In May 2009, the HCI team launched two projects in Sudan that will provide credit capital and the necessary training and coaching to two new communities in two settlements in the south and the north of the capital Khartoum as well as a project which will promote entrepreneurial spirit among impoverished Sudanese orphans, and giving them the proper training in setting up and managing their own small businesses. Human Concern International has always made an effort to work with poor communities in Sudan; with 2 million Sudanese at risk of death, in addition to those who have been injured, displaced and have lost all of their support and care networks due to the continues civil unrest, poverty and lack of proper infrastructure, one should feel concerned. The living conditions in these settlements are extremely unsafe; while visiting the community leaders, we witnessed the cruel effect of poverty on people; in these two settlements people had built their houses from scrap metal, water was insufficient and unclean, sanitation services were nonexistent and the scarcity of food was visible on the children, someone even pointed out those dying from malnutrition.
This difficult image that we witnessed will soon be changing with these projects that were launched in partnership with several local long-time partners in Sudan, including Peace and Development Volunteers (PDV) and African Charity for Child and Mother Care (ACCSOM). One project will assist the rebuilding of Sudanese lives through micro credit, and provide access to finance programs for low-income Sudanese widows. The second project aims to unlock and unleash the economic potential of Sudan’s orphans that HCI has been sponsoring since 2003. Through the micro-credit initiative: 100 widows will receive loans for income generation and small businesses, 2 revolving loan programs will be established and will be operated by local communities, 2 local credit committees will be established at two targeted communities, and 16 people at two local credit committees will receive training in basic credit provision.
The second project’s objective is to assist orphans shift their mindset from being passive receivers of donations to active income generating entrepreneurs. Instead of being drawn into a passive cycle of receiving charity and relying on the kindness of others, 30 orphans will receive the training and materials necessary to embark on their own business ventures. They will also be given the opportunity to test their ideas under real-life circumstances, and take part in the “Business for a Day” program, in which they will operate a business for one day. An investment club, run by the orphans, will be set up. The club will be endowed with a trust fund, which will be invested towards implementing club activities. Thirty orphans, fourteen years of age and older, will take part in the first phase of the program.
The implementation of these two projects will provide the solid ground on which these widows and orphans can build their lives on, where the knowledge and the technical assistance will be provided by the project’s workshops and volunteer trainers and the revolving funds and loans will be in the hand of their own community to make use of, nurture and pass on to other needy members of their community to slowly but effectively reduce poverty levels within these two settlements.
Our field visits were not only to launch new projects, but to also follow up and connect with other local partners in these two settlements, where HCI has long been implementing relief and development projects that offer Sudanese orphans economic security through the child sponsorship program; where devastated, left out and marginalized orphans are given access to food, security and education throughout their sponsorship period. Our local partners took us to a library that HCI helped establish, where many of the sponsored children are able to have access to knowledge and information.
During the same visit, HCI and the Canada-based International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF) launched a new interesting initiative in Sudan, related to International Water & Sanitation (IWS) and targeted in the first phase at building the capacity of Canadian international institutions in this area of technical assistance. To have a better understanding of the situation, HCI will prepare a comprehensive country analytical report in partnership with HCI local partner, Peace and Development Volunteers (PDV). The result of the report should formulate the ground in which HCI and other Canadian based organizations can implement large-scale interventions in Sudan to ensure water sufficiency, and opportunities for related income generating activities. Projects like these are vital and have the potential to fundamentally change many lives, especially in impoverished settlements like these ones. HCI also witnessed the launching of a new civil society-public partnership for the provision of family-based health insurance that our partners are engaged in.
In the last part of our very dynamic and productive field visit, we also got the chance to visit the health clinic that was established with the help of HCI to serve the new settlements in northern Khartoum. The health clinic has outstandingly been operating autonomously, self sufficiently and effectively to serve the population with a professional team of health experts that are semi volunteering to cover the health needs of the area, from treating chronic illnesses to dental care. During our visit at the clinic, we came across a group of young boys in the process of being circumcised; our local partners explained the importance of having such traditional operations take place in a clinic by the hands of medical practitioners, instead of having them done the traditional way in an unsanitary environment that often yields harmful outcomes. Wandering around the clinic, we were content to see the staff operating professionally; taking care of the patients and maintaining the medical equipment to make sure that as many people as possible are able to benefit from it.
It was a busy week in the field in Sudan, but those few days have made us more confident after seeing the efforts of our local partners to sustain themselves and sustain project impacts and use all the available opportunities to help their communities. As the humanitarian situation in Sudan is deteriorating, HCI feels obliged to double the efforts to provide immediate relief to those who are in need, especially those that are most vulnerable; orphans and widows.