their household tasks safely and securely, within steps of their homes. The basin has become a place where women and children gather together to work, converse, and support one another.

Beyond having clean water and a safe place to congregate and do household chores, there are other ways in which a sense of increased security continues to thrive in Koshale.

HOPE International Development Agency has ensured that the community is protected from future hardship by providing a large water reservoir that guarantees fresh, clean, safe drinking water for the entire community even in the event that all other sources run dry due to drought.

Clean water does so much more than alleviate thirst – it has the power to protect entire communities, especially women and children, from the threat of violence and insecurity. Clean water represents health, safety, and hope.

Please stay tuned for the final installment of this five-part series on the changes happening in Koshale because your support and the gift of clean water.

Read previous posts in this series:
Being in one place makes all the difference
A place to call home
Changing lives in Koshale

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Freedom from poverty in Moneragala, Sri Lanka

  Siriyawathie and husband with their cows.

Families in Moneragala, Sri Lanka, are among the poorest in the country. Yet the soil beneath their feet and the surrounding environment are considered resource-rich.

We’re helping families in Moneragala learn how to use the resources around them in a way that transforms their lives and sustains their environment.

Siriyawathie, a 40-year old Sri Lankan mother of two children, is a wonderful example of the kind of transformation that takes place when people are able to learn how to use the resources around them.

Siriyawathie faced the same hunger, sickness, and lack of opportunity currently being experienced by families in Moneragala. But the difference is she received the help she needed.

Today, Siriyawathie is a leader in her community, and a role model for other families who aspire to be free from poverty.

The training Siriyawathie received in bookkeeping and farming, along with a modest low-interest loan, enabled her family to establish a small, but highly productive organic farm. The produce, harvested throughout the year, is in high demand, earning the family $50 per month in additional income. Seeds from her farm are freely shared with other families in her community, enabling them to avoid the high cost of buying seeds. Her children, currently in grades 11 and 13, are excelling in school.

In short, life is very good!

The same transformation will happen to families in Moneragala when they receive the help they so desperately need and we’re hoping that you’ll be able to help today.

Learn more about how you can help with a gift today.