Sep 142010
 

Entrepreneurship for Sudanese OrphansThroughout our long history of working with orphans, Human Concern International has sought a participatory and empowering approach. Rather than building dependence on charity, we seek to make orphans self-reliant, and successful. To do so we have often used a business development approach, helping to develop youth with leadership, team-work, self-esteem, positive risk taking, and problem-solving. This encourages a continuous impact that will last long after the project has finished. Focusing on youth ensures a brighter future not only for those targeted, but also their peers, family, and community.

Youth participation in entrepreneurship has further knock-on effects. Studies have shown it improves their academic performance, and their self confidence. Furthermore, it exposes disadvantaged youth to successful professionals, and vice-versa. This builds social networks, and greater societal cohesion, as well as improving the self confidence of young orphans. It provides organizations with well trained and motivated young professionals, and can improve the economic outlook of entire communities as successful entrepreneurs grow their enterprises.

Entrepreneurship for Sudanese OrphansIn the development field there are many different approaches to business development for disadvantaged groups. Broadly speaking there are five different categories:

1) Open for Business (OFB)

This approach was developed in Canada by the CEED (Centre for Entrepreneurship & Educational Development) during the 1990′s, and later spread to other parts of the world. The philosophy behind OFB is that everyone has the ability to be a successful entrepreneur through education and encouragement. Through workshops (so called “rockets”), day-long trainings (Business 4 A Day) and support from experienced young adults, young people are able to create, improve and implement their business ideas. Young leaders can relate to participants, and are effective in changing attitudes of participants by encouraging and motivating them. An essential part of all of the trainings is “learning by doing” – in order to learn entrepreneurship you have to make the move from theory to practice. It is an out-of-school program, although the workshops and lectures are often carried out during school hours, which may pose some difficulties as a lack of presence in schools can limit exposure.

2) Youth Enterprise Society Program (YES)

The YES Program, created by Ohio State University, targets youth at school with the goal of equipping them with skills appropriate for work and self-employment. It operates throughout the school year as an extracurricular activity. While in the program, students acquire business competencies through a set of special learning and experimental activities. Teachers, after receiving special training, serve as facilitators. Their objectives are to develop entrepreneurial skills, an enterprise culture, self-confidence, and self-reliance, all to make young people more able to respond and adapt to changing environments. The collaboration with schools and long term sustainability are its advantages, though it may be hindered by its inability to target youth who are out of school.

3) Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning (REAL)

The REAL Enterprise Program targets high school students in rural areas of the USA by linking education with rural economic development, and by assisting young people to identify a business opportunity, prepare a business-plan, and initiate the businesses, all while they are still at school. These are later converted into real enterprises, owned by the former students. Students carry out a community survey to identify needs that could lead to business implementations. Once these are identified, business plans are developed, funds are secured and a business site is established, thus providing students the opportunity to learn the concepts and responsibilities of managing a business. REAL businesses are later independently owned and managed by students who have participated in the REAL Enterprise Program and have graduated from school. It benefits from active student participant and practical experience, but again fails to target those youth outside of the school system.

4) Youth Entrepreneurship Development Program (Y.E.D.P.)

Entrepreneurship for Sudanese OrphansY.E.D.P is a Tanzanian registered non-governmental organization committed to helping youth in acquiring business skills, ICT training, and innovative skills through on school and off-school programs which encourage youth to embrace entrepreneurship. Their programs focus on people who are the most excluded from economic development. Y.E.D.P.’s focus is on teaching entrepreneurship in secondary schools, youth groups, and women groups. They teach, on a volunteer basis, the basic concepts in of entrepreneurship such as: opportunity recognition, market research, raising capital to prepare a business plans, business management, etc. It carries out activities both in and out of school, thus targeting a greater number of youth, with the long term goal of reducing HIV/AIDS rates by giving youth greater options. It is hindered by the fact that all of its work is on a volunteer basis, and thus may not be as reliable or professional.

5) The Start and Improve Your Business Program (SIYB)

The Start and Improve Your Business program, first started by the Swedish Employer’s Organization (SEO) and later adapted by the International Labor Organization (ILO), focuses on small businesses in developing countries. The goals are to contribute to economic growth in society and create employment possibilities. The short-term goals are to strengthen local business development service providers by delivering training to micro and small-scale entrepreneurs. The intended beneficiaries are potential and existing entrepreneurs, although the direct beneficiaries are partner organizations who provide training to micro and small-scale entrepreneurs locally. Though it is applicable to all micro or small-scale entrepreneurs, it does not target youth, nor those who do not already have a business idea.

HCI’s Approach:

HCI, after careful consideration of the pros and cons, now employs an adaptation of the Open for Business approach in our program in Sudan, as it is best suited to our climate and clients.

The OFB program is the only youth entrepreneurship program that focuses on short-term activities, combined with access to support and advice from adult leaders. The short-term activities could also be an advantage, in the sense that the participator must be independent and work autonomously or with business partners with the support from OFB leaders. Long-term activities create sustainability, but can also create feelings of helplessness when the project period ends.

Entrepreneurship for Sudanese OrphansOFB’s principle is that everyone has the possibility to enhance their qualities and skills through education and encouragement, thus becoming a successful entrepreneur. It is a concept aimed at promoting entrepreneurship as a way for young people to gain control over their future and create employment opportunities. The overall goal is to build a society with enterprising individuals – a society where young entrepreneurs are able to build their own businesses and become role models for other young people. This is why the Open for Business concept is the main strategy of our youth entrepreneurship project in Sudan.

Case Studies in Sudan:

The following examples show how HCI has put theory into practice in Sudan, where we are currently, and will continue to, work with disadvantaged orphans. Since May 2009, forty orphans, fourteen years of age and older, took part in the program named “Today’s Orphans, Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs.” Instead of being drawn into a passive cycle of receiving charity and relying on the kindness of others, the 40 orphans received the training and materials necessary to embark on their own business ventures. They were also given the opportunity to test their ideas under real-life circumstances, and took part in the “Business for a Day” program, in which they operate a business for one day.

In the business for a day program, 14-year-old orphan Afaf Adam chose to set up a Khashaf juice business. In the first stage, she was given 51 Sudanese Pound (SDG) as capital. By the end of the day her net profit was SDG 2. However, in the next day her profit increased to SDG 14.

16-year-old orphan Aicha Edris chose to sell coal and firewood on the side of the busy market. Her one-day-business left her with a net loss of SDG 1 by the end of day. However, her business was analyzed at the end of the day. Lessons learned were identified. As result, the next day she earned a net profit of %10 from the initial capital!

15-year-old orphan Baker Adam decided to set up a small catering business in the busy market. His initial capital of SDG 80 earned him a SDG 5 net profit by the end of the first day. However, in the second day he decided to set up another business: secondhand bicycles vendor. His initial capital of SDG 100 earned him a SDG 15 net profit by the end of the day.

Other examples include: Ahmed Othman’s secondhand furniture business which earned him %25 net profit in one day; Marwa Ahmed’s catering service which earned her %20 net profit in one day; And, Marwa Abdelrahman’s Fateer pastry business which earned her %31 net profit in one day.

The original capitals of the businesses as well as the profits made contributed to the original capital of an investment fund as part of an investment club which created as part of the program. The club is managed and run by the same orphans. This created meaningful, more long-term leadership roles with greater learning potential for orphan members. The fund is used to implement income-generation activities operated by the club.

Entrepreneurship for Sudanese OrphansWorkshops were carried out designed specifically to encourage and build entrepreneurship amongst participants, during which different kinds of exercises were carried out. The groups received a number of stories and had to work on their problem solving skills. They were taught about pricing, location, and how to find business opportunities, all intended to give them the basis for a solid, successful business venture.

For example, youth were divided into groups and given specific information regarding a product, including: material costs, taxes, labor costs etc. They were then asked to determine a price for this product that would produce a reasonable profit. In doing so they learned how determining an appropriate price is crucial to sustainable business plans. Furthermore, they learned how to make a budget, and how to ensure that it is accurate.

They were also given tasks designed to instruct them on how to promote their business, as this is another pillar of successful entrepreneurship. They were asked questions about how businesses currently promote themselves in their area, and which promotion techniques they felt were the most effective. They learned the importance of identifying the senders of the message, the message itself, the medium, and its intended recipients.

Throughout the workshop different stories and problems were handed out to participants that needed to be solved and studied. They gave examples and lessons, such as the importance of supervision in order to avoid waste and maximize employee output. This exposed participants to real and tangible examples of the problems faced by start up businesses. Without an excessive focus on theory, participants could see how these workshops could be quickly translated into new business ventures, and were eager to participate.

Entrepreneurship for Sudanese OrphansOther than this, subjects such as how to build a good reputation, costumer service, distribution, insurance, quality control, and safety and security in the workplace were also studied. In order to analyze the market and make the most out of their businesses, the group got a chance to reflect upon and discuss issues concerning competition, availability, and the targeted costumer group.

They were asked questions related to number of customers, competition, target marketing, etc. For example: How many people pass by your store/shop every day? Do you have competitors in the area of your business? What is your plan to make your costumers prefer your services? By answering these questions they took the first steps towards developing a viable business model and plan.

The workshops carried out in Sudan gave these orphans real, relevant instruction on how to build a successful and sustainable business. It was based on the proven successes of the OFB approach, and will build the groundwork for the development of a new generation of young entrepreneurs eager to take action and improve their situations.

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Jun 252010
 

Food Security in GazaOn June the 1st, the Egyptian authorities exceptionally opened the Rafah border crossing in both directions, for humanitarian cases and aid, for an unspecified period of time. It is expected that an average of 750 people will cross daily. In addition, on the day of the opening, 13 electrical generators for the Al Quds hospital and five truckloads of clothing, bed sheets, blankets, tents and shoes were allowed into Gaza. Since the partial opening of the border, Gazans were streaming through the border with Egypt following the order from Egyptian President to open the crossing “indefinitely”. This move came after the Israeli attack on Gaza-bond aid ships on 31 May.

Rafah is Gaza’s only gateway to the rest of the world that is not controlled by Israel. Egypt, which has a 30-year peace deal with Israel, has kept the Rafah border closed for much of the past five years.

The Egypt-Israel blockade was tightened following the 2006 parliamentary election. A parallel economy operates as Gazans built a network of tunnels under the border to Egypt to bring in supplies.

While ordinary Gazans have taken advantage of the border opening, it is not yet clear whether all goods will be allowed into Gaza from Egypt.

Egyptian officials have been quoted as saying there would be no restrictions on the movement of Palestinians or on food, medical and humanitarian supplies being brought in. However, reports suggest that concrete and steel, which Gazans desperately need to repair damage from last year’s Israeli offensive in the Strip, would still need to be transported through Israel, which restricts supplies of building materials as it says they could be used for military purposes.

Food Security in GazaFollowing the partial opening of the border in Rafah on June 1, HCI’s teams inside Gaza and at the regional office in Beirut stepped up their efforts on the ground to enable them to deliver humanitarian aid to the people in need through the Rafah crossing.

Following the opening, HCI imported food through the Rafah crossing destined to thousands of food-insecure Gazans. The trucks were loaded with protein-rich foods such as meat and fish, which are difficult for Gazans to find or to afford.

HCI and its local partner in Gaza, the Aid and Hope Program for Cancer Patients (AHP), received the aid supplies, prepared them into packages, and profiled and identified food-insecure Gazans as recipients of the supplies.

Food Insecurity in Gaza

Food Security in GazaThe amount and quality of food available to the estimated 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip has been severely restricted by more than 1,000 days of a near-complete blockade. Sixty-one percent of the Gaza population is food insecure, states a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report. There is a diverse range of foods available in Gaza; the problem is people do not have the means to purchase the food due to rising poverty and unemployment, now nearly 39 percent. Israel’s import and access restrictions continue to suffocate the agriculture sector in Gaza, directly contributing to rising food insecurity.

Protein-rich foods such as meat and poultry are especially difficult for Gazans to afford. Families have resorted to coping mechanisms including borrowing money and relying on aid from humanitarian agencies operating in Gaza.

Aid agencies are concerned by rising malnutrition indicators – increased cases of stunting, wasting and underweight children – and continuing high rates of anaemia among children and pregnant women.

A poverty survey conducted by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) shows that the number of Palestine refugees unable to access food and lacking the means to purchase even the most basic items, such as soap, school stationery and safe drinking water, has tripled since the imposition of the blockade in June 2007.

Food Security in GazaThirty eggs used to cost about US$1.83, and now they cost 14 about $3.65.

Without a change in policy, aid dependency is only likely to grow, warns UNRWA, which is providing basic sustenance to nearly 80 percent of the Gaza population.

Furthermore, the reduction in electricity supplies to Gaza as part of the Israeli blockade causes significant damage to vegetable crops due to the lack of refrigeration, as well as adding to production costs.

HCI’s Involvement in Gaza

HCI’s involvement in Gaza prior to the war included dispatching trucks loaded with basic commodities to Gaza by land. Two trucks loaded with parcels of food supplies were dispatched in November, 2008, almost a month before the war, to Gaza by land in partnership with local and regional partners and in coordination with the UNRWA. The trucks were prepared inside Jordan and transported to Gaza by land via Jericho after acquiring necessary approvals from all the relevant authorities. In addition, a US$1.8 million shipment bearing medical supplies and medicines left Canada in December and was scheduled to make its way into Gaza in January.

Food Security in GazaFollowing the war on Gaza, HCI and its local and regional partners stepped up their efforts on the ground to enable them to deliver humanitarian aid to the people in need. A regional and international fundraising campaign was launched to increase our programs and to launch new ones.

HCI’s teams inside Gaza and the region provided invaluable first-hand information from the field on the escalating humanitarian crisis and the difference donations are having on civilians in the middle of the crisis.

HCI’s team in Jordan was also busy preparing trucks loaded with food and non-food items, which were dispatched to Gaza by land via Jordan. The items were distributed inside Gaza via UNRWA food distribution centers.

Following the war, HCI’s Post-Conflict Recovery interventions targeted households and individuals addressing both their social and economic well-being. HCI assisted community households and individuals to rebuild their lives by addressing not only the economic impact of war but equally important the social and psychological impact on the household level.

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May 042010
 

Migrant Women WorkersAccording to recent statistics around 200,000 women migrant domestic workers live in Lebanon working as housemaids, and nannies. The domestic nature of their work creates special relationships with their employers. Most migrant workers reside with a family, as the contract they sign requires that their employers to offer a shelter.

The Lebanese government recently approved a unified contract for all migrant workers, the purpose of which is to regulate both the work and living conditions of the workers. The contract was a response to the demands of human rights activists, and their campaigns to stop the slavery like working conditions which many researches and investigations have proven exists for many migrant workers throughout Lebanon.

Women living in Sri-Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and many other poor countries, often seek work opportunities abroad, especially in those countries which enjoy a stronger currency with an exchange rate closer to that of the dollar. By doing so, their simple wages in these new countries will be translated into a good sum of money when it is sent back home.

These women are identified by companies that work as mediators between families in search of domestic assistance, and women that are seeking work opportunities. They are matched on the basis of a criteria set out by the family, and knowledge of a second language often plays a key role. The nationality of the workers is closely tied to the wages they are offered; as a result, the poorer the country of origin is, the lower the wage that is likely to be offered.

Migrant women arrive in Lebanon and are immediately sent to their employer’s residence, a space where familial relationships take place, and thus the blurry line between being an employee, and living in the family home, soon becomes less clear. As a result of the familial ties, it becomes difficult for the employer to set working hours for an employee that “lives” with them, and being a domestic worker where the sole responsibility of your work is to provide care leads to the extension of working hours to such an extent that it can often reach 20 hours per day. The employer becomes not the only the head of the household, but all those who live within the household, each with specific demands of “care” which must be provided.

Working in such conditions can lead to a certain amount of tension within the household, and a migrant worker that is responsible for providing care to a number of individuals will be performing her tasks to the point of exhaustion and despair. This stress and tension is often unconsidered by the family, and they regularly end in utter tragedies. According to an unpleasant statistic in a report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) more than one migrant domestic worker in Lebanon each week commits suicide. Many of these suicides are carried out by migrant workers throwing themselves off of balconies in a desperate attempt to end their terrible living conditions.

Migrant Women WorkersAn initiative took place from April 24th to the 1st of May 2010 in Lebanon named the 24/7 campaign to shed light on the disturbing living conditions of women migrant workers in Lebanon. The campaign made use of the virtual as much as the physical realm. A tweeting and a blogging campaign took place for six days in order to post information and stories about these migrant workers, raising awareness among Lebanese virtual societies. In addition, a migrant workers march was organized on the 1st of May to recognize and bring attention to the miserable conditions of migrant workers in Lebanon. A day of promoting the different cultures that these migrant bring with them was celebrated as well, and the Lebanese public was invited to taste the food of these diverse cultures.

Human Concern International’s team participated in both the march and the “taste- culture” day. We have promoted the campaign using social media means recognizing the efforts of human rights activists to bring freedom, and end the abuse of migrant women workers in Lebanon. Human Concern International will be taking part in future activities and campaigns to end abuse of migrant workers through providing assistance and support to these campaigns in line with HCI’s core values of promoting human rights, and respecting all those who are in need of them.

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May 042010
 

DIHADIn April, HCI team members headed to Dubai to participate in the largest humanitarian event in the Middle East; the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference (DIHAD). The conference brings together all of the key actors working in international development and humanitarian assistance with the goals of sharing knowledge, increasing cooperation, and enhancing effectiveness.

The event itself consists of conferences, exhibitions, and interactive training sessions. All three of these elements inform attendees of the latest and most effective trends and tools available in global assistance. They give local actors access to a truly international knowledge base, and allow them to increase their effectiveness by building upon the experience of others. By sharing ideas and reporting what has been successful, and what has not, they can ensure that mistakes are not repeated, and effective strategies are able to reach as large a number of people as possible.

DIHADThis year, HCI’s team was invited to participate in the special pre-conference event organized by DIHAD and themed around the challenges to delivering humanitarian assistance. The response to both manmade and natural and disasters was discussed extensively and HCI’s experiences in Palestine and Lebanon were shared with the rest of the attending group which included members of several key international agencies such as The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

During the three day long multi session conference, titled “Global Health Challenges of Tomorrow: Impact & Response, which featured several talks by leading experts from all around the world such as the chief of the public health sector of the UNHCR, the regional director of UNICEF, the operating officer of the World Food Program as well as many others, HCI’s team contemplated the most current health statistics and most cutting edge innovations in the field of disease prevention and response. A myriad of topics pertaining to global health were discussed; from killer diseases of the poor to health priorities in disasters and crises, from children’s heart diseases in developing countries to hospital preparedness for mass casualties in Palestine.

At the exhibition HCI’s team was one of the 150 regional and international NGOs that were present at DIHAD, in addition to presenting our work and experience, we were also given the opportunity to meet with other organizations and companies that specialize in supplying a multitude of diverse goods and services for disaster response operations, humanitarian aid projects and development programs. This was an excellent opportunity for networking as this event was attended by key decision makers, procurement and logistics officials from leading international, regional & local NGOs, UN Agencies, Governmental Departments and international associations. This opportunity to interface with governmental and corporate representatives creates greater synergy and effectiveness. Ultimately, this benefits those in need as it reduces waste, allowing services to be delivered where they are needed quickly, responsibly, and sustainably. By bringing together a diverse and international set of participants, the conference provides global knowledge and resources to those striving to find solutions to local issues.

In addition, the team attended specialized workshops given by experts from around the globe such as tools for community empowerment, the logistics in the provision of health service and others. The experience provided sound technical advice which can be used in the field to better address health related challenges. The participants benefited greatly from the transfer and sharing of knowledge and resources through debates and dialogue amongst each other, through exposure to the showcased emerging trends in the development field, and through networking amongst global and local actors.

DIHAD has become one of the premier events of the international aid community, one which is widely referenced and held in high esteem. It is through conferences like DIHAD that aid organizations can work more effectively together, and avoid duplication, conflict, or confusion amongst their agendas. For all of these reasons HCI was, and will continue to be, a very proud participant.

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May 042010
 

Though Human Concern International works every day to improve the lives of orphans, one day is particularly crucial: Arab Orphan Day. Declared by the Arab league as a response to the many challenges faced by orphans, it falls on the first Friday of every April. It is designed to build awareness of the plight many of these children face, and to serve as a celebration of both them, and those who work tirelessly to improve their lives. On this day the goal is not to raise money, it is simply to give the children the chance to do what children do best: play, laugh, and make new friends. It is a day to remind orphans that they are not forgotten; they are valued and cherished. HCI, along with our local partners, celebrated this day in the Middle East.

Orphans throughout the Arab world are stigmatized, marginalized and severely disadvantaged. In a society where family is of the utmost importance, they are often isolated. As a result, they are at risk of exploitation and may be forced into dangerous and degrading work, including child labor, and sexual exploitation. Without financial and emotional support from a complete family environment, they must bear responsibilities well beyond what should be required of someone their age. They run the risk of becoming adults inexperienced and unfamiliar with the values and skills normal for participation in society in a productive, positive, and sustainable manner.

Human Concern International has gone to great lengths to reverse and prevent some of the disconcerting trends faced by orphans. By providing financial and community support, our program can help to prevent the isolation of children, and rebuild damaged self esteem. We seek to empower these children, and their care-givers, so that they may become self-sufficient, happy, productive members of society.

Gaza:

Orphan DayOrphans in Gaza face perhaps the most difficult conditions in the entire region, and their numbers are growing. During the 2008-2009 Israeli incursions, nearly 1,500 children were orphaned in the space of less than a month. They must face the violence, deprivation and uncertainty of a life under siege without the stabilizing support of a complete family. On Arab Orphan Day HCI and its local partner, the Aid and Hope Program for Cancer Patients (AHP), took a group of orphaned children out for a day of fun. There was face painting, a playground, and the chance to relax for children living under extreme conditions. They were also given a good, healthy meal which included chicken and meat. This is very important, as meat is now prohibitively expensive for the majority of people in Gaza, and as a result children face a whole host of nutritional problems including iron deficiency, and a lack of protein. The children loved their food, and the chance to play together. They were eager to write letters for their sponsors, and were very reluctant to leave when the event finally ended.

Egypt:

Orphan DayOn Arab Orphan Day, HCI and its local partner, the Gozour Foundation, took a group of orphans between the ages of 5-16, along with their mothers, out for a day of carefree entertainment. They were brought to the “Fangoon” art school where they were given the chance to paint, make pottery and jewelry, and generally have fun. For both children and mothers it was a welcome relief from the stresses of their daily struggle to survive. Our organizers could not help but smile at the sight of the children having such fun together. A deteriorating economy and increased hunger means that these orphans face many challenges, but HCI is working to better the lives of as many as possible. The day also marked the commencement of HCI’s Child Sponsorship Program in Egypt, which will match donors with children in need, and give those children the financial support they require to have a fair chance at a productive life. The event raised awareness amongst local communities of the valuable work performed by HCI, and helped to strengthen links and support networks. We can be sure that the children will not forget their special day of fun, and as they finally had to go back to their homes they told us they were already looking forward to next year’s event.

Lebanon:

Orphan DayArab Orphan Day in Lebanon was celebrated in Tripoli by HCI taking 25 orphans out for a day of fun in cooperation with our local partner, the CIWS. They were given the chance to meet, play, and eat outdoors in a healthy environment with other children who face the same challenges of living as orphans in Lebanon. The children come from families who live in poverty, and survive on donations to make ends meet. The stress and uncertainty they face every day takes a severe emotional toll, and deprives them of a child’s basic right to play and develop healthily. On Arab Orphan Day we sought to provide them with some relief, if only for a short period. They live in crowded, poor neighborhoods where parks and public spaces are non-existent. The chance for them to visit a pleasant, outdoor environment was something they do not normally get to experience, and they loved every minute of it. They started the day with a great meal at the local “Yalla Yalla” restaurant, which also had an indoor playground which the children enjoyed immensely. After, they were taken to banks of the local river where they could relax, play, and enjoy each other’s company. The sound of the children, their mothers, and the volunteers all singing together was a welcome change from the often bleak picture of life in the Mediterranean’s poorest city. The day gave these children what they needed most, a chance to escape from the difficulties of daily life, and the knowledge that they are indeed loved and appreciated.

Rights Based Approach:

Orphan DayIn all of our activities, whether in Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine or Sudan, HCI takes a rights based approach towards working with orphans. Our actions are intended to comply with, and realize, the articles set forth in the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This document, ratified by 192 nations, is a powerful tool in the global effort to enhance children’s right to education, health care and safety. Although it is the state’s responsibility to fulfill the obligations outlined in the convention, in practice limited resources means that this is not always possible. It is, therefore, incumbent on non state actors, like HCI, to fill the gaps. Children are vulnerable, and lack the political power to claim their rights themselves. The CRC is a powerful tool that places obligations which every nation must meet for the sake of their children. HCI, through our child sponsorship program and events like the Arab Orphan Day celebration, is working towards a day when all children can benefit from the rights of the CRC.

Future Challenges:

Orphan DayUnfortunately, the checkered, unstable political landscape of the Middle East has bred conflicts such as in Lebanon, Palestine and Sudan. The deaths of fathers and mothers in these events has created an altogether new tragedy, as the children they leave behind join the growing ranks of the region’s orphans. This means that HCI’s support will be needed ever more in the future. We must continue to work towards a day when orphan children will enjoy all of the same opportunities and joys as others, and rightfully take their place as full members of society. Though events like Arab Orphan Day are undeniably helpful, there is still much work to be done.

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May 032010
 

PRA LebanonThis year, Human Concern International embarked upon an ambitious project to asses the needs of a particularly disadvantaged Beirut neighborhood, Nabaa. Working alongside our local partner, Dar al-Amal, and twenty local youths, we have conducted a Participatory Rapid Appraisal (PRA) research which maps out the challenges faced by Nabaa residents. It is the first phase of a wider Youth Impact Project intended to train and empower youth in development practices. Throughout the PRA’s development process the lead was taken by the youth, all from the affected area, who conducted field research in coordination with specially trained development professionals to produce a comprehensive PRA research. The research engaged local residents, giving them ownership of the development process, as opposed to a traditional needs assessment made by those who do not reside in the affected area. As a result, it is a more accurate, inclusive, and effective picture of the challenges currently facing the residents of Nabaa.

PRA LebanonNabaa is a mixed, multi-confessional Beirut suburb which faces chronic unemployment, a lack of social services, and suffers from high levels of insecurity. Local residents are at risk of criminality, drug use, and sexual exploitation. The local youth who conducted the PRA were both male and female, Christian and Muslim, reflecting the diversity of the neighborhood in which they reside. Despite poverty, Nabaa has avoided inter-sectarian violence and as such is an example for others to follow. It was an ideal candidate for a PRA research. Our local partner, Dar Al-Amal, is one of the few non-governmental organizations which operate in the area. They are determined to improve the lives of local youth, and prevent them from entering into lives of crime or prostitution. Despite their dedicated efforts, one organization alone cannot change the fate of a community, and they need assistance. The PRA, developed by and for the people of Nabaa, will boost their capacity and be of significant help for all of those working towards community renewal and prosperity.

PRA LebanonThe first phase of the Youth Initiative Project has now been successfully completed; this phase included Participatory Rapid Appraisal (PRA) training for a diverse group of twenty young men and women from Nabaa carefully selected to reflect the diversity in the area. The general purpose of the training was to provide the participants with conceptual knowledge and skills on Participatory Rapid Appraisal (PRA) techniques thus enabling them to utilize PRA techniques in determining local community needs and introducing community-oriented interventions and initiatives.

PRA LebanonThe ten-day training conducted by HCI’s experts in the field of development workshops presented participants with PRA theory and practice and was balanced between field practicum and in-class sessions that included brainstorming, working groups, interactive exercises, and reflections. The course began with basic concepts and principles of PRA and was complemented with field practicum where participants were provided with opportunities for hands-on experience in the targeted community guided by a multidisciplinary group of team leaders having backgrounds in social work, development and activism.

PRA LebanonDuring the 5-day field practicum, participants used the PRA approach which utilizes different tools in order to reach the most accurate results on what the needs of the community are. The research team/Participants were disbursed among the targeted area and represented the different ethnic/religious groups residing in the community. The PRA team met with households from different parts of El Naba’a. In the meetings, open discussions were held on health, environment, economy, education, and social life. The meetings were convened in varied ways through focus group discussions, home visits, and open general meetings. Community members were given the opportunity to identify their perception of the challenges that most affect their lives and the needs that should be fulfilled to help their community move towards a better future.

On the last day of training, the main findings of the field were discussed comprehensively and summarized, and as a result the main problems identified by community members were as follows:

- The deterioration and insufficiency of health care services; especially for patients with chronic or critical health problems

- The poor quality of education at official (government) schools and the high cost of education in general (school tuitions, extra assistance classes, private tutoring, and other costs)

- The prevalence of illiteracy among married women (especially those with children)

- The lack of awareness among women about support services provided by official and civil society organizations in and outside the area

- The ineffectiveness of current institutional committees

- Increasing living expenses of households

- Weak economic contribution of women

- Population increase and lack of reproductive health awareness among married women in reproductive age

- Domestic violence and gender-based violence

- Absence of security in the community and existence of conflict between residents and foreign workers residing in the area

- Ineffectiveness of garbage collection mechanisms and environmental pollution

- Drug addiction and prostitution among youth

- Absence of safe open spaces and leisure activities for children and families

PRAThe development of a PRA is the first step towards brightening the future of Nabaa. Before a problem can be fixed it must first be recognized, and the PRA does just that by setting out clearly what the challenges are, and providing practical information to those who seek to alleviate them. This research reflects the work of development professionals, devoted local youth volunteers, and residents, all of whom have a stake in the future of the community. It is the first such appraisal to be performed in Nabaa, a place too often ignored and marginalized by traditional centers of power. Though a PRA cannot solve every problem, it is a powerful tool for those who work in the development field, and will help them to focus their efforts on the problems most acutely felt by local residents. By building capacity it will make HCI, and all those working towards the betterment of Nabaa, more effective community developers. We can be sure that it will serve HCI’s development interventions for many years to come.

HCI has made the PRA report available free-of-charge upon request for everyone, and as part of the Youth Impact project more young people from Nabaa are in the process of joining the initial youth group to have their capacities built in the field of developmental thinking, proposal writing and fundraising through a new series of workshops organized by HCI. The youth are using the newly acquired skills and the findings of the PRA report to design a group of youth-led/run interventions with the purpose of improving their neighborhood. HCI and a special committee made up of community leaders in Naba’a are evaluating the submitted proposals and selecting winning interventions, which are funded by HCI.

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Mar 152010
 

HCI presents the Child Sponsorship Program; the case of Majd from Gaza

HCI presents the Child Sponsorship Program; the case of Abdel Rahman and Bara’ Hashem from Lebanon

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Mar 152010
 

The Sudanese Association for Disability and Rehabilitation in Fasher area, north of Darfur region in Sudan was established in 1987. HCI relationship with SADR started in 2003 when HCI supported the development of the SADR’s library with books and training materials about small income generation activities.

With the help of HCI, SADR has now 2865 members. 2120 members in Fasher area, 127 in Malit area, 385 in Kabakbiyeh area, and 297 in Ala’et area. All in Northern Darfur state. The majority of the members are physically challenged, and the remaining are either blind (207 members) or deaf (336 members.)

This extraordinary outreach and membership expansion was further supported by HCI. In 2007, a micro-credit scheme targeting unemployed physically-challenged people was initiated. The project provided the beneficiaries with needed training and technical assistance as well as seed funding over two phases to manage and run a micro-credit scheme to provide beneficiaries with loans to setup small income generation activities. In 2008, HCI provided SADR with mobility equipments for its physically-challenged members.

FasherIn January, HCI launched The Building Opportunities for Sudanese Disabled project to further support SADR’s 2865 members with special needs and its 5110 registered beneficiaries, also with special needs. This project touches on the economic aspect of the lives of people with disability, and this is often either absent or invisible as a need to the community they exist in. The project is also designed to provide aid for the community as a whole, not only the physically challenged. The increased employment and income generated by vocational training, on-the-job support, and business development services that the project provides, also gives an economical boost to the community. The project combines vocational training, on-the-job support, and targeted micro-grants offered to the community members and disabled people.

In this phase, groups (each consisting of 10 pre screened and identified disabled individuals by HCI and its local partner SADR) are formed and receiving training concerning micro-business management; each group is responsible for the management and follow-up of the initiatives submitted. Each group has a group leader, a secretary and a financial leader to facilitate the loans/grants scheme moderation in each site and credit collection. Initiatives are being developed by the people with disability to generate income. Feasible ideas will be provided with a combination of grants and loans, and they will be implemented.

FasherSome of the initiatives being designed include: a refrigerator project (where the beneficiary has purchased a refrigerator to rent it out to other small business for storage and protection), a men’s wear workshop (where the beneficiary has purchased a sewing machine to make clothes) a wood chopping and coal production business (where the beneficiary has purchased the tools needed to chop wood and make coal for heating purposes), a school uniform workshop (where the beneficiary has purchased a sewing machine to make uniforms), a water station (where the beneficiary has purchased a carriage to sell water) a home based cafeteria, and a bean canteen.

Also In this phase the vocational skills of physically challenged individuals in the areas of Fasher, and Mahaliya northern Darfur has been improved.

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Feb 042010
 

A group of underprivileged Iraqi and Jordanian children volunteers met after school over couple of months to rehearse for a play called The Happiness Forest.

The play served as a safe and effective space for the children to learn lessons on peaceful coexistence, pluralism, gender equality, tolerance and non-violence.

The play was debut on the prestigious Royal Cultural Center in Amman, Jordan and was attended by hundreds of children from the same unprivileged neighborhoods.

The play is produced by Noura Al-Qaisi and directed by Mohamed Amro in participation with New Development (NDev) and Jordanian Child Theater.

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Feb 042010
 

57357Today, February 4th, is World Cancer Day. All around the world people and organizations are marking the occasion by raising awareness and funds to combat what remains one of the leading causes of death. Human Concern International has been active in this universal cause. Recently, we encouraged breast cancer screening for women in Gaza in co-operation with the Aid and Hope Centre for the Care of Cancer Patients. Early detection of breast cancer is the key to effective treatment, and reduced fatalities. Now, we are continuing our effort by supporting Egypt’s largest and most effective children’s cancer hospital, The Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt (57357). Please join us, and the countless others, who are working towards a future without cancer.

Cancer kills 7.9 million people every year, and is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1-14 worldwide. Tragically, many of these deaths are entirely preventable. In the developed world, the advent of new treatments has seen cancer survival rates steadily climb, but, as with so many other things, these treatments are not available in much of the developing world. The result is that children in Egypt, for example, are twice as likely to die from cancer as children in North America. One cannot imagine the pain families must endure when their child is lost simply because he or she did not have access to adequate medical care.

In Egypt, a country of 81.5 million people, only 350 hospital beds are dedicated to treating child cancer patients, and no more than 100 physicians have received pediatric oncology or hematology training. It is one of many nations which do not devote enough funds to pediatric oncology out of the misguided belief that it is prohibitively expensive, and resources would have a greater effect elsewhere. This simply is not the case, as a recent study by St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital has demonstrated that even a small increase in funding can dramatically improve survival rates. Prevention and early diagnosis programs are highly cost effective, and do not require advanced technologies. Despite the evidence, the World Health Organization does not have any program in place to correct the huge disparities in cancer survival rates worldwide. The result: children in the countries like Egypt continue to die unnecessarily.

Psycho-social support for child cancer patients, and their families, is particularly lacking in Egypt. It is considered merely as an afterthought, if at all, and families must often face the emotional challenges of cancer without professional support. Adding to this is the stress resulting from poverty, and the daily struggle to gather adequate funds to pay for treatment. Many families simply cannot bear the emotional or financial burden, and as a result they abandon cancer treatment programs for their children prematurely.

57357The Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt (57357) has taken it upon itself to correct the imbalance, and ensure that even the poorest children of Egypt have access to the same life saving treatments and support as their more fortunate counterparts. Operating since July 7, 2007, it is now the largest pediatric oncology centre in the Middle East and Africa. Its facilities include Egypt’s first specialized department of physiology, social work, and psychiatry for pediatric oncology. Creating a single hospital devoted to pediatric oncology has enormous benefits. The hospital staff is both highly trained and highly motivated. It has created a nucleus for training new physicians, carries out groundbreaking research, and provides top level treatment. By collaborating with experts worldwide, the hospital is able to integrate the most advanced medical knowledge into its treatment of patients.

The hospital has recognized the need not only for state of the art medical care, but also for a more comprehensive approach. As such, it has inaugurated the country’s first school program for hospitalized children, to ensure that they will be given the chance to succeed once they have completed their treatment. It provides support to families as they struggle to cope with the stress of a cancer diagnosis for their child. Hospital staff work with the community to raise awareness about cancer screening, and early detection, as a way to improve survival rates, and save the lives of countless children.

57357CCHE serves all Egyptians, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or ability to pay. All treatments and medications are provided free of charge if a family lacks sufficient financial means. Also, economic support is given to families who must often travel long distances to visit their children undergoing treatment, and who would otherwise be unable to afford the journey. Housing and job opportunities are provided when necessary. All of this means that now less than one percent of patients abandon treatment, whereas economic hardship previously caused almost 16 percent to not finish their programs. The hospital is a model which should be followed throughout the Middle East, and the world.

Human Concern International, in recognition of the hospital’s achievements and vision, has provided them significant financial support. The hospital is committed to sustainability, and we can be certain that no dollar will be wasted. It is money that will be used to help the hospital to expand, bringing its life-saving treatment, education, and message to ever larger numbers. We wish the hospital the best of luck, and are privileged to aid such a worthy program. We are certain that they will continue to provide high quality care to all those who need it for years to come.

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