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?”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
For nearly two weeks Vecinos Honduras’s Executive Director, Edwin Escoto, toured British Columbia speaking to groups large and small about Honduras and the work Vecinos Honduras is doing. It was an inspiring week! Edwin is a dynamic speaker, and despite doing every one of his twenty presentations in his second language, he was clear, passionate and inspiring.
During Edwin’s stay in Canada, he did presentations in Vancouver, Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna, Cranbrook, and Oliver. He presented to over 500 Canadians; including talks to elementary, secondary and university students as well as several presentations to the public, and with post secondary institutions. He was also able to conduct a webinar with the BC Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) which is available for anyone to watch online at (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1W4nZwz9zgMZV_IG1JghZhMbfNCcZvfQ-?usp=sharing.
Edwin was deeply honoured to be invited to come to Canada and share the activities of his organization and the situation in his country. Response from participants was very positive. To be able to put a face and details to a complex situation opened the eyes of many Canadians to international development and Canada’s role in assisting these countries.
We, at World Neighbours, want to thank everyone who welcomed Edwin, attended talks, invited him into their classrooms, their homes, and made him feel so welcome on his first visit to Canada. A special thank you to BCCIC, Global Empowerment Coalition of the Okanagan (GECCO) and the Okanagan Regional Library for cosponsoring talks.
At the end of his trip there was some concern about his ability to return to Honduras as countries were closing their borders due to Covid-19 concerns. Luckily, he was able to change flights and returned to Honduras a few hours before Honduras shut its borders. He is now self isolating at home.
Thank you Edwin!
Edwin Escotos’s recent visit to British Columbia was made possible through World Neighbours Canada Society grant from Global Affairs Canada under the Maternal Newborn Child Health initiative.
There will only be four public opportunities to hear from Vecinos Honduras Executive Director, Edwin Escoto, when he visits BC this week. He will be speaking to community groups, schools and universities but there will only be four public opportunities.
Luckily, the first opportunity will be online and so you can either join in person in Vancouver or log on for a “lunch and learn.”
This is a great opportunity to learn about our partner, their work, and Honduras in general.
March 4 12:00-1:00 In Vancouver and online
March 7th, 3:00-4:00pm in Vernon, BC at the Vernon Library
More details at: https://www.facebook.com/events/613214629459257/
March 8th, 3:00-4:00pm in Kelowna, BC at the Kelowna Main Branch Library
More details at: https://www.facebook.com/events/245404449812777/
March 12th, 7:00-8:30pm in Oliver, BC at Christ the King Catholic Church
We hope to see you there.
World Neighbours is excited to announce that Edwin Escoto, the Director of Vecinos Honduras, will be coming to British Columbia to do a public speaking tour. From March 2-14 he will travel to Vancouver, Kamloops, Vernon, Cranbrook, Oliver and Penticton to meet with school children, universities, service groups and community organizations.
If you want to host a speaking event in your area, please let us know as he is booking up quickly.
We will be posting a detailed list of events shortly.
Edwin Escoto, is the Director of Vecinos Honduras. Since 2009 Edwin has helped build Vecinos Honduras into a leading NGO promoting rural development and agroecology. Edwin has also been appointed to be the new Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean for Groundswell International, a non-profit organization with a mission of strengthening rural communities to build healthy farming and food systems from the ground up.
Vecinos Honduras uses a very effective and proven approach to empower local people to manage their own affairs. The organization typically stays in an area for 6 to 8 years. Initially they generate interest by training people in specific techniques for growing more crops, raising healthier children, and so on. They also begin to train local leaders to: organize activities among themselves; include women in decision-making; run effective local organizations such as health committees; and manage finances. Gradually Vecinos Honduras staff phase themselves out and local leaders take over. After 6 to 8 years, the goal is that people will have the knowledge and skills to initiate village development projects on their own, and seek technical support and funding from government, national or international organizations as needed.
By Bruce Petch,
World Neighbours Canada takes a practical approach – we want to help people achieve tangible improvements in their lives. Nonetheless it is useful to keep track of trends in international development from a wider perspective. Over the last few years, there has been a lot of attention paid to the “Sustainable Development Goals”. These goals were adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015. There are 17 goals. Goal 1 is no poverty, Goal 2 is zero hunger, Goal 10 is reduced inequality and Goal 13 is climate action, to name a few. They are intended to apply to all countries, not just developing countries. And a key part of the concept is that all the goals are interconnected. The goals (often referred to as the “SDGs”) seem to be mentioned in just about every meeting and document that touches on international development. The high profile of the sustainable development goals has helped to draw attention to the struggles faced by people around the world who are trying to grow enough food for their needs, find enough water, and survive drought and other natural disasters.
World Neighbours Canada supports the goals, especially the ones central to our mission like no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality and climate action. But we look at the goals from a “results on the ground” perspective. If our programs can be stronger by taking a more integrated approach – for example, the gender equality implications of increasing food crop production – we embrace the concept of the “SDGs.” Our partner organizations have a deep understanding of the connections between the different goals. For example, in Nepal our partner organization has been focusing on goal 6 – clean water and sanitation – but the outcomes they are aiming for are goals 3 (good health and well-being) and 6 (gender equality; women and girls do most of the water-carrying). In Burkina Faso, food security and child malnutrition are critical issues. Our partner organization works in an integrated way towards zero hunger, good health and well-being, gender equality and no poverty. In Honduras, our partner is embarking on a new initiative to provide entrepreneurial training and support for young people in rural areas, touching on goal 8 (decent work and economic growth) and goal 4 (quality education). In every country, we have a long history of ecological approaches to agriculture, which fits with the environmental goal called life on land (number 15).
The Sustainable Development Goals provide a useful framework for a coordinated approach to the alleviation of poverty and better management of finite resources. World Neighbours Canada is inspired by these goals to support our partners in ensuring that people’s lives are impacted in meaningful ways, rather than focusing narrowly on specific outcomes.
We at World Neighbours Canada feel blessed and this New Years we wanted to share 20 reasons we feel so lucky. These are the reasons as submitted by our board members and volunteers.
- I am grateful to all the people in Canada who support World Neighbours Canada year after year. Every donation, large and small, is appreciated and the moral support means as much to us as the financial support.
- I am grateful to the staff and volunteers associated with our partner organizations in Nepal, Honduras and Burkina Faso for their tireless dedication to the alleviation of poverty. They are remarkable people who deeply understand the communities where they work and know how to help villagers achieve self-reliance and avoid dependency.
I’m grateful that the staff of our partner organization in Burkina Faso, (Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés – APDC) AND those of our project villages have, to date, escaped being targeted by the Islamist insurgents in the Eastern region of the country. This is a huge concern for all living there and demonstrates the commitment of staff and villagers to implement changes that will improve their lives.
- When our younger daughter died in 2006 she had said that she wanted some of her money to go to Nepal. We were thankful at that time and still are thankful to find World Neighbours. We knew right away we had found the right place to donate Rachel’s money. Water systems seemed so basic and the idea that all the money went to the people and the projects was very satisfying for us. It gave us a purpose and made us see some good coming out of the death of someone in the prime of her life.
- I’m grateful for the opportunities my husband and I have had in the past to visit the Fada region of Burkina Faso to see firsthand the work this small local NGO is doing, teaching new skills to the villagers and sharing new ideas so that the beneficiaries are able to become more independent and improve the quality of their lives.
- I’m grateful to be a part of World Neighbours Canada as I truly believe that the philosophy of “neighbour helping neighbour”, “a hand up not a hand out” is how lasting change can be achieved.
- I’m grateful that World Neighbours Canada’s philosophy includes the notion that change occurs slowly, over generations, and as such we are committed to support our partner NGOs for the long haul.
- I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve developed with the staff of APDC and admire and respect the commitment they all demonstrate in continuing to support the villagers during these turbulent and difficult times.
- I’m grateful for the support I receive from the other directors of WNC, as this support enables me to complete the necessary reports that need to be submitted.
- I’m grateful that Excel spreadsheet is still an acceptable form for accountants and government officials for tracking donations and expenses.
- It is wonderful to have different directors responsible for each country project to liaise with and to solve any money transfer issues within their assigned country.
- I am grateful I got to visit the projects in Honduras and meet the staff of Vecinos Honduras, who my father had worked with, admired, and told me so much about over the years.
- I am grateful for the many service groups, and schools who have allowed us to come in and talk about our organization and the work of our partners.
- I am grateful Suresh Shrestha, Executive Director of TSS, and Govinda Ghimire, Director on the TSS Board, were able to visit BC in 2019 and give presentations.
- I am grateful for our member organization BCCIC (BC Council of International Cooperation) for the training sessions and other educational opportunities they offer. I have learned a lot.
- I am grateful for those who read the articles (print or online), and click on the social media posts.
- I am grateful for a federal government that understands that small NGO’s are some of the most effective groups in the world to affect positive change in the world, and continues to fund us. As with all funding, it could be greater and it could come with a little less paper work, but I am very grateful for what we get.
- I am grateful for groups like Rotary in Oliver, Kamloops and Aldergrove who have been supportive and generous for many years.
- I am grateful for my wife who lets me go traipsing through the mountains of Nepal on bad roads and in suspect vehicles.
- I am grateful to know that the future can include positive change and I look to the upcoming year with hope.
One of the highlights of 2019 was that our partners in Honduras celebrated their tenth anniversary. For most of the year different communities around Honduras have been celebrated with Vecinos Honduras. These celebrations have highlighted the many changes that have occurred in those communities, by the hard work of the communities as a result of the guidance of Vecinos Honduras.
The celebrations wrapped up this October with a conference where there was much well deserved celebrating.
Vecinos Honduras was formed after our original partners Vecinos Mundialus (World Neighbour Honduras) was shut down by World Neighbors International as it went through restructuring. Vecinos Honduras was created out of the best and brightest of Vecinos Mundiales and we have worked with them ever since. We are incredibly proud of all their hard work and the communities who have been transformed over the past ten years!
We look forward to the next ten years! Congratulations
In May of 2019 two World Neighbours Canada directors visited Honduras to see the Maternal Child Health projects we are supporting with assistance from Global Affairs Canada. This is a report from a visit to the community of Caveles Uno.
For this particular project, Vecinos Honduras provided training for community members in two important roles, Monitors and Mother Guides. Monitors were trained in how to weigh and measure children under the age of five, and Mother Guides were trained in age appropriate developmental exercises for children under the age of five. These volunteers also received training in health education which they would share at monthly weighing sessions.
We sat with down 19 Mothers, 2 Monitors, and 5 Mother Guides, along with Vecinos Honduras’s regional staff to discuss their experiences with these sessions. There were also approximately 18 children present at the meeting as well. Volunteers enthusiastically shared their experiences in the program with us. One Monitor who joined 8 months ago shared how the weighing and stimulation sessions are critical to the community, and the support and
training the volunteers receive from VH helps them deliver a stronger program. Volunteers had different reasons for taking on the role. One Monitor shared that her motivation to join was the relationship with VH and her trust in the organization. Another Mother Guide shared that working with children is her calling and the role was a perfect fit.
“ We all remember our childhood and these kids will remember all of these moments in the sessions and the impact it has within their household for the rest of their lives. ”
The group ranged from first time mothers with newborns to mothers of many children. All mothers expressed that the sessions have been helpful to learn more skills and ensure their children are developmentally on track. One mother shared that she joined the sessions when her son was 4 months old and prior to the sessions did not know that he was underweight. With support from the Monitor and Mother Guide and guidance on local nutritious foods for the child, he gained adequate weight. Another mother with a 7 month old shared a similar experience. Many mothers of multiple children have noted a difference in the way their previous child were raised compared to those in the sessions; children in the sessions have learned to walk faster, talk earlier, mother is more aware of the food the child is fed, and children are less shy and timid. It was clear from our conversation with mothers that this space is extremely important for building community-wide connections and relationships among women. Many women shared that prior to these sessions, they would only greet others with a hello or bye, but now often have conversations that are much deeper.
The sessions have also impacted older children, especially the children of Mother Guides and Monitors. Volunteers expressed that their children sometimes read through their books and do some of the exercises, whereas some are interested to become Monitors and Mother Guides as well. Often, elder children accompany their mothers to sessions.
Mothers shared that their favourite activities to do with the children at home are singing (especially the periquito song that is sung in sessions), dancing, and one mother shared her daughter enjoys playing ‘boys games’ such as cars and balls and she encourages her and also plays along.
The holiday season has begun and if you are looking for a gift that will make both you and the receiver feel joy, please consider making a donation to World Neighbours Canada in their name.
Just click HERE to donate.
With a donation to us you know that 100% of your donations will go to our projects run by our partners in Nepal, Honduras or Burkina Faso as we have no paid Canadian staff and our limited overhead is covered by the directors and GAC. Also , we will send out a personalized hand made card to the person of your choice!
The Canadian dollar goes a long way in our program areas. So, for the price of some chocolates you help someone build a smokeless stove. It is important to note that we do not just give items, our partners teach communities how to build and repair their own stoves and water systems as well as work to build capacity, gender equality, micro-lending opportunities, and improve maternal and child health.
An example of Material Costs:
$10 – Stovepipe for a smokeless stove (Honduras)
$25 – Materials for a family toilet (Nepal)
$50 – Treatment for one severely malnourished child (Burkina Faso)
$100 – Materials for one community market garden (Burkina Faso)
$100- One community faucet (Nepal)
$100 – Screening children in one village for malnutrition (Burkina Faso)
$300 – Training for a volunteer health monitor or mother guide (Honduras)
Thank you and have a wonderful holiday season!