In the small town of Agua Prieta, Mexico, about 20 minutes past the US-Mexico border, live a resilient, selfless and connected people. Many interconnected organizations are working to improve the lives of the community; making it a safe and enjoyable place to work, live and visit. In the poem, “Home,” by Warsan Shire, it says: “You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.”

Here are five organizations working to improve life in Agua Prieta.

5 Charitable Organizations in Agua Prieta

  1. DouglaPrieta Works Co-op: The co-op promotes “a mutual-aid ethic among community members, with the goal of economic self-sufficiency.” They teach women to sew, cook, create jewelry, build furniture and more. This empowers the women of Agua Prieta to support their families. DouglaPrieta Works also encourages people to donate canned goods in return for a hand-made reusable bag. Additionally, migrants who are staying at the nearby shelter are invited to work in their woodshop and garden; in turn, earning money for their journeys to a new home.

  2. Café Justo: Café Justo is a coffee shop that hires recovering drug and alcohol addicts. They partner with Agua Prieta’s rehabilitation center, supporting people on their journey to a better life. The cafe also supports farmworkers’ financial well-being by buying coffee beans at a fair price and selling them at a fair rate.

  3. Frontera de Cristo: Located just five minutes from the US-Mexico border, this organization offers many resources for migrants who are waiting in line to cross the border, either into the United States or into Mexico. This includes information about asylum, warm-weather and winter clothing as well as information about the various organizations in Agua Prieta.
  4. C.A.M.E: C.A.M.E. is a migrant shelter in Agua Prieta that not only offers safe room-and-board but programs and classes for adults and children as well. Because Agua Prieta is right on the US-Mexico border, many migrants stop in this town while they are filing for asylum. Migrant families can be especially vulnerable to gangs; this shelter ensures the safety of each migrant. The shelter often invites students from different countries to converse with migrant families over dinner; these conversations are a meaningful way for students and migrants to connect.

  5. C.R.E.D.A: C.R.E.D.A is a substance abuse treatment center offering rehabilitation programs in Agua Prieta. They also work to help reintegrate those in recovery into society; assisting them in finding housing and jobs. C.R.E.D.A. often recommends Café Justo as an option of employment for those who complete their treatment program.

It is evident the community of Agua Prieta works together to support each other as well as the migrants passing through. These organizations are working to make their community a better place for all.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

impact of conflict on poverty
Conflict can be a catalyst for an array of poverty-related events. It can impact poverty by depleting resources, interrupting supply chains, destroying infrastructure, taking lives and much more. Unfortunately, this trend has held in the country of Mali, which currently shows the significant impact of conflict on poverty.

Conflict Background and Economic Impact

The Mali War is an ongoing conflict that began in January of 2012. Since then, violence between the North and South of Mali has ebbed and flowed in severity but never subsided. Malian people, including the Tuareg, in the North of Mali, have expressed resentment and concern, as they feel that governmental groups and political factions have been neglecting their concerns and treating them unfairly. Ethnic divides, fundamentalist fighters and an unstable political system are a few issues that have caused this conflict.

There have been thousands of deaths and thousands of more people fleeing the conflict. As mentioned previously, many connect the weak economic sector in Mali to the outbreak of unrest and violence. Almost cyclically, this violence is now negatively impacting the economic sector. Before the conflict broke out, tourism accounted for more than 40% of Mali’s GDP. Researchers estimate that 8,000 people lost their job due to the drastic decrease in tourism after the conflict began. The economic connection highlights the ranging impact of conflict on poverty.

Many of those living in the North of Mali, mostly Tuareg and Arab groups, depend on the agricultural sector for their income. The government has invested very little in this sector and focuses primarily on tourism and the export of gold and cotton from the South. This has led many agricultural producers in the South to grow jaded towards the government due to their increased likelihood of experiencing extreme poverty.

The Impact on Public Health

Roughly 1 in 3 children in Mali are facing chronic malnutrition. An annual average of nearly four million people in Mali do not have access to an adequate amount of food. More than half of Mali’s children and young adults are illiterate and have been pushed out of school due to displacement. Many children in Mali are at great risk of being recruited into militant groups, further threatening their safety, educational resources, and ability to climb from poverty.

At its base level, the conflict in Mali threatens public health by the sheer loss of life it has caused. In 2018, hundreds of civilians were killed by armed groups. The byproducts of this violence caused even more people to experience extreme poverty, malnutrition and death. Additionally, more than 200,000 people have fled Mali altogether to avoid the violence. This stunts Mali’s economic growth, which reaffirms the dangerous impact of conflict on poverty.

Current Aid and Support Efforts

A military coup ousted the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, on August 19th, 2020. President Bah Ndaw became the interim leader of Mali and will hold the position until an election can be held. Some are hopeful that if a legitimate election can be held, much of the conflict in Mali will subside. In the meantime, many local and international nonprofit organizations have mobilized to aid in poverty-reduction efforts throughout Mali.

  1. For example, World Vision began providing aid in Mali in 1975, even before the conflict. In 2012 during the height of the conflict, World Vision provided aid in the form of food, clean water, and shelter to more than 150,000 people throughout Mali. Additionally, more than 60,000 children in Mali are currently benefiting from World Vision’s child sponsorship program. The program allows donors to provide monetary assistance to and communicate with an impoverished child. Many of these sponsored children in Mali reside within conflict-ridden areas.
  2. Peace Direct, another nonprofit organization, focuses on peacebuilding efforts in Mali. They support communities in their implementation of peacebuilding; in 2019 alone, they supported more than 20 projects throughout Mali. Peace Direct realizes the importance of community growth, both physically and emotionally, to peacebuilding. A lack of communal trust can be detrimental to poverty reduction, as teamwork makes progress more effective and efficient. Additionally, the building of trust and understanding among conflict groups is essential to support continued growth and stability throughout Mali. This trust will prevent future conflicts and allow Mali to focus on joint economic growth and poverty-reduction tactics throughout their country.

    3. “The Peacebuilding Stabilization and Reconciliation Project,” run through USAID, began in April of 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in March of 2023. This project focuses on rebuilding many of the conflict-ridden areas throughout Mali, providing rehabilitation resources to those impacted by the violence, increasing civic engagement and helping Mali’s government introduce barriers to prevent violent outbreaks in the future. USAID believes that providing community members with an active role in their governance will decrease dissent, enhance democratic values, reduce the likelihood of future conflict and decrease the joint poverty level throughout Mali. Success will also ideally increase GDP and overall well being while mitigating the impact of conflict on poverty in Mali.

The Future of the Region

The domino effect that violence can have on the prosperity of a nation is not a surprise. Violence decreases an individual’s ability to focus on economic growth or public health. It overtakes governmental initiatives and attention from the media, forcing poverty-related issues to take a backseat. The importance of the international community supporting peacebuilding efforts in Mali remains essential. The path toward peace will trickle-down benefits for many subsets of Mali’s society and will decrease the occurrence of extreme poverty throughout the nation.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: UN Multimedia

EcovillagesGreen growth refers to economic growth through the use of sustainable and eco-focused alternatives. These “green” alternatives benefit both the economy and the environment all while contributing to poverty reduction. Ecovillages are a prime example of an environmentally conscious effort to address global poverty. They are communities, rural or urban, built on sustainability. Members of these locally owned ecovillages are granted autonomy as they navigate a solution that addresses the four dimensions of sustainability: economy, ecology, social and culture.

The Global Ecovillage Network

The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) recognizes that all four facets of sustainability must be addressed for maximum poverty reduction. Solely focusing on the economic or environmental impact will not yield optimal results. Embracing, not eliminating, the social and cultural aspects of sustainability should the aim of all communities in order to move toward a better future.

The development of sustainable communities around the globe is a commitment of the GEN. The organization’s outreach programs intend to fuel greater global cooperation, empower the citizens of the world’s nations and develop a sustainable future for all.

Working with over 30 international partners, GEN focuses on five defined regions. GEN Africa was created in 2012 and has overseen developments in more than 20 communities across the continent.

A Focus on Zambia

Zambia is one the countries garnering attention. Over half of Zambia’s population — 58% — falls below the $1.90 per day international poverty line. The majority of the nation’s impoverished communities live in rural regions.

Zambia’s government addresses these concerns by integrating the U.N.’s sustainable development goals into its development framework. With a focus on economic and ecological growth, Zambia could lay the groundwork for the success of its’ ecovillages.

Planting the Seed

The Regional Schools and Colleges Permaculture (ReSCOPE) Programme recognizes youth as the future keepers of the planet. As well as Zambia, the program has chapters in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The focus is on establishing regional networks to strengthen sustainable efforts. The Zambia chapter along with its 17 newly joined organizations work toward the goal of educating and encouraging communities to find sustainable methods of food production.

ReSCOPE seeks to connect schools and their local environments through the Greening Schools for Sustainable Communities Programme. The program is a partnership between GEN and ReSCOPE and has received funding from the Scottish government. Through education and encouraging sustainable practices, Zambia’s youth have an active role in ensuring future growth.

Greening Schools

Greening Schools strengthens the communities of four schools — the centers of resilience and a source of community inspiration. Beginning with nutrition and food security, students are able to play a part in developmental change. Their hard work includes planting of hundreds of fruit trees. The schools became grounds for hands-on agricultural experience and exposure to the tending of life.

However, the impact was not restrained within the schools. The greening schools inspired local communities to make seed security and crop diversification a commitment. In 2019, these communities “brought back lost traditional crops and adopted intercropping and other agroecological practices.”

As part of their sustainable development goals, the U.N. recognizes the value of investing in ecovillages. Goals 11 and 12 stress the importance of sustainable communities and responsible consumption and production respectively. Educating and advocating for youth to take part in ecovillages addresses this matter.

Coming generations will determine the future, and the youth wield the power to address global concerns like sustainability and poverty. Ecovillages are a great new way to break the cycle of poverty.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Unsplash

Anti-Global Poverty Policies
Oftentimes, when one thinks of ending global hunger and poverty, raising and donating money comes to mind. However, analysis of anti-global poverty policies and programs has shown that ending global poverty is so much more than just giving money to individuals and communities. As much as money is important to the creation and implementation of effective programs, giving money directly to the poor is not always the best way to lift people out of poverty in the long term. Rather, it is important not only to invest in the programs that actually work well but also to invest in analysis of ongoing programs to recognize those who do have a positive impact. Moreover, pre-existing programs must constantly undergo updates and improvements as more education emerges about the populations they serve.

In reality, poverty is a much more complicated issue than just a lack of money and thus it requires a more elaborate solution than just pledging cash. Successful anti-poverty programs usually target social infrastructures such as access to health care, education and financial resources. Additionally, anti-poverty policies aim to help citizens not fall prey to exploitation and poor financial decisions. However, in the end, these programs are not successful unless they receive proper implementation and maintenance.

The Problem with Some Anti-Global Poverty Policies

The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Gabriela Salvador, the Regional Director of Latin America and the Caribbean at AmeriCares; a health-focused poverty and disaster relief organization. Dr. Salvador argues that anti-global poverty policies fail because of a lack of understanding of the problems of individuals living in poverty, as well as a lack of proper implementation of such policies. Her emphasis on understanding the needs of the individual and their living situation stems from her firsthand experience with impoverished communities.

Salvador began her career as a pediatric eye surgeon in Mexico but soon realized that she was only scratching the tip of the iceberg with her work. She believed that it was too late for most of the serious cases and a lot of them could have experienced prevention to begin with. The lack of access to health care systems in impoverished communities blocked people from getting proper care in the first place, and thus, the cases she faced were much worse than they could have been.

Being one person alone, Salvador felt that she could make more of a difference by implementing programs to strengthen weak health care systems and provide relief to struggling communities. She returned to school to study global health and business to learn how to create effective and creative financial solutions to complicated health issues. With over five years of experience working in Latin America designing financially responsible health delivery programs, Salvador now creates and heads a wide variety of programs that include direct provision of services and emergency relief for natural and humanitarian crises.

Collaborating with Communities

Salvador believes that when stripped of religion and culture, the issues facing impoverished individuals are essentially the same globally. Salvador explains that although many programs have the best interest of their target community at heart, they often fail to recognize the barriers that prevent individuals from participating in them. For example, if a sexual health testing and medicine distribution clinic exists in an impoverished community, women may not utilize its resources because they have competing priorities such as child and elderly care, domestic abuse, lack of transportation and other domestic responsibilities. Additionally, Salvador explains that the programs that people launch and leave to work without experiencing proper integration into the local infrastructure of the community do not turn out to be very effective.

She finds that the most effective programs are those that emerge when local officials and professionals collaborate with international aid to understand how to overcome the barriers of individuals in the area. When approaching a new problem, Salvador explains that she first asks the client who the patients are and what their priorities are so that she can best tailor a treatment solution to them. Her goals in targeting global health issues are to generate pragmatic solutions that create direct benefit and resiliency in communities.

The Challenges of Implementing Anti-Poverty Programs

The implementation challenge of anti-poverty programs is clearly one of the biggest reasons why fighting global poverty is such a difficult issue. Connecting with impoverished individuals and identifying their barriers is difficult because of the lack of access to information about specific populations and the abundant funding it takes to collect that information. There is also the issue of choosing who gets the benefit of certain programs; incredibly tough decisions that Salvador cites as perhaps the hardest part of her job. Yet, there is still a way to try and understand the plight of impoverished individuals through human experience.

Salvador emphasizes empathy and an understanding of her privileges as key components of her job. She believes that people need to “roll up their sleeves” and do the work themselves since many are prone to entitlement.

In a 2018 study of Challenges to Global Development Education, researchers Buchanan and Varadharajan underlined the importance of community engagement and individual agency as well. The study also advised strategies that implement drawing attention to understanding the misinformation and closed-mindedness around social and political conditions of impoverished communities. Similar to Salvador, the study suggests creating partnerships between organizations and local communities as well as providing resources to create resilience as an effective way to alleviate poverty issues.

Concluding Thoughts

In the end, people must make an effort to understand more about creating and implementing effective solutions to fight global poverty. However, it is clear that no matter how well designed anti-poverty programs are, they cannot be truly effective unless the communities they are targeting are engaged in their creation and implementation processes.

Data collection and the continued monitoring and analysis of current anti-global poverty policies and programs are impertinent to the future understanding and implementation of successful programs as well. As Dr. Salvador stresses, it is important to remember that impoverished communities contain individuals who have unique problems and issues that may be difficult to understand and relate to. Open-mindedness and a willingness to empathize with and learn about diverse populations is key to creating effective anti-poverty programs. At this time, Salvador continues to combat the COVID-19 stigma and prioritize resiliency and relief as she mitigates the effects of the global downturn of the economy and health care systems due to the pandemic.

– Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

Permaculture Farming
Permaculture farming is a design system for farming that applies ecological principles from nature to human agriculture. It attempts to banish pollution, water waste and energy waste. In the same vein, it focuses on improving productivity, efficiency and upcycling production to improve farmers’ conditions and their land. The heart of permaculture is caring for the planet, caring for people and promoting equitable distribution.

Permaculture Farming Integrates Production

This concept grew out of a sustainable agriculture movement initially developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia in the 70’s. The principles of permaculture are many. For instance — observing and interacting, catching and storing energy, obtaining a yield, applying self-regulation and feedback. Additional principles include using and valuing renewables, producing no waste, designing from patterns to details, integrating production (instead of segregating it), using small solutions, valuing diversity, valuing the marginal and creatively responding to change.

Enabling Self-Subsistence

NGOs and charity organizations often provide direct aid that is helpful in the short term but does not offer long-term solutions. A permaculture advocate named Josephine Awino explained, as an example, that in Kenya cash crops are primarily grown. However, when a community transitions from growing cash crops and moves towards growing plants that their community can eat — it allows the community to depend less on imports and exports. With less dependence on external subsidies, which are transitory and sometimes withdrawn, the community can create a long-standing, institutional baseline for financial success.

The Reuse of Land

Permaculture typically uses cyclical farming techniques to reduce waste and sewage problems. Permaculture farming primarily focuses on practical ways one can enrich the soil, to maximize garden output. It is also possible to implement the cycling of produce types during this process so that the land can consistently retain the same nutrients during each growing season. Any community can improve the soil quickly through using compost-making, water catchment systems and improving the landscape for water retention. Instead of focusing on what one can get from the land, permaculture focuses on how one can continue to reuse land exponentially. In communities where there is minimal space for gardening and farming, the reuse of land is particularly helpful. The consistent ability to reuse the soil can help protect low-income communities from famines due to blockades or sanctions from other countries.

Generating Income

Many communities often function with small economies. In this same vein, even small economies utilize mutual trade and aid — made possible through permaculture. Additionally, permaculture reorients the economic goals of a community. Instead of working to gain more money to buy imported food, the community can save money by consuming the food that they have created, themselves. Permaculture farming creates less dependence on outside income and promotes the circulation of the local economy in conjunction with surrounding economies and the instrumentation of direct, mutual aid. Also, permaculture farms can utilize the space they have created to offer other community services, which can, in turn, be used to generate income. Once the farm is successful, it can also serve as a teaching site for other communities within the region. In this way, communities can learn permaculture practices and this service (of teaching) itself can serve as yet another direct source of income.

Promotion of Community Reliance

When communities implement various kinds of food production, it does not necessarily require that individuals own land or have money. For example, a community can band together to petition their government to provide ground for a shared, community garden. Frequently, permaculture can function successfully in limited, private spaces — like rooftops or walls, to optimize the area and encourage growth. Individuals are inspired to rely on their community members to identify which places will work best for creating garden zones. Additionally, permaculture farming can unite a small community in the shared goal of making food to be used for and sold by the community, exclusively.

– Hannah Bratton
Photo: Flickr

Beauty brands making a differenceMakeup brands are generally known for their aesthetically pleasing cosmetics and the confidence they provide their consumers. However, what is less well known is that many makeup brands are actively creating initiatives to help those in need. Most recently, many of these companies have spearheaded relief efforts to ease the impacts of the global pandemic. Here are five popular beauty brands making a difference amidst COVID-19.

5 Beauty Brands Making a Difference during COVID-19

  1. Milk Makeup. Milk Makeup is one of the beauty brands making a difference during this time. It is a popular brand best known for its minimalist makeup products. However, the company has gained recent attention for its assistance with COVID-19 in New York. On April 10, the brand partnered with the Wu-Tang Clan to donate 100 % of its proceeds from that day to the New York City COVID-19 relief effort: the event raised a total of $106,000 in just 24 hours. Additionally, the brand donated $250,000 in beauty products to frontline workers.
  2. L’Oreal. In response to COVID-19, this international drugstore brand has implemented a new initiative called “L’Oreal for the Future.” The program plans to donate 100 million euros to help combat global climate change. L’Oreal will also donate 50 million euros to support vulnerable women living in societies severely impacted by economic deficiencies. Further, the brand donated 400,000 hygiene products and 400,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to frontline hospital and retail staff in Great Britain and Ireland.
  3. MAC. MAC is another one of the beauty brands making a difference during these difficult times. Since 1994, MAC Cosmetics has held an annual “Viva Glam Campaign.” In previous years, the money from this campaign was dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS; however, in light of 2020’s recent events, the campaign has shifted to target COVID-19. Through this campaign, the beauty company has committed to donating $10 million to 250 U.S. and international organizations working to help those impacted by COVID-19.
  4. Avon. This cosmetics brand has partnered with Feed the Children for the past 16 years. However, in response to COVID-19, Avon has significantly strengthened its support of this nonprofit organization. The company has donated more than $2 million in personal care products and over $40 million in necessities to impacted families across the country.
  5. Thrive Causemetics. Thrive Causemetics is another one of the beauty brands making a difference. It has created a $1 million initiative to aid COVID-19 relief efforts. As part of this commitment, the company donated $10,000 to the University of Washington Virology Lab to help expand access to COVID-19 testing. Additionally, Thrive Causemetics gave $350,000 to various other United States organizations diligently working to fight COVID-19 such as Meals on Wheels, Baby2Baby and Feeding America.

These beauty brands are prime examples of companies utilizing their influences and platforms to impact their communities for good. In the future, cosmetics companies will hopefully continue working beyond their products to improve the lives of their consumers.

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

Psychosocial Recovery from Ebola in Sierra LeoneCommunity healing dialogues are proving effective in providing psychosocial recovery from Ebola in Sierra Leone by addressing the trauma and stigma that survivors face. These sessions give community members a forum to raise and address their concerns about problems in the community, promoting health, wellness and prosperity in both psychosocial, emotional and economic senses. The dialogues seek to erase the stigma and promote economic recovery via micro-enterprise groups.

Poverty and Public Health Challenges

Sierra Leone is a West African country with a population of 7.5 million. Life expectancy is approximately 52 years for women and 51 years for men. The top ten causes of death include malaria, neonatal disorders, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world (women have a one in 17 chance of dying from pregnancy or childbirth), in addition to one of the highest mortality rates for children under five. The country lacks a centralized public health system, and most people cannot access health care due to extreme poverty.

Support and Strides Amid Ebola

Sierra Leone had the highest number of fatal Ebola cases in the 2014-2016 outbreak. The disease’s severity prompted the CDC and NGOs like Partners in Health to provide resources and support. The CDC mounted its largest ever response to an outbreak in an individual country, providing services that included:

  • Epidemiological/strategical support
  • Infection prevention and control
  • Case management
  • Health promotion
  • Laboratory/diagnostic support
  • Emergency management
  • Border health
  • Research support

Partners in Health also provided emergency Ebola care and stayed in Sierra Leone after the outbreak to help strengthen the country’s public health system, staff, supplies and infrastructure. It has provided prenatal care, community health services, tuberculosis treatment, mental health care, blood banking and emergency medical services. The organization also established ongoing support systems for Ebola survivors. Strengthening Sierra Leone’s health system is an important means of both alleviating poverty and helping the country heal from Ebola. However, much work remains to be done.

Returning to Communities Through Healing Dialogues

Ebola is a disease with severe physical manifestations, but its social and psychological aftereffects can also be devastating and can help ensure that those affected remain in poverty.

In the words of one lifelong resident of Sierra Leone, “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa had the same psychological effects on individuals as war.”

Often, Ebola survivors are grieving for the deaths of their loved ones. At the same time, they face stigma and discrimination when trying to return to their communities because people fear that they still carry Ebola.

To address these complex and multifaceted issues, USAID’s Advancing Partners & Communities project introduced community healing dialogues. These meetings, which are conducted by trained facilitators, give community members space to talk through and resolve their concerns. These sessions are having positive effects on psychosocial recovery from Ebola in Sierra Leone for both survivors and their communities. Some survivors have been able to rejoin their communities free of stigma. In addition, the sessions serve as a forum for the community-based resolution of economic problems. For example, the forum led to a micro-enterprise group helping pay for a young woman’s school fee.

Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak was devastating on medical, economic and psychosocial levels. Support from governmental and non-governmental organizations have helped the country face these issues. Community healing dialogues have been extremely beneficial in aiding psychosocial recovery from Ebola in Sierra Leone.

– Isabelle Breier
Photo: USAID

QANDIL's Humanitarian Efforts
Sweden’s renown as a humanitarian superpower stems from its involvement in global aid initiatives. In 2018, the country devoted 1.04 percent of its gross national income (GNI) to overseas development, making Sweden the sixth-largest humanitarian aid contributor among the world’s countries and the largest one proportional to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). From 1975 onward, Sweden’s humanitarian aid efforts have continually surpassed the U.N.’s minimum target of developed nations spending 0.7 percent of GNI on overseas development initiatives.

One of the most well-regarded Sweden-based NGOs is QANDIL. Established in Stockholm in 1991, QANDIL’s initiatives aim to foster lasting peace and development in Iraq. Beneficiaries of its aid range from refugees and returnees to internally displaced persons and local host communities. Since 2016, QANDIL has concentrated its efforts on development in the Kurdistan region, serving as the most prominent partner of UNHCR in this region. Below are seven facts about QANDIL’s humanitarian efforts.

7 Facts About QANDIL’s Humanitarian Efforts

  1. Economic Assistance — Two Cash-Based Intervention projects implemented in 2017 raised $2,695,280 for 3,829 families in need in the Kurdistan region’s Duhok governorate. In Erbil, QANDIL distributed $3,155,800 to 3,054 families in the Erbil governorate, while $648,290 went to 1,900 families in the Sulaymaniyah governorate. Ultimately, QANDIL distributed $6,499,370 to 8,783 refugees and IDP families within three of the Kurdistan region’s governorates. This provides a foundation by which these uprooted people may become economically stable and productive.
  2. Shelter — Through the Shelter Activities Project, QANDIL supported uprooted people in search of shelter, which included 7,246 families. Among QANDIL’s successes in providing shelter-based aid is the implementation of 25 major shelter rehabilitation initiatives, encompassing five camps in the Sulaymaniyah governorate. This helped resolve the long-term problem of incomplete and hazardous structures allotted to displaced persons.
  3. Legal Services — The Outreach Project, operating in the Erbil and Duhok governorates, offers legal services to IDPs and refugees. With the participation of volunteers from both the displaced and host communities, QANDIL’s efforts have granted legal assistance to 319,773 IDPs and refugees and outreach services to 19,894 persons in the Erbil governorate alone. In the Duhok governorate, beneficiaries included 69,093 refugees and IDPs. Furthermore, in 2017, QANDIL participated in an initiative to provide mobile magistrates to administer court-related matters for displaced persons.
  4. Assistance for Gender-Based Violence Victims — With the participation of UNFPA, QANDIL commits resources to finance and submitting reports to seven local NGOs that operate 21 women’s social centers. These centers function in both responsive and preventative capacities for women both within and outside camps. Services that these centers offer include listening, counseling, referrals to other institutions, distribution of hygiene kits and even recreational activities. In total, this program has assisted 67,108 women and girls in the Duhok governorate, 11,021 in the Erbil governorate and 43,797 in the Sulaymaniyah governorate.
  5. Youth Education — Starting in 2017, QANDIL devised an educational initiative targeting Syrian refugee students, funded at approximately $271,197. The soft component of this initiative provided funding and resources for recreational activities and catch-up classes, as well as teacher capacity building training and the maintenance of parent-teacher associations, in schools enrolling refugee students in the Sulaymaniyah governorate. The initiative’s hard component comprises aid for special needs students at seven refugee schools in the Sulaymaniyah governorate.
  6. Skills Training — In collaboration with the German development aid organization GIZ, QANDIL embarked on a vocational and educational initiative aiming to benefit displaced persons residing at Debanga camp. These individuals received access to skills training and qualifications certification, ranging from plumbing and electricity to language and art, in three-week courses offering free tuition. As a whole in 2017, the vocational and educational training centers that QANDIL supported with funding from GIZ have improved the employment prospects for 1,756 individuals, out of which 546 were women.
  7. Immediate Response in Crisis Situations — With an upsurge in regional conflict on Oct. 16, 2017, came an increase in IDPs in Tuz Khurmatu, a city 88 kilometers south of Kirkuk. This event tested the efficacy and efficiency of QANDIL’s humanitarian aid efforts. By Oct. 24, QANDIL’s Emergency Response Committee began dispensing out emergency kits to persons that the conflict escalation affected. Included in these packages were necessities, food and non-food items alike. By Oct. 25, QANDIL parceled out 1,237 emergency kits to aid-seekers distributed over 25 locations in the Sulaymaniyah and Garmian regions. That same day, 600 aid-seekers received aid packages in the Erbil and Koya regions, while the rest of the aid made its way to other camps in the Sulaymaniyah area.

From education to vocational training to sanitation and hygiene and shelter and legal services, QANDIL’s humanitarian efforts in the Kurdistan region of Iraq continue to make a difference for the lives of thousands of displaced and settled people alike. Thus, QANDIL serves as an ambassador for Sweden’s humanitarian aid mission. Whether in the course of sustained initiatives or responses to imminent crises, QANDIL persists in its constructive humanitarian aid role in an unstable region. It is through the tireless efforts of such NGOs as QANDIL that Sweden continues to serve as a model in humanitarian aid initiatives to the rest of the world.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Technological Access in Bhutan

A mountainous landlocked kingdom of 766,000 people, Bhutan has been traditionally been isolated and disconnected from the outside world for a number of centuries, with previous rulers keeping the nation as a “hermit kingdom” prior to the legalization of television and Internet in 1999. Bhutan‘s economy relies heavily on its agriculture and forestry alongside the budding hydroelectricity industry, which has proven difficult due to the mountainous terrain of the country. The country’s main trade partners are India and Bangladesh, with no known relationship with the U.S. or other major U.N. members. The legalization of the Internet in 1999, as well as investments in technological advancement in the mountainous country, is a turning point for the kingdom as the developing technological access in Bhutan is expected to bring the country to the modern era.

Internet Development

Since the Internet’s introduction in 1999, Bhutan quickly was able to quickly build its telecommunication infrastructure and have much of the country connected. Cell phone services began in 2003, with 80 percent of the population owning a cell phone as of 2018, which includes 70 percent of the population that consists of farmers, making Bhutan one of the most connected countries in the world. This jump from the days of being isolated from the world allows the people of Bhutan to communicate both within and outside of the country’s borders.

Telecommunications

The continued developing technological access in Bhutan has also seen growth through Bhutan’s own investment into its communication networks. Bhutan‘s internal ICT development includes:

  • implementing protection lines for consumer purchases
  • building stations for mobile carriers and broadcasters and expanding upon broadband connections for wireless connections and private access for citizens
  • investing in cybersecurity and strengthening the overall connection quality

The investments in the internal network lines have allowed Bhutan to quickly connect the nation at a rapid pace. However, challenges remain in terms of developing the rural areas of the country within its mountainous terrain. That said, the government is actively looking at ways to change the status quo.

The National Rehabilitation Program (NRB) and the Common Minimum Program are two examples of initiatives focused on building new facilities and roads as well as easier access to electricity and supplies. Mountain Hazelnuts, a company headquartered in Eastern Bhutan has also made major tech investments for its farms, increasing employment and supplying smartphones for hired farmers that help with directions on the road and improve communication.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

Healing for Guatemala

Guatemala, a country with a rich Mayan past, has a history riddled with trauma and violence which contributes to the country’s poverty level today. After a 36-year civil war that tore the country apart, healing for Guatemala has just begun. While the civil war and accompanying genocide of its indigenous people ended in 1996, the country and those affected have struggled to hold military leaders accountable, to find their missing loved ones and to have the world recognize the pain and suffering that took place from 1960 until 1996.

Civil War and Genocide

The civil war hit a peak in violence in the mid-1980s, when General Efraín Ríos Montt formed a coup and overthrew the government. General Ríos Montt started a bloody genocide where over 200,000 indigenous Mayan Indians were killed or forcibly disappeared, having yet to resurface today. General Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide in 2013 after being found guilty of massacring 1,771 members of the Mayan Ixil group. Despite this ruling, the conviction was overturned shortly after and General Ríos Montt died while a retrial was underway.

Throughout their country’s violence and unrest, the indigenous Mayan people remain very proud of their culture and want to uphold their traditions.  While around half of the population in Guatemala is indigenous, these Mayans have suffered through exploitation, discrimination and marginalization. Today, healing for Guatemala means protecting and celebrating the Mayan culture in the face of extreme violence and terror. One long-held tradition of the Mayan people is backstrap weaving, which is a method of weaving beautiful and intricate textiles for clothing and other material uses.

Illiteracy and Language Barriers

Many Mayan women today are still living well below the poverty line (which means living on less than $1.80 per day) and many indigenous women are illiterate. Only 73 percent of women over 15 years of age in Guatemala are literate, a proportion that is vastly skewed toward women who live in cities, not in the rural countryside of the Mayan people. Numbers of Mayan women who are illiterate are unknown because births are often not registered with the state of Guatemala. It is estimated that roughly 60 percent of the indigenous population are illiterate. Due to extreme poverty, in which nearly 80 percent of indigenous families fall, one in two children under the age of five is malnourished.

Many of these Mayan women do not speak Spanish, the official language of Guatemala. These women only speak their Mayan language, of which there are 21 in Guatemala alone. Because these women do not speak Spanish, they are forced to sell their meticulous weavings to a Spanish-speaking middleman for much lower prices. Because of the low rates these women bring home from their weaving, they often have no choice but to pull their daughters out of school to help bring in money for the household. Only one in four indigenous girls over the age of 16 stay in school while the remainder typically start working to help their household.

The Formation of Trama Textiles

During the height of the violence, when it was dangerous and possibly deadly to wear Mayan clothing, the Mayan women of the Guatemala Highlands formed Trama Textiles, a woman-owned cooperative focused on backstrap weaving. As Mayan men were “disappearing,” the women of the community banded together in order to support themselves and their families. They did so by doing what they always had: backstrap weaving.

Weaving with Trama Textiles not only provides a way for these women to deliver clothing, money and other support to their families, it also helps these women deal with their trauma. The 400 members of this artisan cooperative work together, exploring different colors and designs in their textiles. With the sense of empowerment and purpose the cooperative gives them, they are able to grow stronger and work towards a better future. At Trama Textiles, the women weavers who are producing the product are the ones setting their own pricing, not a middleman. Trama Textiles helps these women to uphold Mayan traditions while ensuring a better future for their children.

Trama Textiles provides a place of relief for many indigenous Mayan women of Guatemala. Not only is it delivering healing for Guatemala it is helping women in indigenous villages form a community in which they thrive. These women who are often illiterate and do not speak the same language as one another are able to come together to run a cooperative. They earn money and valuable business knowledge while showing the rest of the nation that peace and healing are possible after a violent and turbulent past. This process, with the help of Trama Textiles and other cooperatives like it, will help pull indigenous communities out of the poverty that the 36-year civil war imposed on them. With a rise in income, these rural communities will be able to let their children finish their education, which will continue the cycle of pulling them out of poverty. Cooperatives like Trama Textiles are imperative in healing for Guatemala and all those affected by the genocide.

– Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Pixabay