We are relieved to hear that our APDC affiliates and their families are safe after the terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, March 2nd.
Yesterday, a Mali-based al Qaeda affiliate, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Obviously, tensions are high in Burkina Faso and we, in Canada, must wait to see how things play out.
Burkina Faso is one of the twentieth poorest countries in the world. Life expectancy for men is 59 years and women 61. There are large gold deposits in the country but the majority of the population is engaged in agriculture. It is in these subsistence communities that APDC does their work.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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!
World Neighbours Canada is very excited to announce that Charles Tankoano, Executive Director of the NGO APDC (Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés) – our partner NGO in Burkina Faso, will be in British Columbia this March and available to talk to schools, donors, and community groups about their work.
This will be the first time that World Neighbours has hosted a project partner from Burkina Faso. Mr. Tankoano speaks French but WNC members Judy and Peter Gray will be attending to assist with translation.
Mr. Tankoano will be traveling from Kamloops to Osoyoos and then on to Vancouver between March 12-17. This will be a great opportunity to hear about the successes and challenges of community development in rural Eastern Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa, north of Ghana. Called “Upper Volta” in colonial times, the country lies in the savanna and Sahel zones, the wide band of semi-arid grasslands with scattered trees that separates the Sahara from the forested areas to the south. World Neighbours Canada supports the burkinabé NGO, APDC, and it is this organization that organizes and implements the project activities.
APDC has experienced great success by using the empowerment of women as a starting point for community development. This begins with motivation and training of women in maternal health and child nutrition. In addition, APDC encourages the women to participate in State organized training sessions in literacy and numeracy. Women are encouraged to form savings and credit groups, and use or borrow from these funds to engage in income generation activities. Villagers are now growing more vegetables and learning how to care for livestock such as goats and sheep. Since 2008, the program has slowly expanded and now includes 18 villages in the Fada region.
Currently, funding for the activities is being provided, in large part, by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) as part of the Canadian government’s initiatives for improved Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in developing countries. These initiatives will contribute to the reduction of mortality and morbidity, especially in mothers and infants, and also to improving nutrition and development of young children. The current funding grant from GAC covers the period March 2016 to the end of March 2020.
To arrange for Mr. Tankoano to talk to your organization please contact Judy Gray by email at email@example.com.
One of the delays to our toilet projects in Nepal was that the 2015 earthquake had destroyed numerous homes and there was no point in building toilets if the homes had not been rebuilt yet. Due to international generosity there was money to rebuild, however, that was severely delayed as the Nepalese government wanted to ensure the new homes could withstand another earthquake, so they put out a call for earthquake resistant designs for the new homes. Traditionally, homes are built of brick and mud which is inexpensive, but not earthquake resistant.
Building is now underway. The government has a plan in which villagers will get an initial amount of money to start building a government certified, earthquake resistant structure. If the villager plans to simply build another brick and mud structure, there is no funding.
There are two types of structures allowed which qualify for funding. If the structure is one story, then there will be a cement floor and foundation, followed by walls that can be made of brick and mud to a height of about 24 inches. This short wall is then covered either with a layer of wood or a layer of concrete about 3 inches thick – a slip layer. The wall is then built another 24 inches with brick and another slip panel is added. The walls look to be about 6 feet high in total, with another slip panel on the top of the wall. And the roof is corrugated, usually blue, metal – much lighter than the slate that was used before.
If the planned building is more than one storey, then the whole building must be built of cement or cement block, with rebar on the corners and in the walls.
After a certain amount of construction, an inspector will give the ok for the villager to then get another installment of his funding, and a final installment is given upon completion.
When one sees the extent of the damage due to the earthquake, it is safe to assume that the rebuilding will take years. But is has started, and there is a plan, and the end result looks to be much better than what was there before.
If you had been meaning to donate to World Neighbours Canada this year, but haven’t gotten around to it, this is a gentle reminder that there are only a couple days left to get your tax receipt issued for the 2017 tax year.
If you are like me and can’t remember when you donated last, may I point out that on our website (https://worldneighbours.ca/product/donation/) you can sign up for monthly donations to be withdrawn so you no longer need to keep track.
Right now your donations are matched 6 to 1 by the Canadian government so even a little goes along way.
We are a small grass roots organization made up a small group of volunteers, and a small, but dedicated, group of donors, but we have been able to facilitate international projects that focus on education, locals teaching locals, and sustainable methodology since 1989.
Thank you for your support and we hope you have a wonderful 2018!
Nepal has just finished having both federal and provincial elections. The results were surprising, but hopefully will result in a more stable government for the country going forward.
The Nepali Congress party has been in charge of government for the past 5 years, but always as part of a shaky coalition with other parties. In this election just completed, the other two major parties – both ‘communist’ – agreed to not split votes. The two parties are the UML (United Marxist Leninist) and the UMP (United Maoist Party). If the UML ran a candidate in a riding, then the UMP agreed to not run a candidate in opposition, and vice versa. The result was that there was no vote splitting amongst left leaning voters, and the two parties handily won the most seats in the parliament – 117 of the 165 seats available. Another 110 seats will be filled using a proportional voting system, but it will not change the result – the leftist coalition will govern for the next 5 years. The Nepali Congress party received only 21 seats.
Despite there being a minimum number of female candidates mandated, there were very few who ran for election. Roughly 5% of candidates were female, and at this time, I have not heard how many were elected.
Nepali people are hoping that the stable government will speed up the reconstruction of houses and buildings damaged by the earthquakes 2 ½ years ago. To date, only about 4% of the houses have been rebuilt.
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.
Are you looking for the perfect Christmas gift? Please consider making a donation to World Neighbours Canada in someone’s name.
Your family member or friend will receive a beautiful handmade card with a photo from one of our programs, and a needy community will benefit from your generosity. Our cards are made individually by our volunteers, so if you would like photos from a particular country that we work in, just let us know!
And remember, the entire amount of your donation will go directly to support one of our programs in Nepal, Burkina Faso, or Honduras.
To arrange this, visit our donation page by clicking here. You can choose to make a one-time or recurring donation of any amount, and enter information about who you would like us to send the card to.
World Neighbours Canada would like to welcome and introduce Gabriel Newman, the newest member of our Board of Directors. Gabriel is not new to World Neighbours as his father, Michael Newman, was a long time member. “My father got involved in World Neighbours after I left home and now as my children are preparing to depart I saw this as a perfect time to increase my involvement. From many conversations with my father over the years I have a decent understanding of the methodology, and the history of World Neighbours, and I believe in the work that is done, so it was only a matter of time before I became more involved.” says Newman.
Gabriel is already helping with managing the World Neighbours Facebook page as well as the website and will be posting articles regularly. “My focus for the articles and updates will lean towards profiles of interesting people or situations that are encountered in Honduras, Burkina Faso, and Nepal. I am already learning so much and I want to share that with our members.” Gabriel encourages members to contact him if they have an idea for a story or want to learn more about a certain topic.
Gabriel lives with his wife and two children in Vernon, BC where he is the Educational Coordinator at the Vernon Museum, is a sessional instructor at Thompson Rivers University, and manages a small hobby farm.
In Canada just about everywhere is an “Open Defecation Free Zone” but as of 2010 open defecation was the standard in the rural parts of Nepal. This has series health and safety consequences.
That is why in 2010 the Government of Nepal adopted a National Hygiene and Sanitation Master Plan to address this issue. The goal of the Master Plan is to attain universal access to improved sanitation by 2017 for better hygiene, health and environment. A major goal of this Master Plan is to reduce open defecation to zero, throughout Nepal. To achieve the Open Defecation Free (ODF) goal, there must be the availability of toilets, especially toilets close to personal dwellings. The milestones of the ODF goal are set as follow:
Milestone 1 : Toilet coverage of 60% of total households by 2012/13
Milestone 2 : Toilet coverage of 80% of total households by 2014/15
Milestone 3 : Universal toilet coverage by 2016/17
In Ramechhap district, where World Neighbours Canada has supported the work of Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti (TSS), since 1989 to alleviate poverty and help rural communities become more self-sufficient, the Drinking Water & Sanitation Division Office, a government agency, is responsible to achieve the above target through collaboration with various social organizations working in the district. There is also a District Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Coordination Committee (DWASH-CC) headed by a Local Development Officer. Being that TSS is also involved on water and sanitation initiatives, it is also a member organization of the DWASH-CC. In order to avoid duplication of work amongst the many active NGOs working in this field, and in order to achieve the ODF target, the DWASH-CC has allocated certain communities to each NGO.
TSS has been given the communities of Deurali, Dimipokhari, Hiledevi and the city of Manthali to work with. This will require the installation of approximately 4200 sealed, hygienic toilets.
There is a process that has to be met in order to declare an ODF zone. Firstly, the concerned NGO has to send a letter to their local Ward Office / Village Council / Municipality. The local Village Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Coordination Committee (VWASH-CC) based in each ward has to send a letter to District WASH-CC to request a field monitoring visit for confirmation of a toilet close by all houses. The monitoring team includes representatives from government officials (DCC, DWASH-CC, Drinking Water & Sanitation Office), a journalist, a representative from the District Federation of Water & Sanitation Beneficiary, and other NGO stakeholders. After the monitoring visit ensures that toilets are installed by all houses, a date is set for an ODF declaration event. On that day, again representatives from above mentioned government & non-government offices will visit the community. There will be a formal event – many speeches, a group declaration by residents that they will use the toilets, and a certificate presented to the village. And of course, much food and dancing.