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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Clean water changes everything

Of the 80 million people who live in rural Ethiopia, 51% lack access to clean water, and 72% lack access to proper sanitation.

Since 2000, HOPE International Development Agency has helped 300,000 rural Ethiopians gain access to clean water, right in their communities in southern Ethiopia.

Within the next 5 years, HOPE will help 100,000 more people in southern Ethiopia will gain access to clean water.

When clean water is present, families are able to focus on improving their lives through health education and hygiene training. They are also able to increase their income by participating in self help groups that provide mutual support, income-earning skills training, and low-interest loans that enable women to start businesses.

Given the remote and rugged terrain of southern Ethiopia, it costs $750 to provide clean water for one family. That's just $125 per child or adult, for a lifetime of clean water and all that comes with it.

Help a person gain access to clean water today.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Working together to create lasting change

When looking at problems in the developing world, solutions often seem simple. If a community needs water, a well is dug. If a natural disaster destroys a home, a replacement home is built.

While these solutions are clear, direct, and helpful, sometimes equally impactful initiatives, such as self help groups, are more nuanced.

For over 15-years HOPE International Development Agency has been involved in establishing self help groups in India, Cambodia, and most recently, Ethiopia.

At first glance, it may be difficult to see how self help groups could be on par with access to clean water or desperately needed shelter, but dig a little deeper and their magnificence comes to life.

The groups are essentially savings and loan support. While initially guided by a facilitator, in the end it is the women who participate that decide how the groups will be structured and what their purpose will be.

In each location, the groups take on a unique look and feel depending on the needs of the women involved. Saving as little as 15 cents a week, the women can soon start taking out small, low-interest loans to begin income-generating activities.

Aster Tsilo, a woman who recently joined a self help group in Ethiopia, explains how these small amounts can start to make a big difference.

“I joined the self help group 7-months ago. Like all other members of my group, I started saving 2 Birr (15 cents) a week. I received training and technical support on savings and establishing income-generating activities. I started by taking a loan of 200 Birr ($13) and began buying and reselling vegetables. As my experience grew, I started to sell butter as well,” says Aster.

“After paying back my initial loan, I took another loan of 400 Birr ($26) and began to expand my business to new markets nearby. As a result, I am currently saving 14 Birr (95 cents) a week. Before joining the group, my husband and I had been feeding our family two times a day. Now we can manage three times per day,” states Aster.

While the direct economic benefits of self help groups are clear from stories like Aster’s, the groups also lead to a shift in decision making within communities. Women have an outlet to develop their skills and contribute economically that may not have existed before.

As Aster explains, her husband was skeptical at first.

“He was not willing to allow me to join the self help group as women are usually not supposed to go out in public and participate in meetings and other events. However, after I raised the idea repeatedly, he allowed me to join. The situation has now changed completely. While decisions within our family used to be made only by my husband, now we make decisions after consulting with each other and he is supporting me in both my income generating activities and savings.”

From Aster’s story it is easy to see how these groups can become massive movements as they have in India and more recently, Ethiopia.

One of the most impressive aspects of self help groups is their return on investment. A recent analysis found that for every $1 invested, there is a return of $173, an incredible rate and one of the very best for any development endeavor.

Self help groups have already changed the lives of thousands of women around the world. Women have strengthened each other’s voices and have begun to make change happen in their families, communities, and relationships.

While self help groups may not be as tangible as water well or a replacement home, the impact is just as important. With support from HOPE International Development Agency, partners can continue to facilitate these life-changing groups that contribute to the holistic, inclusive, local-led development that HOPE strives to accomplish.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Nepal earthquake survivors building better lives

By the time the earthquake and aftershocks that struck Nepal last April had subsided, 9,000 people were dead, 22,000 were injured, and 800,000 homes lay in ruin.

Sumitra, a life-long resident of Sunkhani, located in the Nuwakot District of central Nepal, was among the survivors.

Recently, one of HOPE International Development Agency’s partners in Nepal visited with families, like Sumitra’s, who have been working tirelessly to rebuild their lives, livelihoods, homes, and community.

Sumitra has lived in Sunkhani her entire life and works as a labourer whenever she can find work. Her husband left her 12 years ago. With three children and no income, life has been a day-to-day struggle ever since.

When the earthquake struck, Sumitra lost everything. In just a few seconds, her house, and everything in it, lay in ruin.

“I felt hopeless. My children and I had no food or shelter,” says Sumitra, recalling the terrifying event. “We had to sleep outside under the trees, with empty stomachs. All of our clothes, food, and blankets were destroyed.

In the hours and days after the earthquake, it became clear that it would take months, if not longer, to recover, especially for the poorest of the poor in rural Nepal, like Sumitra.

“I had lost all of my hope,” says Sumitra. “For days we didn’t hear from anyone. I thought that the government didn’t care if we lived or died.”

But Sumitra’s feelings changed when a relief camp was set up within a week or so of the earthquake. The camp would help build emergency shelters, and distribute food and clothes to the most vulnerable families, like Sumitra’s.

“I couldn’t stop crying because of how grateful I was,” recalls Sumitra when she found out that she would receive the support she needed to rebuild her home.

Today, Sumitra and her children live in a sturdy, safe home. This past month, friends of HOPE International Development Agency raised additional funds to start self-help groups for women in Sumitra’s community. Sumitra, and other women just like her, will receive training, support, and small, low-interest loans to start small businesses that will generate income.

Sumitra and other women in her community have lifted themselves out of the rubble of April 17, 2015 and rebuilt their lives, all through the support of friends of HOPE International Development Agency.

What HOPE International Development Agency is doing
Much more needs to be done to address the poverty that exists in remote communities like Sumitra’s, HOPE International Development Agency is continuing to work alongside these communities to identify the most vulnerable families and provide the support needed to construct replacement homes and establish additional self-help groups that provide women with training in animal husbandry, tailoring, health and hygiene, as well as basic education such as reading and writing. Two schools, destroyed by the earthquake, will be rebuilt so that the children can continue their education and the women have a safe place to learn and plan for their future.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families of Fort McMurray.

Our friends in Fort McMurray have done much to help HOPE International Development Agency transform the lives of the world's poorest families, and we know that Canadians will do what they can to help families in Fort McMurray during and after this terrible disaster.