Meet Juan Armando Mendez

In 2020 a “call for stories” was sent out to each partner organization with hopes that people would find the time to participate. This story project was initiated to switch the narrative from having the World Neighbours Canada volunteers tell the stories of those participating in or initiating programs, to having them tell their own stories with as much or as little detail. This is one of those stories. To read more visit Stories.

Juan Armando Méndez, Honduras

 My name is Juan Armando Méndez, I am a bricklayer and agroecological producer, partner of the Caja de Ahorro y Crédito Rural “Nueva Generación”. I am married to Mrs. Lucila Idiáquez with an 11-year-old daughter. I live in the community of La Libertad, Azabache Danlí El Paraíso, Honduras.

Before Vecinos Honduras came to my community, I thought I “knew everything”, without having any idea of ​​”learning new things” this has motivated me more to continue learning; As a way of understanding more about the work of Vecinos Honduras, I always wondered what does it mean to Return to Earth (VH slogan)? Answering me today, “I realize that it is better to be on Earth producing, than to be with a different mind in other directions”. This new knowledge is part of the changes of a person, family and community.

I feel that my life has changed, I learned to respect nature and people, “I see them as my own person, love each other and share with others, the health of my family has changed” is also a process of unlearning some agricultural practices that were negatively affecting me emotionally and were polluting nature.

Together with my family I have a 1.4-hectare plot, diversified with local crops, its main crop is coffee. “I learned to see the plants with affection, applying organic products, taking care of the land,” and now I say, “that if there are no trees, there are no water and without water there is no life”. This philosophy is possible using organic products and stopping using chemical products. This change is not easy but not impossible, and “I have achieved it with the support of my family and Honduran neighbors”. It is already three years from beginning applying only organic products on my plot. At the beginning I lowered the agriculture production, however in this short time I increased by 1% the production from applying organic products, and I have also saved approximately $820.00 in purchase of chemical fertilizers. I feel happy with these changes for the health and economy of my family and community; “using chemicals now offends me.”

After experiencing the amino acid products (liquid) and the Bocachi fertilizer (solid) in my plot, I now share my experience, knowledge and organic product with other producers, so that they can experiment and will be convinced of the effectiveness of the product. Currently I have generated $1,200.00 from the sale of these products; next year I will invest them in expanding my growing area with 0.70 more hectares than I already have.

In addition, I am a member of a “New Generation” Rural Savings and Credit Fund. I feel motivated to be organized in my community, as “if we are not organizing it does nothing”. Being a part of this organization has given a space to market coffee production at a fair price. In the last harvest, I sold 272.15 kg of dry parchment coffee through the Rural Box, obtaining an additional profit of $168.00. “I feel happy because now I am selling the coffee well,” as before I joined this organization, I sold my product badly. Now, for every Kg I am generating an additional $1.61 because the quality of my product has improved and I am marketing through the organization, “I feel very motivated to be part of the organization.”

Together with my family we have a dream of having our coffee maca with the name “I am what I am, pure Azabache coffee”. We are already working to make it come true, it will be an option to improve and take advantage of our production, generating opportunities for families in my community.

Grateful to Vecinos Honduras and their cooperators for the support they have given us as a community, which has been used by most of the families in our community.

World Neighbours Canada to receive funding from the Fund for Innovation and Transformation!

World Neighbours Canada is pleased to share some great news! We have been selected as one of 13 organizations in Canada to receive funding from the Fund for Innovation and Transformation (FIT) in its third round of projects.

Our project is in Burkina Faso, working with our longstanding partner organization in the eastern region. All FIT projects have a “testing” or research focus. In our case, we are testing a new approach to supporting women to be entrepreneurs in the fattening of sheep. This involves buying young sheep, raising them well with good care and feeding, and then selling them for a higher price. Compared to breeding and raising sheep, fattening entails lower risks and produces quicker income. Including other family members in the venture is a key part of the project.

The list of projects supported by FIT across Canada is interesting and impressive, and we are pleased to be part of this important initiative. See the full press release and complete list of funded projects here: FIT-Intake-3-Press-Release-.

Covid raging in rural Nepal

Covid 19 continues to sweep through Nepal including rural villages in Ramechhap where our partner TSS work.

This article was taken from “The Himilayan Times.”

RAMECHHAP, JUNE 5

Cases of COVID-19 are on the decline in the major cities across the country, but villages are becoming the new hotspots for the infection in the country. Villages in Ramechhap are also no exception.

COVID infection is spreading at an alarming rate in rural areas of the district. In most of the villages, testing is very slow and virus is spreading very fast, putting more lives at risk. To make matters worse, the infected people are also wandering freely in the villages. Ramechhap District Health Officer Bhuwan Thapa said that the number of infections has been increasing in rural areas. He said that COVID cases were increasing due to lack of awareness of health protocols.

Patients staying in home isolation, are dying at home as they fear to visit hospitals.

According to statistics with the health office, around 80 per cent of people have tested positive in the villages.

Chief at the District Health Office Jitendra Karna said that of the 115 people who underwent tests, 98 were found infected in Sunapati Rural Municipality.

Chairman Kaman Singh Moktan in Doramba Sailung Rural Municipality said that the infection rate in rural areas had increased due to social functions such as marriage and bratabanda. He said patients with COVID like symptoms were there in most of the houses in rural areas.

Vice-chair Gita Bista of Sunapati Rural Municipality said the rural municipality was at high risk of COVID infection.

CDO Gaulochan Sainju said public awareness programmes had been launched to stem the virus spread. As many as 1,581 people have been infected with the virus in the district so far. Currently, the district has 563 active cases of the virus.

The Impact of COVID-19 in Nepal

Bhutanese refugee Bhakti Prasad Baral, 83, receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the Beldangi refugee settlement in eastern Nepal on 30 March, 2021, Photo: Santosh Kumar Chaudhary/UNHCR

By Sabin Shrestha, World Neighbours Canada volunteer

The first COVID-19 positive case was detected in Nepal on 13th January 2020. Even though the second positive case was not confirmed until two months later on 23rd March, Nepal immediately implemented a countrywide lockdown and border closure, and adopted health measures to contain COVID-19 cases. The lockdown lasted 4 months and caused many social and economic crises especially for poor, marginalized people and small and medium-sized business enterprises.

Economic Impacts

Nepal has paid a high cost for COVID-19. The central bank says 22.5% of those employed in the country lost their jobs in the lockdown, which accounts for 1.5 million people. The World Bank estimated that more than 2 in 5 economically active workers reported a job loss or prolonged work absence in 2020.  Further, the World Bank estimated Nepal GDP growth was 1.8% for fiscal year 2020, compared to 7% in fiscal year 2019.

Dr Sagar Rajbhandari (right), director of Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, and Dr Anup Bastola react after receiving their first jabs in Teku, Kathmandu on Wednesday, 21 Jan, 2021, Photo : Angad Dhakal/TKP

Vaccination Roll-out

The country started inoculation against COVID-19 on 27th January 2021. The plan is to expand vaccine coverage in four phases.

Phase One: frontline health, sanitation, hygiene workers

Phase Two: security officials, bankers, government officials, diplomatic officials, and senior citizens.

The country has successfully completed first and second phase vaccine campaigns.

Phase Three:  everyone between 40 and 55 years of age

Phase Four:  the rest of the population.

Nepal has successfully vaccinated 1,791,606 people. It is the first country in Asia–Pacific to vaccinate refugees against COVID-19 vaccine. The country is optimistic in expanding its vaccination coverage. However, vaccine supplies are a critical bottleneck, which needs to be tackled by through “vaccine diplomacy” with neighbouring countries.

COVID-19 Positive case by Age Group as of 5th April, 2021

Source: Ministry of Health Population, 2021

Vaccine Supplies

On the vaccine supply side, Nepal largely depends on its neighbours India and China. In January, the country received one million doses of the vaccine called Covishield as a donation from India (developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, locally manufactured by the Serum Institute of India). In a second batch, Nepal got 348,000 doses of Covishield. Recently in March 2021, Nepal got 500,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine developed by Sinopharm and donated by China.

Testing

As of April 5, 2021, Nepal has done 2,289,824 RT-PCR (COVID) tests, which is 7.75% of its total population. Among total RT-PCR tests, 278,210 cases were found as COVID-19 positive or 12.15% of tests done so far. Among the positive cases, Nepal has a high rate of recovery (98.3%). 3036 deaths by COVID-19 are recorded to date.

Nepal rapidly developed 84 facilities with RT-PCR laboratories throughout the country, 48 in the public sector and 36 in the private sector.

Hurricane Eta creates extensive damage to Honduras

Honduras has been hit hard by Hurricane Eta. So far approximately 1,700,000 people have been affected by the wide spread flooding in the north and damage throughout the country.
There has been damage in a few of the communities Vecinos Honduras works in but not the extensive flooding we are seeing in the news. Two communities in Azabache and seven in Santa Barbara were affected by mudslides, and washed out roads and crops.
 
Executive Director Edwin Escoto, is philosophic about the further set back to Honduras, “seems to me nature is demanding its place,” as climate change continues to make life harder for those less fortunate. “La Venganza de la Tierra,” he says.
 
This is very troubling as Honduras has still not recovered from Hurricane Mitch twenty two years ago. Mass emigration, corruption, droughts and poverty have continued to contribute to Honduras’s misfortune.
We are waiting to find out what the total damage is but that may take many years to establish.

Unintended Outcomes

Covid had shaken up the Honduran way of life and the work of Vecinos Honduras.  While the effort has shifted away from capacity building, education, and agriculture to health care prevention, it is clear that the capacities that have been built up in the preceding years to give the community the confidence to take action themselves. Here is a list of some of the unexpected effects of the pandemic. Some are good and some are not. It is taken from the Covid-19 Emergency Response Report for April 8-June30th.

Community leaders fumigating houses for disinfection to avoid contagion of people by COVID-19. They are using a mixture of chlorine bleach diluted in water in the Las Guarumas project.
  • A group of young people and farmers are working collectively to create a strategic grain reserve. Three (3) groups of farmers (from Claveles #1, Boneton and Buena Esperanza) are sowing 10.2 acres of bean using seed that was given to them and the Saving and Credit Group. In  El Progreso 1.7 acres of corn are being planted.
  • A group of young people (Alianza Juvenil) created a plan for vegetable planting, because there were no vegetables in the convenient stores.
  • Health volunteers from the project’s influential communities are carrying out disease prevention actions mainly for COVID-19 and Dengue. They have also coordinated with other communities in neighbouring villages.
  • Conflicts between people have increased, due to resistance to compliance by some people who are not aware of the existence of the pandemic.
  • A Case of Dengue was presented in the community of Casas Nuevas, which is why the community health committee has strengthened hygiene actions in the community, developing clean-up campaigns and raising awareness among families in the proper management of garbage.
The monitors are training mothers to cut down the water collection stacks, to avoid breeding grounds for the larvae of the Aedes Aegipty mosquito, and the anopheles to avoid Malaria and Dengue, Classic and hemorrhagic, the Abate® 1 SG is a powder insecticide that an amount is applied in the water to prevent the mosquito from laying its eggs. It also kills mosquito larvae.
  • Many activities unfortunately were not carried out in the field (workshops, meetings, monitoring and evaluation of the program) due to the pandemic and the provisions implemented by the SINAGER National Risk Management System.

Boring yet important

Children learning how to properly wash hands.

By Gabriel Newman, Board Member of World Neighbours Canada

I want to tell a short story about a conversation that occurred just before the Covid pandemic took over the Americas.

Back in March, Edwin Escoto, the Executive Director for our partner organization Vecinos Honduras, was in BC giving talks about life in Honduras. While I was with him, I got to watch him talk to about two hundred high school students. He talked about corruption, poverty and hunger in Honduras; he spoke about the human rights that are not afforded to many; and he talked about VH’s approach to helping communities build capacity and to advocate for their own rights. It is a lot to absorb in an hour-long talk and I could tell that many students felt overwhelmed, but they also felt compassion. The most common response I heard from students and teachers was, “what can we do?”

The cycle of poverty in Honduras.

Honestly, I didn’t have a great answer for that. The trip was not for fundraising purposes but education. I wasn’t going to try to sign them up as monthly donors and World Neighbours doesn’t “do” anything in a concrete sense other that raise funds and leverage those funds for grants so that people in the communities can gain the skills to “do the work.”

Edwin discussing their process and Social Justice to a grade 12 Social Justice class.

One teacher said that they do an annual fundraiser and was curious that if they raised $500 for VH, what it could go towards. Edwin quickly mentioned hygiene for students. As part of the slate of programs and training VH conducts in communities, proper hygiene training for children in schools (hand washing) would have a huge impact on the health of students. I could tell it wasn’t the sexiest of answers. It wasn’t concrete and it felt somewhat basic. I figured I would have to think of something more interesting and important. Then came Covid.

Community Health Boards made up of local volunteers plan and organize health related initiatives.

While the communities that VH works in lack food security, water and easy access to hospitals, they do understand hygiene and community health through VH’s training. That gives them a huge advantage in battling Covid. These communities already have a collection of volunteers to organize and spread information and conduct health training. And most importantly the children and adults understand the importance of hand washing, the main defence against contracting the virus! This does not make these communities immune from Covid, but it will help slow the spread should the virus reach these isolated people. And it will arrive soon if it hasn’t already. People are leaving the heavily affected cities to go to their family homes in the villages and bringing Covid with them. What I dismissed as uninteresting became the cornerstone for helping these communities protect themselves.

The first step to protect the future of Honduras means ensuring the children are healthy.

So, the next time I am asked where funding could be allocated, I will definitely say, “hygiene in schools.” It is inexpensive and basic, yet this pandemic has demonstrated it is also life saving.

Nepal extends lock down to June 2nd as cases surge

Our contacts from TSS (Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti) in Nepal informed us that the Nepalese government has extended their lockdown from May 24 until June 2nd. This is following the first couple deaths due to Covid19 and an increase in cases.

Originally Nepal reported very few cases with no more than 11 by April 10th but it was also not in a good position to test for Covid. Now, of May 25, the government has pledged to test 600,000 people, or 2 percent of the population. Currently they have only tested 51,642 people with Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology, while 95,192 people have been tested with rapid test kits, according to Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population.

In the last week the numbers of confirmed cases has more than doubled to 682 confirmed cases. The restrictions are tighter than before.

Suresh Shrestha, the Executive Director of TSS told us “Now a person is required two approvals from government administration offices both from origin and destination districts (if they wish to travel). However, it is still flexible to transport medical personnel, security persons, media persons, commodities suppliers and emergency medical services without any prior approval. Kathmandu and Ramechhap was considered safe zone (green zone), but due to movement of people from Terai and other affected areas into these districts, it has become a risk zone as well.”

The government is claiming the increase of cases is because of a failure to test Nepalese migrant workers who returned home from India.

 

Source:

Nepal plans to conduct COVID-19 test among 2 percent of population – Xinhaunet.com

 

Celebrating Mothers

If you are wondering how to honour your mother or grandmother this Mother’s Day, why not consider making a donation in her name to World Neighbours Canada and have your money go directly to support mothers not as fortunate as yours.

All our projects support some of the poorest women in areas of Nepal, Honduras and Burkina Faso and provide opportunities for women, and often mothers, to learn skills that will allow them to earn a little money of their own, improve their health and better care for their children. This is especially true right now, as we all attempt to deal with the life-changing effects of COVID-19.

Children made Mother’s Day cards as a special activity.

Should you wish to have a card sent to your mother as a memento of your gift, please send an email to the following address: ( peterjudy1352@gmail.com ), along with your name and the name and address of the recipient and a card will be mailed shortly.

Information about making a donation is available on the website. (www.worldneighbours.ca )

A community water tap in Nepal

Nepal in lock down, but will it be enough?

Shown in the photo is the main commercial street in Kathmandu – Durbar Marg – with absolutely no traffic. Nepal, on the day of this photo, was in the 3rd week of a total lockdown due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

At World Neighbours Canada we are waiting with concern to see how the Covid-19 pandemic will affect our partners and the communities they work. Unfortunately, the countries they are located in are ill prepared to deal with the crisis. This is certainly the case in Nepal where health care funding has been traditionally low, they lack the basic health care equipment to test and treat Covid positive patients, and complaints of corruption have stalled getting proper safety equipment to health care workers. As a result, very few people have been tested so the current number of confirmed cases of 9, as on April 10th, is not an accurate assessment of the situation.

In order to limit the spread of the virus the government closed it borders and enforced a mandatory lockdown. Suresh Shrestha, the Executive Director of our partner NGO, Tamakoshi Sewa Sameti (TSS) puts it this way:

“Since 24th March, we are under the official lockdown period. About 90% people are confined within their homes. All offices and shops are closed nation wide. As per the government order, it has been prohibited all public movement outside the home, except for medical & purchase of food stuffs. All public and private vehicles without special permission are forbidden in the streets. All national and international flights have been suspended until 30th April. The daily necessary food selling stores are open for 2-3 hours only. Anyone defying the government order will be punishable according to Infectious Disease Control Act.”

The lockdown has not stopped many Nepalese who were stuck working abroad in India to return home to their communities. There is an increased risk that they are bringing the virus with them to remote communities.

On April 7th Nepal reached an agreement with the World Bank to access $29 million dollars to improve testing facilities, equip health facilities with personal protective equipment, create new ICU, beds, and isolation facilities, and strengthen public institutions to coordinate the response.

This is good news as without testing, and certainly without testing outside of Katmandu, there is no way to assess the seriousness of the situation, or to deal with it.

We are hoping the communities we work with are able to weather the storm. At least they have access to water and improved sanitary conditions thanks to the work of TSS and those communities.

Sources:

World Bank News

Foreign Policy Insider

Nepali Times

Al Jazeera

Anadolu Agency