Nov 302011
 

Supporting Young Entrepreneurs in the Middle EastEntrepreneurship is becoming increasingly accepted as an important means and a useful alternative for income generation in young people, particularly in the developing world. As traditional job-for-life career paths become rarer, youth entrepreneurship is regarded as an additional way of integrating youth into the labor market and overcoming poverty.

Throughout our long history of working with the marginalized, Human Concern International has sought participatory and empowering approaches, rather than building dependence on charity, we seek to foster self-reliance, and success. To do so we have often use business development approaches, helping to empower through the building of self-esteem, positive risk taking, and problem-solving.

In Egypt, HCI’s “Supporting Youth Micro-Businesses Afflicted by the Political Crises in Egypt” program economically empowers underprivileged youth in low income urban areas of the Cairo governorate that have been adversely affected by the recent unrest through self-employment, putting them in charge of their own income-generating projects; the selected youth’s micro-businesses are provided with an innovative system of tailored micro grants, affordable microcredit and technical assistance. The program is being implemented along with HCI’s long-term local partner Gouzour NGO. The program’s approach is based on mentored ownership.

After the success of the first phase, HCI expanded the scale and the scope of the project to include another Egyptian grassroots organization having a long history of charity work, with the aim to transfer the knowledge gained during phase one to the new organization, at the same time providing the new organization with tailored capacity building activities to guarantee sustainability and increase local knowhow.

Also in Sudan, HCI has been working to empowering Sudan’s youth generation through entrepreneurship and business development, both in Darfur area and in settlements around Khartoum. HCI’s initiatives touched on the economic aspect of the lives of the disabled youth first, then young orphans, and now on the disadvantaged youth in general. The beneficiaries received coaching in micro-business management and eventually developed and implemented small income generating initiatives such as a home based cafeterias and workshops which HCI funded using a combination of grants and loans.

In 2009, The “Today’s Orphans Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs” program implemented in Sudan was specifically designed by HCI to empower orphans and to prevent them from getting drawn into a passive cycle of receiving charity and relying on the kindness of others. As part of the activities, a group of 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 designed and operated a small business service for one day. The Project also included the setting up of and funding of an investment club run by the orphan entrepreneurs.

In 2010, HCI built up these young entrepreneurs’ knowledge of investment by further developing the investment club managed and run by orphans, a space where more orphans received hands-on investment training and a positive attitude towards investment entrepreneurship was created. They were given the opportunity to be able to test group investment ideas under realistic circumstances and get a deeper understanding of running an investment business. This investment club is a legal entity that is able to attract and absorb more orphans and serve as an “incubator” for future group investments.

Later on, the project also built up the developmental capacities of the youth and put them on the path to become active philanthropists by increasing their public awareness, promoting youth involvement, increasing local contributions, contributing to greater accountability, enhancing transparency in decision-making, and promoting good governance based on active citizen participation among the young club members. The group learnt how to better organize themselves, identify and link with established CBO programs and services, design and implement youth-oriented fund raising activities, develop a grant-making/monitoring mechanism, and organize youth volunteers in support of foundation activities as well as those of local CBO partners. This transition to active philanthropy boosts their self confidence and empowers them as they are giving back to the community which took care of them for many years.

More recently, HCI broadened its focus to empower underprivileged youth in low-income urban settlements around Khartoum. The beneficiaries received coaching in micro-business management and were assisted to develop viable micro businesses, which included micro-business ideas generation and business training.

The activities carried out in Egypt and Sudan have given these youth real, relevant instruction on how to build a successful and sustainable business and will build the groundwork for the development of a new generation of young entrepreneurs eager to take action and improve their situations. The resources and skills offered through HCI’s initiatives will definitely enable them to further develop their business opportunities and enhance their livelihoods, which will ultimately lead to more stabilization and an improvement in livelihoods in targeted areas.

As a result of HCI’s intervention these young men and women have a better chance of coping with the economically debilitating situation on the ground; and having being offered the means to rebuild their livelihoods they will be able to get their lives and the lives of their dependents back on track. It is also worth noting that by empowering young entrepreneurs in general, HCI is also aiding the community as a whole; the increased employment and income generated by vocational training, on-the-job support, and business development services give communities an economic boost, and serve as a positive example for others.

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Nov 212011
 

Each year HCI makes it a point to honor and celebrate the traditions of the communities we serve; understanding the culture and living conditions of the local communities we work with is part of HCI’s philosophy while serving these communities, especially at times such as Ramadan and Eid Al Adha when great importance is placed on celebrating the traditional aspects of local culture. In addition, these traditions serve to strengthen community ties and embody important ideals such as generosity and helping the needy.

As the month of Ramadan approaches, families all around the Arab world prepare themselves for a month of fasting, a month of spending more time together, and a month of helping the needy. For over twenty years HCI has honoured this tradition by working around the Arab world to make Ramadan a month of hope for the families that need hope the most; families struggling to survive, families affected by conflict, families headed by widows and families where the breadwinner is disabled or chronically ill.

This year, the condition of many in the Arab world has further deteriorated as a result of the overall regional unrest, instability and turmoil, making HCI’s Ramadan program even more relevant. Assisted by its regional network of local partners and volunteers, HCI distributed hundreds of much needed food packages and provided hundreds of freshly cooked highly nutritional traditional meals to help ease the economic burden off some of the most desperate households in the Arab world and to spread some good will and optimism as well.

The program was implemented Palestine, Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan (with Iraqi refugees) where families of the poorest communities received food packages directly from HCI’s team or had them delivered to their doorstep in some cases. The food packages contained a wide variety of basic food items such as flour, rice, beans, oil, sugar and dried fruit among others. It is worth noting that this intervention is particularly relevant since the holy month of Ramadan is also a time when food prices skyrocket.

In Gaza, HCI’s volunteer team went door to door to the poorest districts and personally delivered food parcels while making note of each family’s problems for future interventions. In the West Bank HCI’s team distributed hundreds of food packages to low income families with persons having special needs in the Central District of the West Bank. Female-headed households and families where the breadwinner is disabled were selected as front-end beneficiaries.

In Sudan, HCI and its local partners organized several Iftars in many refugee settlements in the south, north and west of the capital. In addition to distributing hundreds of food packages as well. HCI’s team made it a point to be active in communities that contain refugees from Darfur.

In Egypt, HCI’s team, in coordination with local NGO’s “CDC” and “Gozour foundation” distributed 350 Ramadan food packages to the poorest households in the marginalized new desert settlements of Garf Hussein and Kalabsha in the Aswan Governorate west of Lake Nasser.

In the Jabal Al Qusour and the Al Jubiheh area, one of the poorest areas of Amman where Iraqi refugees live, HCI’s team distributed over hundreds of food packages to marginalized and mostly widow headed Iraqi refugee families assisted by Family Development Association, a women-headed grassroots organization. HCI’s long term local partner, New Development assisted in the screening and selection of final beneficiaries, as well as in the procurement of food items in close consultation with HCI’s team.

In Lebanon, HCI distributed food packets to underprivileged widow headed families in the northern city of Tripoli, in addition to organizing an Iftar in partnership with the Charitable Islamic Women’s Society for 120 orphans and their families, this group included the beneficiaries of HCI’s orphan sponsorship program in Lebanon. In the Shatila Refugee Camp in Beirut, HCI together with local NGO “CYC” organized a traditional iftar for over 100 children.

Another tradition that HCI honors is the Eid Al-Adha or the “Feast of Sacrifice” celebration, where meat is distributed to the needy and poor. It is a rewarding spiritual act for Muslims. Every year, Human Concern International (HCI) carries out the Adahi Meat Distribution Project among the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in Middle East region.

In 2011, similar to the distributions during the Holy month of Ramadan, families of the poorest communities in Gaza, the West Bank, Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan received meat packages directly from HCI’s team, or through the help of our local partners.

The goal of the Adahi Meat Distribution project is to enable poor and vulnerable families to cover their basic need for animal protein; inflation of the prices of meat usually occurs during this season, which reduces the purchasing capacity of many families, especially poor ones. Many families also cannot sacrifice their own livestock because they need their animals for the production of milk, cheese and other dairy products, and to work in the fields.

The project has three main objectives: relieving poor families who cannot afford the high price of meat during this season; forming links with local communities to address the needs of poor and vulnerable families, and complementing HCI’s overall relief and development initiatives in the region. HCI’s selection criteria directed distributions to low-income, large, and single-parent families, particularly if the single parent was a woman or person with special needs.

In Gaza, HCI’s team made up of tens of volunteers went door to door and personally delivered the parcels containing meat portions. They listened to and made note of each family’s problems so that this information could be used for the next needs assessment and distribution project. Hundreds of families benefited from the distributed portions. The distribution was implemented in Sheikh Rdwan in Gaza city, Ezbat Abdrabo in Jebalia, Al Zaytoon neighberhoods, and Shajaeya in Al Shatae refugee Camp.

Neighborhood committees and the local volunteers helped in the distributions. The Shahada family, one of the families benefiting from the Adahi packages told the volunteers that they literally hadn’t tasted meat in months, as did another family from Ezbit Abd Rabo, who were extremely thankful for the meat they received, without which their Eid would have been miserable.

In the West Bank, HCI’s team organized the distribution of hundreds of meat packages to low-income families with special needs persons in the Central District of the West Bank.

Female-headed households, and families where the breadwinner is disabled, were selected as front-end beneficiaries. Local women’s groups and village councils assisted in the identification of beneficiaries. HCI’s local partner, the Vocational Training Workshops for Girls NGO in Palestine contributed additional parcels that were distributed to additional families. The slaughtering took place at the premises of the NGO, as did the distributions. Families arrived early morning of the first day of the Eid to get their Adahi. The project provided direct support to the families surrounded by the West Bank Wall or by Israeli settlements. Local newspapers reported on the distributions. One of the families benefiting from the Adahi packages told the volunteers that they literally hadn’t tasted meat in months, as did another family, who were extremely thankful for the meat they received, without which their Eid would have been miserable.

In Sudan, HCI along with local partners, organized and implemented this year’s Adahi Distributions in many refugee settlements in the south, north and west of the capital. The Adahi Project targeted all those who reside in these communities, focusing on single mothers and orphans. Targeted beneficiaries where identified in association with local partners. The slaughtering and distributions were done according to the Islamic traditions. Every family received one package. The project targeted the poorest families, especially widows, orphans and families with no income. HCI’s team made a point to be active in communities that contain refugees from the Darfur region and from southern Sudan.

In Egypt, HCI’s team distributed meat packages to the poorest households in the marginalized new desert settlements of Kalabsha El-Jedida, Bashayer el-Kheir, New Tomas and ‘Afia village located west of Lake Nasser.

In order to guarantee a proper exposure to the HCI, banners, stickers and bags with the HCI logo were printed to be used on the day of distribution, so that people from the villages would recognize that the event was an HCI initiative. HCI’s local partner, the Center for Development Services, contributed additional parcels bearing the logos of HCI and its partners that were distributed to additional families.

In Lebanon, the distributions were conducted at the premises of HCI’s partner in Tripoli, the CIWS where hundreds of beneficiaries, mainly single mother headed households, received meat packages. HCI’s team supervised and monitored the entire process from the procurement of the supplies to the packing, as well as the organization of distributions and the selection criteria for beneficiaries in order to ensure the highest and best efficiency. Beneficiaries have commented positively on the distributions, and have sent greetings and best wishes to HCI, and to the people who made their Eid possible.

The Adahi project is designed to deliver immediate relief to the poorest families in the communities we work in. It is important to continue implementing this seasonal project every year, as poor families can’t afford meat portions in their diet due to its high costs. The Adahi project promotes sharing and caring values especially in times of need, as well as in times of feasts. The project promotes the good will of HCI and our commitment to working and alleviating poverty in the Arab region. It enhances HCI’s relations with local partners who implement these projects, and the communities in which we work with.

The Adahi project as an immediate relief project supports other development projects that HCI is implementing in the region by exhibiting HCI commitment to poor communities need. It demonstrates the quick response and delivery of the HCI’s projects while working towards longer and sustainable outcomes through our other specialized projects.

HCI’s seasonal projects for 2011 are not over yet; in December HCI will continue its commitment to celebrate the traditions of the communities we serve by organizing Christmas activities for marginalized children, children at risk and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Nov 172011
 

For decades HCI has been promoting interaction and the sharing of ideas and resources among children in marginalized communities and their peers from different areas as a “discrete” tool that eventually leads to greater understanding of the other, which addresses the bigger headlines of coexistence, tolerance, pluralism and nonviolence.

Using its years of cumulative experience in this field, including its recent similar work in El-Nabaa area north of Beirut and in Amman and Zarqa in Jordan working with Iraqi refugees and their Jordanian hosts, HCI is now working with the children of the Shatila refugee camp and its surrounding areas to address these same issues through the implementation of a series of activities that stimulate them to become more positively engaged with their surroundings, build bridges among the different factions of the camps’ communities and communities from outside the camp and improve their psychosocial wellbeing.

The inhabitants of the Shatila refugee camp are among Lebanon’s most marginalized communities, they face a number of problems ranging from lack of social and civil rights to no access to public and social services, from very limited access to hospitals and schools to lack of safe spaces for children to play in.

HCI’s activities are bringing together children from different backgrounds between the ages of 9 and 14 to participate in a series of tailored activities, such as celebrating relevant internationally recognized days, highlighting special national causes, participating in community gatherings, and learning new information and skills.

The benefits of these activities are manifold; first, they serve as a means of awareness and education, where the children are stimulated to become more positively engaged in their surroundings. Secondly, these activities serve as a form of psychosocial support, giving them a chance to engage in “fun” activities, improving their mental and emotional health. Thirdly, and most importantly, they expose the youth to people of all backgrounds and communities, and encourage them to interact and share. Firsthand contact encourages the youth to see those with different backgrounds as fellow human beings, and not simply as “others.” Numerous studies have shown that increased contact between communities, sharing of resources and knowledge, and working together for one cause can serve to break down divisions, reduce the potential for conflict, and increase social cohesion.

Simultaneously, HCI’s intervention aims at tackling “discreetly” the issue of children at-risk by involving them in the project activities as the main target participants, be it working children, children on the street, street children, victims of abuse, children who live below the poverty line and others. More focus is given on children living in families considered to be “extremely poor”, particularly since children who grow up in families with low incomes are significantly more likely to experience a wide range of problems and poor developmental outcomes than others. Research has shown that there are significant associations between poverty and children’s health, cognitive development, behavior problems, emotional well-being, and problems with school achievement. Studies have shown that 8 percent of the children in Lebanon live on less than $2.40 a day and 9 percent of young people aged between 6 and 19 in the Palestinian camps live on less than $2 a day, while victims of child labor in Lebanon are estimated to be around 7 percent of the children. The aim is to promote at-risk children’s right to care, health, safety and education and to help return to some sense of normalcy to their daily life through interaction, sharing, fun and learning with their peer children.

One of the first activities HCI sponsored was the celebration of world environment day, the diverse group of children started the day by planting trees in the dusty play area of their local community center, in the hope of transforming this barren urban area into a green space full of trees (more trees were later planted in several locations all over the camp.) After much digging and watering, the children were treated to an educational and fun trip far away from their overcrowded environment at a wildlife reserve in the Shouf Mountains to enjoy and learn about nature, while interacting and sharing all the way, from the planting of trees to the hiking in the vast lush green landscape for hours while learning about the importance of protecting the environment. The children went swimming in a natural spring to cool off and were provided with a delicious and nutritious lunch before heading back home.

Another activity the children participated in was a community iftar during the month of Ramadan, Ramadan is traditionally a time when individuals, families and communities make an effort to bond and spend time together. Hundreds of impoverished children from the camp were invited during Ramadan to participate in a community iftar in another related activity, which allowed them to get to know each other better and enjoy a healthy meal and fun activities, strengthening contacts with other members of the community, and hopefully building friendships that will last long after the project has ended.

More activities have commenced, including a photography and image related workshop and exhibition for the children. The theme of the exhibition “interaction and sharing“ and the images captured and exhibited will also serve to stimulate a greater, more tangible understanding of these concepts among the children and the community in general. The implementation of this activity will be participatory from the start, bringing artist photographers, development practitioners, volunteer workers, community leaders, and a very diverse group of children together to design and implement the activity, working together, while learning, interacting and sharing along the way, all themed around interaction and sharing, which addresses the bigger headlines of coexistence, tolerance, pluralism and nonviolence using photography as means to an end.

HCI will also join 50 of the above children to run together as part of the Beirut Marathon this month to promote healthy eating habits and exercise among children which has been a major theme at HCI for the past 3 years as well as the development of healthy eating manuals, school kitchens, health-related publications and series of events as part of the same program.

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Nov 142011
 

Help Us Help the Vulnerable People of Horn of Africa

© Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

Following the worst drought in 60 years, the situation in the Horn of Africa is rapidly deteriorating: families across Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and some parts of Sudan are struggling to find anything to eat or drink and are in need of emergency healthcare. Over 13 million are suffering from desperate food shortages. Right now, the drought is spreading to Tanzania.

The international community has officially declared famine in parts of Somalia where over 30% of children are acutely malnourished and two deaths, per day, per 10,000 people occur due to these food shortages. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country due to the drought and conflict,  thousands of livestock have already died, and food prices have rocketed. The situation is catastrophic.

HCI has been on the ground delivering vital aid and assistance for many years. Countless lives have been saved through our projects in the affected areas of Somalia. We must intervene now to avert a full-scale disaster and save the lives of thousands of  vulnerable victims.

HCI has started working in the area, and has been successfully delivering aid to Somali Famine victim in Mogadishu, Afgoye and Shabeelle. At the Feeding Center we are sponsoring, 900 individuals per day are receiving HCI’s help. A total of 27,000 people displaced by drought and famine are being helped every month. In Mogadishu we are distributing monthly food packages. Households receive parcels of culturally specific foods worth $150.

HCI’s immediate relief packages include: cooked food through food kitchens and dry food hampers. Food products include items that are familiar to beneficiaries and that they frequently use such as: tomatoes, pasta, tuna, flour, sugar, rice, and vegetable oil.

In the past year and a half alone, our aid to Somalia has been over one million dollars. Our projects include child sponsorship, orphanage, food assistance, water wells, water tankers, ambulance, other health services including massive medical aid packages and educational projects, as well as Recreation Centre for youth.

HCI has over 20 years of emergency relief experience in Africa: we have been implementing relief and development programs in the region together with our strong network of local partners for decades. Our presence and work in the region there has given us a solid base from which to start from, our teams on ground are delivering essential food and water supplies to the neediest of the needy. However, much more needs to be done, and there are very few funds available for us to expand our programs or to launch new ones. That is why we are making this special appeal for help.

Please donate generously and help HCI help the ordinary people of the Horn of Africa rebuild their lives. PLEASE CONTACT US NOW IF YOU WANT TO DONATE. You can also donate online at HCI Canada website by clicking here.

HCI follows a strict monitoring and evaluation system, which involves more than one long-term partner organization. Some of these partners provide supervision from within; others offer logistical support while others are responsible for designing and assisting in the implementation of HCI’s projects. Thus, transparency and accountability are ensured through a complex multi-level monitoring and supervision system. HCI only choose partners that have been thoroughly scrutinized, monitored, evaluated and verified in meeting our strict criteria. We value the support of our donors and every effort is made to make sure that every penny you donate goes to those who need it the most.

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Nov 142011
 

HCI Supports University Students in Rural LebanonAbout 5 years ago it came to HCI’s and its partners’ attention that many of the high school graduates of Lebanese villages were dropping out of university despite the fact that many of them had great educational potential and very good grades, because they were unable to afford the tuition fees.

Many of these students eventually become a burden on society relying on charity, others find work that doesn’t provide enough money for a decent life, some wait for a chance to follow their relatives to Canada, the USA or Brazil, and others end up as delinquents.

More and more, their younger relatives that are still in elementary school are starting to drop out at an earlier level and younger age because they know that they will eventually be unable to afford continuing their education. It is perceived as hopeless case for many because they know that they will share the same fate as those before them that struggled to get through school, only to find they are unable to afford university.

HCI, along with its grassroots partner The Bekaa Youth for Development and Free Education NGO, decided it was time to do something about it, so the program started by helping meritorious students unable to afford university fees by providing a very small number of them with a small monthly grant, which contributed to easing the financial burden off their shoulders. The program helped 4 students the first year, the next year we had around 10, and then 11 and then 14 students.

HCI Supports University Students in Rural LebanonAfter a short break due to restructuring, the program was re-launched this year with much improved scale and scope and a better more systemized process, including more adequate funding. We now no longer provide monthly payments; instead we give payments per semester per year directly to the university, complemented with several social and educational activities for the same students and for others. A new screening and selection system was developed and introduced this year to improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of the project. A new monitoring and evaluation system was also introduced.

This year we have around 36 students, 15 of which are females and 21 males. More than two thirds of them attend Bekaa valley universities; the others go to Beirut universities. All of them with no exception are in a great need of tuition support to be able to continue their education, and around 50% will be obliged to drop out if our help stops. All of our students are undergraduate students; we don’t assist post-graduate students at the moment.

Additionally, the program also implemented various social and educational activities for non-university students such as health and first aid training, and we are preparing to start a one month class to teach people how to use computers.

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Sep 082011
 

Helping Disadvantaged Child Cancer Patients in EgyptHuman Concern International has been active in the universal cause of raising awareness and funds to combat cancer, which remains one of the leading causes of death. Now, we are continuing our effort by supporting Egypt’s largest and most effective children’s cancer hospital for the second time, The Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt (57357).

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.

The 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.

Human Concern International, in recognition of the hospital’s achievements and vision, is continuing its support for the hospital. 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.

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Aug 242011
 

HCI’s latest intervention in Libya is timely as the conflict in Libya spreads and the number of casualties and people needing medical help has increased in recent days. HCI is proud to announce that a shipment of life saving medical supplies put together in Canada has reached the port of Benghazi and is waiting to be offloaded, distributed and sent to areas where it is most needed at a very crucial time for Libya.

As a result of the country’s recent turmoil, Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city has become a regional hub for health and medical supplies. Furthermore, many of the war-injured are brought to the city for treatment. In the coming days, HCI’s ground-team will work in coordination with local committees, local hospitals, tribal leaders, as well as with local and international aid agencies to make sure the medical supplies are distributed quickly and efficiently where they are most needed.

HCI’s international team has been working against the clock to put together and send this shipment of a wide range of much needed medical supplies and equipment such as ultrasound machines, auto-collative machines as well as other medical items in addition to technical specialists to help install and operate the equipment while continuously assessing the situation on the ground throughout Libya, consulting with UN bodies and visiting some of the people directly affected by the current situation.

HCI’s relief work in Libya is carried out in close consultation with other international aid agencies operating in the area as well in coordination with the Arab Medical Union, Libyan Appeal Team, local committees and National Transitional Council’s Humanitarian Committee.

HCI’s assistance has already reached large numbers of people inside the country, on the borders with Egypt and Tunisia as well as many of still the stranded citizens of Misrata. HCI’s team and local partners work tirelessly to help those in need whenever at all feasible.

However, many more Libyans are in dire need of our help. A large percentage of Libya’s 6 million strong population is undergoing a humanitarian crisis. It is estimated that there are 300,000 internally displaced people around the country and it is estimated that over 853,800 have fled the country.

You can donate online on HCI Canada’s website by clicking here. Please feel free to use the following link if you would like to contact us regarding information on HCI’s Libya operations.

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May 232011
 

HCI welcomes and supports the proposed new amendments to the Lebanese laws and congratulates the individuals as well the organizations that worked so hard to make this possible.

HCI is delighted to hear that on Monday 16 May, the Committee on the Administration of Justice has voted to approve the proposed abolishment of the medieval Article 562 of the Penal Code which provides for a lesser sentence in the case of “honor killings”. Article 562 states that if a man catches a female family member in adultery or a suspicious situation with another person and murders her he will benefit from a mitigating excuse.

In the same week, the Budget Committee chose to endorse amendments which would level the field between men and women on the subjects of Tax Inheritance law, Tax Revenue law and the Social Security Taxes as proposed changes to make pay farer during maternity leave. As such, a woman would be allowed LL2.5 million for her husband and LLB500,000 for each of her children of her income untaxed once married as well as enjoy an increase in maternity pay from two-thirds of pay for 10 weeks to 100 percent of full pay.

Furthermore, the Committee on the Administration of Justice has also voted to propose a series of changes to the current laws on adultery that would make them applicable in the same way to both men and women.

These changes, if passed by Parliament represent an important, if overdue, step for Lebanon on its long journey to gender equality as supposedly guaranteed by article 7 of the constitution; “All Lebanese are equal before the Law”.

However, much more still needs to be done. Solely on the subject of Crimes of Honor, there are five articles of the Lebanese Penal Code (art. 193, 253, 487, 488 and 489) which will still provide for a reduction in the sentence of a man perceived to have committed a Crime of Honor. While articles 487, 488 and 489 are currently under review, the sheer number of articles on the issue shows to what extent the concept of Crimes of Honor is embedded in the Lebanese Constitution. Some argue, that although the legislation exists, Lebanese courts have extremely infrequently been allowing “honor” to be used as a defense. However, in a country in which Amnesty International estimated that in 2007, two women were being murdered every month for reasons of honor and in which at least three quarters of women are thought have been victims of domestic abuse at some point in their lives, we believe that it is a priority for any law that could perpetuate this entrenched cycle of violence against women to be quickly abolished. A single article of the Penal Code behind which a man who has committed an act of violence towards a woman can hide is an article too many.

Another prime example of gender inequality in Lebanon is the current Nationality Law, under which women do not possess the basic right to pass on citizenship to their children or husbands. This law, although much debated has seen plans for its change shelved after recent talks by the Parliamentary Committee on Women ground to a halt.

Here at HCI, we hope that in the very near future, Lebanon will honor the commitments made back in 1996 at the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against women and end gender equality within its borders.

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May 232011
 

Orphans from Egypt have been empowered to take the first steps towards protecting their natural environment as a result of HCI’s 2011 Earth Day activities. These children celebrated international Earth Day with HCI’s team and were treated to a fun-filled day of activities promoting environmental awareness.

These children who are orphans from underprivileged backgrounds live a very basic life, they have the bare minimum and don’t normally get the opportunity to enjoy recreational and educational activities that enrich and address their psychosocial wellbeing. HCI’s Earth Day celebrations were therefore extremely beneficial to these children not only because of the new level of environmental awareness it bestowed but also because we did our best to address if only for one day the psychosocial wellbeing of these deprived children as we feel very strongly that if this facet is neglected it can lead to reduced social connectedness, a weakened coping mechanism and a loss of resilience.

Earth Day is an event that is intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment. Originally devised in 1970 when environmentalism seemed to many to be nothing but a fringe issue, environmentalism is now a very mainstream concern and promoting it a very worthwile cause. Earth Day which happens every 22nd April is currently celebrated in more than 175 countries every year. From it’s conception, the focus had been put on children and schools. This makes complete sense as Children have the most important role in keeping our planet healthy; they will still be the caretakers long after their parents and grandparents have passed away.

In Egypt, in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and our local partner Gozour NGO, 70 school children from the underprivileged Arab al Tarabeen area of Greater Cairo were transported to a local youth center where they were offered different environmental activities designed to be both fun and educational.

The children got a wonderful opportunity to interact firsthand with nature as they planted some 20 trees. The group was able to attend an environmental arts and crafts workshop where they fashioned some beautiful recycled art out of unwanted items, they were also introduced to recycling activities that can be easily carried out at home.

“Edutainment activities” such as storytelling and an environmental contest were offered. The children were excited to discover the important role trees play in our environment and listened attentively to the environmental information given. At the end of the day the children gathered to reflect on what they had learned and each one agreed to commit to “acts of Green” from recycling to using bicycles instead of cars.

During this celebration of Earth Day the children really came alive, they both enjoyed themselves thoroughly and were provided with the knowledge and tools to make the Earth a better place to live. Rania Abd Allah, one of the young students told us he would “never forget this special day” while Asmaa Atya stated that she had “enjoyed discovering new activities and getting new information about the Earth.”

This event was also significant as it was a one of the first meaningful attempts to address environmental issues within the Arab Al Tarabeen communities but we understand that the commitment to the environmental cause has to be kept up. As such, the science teachers at the local schools have undertaken to carry on discussing specific environmental issues regularly with the students as well as promised to carry out summer activities and organize a celebration of World Environment day coming up on June 5th thereby “nurturing the environmental seeds, planted for these young people”.

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Apr 122011
 

Agriculture and Food in 2010Most of the world doesn’t have the benefit of picking up food from the corner store — they grow it themselves. A family’s plot of land has to provide for their nutritional and economic needs. HCI increases communities’ knowledge of sound agricultural methods and empowers farmers on how to diversify viable crops, make the best use of the local growing season, and preserve local natural resources. This results in communities that can produce nutritious food for themselves in a sustainable way. However, distributing food is sometimes necessary, especially during times of crisis, but HCI believes in teaching people to fish, plant gardens and raise livestock for their household needs. This holistic approach not only ensures that families don’t go hungry, but also looks out for their health needs and long-term economic prospects.

Agriculture and Food in 2010Almost completely destroyed by repeated wars, and crippled by a blockade, much of Gaza’s agriculture sector is still struggling to rebuild itself. In 2010 local low income farmers in Gaza were given the opportunity to supply the basic food items and agricultural products to the bakery HCI established in Gaza, giving them access to a direct market and improving their economic stability. The bakery, which provides bread and baked goods to hundreds of food-insecure households with a special focus on preschoolers, also offers job opportunities to local vulnerable women, particularly widows and women with special needs. Kindergarten age children in impoverished areas of Gaza were provided with food and non food distributions the same year, to ensure that they get at least one healthy meal a day in the face of soaring food prices, rampant poverty and food shortages that the area is suffering from. Also in 2010, HCI’s local team of volunteer veterinarians continued follow ups and field visits to provide assistance and consultation to the poultry keeping businesses that HCI helped families in need set up the year before.

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