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.

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 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

Thank you Edwin!

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

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.

Edwin often used audience participation to demonstrate community building.

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.

You can watch the BCCIC webinar here.

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.

Meeting with the International Projects team at the College of the Rockies.

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.

Edwin Escoto with Kerry Brinkert, Manager of International Projects at the College of the Rockies

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.

Only 4 opportunities to hear Edwin

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

More details at https://www.bccic.ca/event/bccic-groundtruthes-sustainable-development-from-a-southern-perspective-honduras/

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.

A Visitor from Honduras!

Edwin Escoto

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.

World Neighbours Canada and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations

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.

Community gardens help improve the health of the community and provide additional funds.

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.