Reflecting on progress in Maternal-Child Health

The Board of Directors of World Neighbours Canada met recently in West Kelowna for their Annual General Meeting. Board members responsible for communication with each of our partner NGOs – in Honduras, Burkina Faso and Nepal – provided an update on what has been achieved during the past twelve months. Highlighted here is only ONE of the achievements of the past year for each country. During the coming weeks, we will publish more in-depth articles about the activities that have taken place in each country.

Our matching grant from Global Affairs Canada is allowing us to provide much more monetary support to these grassroots organizations. Without our donors, it would not be possible for World Neighbours Canada to apply for such grants. The directors of WNC and our partner NGOs – Vecinos Honduras, TSS (Nepal) and APDC (Burkina Faso) extend a heartfelt thank you for the on-going support. Please remember our projects and our relationships are long-term and support locally appropriate initiatives. It is truly a model of participatory development.

Burkina Faso – During the past year, close to 5000 villagers have attended sensitization and/or information sessions on family planning, malnutrition, the importance of vaccinations, nutrition (how to prepare healthier, more balanced meals with local produce ) and gender equality.

Nepal – Over the past two years, TSS has supported villagers with the installation of 4012 toilets in homes in villages in Ramechhap District. This has been linked to a nation-wide campaign to encourage everyone to use proper toilets.

Honduras – The health initiative of monitoring young children for growth by measuring body weight has continued and expanded over the past year and positive results are being observed. Mothers are given advice and support in raising healthy, well-nourished children.

 

Community Medicine Kit

Typical Community Medicine Kit

By Gabriel Newman

This a photograph of a typical community medicine kit. There are now twenty-six communities that Vecinos Honduras works with that have these kits. Community Monitors (Volunteers) received training in how to administer medication as local health units are short on medication and only are open Tuesday-Friday.

The kits are well equipped; they contain medicines to treat anemia, diarrhea, dehydration, conjunctivitis, fever, fungus, parasites, stomatitis, and scabies, among others. They also aim to prevent severe episodes of pediatric bronchitis or pneumonia.

According to what the volunteers report, 165 women and 54 men, 148 girls and 156 boys have been treated in the last six months, the most prevalent diseases in the communities are fever, headache, respiratory infections, diarrhea, parasites, pediculosis, and stomatitis in few cases.

The Strength of World Neighbours Canada – Enduring Partnerships and Mutual Respect

Mother and her children at health education session. Honduras

By Bruce Petch

At World Neighbours Canada we are sometimes asked what makes us unique. There are many charities that support people in developing countries; what does World Neighbours Canada do differently?

The answer is multi-faceted. There are many aspects of our organization that inspire loyalty among our donors – we are run by volunteers, have very low overhead, and use modest fundraising approaches. The attribute of World Neighbours Canada that we hold closest to our hearts is enduring partnerships. These partnerships occur at multiple levels – between the local organizations we support and the rural people they serve; between us and the local organizations; and between World Neighbours Canada donors and its board and volunteers.

The emphasis on partnerships is rooted deep. When World Neighbors was founded in the U.S. in the 1950s, it was ahead of its time in recognizing that poor people in developing countries deserved respect. World Neighbors founders embraced the United Nations statement acknowledging the “inherent dignity” of all people.

Community Meeting – Nepal

World Neighbors evolved into an unusual organization, focusing on long-term partnerships and outcomes when many organizations worked with only a one- or two-year project term in mind. Their minimal expatriate staff – called Area Representatives – often held their positions for more than ten years, sometimes more than twenty, which was remarkable in a field where terms of more than two years were uncommon. The essence of their work was building long-term partnerships with local organizations and communities, growing leadership capacity and fostering knowledge-based development.

Local NGO APDC leading workshop in Burkina Faso

The founders of World Neighbours Canada were inspired by the commitment and effectiveness of the World Neighbors family of organizations, and created a Canadian group to support the international network. Since its inception, World Neighbours Canada has worked to establish enduring partnerships with local organizations. We have supported Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti in Nepal and Vecinos Honduras (and its predecessors) since 1989, and APDC in Burkina Faso since 2006.

Finished Tap No. 6. – Nepal

Each of these organizations takes a different approach in working with local communities. Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti is committed to improving the lives of people in the district of Ramechhap. They support the building of water systems and latrines in different villages each year, and provide technical back-up for as long as is needed (nearly all of the water systems installed with TSS support continue to operate; in one or two locations, the water source has become intermittent). Vecinos Honduras takes a holistic approach to community development, gradually building local capacity for continuous improvement in agriculture and health. Typically, after 5-6 years they phase out intensive support, and instead provide advice to local committees or cooperatives. APDC similarly engages in a wide range of activities with villages, and shifts emphasis as local leadership takes on more responsibility.

Community members are taught how to test and treat for malnutrition.

Coupled with the theme of enduring partnerships is mutual respect. We respect the abilities and insights of our local partner organizations. They are led by some of the brightest and most committed people in their respective countries. Furthermore, we recognize that people who are materially poor are not bereft of ideas and ingenuity. We have the greatest respect for their ability to survive under extraordinarily difficult conditions, and to improve the lives of their families when given the opportunity and the knowledge to harness clean water, grow more crops, and raise healthier children.

This plantain harvest will help feed the family.

Introducing Ides Onelba Bonilla – Honduras

The following is part of our series featuring the community participants in the various programs we support. It is through their hard, voluntary, work that leads to sustainable change in their community.

The following was written by Vecinos Honduras and translated by Mary Doyle.

Ides Onelba Bonilla

Onelba is a 34 year old woman who lives in the community of Casas Nuevas where she is dedicated to household activities.

Since 2010 she has worked in community development initiating participation with World Vision in another community. In 2015 she moved to Casas Nuevas where she learned about the work of Vecinos Honduras. She began to participate in community meetings involved with training in basic sanitation issues, child growth and development, food preparation and improved stoves. In 2016 she became involved in child welfare as a volunteer health monitor and has been helping children in the community ever since.

Onelba studied at school until grade nine and she enjoys participating in community meetings and training sessions to learn and experience new topics of interest.

 

Healthy Homes in Honduras

Editor’s note: A condition of our grant from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) is that an in-depth report must be delivered semi-annually. It is a Herculean task to compile all the data from these diverse projects. However, for those of us not tasked with this duty, the reports give us great insight into how complicated, varied and impressive these projects are. The following is from a recent report encompassing July 1, 2017 to December 2017, and comes in under the title “Healthy home environments and improvement” as it pertains to the Honduras projects. It is one page within sixty but gives a sense of how much is being accomplished, but also some of the challenges along the way.

Coordination was made with the Ministry of Health of the municipality of Danlí (with the coordinator of the Environmental Unit) and a study was carried out to determine the technical feasibility and environmental impact of the construction of sealed hygienic toilets in the communities of Boneton and Buena Esperanza. With this coordination, a technical report was produced, which describes that the realization of the toilet project is considered technically and environmentally feasible since it will not contaminate aquifers, and it will help to ensure the reduction of diseases such as hepatitis, diarrhea and others (see details in the Construction Annex of the annual report for 2016-17).

The toilet construction was approved by GAC. During the reporting period, using project funds and the contribution of families themselves, 31 household latrines were built: 9 in Boneton and 22 in Buena Esperanza. Before building the latrines, beneficiaries received training on their use and management.

Five training events were conducted to raise awareness on the benefits of using improved stoves. This technology reduces indoor smoke pollution from burning of wood fuel, firewood consumption, and consequently respiratory problems. In each training event an improved stove was built. The events were developed in the communities of El Picacho, Los Encuentros, San Jose, Casas Nuevas, and Llanitos Verdes; and 58 people participated (45 women and 13 men). In addition to the 5 stoves that were made in the trainings, 20 more stoves were built. The families built the 20 stoves with an approach called mano vuelta, which consists of all the participants collaborating in the construction of 20 stoves until they finish with the last one (“I help you help me”).

Three training sessions on leishmaniasis and leptospirosis prevention were conducted; 21 women, members of health committees, attended the sessions. The women implemented the preventive practices at their homes and each shared the practices with four families of their communities. As a result, four (4) families installed nylon (plastic) on their roofs; two (2) families build a fence around the house to keep animals outside the house; and two (2) families build enclosures for domestic animals.

The Secretary of Health through the HU carried out diagnostic tests to detect Leishmania parasites in the community of Llanitos Verdes; 15 people tested positive and received treatment. The occurrence of the disease was the reason for developing the training. Participants said they didn’t have any knowledge about the disease; nevertheless a group commented they still didn’t believe it exists, incongruously these group had infected patients at home.

Health committees conducted nine cleaning campaigns in nine communities: Matasano, Guanacastillo, Jocotal, Brasilar, Quebrachal, Lajas Blancas, El Rincon, Mal Paso and Torrecillas. The cleaning campaigns pick up trash and litter and remove standing water that could provide mosquito breeding habitat.

In Las Guarumas Program, a six-month training course on participatory diagnosis and project design, management, implementation, and evaluation was conducted. Six (6) health committees of the communities of Las Labranzas, Guanacastillo, Lajas Blancas, El Jocotal, Quebrachal, and El Rincon participated in the course; six men and 28 women. As training output, participants prepared project profiles for a community latrinization project because only 46% of 300 families have latrines in good condition. This training strengthened the institutional capacities of the health committees, providing them the tools to conduct a health needs assessment.

Introducing Community Leader Hancys Yadira Martinez – Honduras

The following is part of our series featuring the community participants in the various programs we support. It is through their hard, voluntary, work that leads to sustainable change in their community.

The following was written by Vecinos Honduras and translated by Mary Doyle.

Hancys Yadira Martinez

Hancys is a 28 year old woman who is recognized as one of the dedicated leaders in her community of Casas Neuvas where she participates in domestic and agricultural activities.

Since 2010 she has collaborated in community development activities.  In 2013 she learned about the work of Vecinos Honduras and began volunteering as a health instructor.

The following year she collaborated with other institutions such as World Vision where she promoted ideas such as gender equality, leadership, health and human rights, and AIN-C (Atención Integral a la Niñez en la Comunidad)  Comprehensive Care for Children in the Community (AIN-C).

Hancys has studied to the ninth grade and she works to promote children living in healthy conditions where they can achieve good development and growth.

She has held positions in community organizations such as parent societies and health committees.

Introducing Community Leader Eiby Milesi Maldonado – Honduras

The following is part of our series featuring the community participants in the various programs we support. It is through their hard, voluntary, work that leads to sustainable change in their community.

Eiby Milesi Maldonado

Milesi is a 29 year old leader in the community of Casas Nuevas, Honduras, where she takes part in domestic activities and, together with her husband, in agricultural activities.

In 2013 she learned of the work of Vecinos Honduras and the following year she began training in their methodology. In 2015 she trained in basic sanitation processes, improved stoves, infant nutrition, managing domestic animals, and responsible food preparation and consumption. In 2016 she volunteered in her community as a mother mentor where she helped children achieve adequate development and growth. She studied up to the seventh grade and she likes to collaborate with her neighbours to develop her community.

Honduras Visit 2017

“Only God and Vecinos Honduras visits these villages.” (Edwin Escoto, Vecinos Honduras Program Coordinator.)

“Only God and Vecinos Honduras visits these villages,” says Edwin Escoto, with a smile and a glance in the rearview mirror as he drives.

He is the Vecinos Honduras Program Coordinator, and at this point in the journey, I am starting to believe him.

It is October, and we are in a Toyota 4×4 in the mountains of Honduras. The road is becoming more rough, winding and washed out as we climb.

I am here in an official capacity as a board member of World Neighbours Canada, to monitor the Maternal and Child Health Project funded by Global Affairs Canada, in partnership with our private donors.

Vera Radyo and Magda Lanuza from the Kenoli Foundation are also in the truck. They partner on these projects and we’ve coordinated the visit.

Canadian recreational 4x4ing did little to prepare me for the realities of Honduran backcountry driving

This is my first time in Honduras, and I’ve come with no expectations. By that, I mean I had essentially no understanding about what lay ahead.

There is clearly an agenda. I catch bits of it, in Spanish, as they discuss the coming days. And I understand they have filled my time with plans to visit several villages to see many things. I’d read the proposal and the reports about the projects, so I knew what this was all about, at least on an academic level. But I couldn’t find the project areas on a map, and I’ve had little experience outside of my Canadian upbringing.

Plus, I don’t speak a word of Spanish, so finding out the plans is a challenge all around. So I keep an open mind, and listen intently to the Spanish sentences, trying to pick up what I can, asking for translation when a translator was available.

Luckily, I’ve driven on rough roads before, though Canadian recreational 4x4ing did little to prepare me for the realities of Honduran backcountry driving. But it helped to quell the panic about the steep inclines and the washouts; the men walking with machetes, and pretending not to be startled when we come across motorcycles rushing at us on blind corners (sometimes on the wrong side of the road). The backs of others trucks we see are full of extra passengers, making the trek up to the villages, or down to Danli, the nearest city.

Almost two hours later: “We get out here.” It’s a farmer’s gathering. We are in a village named Las Flores, and they are expecting us.

It’s a transformed soccer field, with people of all ages celebrating. There is a row of tables on one side of the field, displaying fruit, vegetables. One table has recycled containers of organic fertilizer and pesticides – methods they are learning and teaching each other, from Vecinos Honduras workshops.

All these are the fruits of the labour put in by village participants, who are learning and teaching each other, as part of Vecinos Honduras projects.

It was a grand start to four days of visiting in both the Azabache and the El Guano areas, listening to the stories of project participants, learning about their lives, their struggles, and their successes.

In Claveles, I visited family homes, then a meeting to weigh and measure their young children.

Monthly baby weigh-in sessions are improving child health in Honduras.

The monthly weigh-in is a part of their routine now, thank you to the programs. Before, mothers could never be sure how their babies were growing, or if they were thriving. Now, they see the numbers, and if the young ones are not thriving they get some hands-on advice. Usually, the next month sees an improvement, along with much relief to the mothers and fathers.

In my time in the villages, I watched a monthly child stimulation class; I visited health committee meetings, and heard about goals and struggles.

La Libertad has land set aside for a health centre – they want to put up a building where they can maybe bring in a nurse to help care for pregnant mothers, young children and other health needs. Now, they have to walk about three hours on the rough roads to get to the nearest health centre – in Beuna Esperanza.

Not only did we visit the current project areas, we made a few stops in the El Guano area. This is an area where there are examples of great success from past Vecinos Honduras projects.

Eva Lagos has mastered the making and selling of fried plantain chips, and is supporting her children’s attendance in a better school with her profits.

For example, we visited Eva Lagos, who has mastered the making and selling of fried plantain chips, after learning at a Vecinos Honduras workshop. She sells many pre-packaged bags – enough to make more than $400 USD per month, which she uses to send her children to a better school.

A coffee co-op meeting was held in El Guano, where we heard about the co-op’s successes and ongoing challenges. They have made enough of a profit that they have started a micro-lending program – one per cent interest for women, two per cent for men – a far cry from the interest rates offered by intermediaries who lend to the communities at a huge interest rate that can virtually never be re-paid. We also visited a member of the co-op who used a loan from the coffee co-op to build a coffee dryer.

In Claveles, Francisco Aradón, the water board president, told us about their work. The water board now has two female members, and his village is installing a new water system. Their next goal is to purchase the chlorine they want to use to keep the water safer – something they learned about at a Vecinos Honduras workshop.

Felicita Zaróm back in 2007, after installing an improved stove in her home.

In the El Guano area, I met Felicita Zaróm, who was a participant in Vecinos Honduras programs more than 10 years ago, building one of the first indoor stoves. She’s a community health promoter, and says the programs have changed her life.

Felicita Zaróm now, in 2017, 10 years later.

“I feel like a free woman. After these trainings I realized I was able to speak up in a meeting. I learned to socialize with others, I learned to speak up and have no more fears,” she says.

In my time there, not only did I see the latrines being built  – I used them. I washed my hands, and some dishes, at the pilas (a combination between a sink and a water tank); I drank coffee and spice tea made on the indoor, smokeless stoves that are being installed at a rapid rate in homes.

On my last day, I visited a village called San Jose, where Vecinos Honduras was sponsoring a celebration – the International Day of Rural Girls and Women. It took place in a concrete building with a tin roof – hot, sweaty inside. But there was grand celebration – dancing, pinatas, and lunch. I danced with Manuel Castellanos, the community participation facilitator.

I left Honduras with a much better understanding of our programs, the people who run them, and the people who participate. I learned to say Buenos Dias, Mucho Gusto, and Gracias – so much to be thankful for, and much to celebrate in these hard-won successes in the remote communities of Honduras.

If you are interested in seeing more about the programs in Honduras and more images, here’s a slideshow. You can hover over the images and use right and left arrows to view the images below!

What does Canada’s new International Feminist Policy mean to World Neighbours?

By Gabriel Newman

The Canadian Government has recently changed its international aid policy to focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. In fact, it is the first country in the world to come out with a Feminist International Aid Policy. Previously, the focus was directed to specific countries but now with a new government there is a change of direction. The Executive Summary for the Policy states:

“The last three decades have seen dramatic reductions in global poverty, but not everyone has benefited equally. Hundreds of millions of people, especially women and girls, are still poor, have unequal access to resources and opportunities, and face major risks of violent conflict, climate and environmental hazards, and/or economic and political insecurity. By eliminating barriers to equality and helping to create better opportunities, women and girls can be powerful agents of change and improve their own lives and those of their families, communities and countries. This is a powerful way to reduce poverty for everyone.”

We, at World Neighbours, applaud these efforts as we have seen first hand the effect of systemic sexism on communities. These funding policies mean that should we wish to qualify for funding from Global Affairs Canada we need to make sure we meet all the criteria laid out in the new Feminist International Assistance Policy. This is easier said than done. While we have always endeavoured to encourage projects that promote gender equality within communities there are many barriers to meet these new criteria.  Some of these barriers are internal, as they will force us on the Board to rethink how we approach each project. But perhaps the largest barrier lies within our partnering organizations because this is a dramatic shift of thinking and at odds with some traditional cultural norms. Supporting and empowering women in communities is certainly supported by our partner organizations but the process and expectations may not align as closely as we would like. The Policy not only wants to see certain results, it wants the entire process of aid to embody the policy objectives.

Luckily, we have some time to work with our partner organizations and provide training, if needed, to bring them up to speed before we need to apply for project funding. There are also numerous opportunities, such as webinars and training sessions, to help bring us, on the Board, up to speed on these expectations.

Admittedly, this author is definitely trying to figure out what all of this means. I will let you know as things progress. If you want to read the entire policy, check out Canada’s Feminist International Aid Policy.

Introducing a Vecinos Honduras’ volunteer …

information from Balvina Amador – project coordinator for Vecinos Honduras; posted by Judy Gray

ROMELIA CÁRDENAS, Guide Mother with Vecinos Honduras

We are happy to have received information from Balvina Amador, project coordinator with Vecinos Honduras, our partner NGO in Honduras. He has provided us with photos and key information about the individuals who are working at the grassroots level to model and support villagers who wish to improve their lives. Without these local leaders, implementation of new technologies and ideas would be difficult to achieve. Our project partners are also benefitting from the financial support provided by Global Affairs Canada through our Maternal Child Health grant.

Here is our first bio:

Romelia is a 54 year old mother and community leader living in San Jose where she is dedicated to running her home. From 2010-2014 she worked in community development with the support of World Vision. In 2014 she met a staff member of Vecinos Honduras and in 2015 she began receiving training in basic sanitation, food preparation, healthy eating, stove improvements, child nutrition and livestock management. In 2016 she integrated herself as a volunteer Guide Mother in her community and since then has been ensuring that the children in her community are growing and developing adequately. Romelia attended school until 6th grade and what she enjoys most is to care for the children of her friends and neighbours. She has worked in directive positions for groups such as the Society of Family Parents.