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CEO’s blog from Cambodia – 27 Feb 2014
‘My first day and first time in Cambodia is one I cannot ever forget. Leaving Phnom Penh behind, I headed out to three rural villages to meet some of the communities we support who are being transformed day by day. On each face of these beautiful friendly people, who live with so little and have so many challenges, one sees great hope. It resonates from deep within and brings light to their eyes. These are people who have embraced the Umoja programme run by Tearfund. A programme that supports them to pull together as a community to lift themselves out of poverty. To them this is a new approach to eradicating poverty. Tearfund does not give hand-outs, we provide support and training that allows them to use their own resources, skills and abilities to lift themselves out of poverty. This is a collective response, real unity in actin that is resulting in true transformation that will last.
I cannot wait for day two of this amazing trip!’
‘I met twin girls aged seven today. Both were extremely shy, but manged to smile and enjoy some fresh mango with me as i visited them living with their emergency foster parents. The two girls’ mother has health problems and she felt they would get the right care and education at an orphanage. The children’s development, education and care is certainly not guaranteed by the orphanage, and in fact, the experience of a child in an orphanage can put them at much greater risk. Mum wants her children back and once her health improves they will be returned to her. In the meantime, their foster parents will care for them and when the time comes, the social workers will assist in reintegrating them back into life with their mother.
Please pray for the work of M’lup Russey as they bring life and hope back into the lives of highly vulnerable children and young people living in orphanages in Cambodia.’
My third day in Cambodia was a day full of meetings with the management staff of the projects we support. I also had the opportunity to meet with country representatives of our partner organisations. While my first couple of days brought me out to the villages to meet with local people, today I had the chance to discuss the projects and explore the strategies and plans with our partners. We discussed the progress being made, some of the challenges as well as what is working well. We also discussed strengthening organisation capacity and developing the capacity of the church to reach out more to the community. At the end of the day I feel a strong sense of a united approach to our work in Cambodia. I feel encouraged and blessed by how the Lord uses His church and His people, the Body of Christ to bring His love and hope into the lives of the very poor.
Its time to pack up and head off to Poipet in the north of Cambodia to visit with another project, the Cambodia Hope Organisation (CHO). It takes most of the day to get there and when we do, we drop our bags to the hotel and meet with two of the CHO team, the manager of their community development programme and their business development manager. They have prepared a presentation for us and we watch a video. This gives us an overall sense of the extent of the issues of the most poor and the work of CHO in the border villages between Cambodia and Thailand. I am looking forward to learning more and going out into the field to see the work first hand and we agree to meet bright and early the next day.
The morning is spent visiting families that CHO works with in rural areas along the border between Cambodia and Thailand. The families we visit are extremely poor. One family in particular had travelled to Poipet in search of a better life. A family in desperate poverty, that had, through the kindness of another family, built a makeshift home on the roadside. With the support of our partner CHO, this family was lifting itself out of poverty. On a small stretch of borrowed dry land, they have started to grow vegetables. They now have a much healthier diet. Previous to this they had experienced very poor health due to poor nutrition. Also, they have begun to sell some of their produce which was giving them a household income. With the support of CHO, this family has also begun to save. A considerable step forward, they now could save the equivalent of $1.25. This has been a very humbling day. To witness first hand the extreme poor living conditions of this family and at the same time the great progress they are making. They, rightly so, have a great sense of pride in having improved their situation.
Please pray for the many families like this one, who live with many challenges in providing for themselves and their children, that they would continue to receive support from CHO and in particular, continue to be blessed as they seek to lift themselves out of poverty. They have such hope despite such adversity and many challenges. May God bless them.
After a long hot day, I am humbled, blessed and encouraged. Also, my respect has grown for the people of Cambodia, and for our partners who have such a challenge to reach so many in need. With the Lord’s help, they will continue to press on.
Aster, Marta and Adanech tell their stories of success – 20 Feb 2014
On a recent visit to Ethiopia, a group of church leaders from Scotland visited a Self Help Group in Hawassa. They sat with them and listened to members talk about their lives and what their group means to them.
Aster (pictured right) said that the Self Help Group is very important for us. We started in 2005, saving 50cents (€0.02) a week each. We have all taken loans and we run different businesses. This is my house and I bake bread. Now we are not empty-handed.
Before the group started we were dependent on our husbands – whatever we did was based on his will. But that is changed now. We are using the money we have on our homes and our children etc.
Our first loans were of 50birr (€2.02). Now we give 1,300birr (€52.31) loans. We can send our children to private and public schools and food and clothing are no problem now. Some children have even graduated from college.
I give thanks to God for this vision to the community to make a big difference. You are very welcome! Nobody here is idle!
Marta (pictured right) is the group secretary. She said, ‘the Self Help Group has brought us much more than just economic benefits. We have developed a strong love and relationships between us.
At first we saved 50cents – what difference was that going to make? And it was difficult for some. But now we are rich and wealthy! Now we save between 3birr and 5birr each a week (€0.12-€0.19). We are working to increase everybody’s access to income.
Our total savings are 9,160birr (€371.04). Small amounts can make a difference! The SHG has brought lots of change. We plan to expand our businesses, increase our savings and strengthen our relationships.
Adanech (pictured left) is a widow with 10 in her household. She heard about the SHG when she was in difficult circumstances – her husband had just died. She joined the group but found it too difficult to save so stopped coming.
The group visited her to find out what was wrong and told her she must come. They covered her savings for her. Another time she was sick and they covered her savings again then. She took a 50birr (€2.02) loan and started selling maize in the market.
Adanech says, ‘This group is family for me. Praise to God and thanks for my friends’ support. I can feed my family and I’m expanding my business!’
We are giving thanks to God for all the SHG set up and successful so far and we are encouraging you to join our Coffee Campaign because as little as 2 euro does make a big change!
From begging to saving - Birtukan’s story – 13 Feb 2014
Birtukan (pictured right) lives in Southern Ethiopia. She’s from a very poor family, and was working as a beggar to feed her children. So when she heard that Tearfund’s local partner Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church (EKHC) was helping people financially, she wanted to be part of it. ‘I heard the church was giving out money,’ she says, ‘so I ran to be one of the first in the queue!’
However, the church wasn’t handing out money – they were forming Self-Help Groups. ‘They [the staff] said they would teach us to save, and manage what we have.’
Birtukan joined a group and started by saving some of her begging money each week. After a while her group saw her commitment, and offered her a loan from their savings money. She bought onions and charcoal to sell in the market. Slowly, her business grew.
Birtukan now runs a successful market stall, and has taken and paid back several loans from her group. Her husband used to work far away, but is now able to live with his family and help with the business.
Not only is this family now united and financially stable, their dignity has been restored. ‘People have stopped insulting me,’ says Birtukan. ‘They now respect me, and will touch me, like a proper person.’
- Praise God for Tearfund partner EKHC, empowering people like Birtukan to escape poverty and lead dignified lives.
- Pray for the EKHC team as they lead this project, that they will feel God’s love and blessing powerfully as they work to bring God’s love and blessing to others.
- Join our coffee campaign . Texting COFFEE to 50300 to donate 2 euro supports 6 women like Birtukan in one of the Self Help groups for a week.
Self Help Groups - The Adama Success Story – 6 Feb 2014
The first five SHGs were established in June 2002 by the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church (EKHC). Each of those SHGs had 20 voluntary members recruited from the poorest of the poor in the local community. Now there are 310 SHGs in Adama Town alone and 167 groups in the surrounding towns where people have seen what we have done and we have shared our experience.
EKHC gave us training in how to run meetings, budgeting, savings and credit. We learned to minimise unnecessary expenses and maximise our savings. In those days each of us saved 10 cents (0.01 euro) a day to enable us to contribute 50 cents (0.02 euro) each week to the group savings. Now, ten years later, the group members save between 5 birr (0.25 euro) and 200 birr (€9.27) a week each.
After a while we started borrowing from our savings for different purposes. This rescued us from paying high interest rates to illegal money-lenders. In the beginning the most a member could borrow was 34 birr (€1.57). Now the biggest loan that a group has made is 32,000birr (€1,483.95) and group capital ranges from 10,000birr (€464.49), in the newest groups, to 300,000birr (€13,920.76). By saving and borrowing from our own savings we are not only able to improve our economic status but also to support others by creating employment opportunities. The SHGs have also increased our social interaction, our concern for each other, our management and decision-making skills, our understanding of women and children’s rights, and our understanding of our rights to vote and stand for election.
After 6 months of formation around 12 SHGs form Cluster Level Associations (CLAs) by nominating 2 representatives from each SHG. There are now 22 CLAs in Adama Town. One of the functions of CLAs is to create networks and relationships with different government offices and NGOs to lobby them concerning local community needs. In this way we have influenced the provision of potable water, electric power, roads and schools. Four of the CLAs have opened Kindergartens for children from poor families between the ages of 3 ½ and 6 years , charging very reasonable fees. We have also given scholarships to 81 orphaned children from the community. 65 group members have learned to read and write because they have been taught by literate colleagues. We produce and sell bags made from recycled plastics. This, apart from the economic benefit, is useful in terms of protecting the environment. We have also taken part in projects to produce fuel efficient stoves, to plant trees and to clean our neighbourhoods.
The legal registration of this Coalition is the latest development of the SHG programme. We are planning to eventually take over the role of the NGO. Our vision is to see a poverty-free Ethiopia with gender equality and justice. Our mission is to provide support for SHGs and CLAs for the fulfillment of their own visions as well as to contribute to the social and economic development of the wider community in Adama Town. “Hope for Tomorrow” Coalition of SHGs was founded by 13 CLAs. There are a further 9 CLAs that have now met the preconditions for joining the Coalition. The total capital of all SHGs in Adama Town is 5,843,821birr (€271,446.90). The overall capital of all SHG members, including their working capital, is 42,024,314birr (€1,949,567.62). Our next plan is to open a Community Resource Centre and a community bank that can serve all the local community.
Photo above: Senait Taye, General Secretary of the “Hope for Tomorrow” Coalition of Self Help Groups (SHGs) in Adama and a founder member of the Adama SHGs
Meseret – 28 Jan 2014
For the first time women like Meseret feel empowered to have their voice heard and to earn vital income so that they can improve their children’s futures.
Meseret (pictured right) says – “I can’t express in words what my group means to me. They are my sisters – we support each other in everything. And we help to look after the rest of the community. By saving and investing in small businesses, I was able to completely transform my life and give my daughters a better future”
Meseret felt hopeless and alone when she was breastfeeding her daughter Kalkidan. Her husband’s labourer salary provided scraps of food and they slept on the floor with no possessions. They had 50 birr to their name.
When she heard about self help group – Addis Alem or “New World”, Meseret went along. What she found was a group of 17 women and a facilitator who had just set up a group bank account and were saving 50 cents a week each.
Meseret wondered what was the point in saving an amount that was so tiny but agreed to join and became the book keeper for the group. The group grew from strength to strength, not only providing business loans to one another but also social support for childcare and healthcare bills.
“The group allowed me to take a 50 Birr loan and I bought and sold charcoal for a good profit. I started making handicrafts and was able to send my child to school”.
A member of Meseret’s group encouraged her to go to church and she decided to go and see what was going on one Sunday with her husband Belay. They happened to arrive when the congregation was flooding out and Belay commented “don’t the faces of these Christian people look beautiful”. Meseret & Belay are now Christians and use all the opportunities that they have to introduce others to the church.
Meseret gained so much confidence that she applied for a job at the Government Office and is now responsible for Women’s and Children’s welfare issues.
Meseret says “if I had the resources, I would write a book about my story because I am so passionate about helping others to see that they can change their futures”.
She helps new groups in her town but says that she will continue to meet with her original group until she dies, they are like family.
Please help Tearfund to set up new groups through the Kale Heywet Church in Ethiopia.
SYRIA UPDATE: LONG-AWAITED PEACE TALKS ON 22 JANUARY – 15 Jan 2014
Aged just 12, Mirah* already knows more about the horrors of war than many of us will in a lifetime.
Growing up in the city of Homs in western Syria, she attended school and played with her two brothers.
However, as the conflict escalated Mirah’s childhood changed beyond recognition. Her brothers were forced to flee the country after being arrested and tortured. Soon after this, her family home was bombed during a night of attacks on the city.
Mirah was separated from her parents and helped across the mountains into Lebanon by some of the other survivors. She was sure she had lost her mother and father forever.
Amazingly, sometime later Mirah was reunited with her parents in a camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Tearfund partner Heart for Lebanon is now providing them with monthly food and hygiene packages, along with supportive follow-up visits.
Mirah’s family is very grateful for this support, which is helping them survive the harsh winter. But it isn’t a long-term solution.
With the conflict in Syria still raging, families like Mirah’s are hoping that the upcoming Geneva II peace talks will signal the start of a positive change.
- Give thanks that the peace talks are still on track for 22 January. Pray that all parties will attend and ask God to help those present to find a workable solution to the conflict.
- Pray for those in Syria affected by the worsening fighting as parties try to gain ground ahead of the talks.
- Pray for refugees and displaced people like Mirah as they face the additional hardships of a cold winter.
More church and individual prayer resources for Syria Peace Talks.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
Photo above: Lebanon camp, photographer: Eleanor Bentall / Tearfund