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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Mun Maya, a portrait of confidence

Mun Maya sharing her success with the local women's group.

In a few terrifying moments a massive earthquake killed 9,000 people, injured thousands, shattered millions more lives and reduced remote villages across Nepal to unrecognizable piles of rubble.

Within 24 hours of the disaster, an additional one million people were added to the twenty-five percent of the country’s population living below the poverty line. Mun Maya and her family survived the earthquake, but her home and belongings were reduced to dust and debris.

“Before the earthquake, life was difficult”, says Mun Maya, whose family was poor and without the skills needed to earn an income. Som Bahadur, Mun Maya’s husband, did what he could, toiling as a day labourer when work was available. Their relationship strained and their children hungry, Mun Maya’s family was on the brink of collapse.

“I felt awful because I could not look after my children”, says Mun Maya. “I was ashamed. I had no voice and no way out of poverty”.

HOPE International Development Agency began responding right after the earthquake, providing urgently needed supplies of rice, drinking water, and shelter materials.

Mun Maya and her family are among the families we continue to help today because it is not just a matter of rebuilding a home, but rather, rebuilding a family deeply traumatized by poverty and the earthquake.

After the home rebuilding efforts were completed, the equally important work of helping families, like Mun Maya’s, find a way out of poverty began in earnest.

Mothers, while thankful their homes had been rebuilt, were keenly aware that a rebuilt home cannot in and of itself lift a family out of poverty. Mothers would have to do the work of transforming their families and communities.

Women’s groups were formed to bring a new sense of community, hope, and confidence through mutual support. Mun Maya joined one of the women’s groups because she realized she needed training, literacy skills, family health education, and equally importantly, a way to earn a reliable income. “When I joined the women’s group I wanted to do poultry farming”, says Mun Maya. She requested training and a small loan to start their poultry business, alongside with her husband. The loan she received would be paid back to the group so the money could be loaned out to the next woman. Mun Maya’s poultry business did well. It was profitable within three months and the loan was paid back in six months. Today, Mun Maya continues to expand her business. Recently she purchased a motorbike to transport her poultry to other markets. In addition, she has started raising goats.

Reinvesting the profit from her business is also making it possible to expand into grinding rice and maize and her husband has opened a carpentry shop that makes window frames for the local market. Mun Maya’s three children are now all in school and going hungry is no longer an issue.

“I am confident now”, says Mun Maya. “Even with a small investment, if we work hard we can do great things”.

Life is now much better than it ever was for Mun Maya and her family and the future looks nothing like the past.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Communities are revitalizing agriculture in Duchity, Haiti


It’s been two years since Hurricane Matthew dealt a brutal blow to Haiti. The southern area of the country, including the Duchity region in the province of Grand Anse, was hit hard. Families lost their homes, crops, and livelihoods.

Before the hurricane struck, the Duchity region of Haiti was a thriving agricultural community where HOPE International Development Agency and its local partner had established three agricultural cooperatives with a total of more than 3,000 members.

In the period after the hurricane, the three cooperatives continued to provide strong leadership in the region and today they are taking the next step in helping members revitalize their communities.

With help from friends of HOPE International Development Agency, the three cooperatives are engaged in the Kreyòl Garden, a three-year pilot project that will improve food security and livelihoods for households and communities while also repairing the environmental damage caused by the hurricane and deforestation.

Cooperative members are being trained in sustainable farming techniques that nurture the environment and preserve its ecological health. Test gardens are being used to determine the best crops and growing methods, using both annual and perennial crops specifically selected for markets, reforestation and fuel. In addition, different varieties of Haitian coffee, an important product in the local economy, will be tested in various gardens. The work done through Kreyòl Garden will result in a new model of agroforestry being established in the Duchity region of Haiti and a revitalization of the region's agriculture.

As part of the initiative, local cooperative leaders recently participated in a four-day learning exchange and site visit to the Dominican Republic, meeting with a local organization that has significant experience in coffee production and agroforestry gained over a period of 30 years.

The Haitian cooperative members, all of whom learned best practices and techniques that can easily be replicated in Haiti, are now serving as the primary leaders for the Kreyòl Garden pilot project.

The excitement continues to grow as members begin sharing their knowledge with their respective communities. The return to a thriving agricultural presence in Duchity is well on its way.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Helena is leading her family out of poverty

Helena, a mother living in Mollakanda, Bangladesh, embodies the resourcefulness found in people who have learned to survive in abject poverty. That same resourcefulness, when supported with a little help, transforms families and communities.

Helena knew her family was in trouble and she needed to come up with a solution. Her work as a day laborer paid close to nothing. Shahabuddin, her husband, was struggling as well. Between the two of them they were not earning enough income to send their children to school and could barely afford food for their family. Their home, a shack that leaked incessantly even in the lightest rainfall, was damp, cramped and unsafe.

Helena came up with a solution. She would open a small store to earn the income her family needed.

Helena received training in basic business skills and learned about the inner workings of the market that served her community. With this new knowledge Helena opened her small store, carefully tracking the products that sold best at the market and investing in the more profitable or popular items. Helena’s efforts paid off and soon she was earning between $45 to $55 per month, significantly more than she or her husband had ever earned.

A portion of the earnings was used to start a small garden to grow vegetables for sale at her store. Another portion was set aside as savings which were eventually used to purchase two sheep. The plan is to sell the sheep at a profit and then purchase a cow.

Shahabuddin helps Helena with sales. With the income they earn they are able to feed their children three healthy meals per day, send them to school, and buy medications when they are sick.

In addition to the initial training, Helena and her family received a new home and latrine which has enabled the family to live a healthier life.

“I am very grateful for the unconditional support. It has changed our lives,” says Helena. Without this support, Helena and her family had no hope of transforming their lives.

Today, Helena and Shahabuddin are the parents they always wanted to be and are also helping others in their community break free from the cycle of poverty.