Supporting Marginalized Children through Positive Engagement in Lebanon

 Education and Empowerment, Featured Stories from the Field, Lebanon  Comments Off on Supporting Marginalized Children through Positive Engagement in Lebanon
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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Undergraduate Support; HCI Supports University Students in Rural Lebanon

 Education and Empowerment, Featured Stories from the Field, Lebanon  Comments Off on Undergraduate Support; HCI Supports University Students in Rural Lebanon
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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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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Mar 102011

This International Women’s Day, HCI and its local partners in Gaza celebrated together with a group of breast cancer survivors the launch of the Entrepreneurship Support for People with Special Needs project in Gaza which will provide breast cancer patients and other women entrepreneurs with special needs in Gaza the support and training needed to set up new businesses.

On the 8th of March, and over three days, these brave breast cancer survivors were provided with the necessary vocational training and support to enable them to manufacture breast prostheses as an income generating activity, the women were also provided with the materials and the skills needed to train other breast cancer survivors as well.

Breast cancer is a major health issue in modern society. Recent estimates approximate that 1 in 9 women will suffer from breast cancer during the course of their lifetime and some of these women will have to deal with the loss of one or both of their breasts. In Gaza these breast cancer survivors will not only have to deal with the physical and emotional trauma of the procedure, they additionally have to suffer the difficulties of a life under a crippling siege with little or no functioning infrastructure, services and support.

The psychological impact of breast amputation can be devastating for many and may lead to depression, increased anxiety, shame, and occasional ideas of suicide. To make matters worse, it is common for the husbands of breast amputees to abandon them for healthy new partners, leaving them emotionally and economically vulnerable, with no means to provide for themselves and no future marriage prospects.

The cost and availability of breast reconstruction procedures is beyond the means of most of Gaza’s population, and most of these women resort to wearing breast prostheses. Prosthetic breasts can be manufactured in Gaza for a fraction of the price of the imported ones that are sold in markets, making them more affordable to women that are already living a life of scarcity, barely able to afford the essentials.

HCI and our local partners the Aid and Hope Center for Cancer Patients, took the opportunity of the one hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day to celebrate these women’s strength and their will to overcome adversity. They are truly an inspiration to us.

The training was conducted over three days and was concluded with an event that was held at the roof of one of the highest buildings in Gaza with our local partner the Aid and Hope Center for Cancer Patients, where the trainees who are breast cancer survivors, joined with other cancer patients and survivors to say no to cancer and to affirm that cancer is beatable by a symbolic releasing of balloons in the air, the women each wrote what they were happy to be rid of on the balloons and symbolically released all that was negative in their lives.

This same group of women will be joined by a bigger group of women with different special needs to undergo business development training and business support and micro-businesses development as part of the Entrepreneurship Support for People with Special Needs project.

HCI has already been working with women and people with special needs across the region for over two decades and will continue to empower them to be active, self-reliant and initiating, encouraging others to follow their example and affecting society to consider women with special needs not merely as a subject of care and charity, but as equal citizens of society and holders of human rights able to provide for themselves and their families.

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Mar 092011

Education is the foundation of progress, but it is often interrupted by extreme poverty, war and other crises. As a result, individuals and their communities often can’t reach their full potential. HCI works to bring access to education to women and men of all ages and economic groups to help ensure a better future for all. HCI programs include a wide range of activities: teacher training programs, building libraries and Internet centers, providing books and classroom furniture to under-resourced schools, and promoting equal access to education.

HCI helps mobilize youth to influence a better tomorrow, while also offering education and job training to give them a place in the changing global economy. HCI programs empower youth through service learning and leadership training to become active in their communities and act as agents for change. As a result of this, in 2010 young orphans in Sudan benefitted from HCI’s entrepreneurship training workshops and real life “business for a day” programs, and young entrepreneurs with disability in Darfur, Sudan, received coaching in micro-business management. Meanwhile in Gaza and The West Bank, HCI also provided people with special needs with vocational training, coaching, and business development services.

In 2010, orphans in Sudan 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, giving them real, relevant instruction on how to build a successful and sustainable business as part of the Today’s Orphans Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs project

Education is vital to the social and economic integration of future generations. HCI places a significant focus on this sector to ensure that children affected by conflict can continue to pursue their education. HCI works with communities to shelter and nurture children through innovative education, health and nutrition programs. In 2010 hundreds of orphans from the poorest communities of the Middle East were able to have their basic education, healthcare and nutrition needs met through HCI’s Child Sponsorship Program. In the same year HCI worked with several kindergartens in Gaza, supporting health services and nutrition programs targeting underprivileged children and HCI also supported the Human Concern Kindergarten that was launched in 2009; the kindergarten is located in Bethlehem and targets children with special needs, particularly those with hearing impairments.

Women are the foundation of every society. Yet for many women in the world’s poorest regions, life is extraordinarily difficult. Through innovative health, agricultural, business and education programs, HCI builds on the courage and resourcefulness of women to help them realize their potential and improve their families and communities. In 2010, Sudanese widows in the settlements around Khartoum, Sudan were able to set up small businesses with the financial support of HCI’s revolving microcredit funds, young girls in low income suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon are now able to design and implement community oriented development interventions and female social workers in Gaza had their capacities built in individualized needs assessments and breast cancer awareness with the help of HCI.

HCI aims at breaking down the sense of dependency of the local community on HCI, as a result, our projects are community-managed from the start. HCI programs are participatory and at the same time integrated development projects. Qualified community leaders are identified and trained on management and development issues relevant to the project. In this way project sustainability, particularly institutional sustainability, is ensured through handing “ownership” of project activities to the local community, this simultaneously empowers the community and ensures the sustainability of the project’s activities. In 2010 HCI built the capacities of several of its local partners in both Lebanon and Gaza as part of the Youth Impact Project and the Reviving Lives and Livelihoods project respectively. Giving them further training and tools that will help complement the important work that they do.

Many of poverty’s root causes can be found in conflict over resources, philosophies and goals, and societies are more peaceful and prosperous when citizens are actively involved in decision-making. In 2010, HCI created safe spaces where a group of young men and women from a low income suburb of Beirut from different religious, ethnic and political backgrounds came together to discuss and debate the choices that affect their lives and communities. HCI believes that engaging potential adversaries in productive dialogue can lead to mutually beneficial solutions for change. Conflict resolution today can help avoid tomorrow’s wars and other crises.

The 2010 Youth Impact Project also provided these Lebanese youth with developmental training and tools which led them to work together to produce a report mapping the challenges faced by their community and gave them an in-depth socio-cultural understanding and analysis that pays equal attention to existing social tensions, and conflicts including but not limited to gender, religion, sect, and race.

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Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day Hand in Hand with Women Entrepreneurs with Special Needs

 Disability, Education and Empowerment, Egypt, Gaza Strip, Livelihoods and Enterprise, Sudan, West Bank, Woman, Youth  Comments Off on Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day Hand in Hand with Women Entrepreneurs with Special Needs
Mar 042011

HCI is celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day on the March the 8th by highlighting the plight of women entrepreneurs with special needs in the Middle East and launching a year of activities focusing on this group through a series of interventions specifically targeting their needs.

There is a distinct gender disparity in literacy and education, as well as low rates of female economic participation, public participation and representation in the Arab world, where forty percent of women over the age of fifteen are illiterate and female economic activity is thirty four percent that of males.

The general condition of women with disabilities and special needs in Arab societies is invisibility. They are often considered a source of shame and a burden to their families. Although their status varies from country to country, the theme of marginalization to a greater or lesser extent is common to all of them.

As women, they are segregated from male society, but as women with special needs they are also isolated from the lives of other women. They are, for all intents and purposes, invisible; their issues receive little, or no, consideration; and there are very few programs that target them specifically.

In communities where a woman’s status is dependent on making “a good marriage”, being “a good wife” and a “good mother”, these women do not stand a chance. They are not considered marriageable and often their siblings are also overlooked in marriage by reason of association.

HCI has been working with women and people with special needs across the region for over two decades and will continue to do this by highlighting their plight and empowering them to be active, self-reliant and initiating, encouraging others to follow their example and affecting society to consider women with special needs not merely as a subject of care and charity, but as equal citizens of society and holders of human rights able to provide for themselves and their families.

This year we are supporting physically challenged women entrepreneurs in Darfur, Sudan by providing them with loans to set up micro-businesses, we are providing breast cancer patients and other women entrepreneurs with special needs in Gaza with support and training to set up new businesses and we are providing physically challenged young women from vulnerable and low-income areas of Cairo whose businesses have been adversely affected by the recent events with training, loans and in-kind support toward rebuilding their micro enterprises.

Our interventions this year supporting women entrepreneurs with special needs will not end here. New interventions will be launched this year; and HCI is taking the opportunity of the one hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day to celebrate these women’s strength and their will to succeed. They are truly an inspiration to us.

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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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Youth Led Local Participation as a Means of Community Development in Lebanon

 Beirut, Education and Empowerment, Featured Stories from the Field, Lebanon, Youth  Comments Off on Youth Led Local Participation as a Means of Community Development in Lebanon
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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Providing a Better Future for Mentally and Physically Challenged West Bank Children through Education

 Children, Disability, Education and Empowerment, Housing and Infrastructure, Palestine, West Bank  Comments Off on Providing a Better Future for Mentally and Physically Challenged West Bank Children through Education
Dec 112009

HCI KG West BankFrequent arrests, military raids, over 600 Israeli military checkpoints, severely restricted freedom of movement, and ever-expanding settlements occupying more and more land are all a part of life in the West Bank. Conflict, poverty, unemployment, and isolation have left its residents with an uncertain future. The physically and mentally challenged, who according to WHO estimates make up 7-10% of the Palestinian population, are far from immune to these issues. To make matters worse, continued conflict, landmines, and political instability mean that the number of challenged individuals will continue to rise. They are subjected to societal prejudice and lack of opportunities. Discrimination against the physically and mentally challenged is widespread, and extends into the educational system. This prejudice, combined with the very poor state of accessibility throughout the West Bank due to hilly geography and lack of reliable public transport, means that young, challenged children are often denied the chance to attend school.

Children, in particular, are sensitive to the traumatic events which characterize life in the West Bank, and it affects their development acutely. Disabled children may be faced with two challenges, both the physical handicap of, for example, a hearing impairment, and the emotional damage caused by the sudden loss of a family member due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Displacement and an uncertain future are felt by children as well as adults. They are deprived of the sense of stability and social cohesion that is critical for healthy psychosocial development.

HCI KG West BankThe Palestinian Authority does not have the resources to aid these children. Funding for specialized schools is not readily available, and the economic crisis throughout the West Bank means that resources remain scarce. Restricted movement and occupation have taken their toll on the West Bank economy, and in turn on the funds available to the Palestinian Authority. This means that it is up to Non-Governmental Organizations like Human Concern International to fill the gap, and give the children the education they need for a real chance at a fulfilling life.

Without education physically and mentally challenged children are often doomed to a life of dependency and poverty. To prevent this from happening they must be reached at as young an age as possible. Numerous studies have shown that early childhood development is crucial for success later in life. In light of these facts HCI, along with local partners like the Vocational Rehabilitation Workshops Society for Girls (VRWSG), have established a unique kindergarten in Bethlehem targeted specifically at physically and mentally challenged children with a special focus on the hearing impaired; there is much work to be done in the field of providing early education opportunities for special needs children in Palestine and The Human Concern Kindergarten (which was given its name by the local partners in recognition of HCI’s efforts in the region) is proud to be one of the pioneers that provides these children with a much needed sense of normalcy and stability that is sorely lacking in the lives of West Bank children. It gives them the confidence they need to face the enormous challenges which await them later in life.

HCI KG West BankThe school has a capacity of forty children. That is forty Palestinian children who are given a safe haven, specialized training, and a chance at a better future. Teachers trained in sign language give hearing impaired children the chance to fully communicate. Furthermore, the school not only aids the hearing impaired, it is also fully accessible to the physically challenged, and has staff ready and able to deal with whatever difficulty the children may face, whether is it physical or mental. The school is fully equipped, and all facilities (rooms, entrance/exits, door, kitchen, toilets, playground, etc) are approved by the Ministry of Higher Education as fully accessibilities for children with mental, hearing, or physical impairments. Its staff includes counselors specially trained to work with deaf and mute pre-school children, as well as social workers capable of providing psychosocial support.

HCI KG West BankHelping children is critical for the future of the West Bank. It not only aids the children themselves, it also aids their parents and families through the activities organized by the kindergarten. It teaches children to become self-reliant, which will in turn relieve future financial burdens placed on family budgets already stretched to the breaking point by restricted movement and a depressed economy. Outreach activities inform parents of the importance of educating their children, and sign language training is given to the families of deaf and mute children so that they are able to fully communicate together. The kindergarten has helped boost the local Bethlehem economy by creating nine new full-time jobs. It not only symbolizes a chance at a better life for the children, it also represents hope for the future of the community.

Social workers employed by the kindergarten help to reduce the stigma that challenged children face amongst their fellow Palestinians. By working with local residents they encourage greater acceptance of physically and mentally challenged children throughout the community. This is done through actions such as the training of government workers in the use of sign language so that they are better able to communicate with hearing impaired children. The kindergarten itself ensures that challenged children meet others who face the same difficulties, and lets them know that they are not alone in their struggle. It is a bright spot in the otherwise bleak lives of children who are not often given the chance to succeed. Little by little we are working towards the day when these children will no longer be outsiders; a day when they will be able to contribute to the building of a more prosperous, accepting Palestinian society.

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