Apr 112011
 

Supporting Young Micro Business Owners Affected by the Turmoil in EgyptMahmoud; father of three and owner of cell phone repair and accessories shop, Ahmed; owner of electrical hardware shop, Doaa, owner of a small beauty center, Farouk; the sole breadwinner of a family of seven and owner of leather manufacturing workshop, Hamdeya; mother of seven and owner of sandwich shop, Abdel Hamid; tailor of men’s suites and many other Egyptian youth business owners are the beneficiaries of HCI’s new project in Egypt which supports youth micro-businesses affected by the political crisis.

Mahmoud, Ahmed, Doaa, Farouk, Hamdeya and Abdel Hamid have quite a few things in common: They are all small businesses owners, they are all the sole breadwinners for their families and since the revolution of January 25th their businesses have suffered, their income has plunged and their employees have been made jobless. This is a result of several factors such as the enforced curfew, security incidents during the revolution, inflated prices, decreased demands on their services/products since consumers now focus their purchasing capacity on essential supplies only, depleted cash flow, or inability to replenish their stocks because suppliers are demanding cash at exorbitant prices upon delivery and are refusing to deliver supplies/materials needed on credit.

Supporting Young Micro Business Owners Affected by the Turmoil in EgyptHCI’s new initiative in Egypt aims to economically empower underprivileged youth in low income urban areas of Cairo governorate that have been adversely affected by the situation through self-employment thus putting them in charge of their own income-generating projects; the selected youth’s micro-businesses are provided with 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; where entrepreneurs will own their businesses over time through an earn out after 75% of their loans are paid off, and best performing beneficiaries are provided with an incentive package of 25% of their loan value as free raw materials to assist them with their businesses expansion.

Supporting Young Micro Business Owners Affected by the Turmoil in EgyptMahmoud’s cell phone business is receiving a 5,000 LE loan/grant from HCI to be used to purchase cell phone spare parts, pay-as-you-go cards as well as new cell phones, things in high demand by his customers. Mahmoud will be able to retain his clientele, keep his business going and pay off the loan in four months.

Ahmed’s electrical hardware shop is receiving a 10,000 LE loan/grant from HCI. He plans on spending 6,000 LE on fast-moving goods such as light bulbs, electrical cords and wires as well as spare parts. With the remaining 4,000 LE, he plans on buying goods with an average turnover rate such as torches, electrical fittings and chandeliers. This loan will help him deal with the demands of his suppliers and hopefully allow him to rehire the three employees he had to let go due to the crisis.

Supporting Young Micro Business Owners Affected by the Turmoil in EgyptFarouk’s leather manufacturing workshop is receiving a 10,000 LE loan/grant from HCI. The workshop will be able to get enough leather and accessories for a two-week production cycle. The workshop will be able to produce one hundred bags during the first week and will have enough supplies for the second week’s production, allowing enough time for Farouk to collect his money from his customers and get supplies for the work cycle to continue.

Hamdeya’s sandwich shop will pay off its debts and have enough supplies for the business to pick up; Abdel Hamid’s tailor shop will rehire its seven employees and acquire materials needed; Doaa’s beauty center will have materials and supplies essential to restart the business.

The resources and skills offered through this program 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. This micro-lending scheme that is offered by the project is based on a revolving fund that could benefit more micro-enterprises after the project completion.

Supporting Young Micro Business Owners Affected by the Turmoil in EgyptAs 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.

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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 082011
 

Throughout our long history of working with the marginalized, HCI has sought a participatory and empowering approach. Rather than building dependence on charity, we seek to foster self-reliance, and success. To do so we have often used a business development approach, helping to empower through the building of self-esteem, positive risk taking, and problem-solving. HCI fosters market-driven economic development in some of the Middle East’s most challenging places. We make use of already existing relationships — among buyers, sellers, producers and consumers — to bridge social and political divides via business and trade.

Finding new or better work is the most direct path out of poverty for families in need. HCI facilitates this process by providing vocational training, offering microfinance opportunities, and developing promising value chains. As a result of HCI’s efforts, in 2010, farmers in Gaza now have access to a direct market, improving their economic stability as part of the Food Point Project and orphans in Khartoum, Sudan received the training and materials necessary to embark on their own business ventures, as part of the Today’s Orphans Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurship project. These programs are aimed at long-term, reliable growth, and HCI often engages private sector partners to leverage additional resources and guarantee sustainability.

Young entrepreneurs with disability in Darfur, Sudan, received coaching in micro-business development in 2010, which resulted in them successfully developing and operating small income generating initiatives funded by HCI using a combination of grants and loans. The activities of this project were conducted as part of HCI’s Building Opportunities for Sudanese Disabled project. The economic health of these entrepreneurs was supported through this project, which eventually provided aid for their families and for the community as a whole.

Families are uncertain and vulnerable as they return to their communities to rebuild homes and lives after a crisis. HCI helps them transition from relief to recovery through innovative programs that get them back to work quickly, which restores dignity, puts pay in workers’ pockets and injects cash into ailing local economies. Nowhere is this approach more significant than in the Gaza Strip, which after being destroyed by repeated wars, and crippled by a blockade that prevents any meaningful attempt to rebuild, has become one of the poorest and most desperate places on earth.

To respond to Gaza’s needs, HCI’s projects are designed to be as multifaceted and holistic as possible, targeting several sectors simultaneously and efficiently. In 2010, HCI provided economically deprived households in Gaza and the West Bank with hens and the necessary equipment to establish small backyard poultry production units addressing their protein needs and offering them a means to generate an income, HCI also provided local vulnerable women such as widows and the disabled with job opportunities operating the bakery it established in Gaza which provides bread and baked goods to hundreds of food insecure families. The bakery also provides students of several kindergartens in Gaza with freshly-baked nutritious pastries.

In 2010, HCI also worked with people with special needs in Gaza and the West Bank, using tailored development services supplemented by micro-grants and business support to help them set up their own small businesses. By empowering this group of entrepreneurs with special needs, HCI is 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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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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Mar 152010
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dec 292009
 

Landmine victims in the South of LebanonLife in the south of Lebanon is not easy. In a country all too often ravaged by war it has suffered the most. Located along the Lebanese-Israeli border, one of the most volatile on earth, its residents live a life of uncertainty. In 2006 the simmering tension once again became full scale war almost without warning. The same could happen again. Southerners know this perhaps better than anyone else, and, as one can imagine, stress related mental disorders are widespread.

The scars of war are visible everywhere. Southern Lebanon is littered with unexploded landmines and cluster bombs. These, combined with injuries sustained during conflicts, mean that the South has a high number of physically challenged individuals. These individuals are severely limited in their opportunities. Again, it is war that is the main culprit, as it has prevented sustainable development and destroyed infrastructure. Services for the physically challenged are hindered by poor micro-economic conditions, as those areas which are the most economically depressed tend to also have high numbers of physically challenged victims of conflict. The result is very little support for the physically challenged, and a very poor state of accessibility.

Southern Lebanon suffers from high unemployment among the general population, and the physically challenged in particular have little chance of obtaining meaningful employment. Research indicates that 85 percent of landmine victims regard lack of employment opportunities and economic reintegration as their main concern. Insufficient access to training, education, and capital means they often lack marketable skills, making it extremely difficult for them to achieve economic independence. As long as this continues, the physically challenged will be unable to break the cycle of dependence that is extremely detrimental to their self-esteem and emotional well-being.

More than three years have passed since the end of the 2006 war, but the damage lingers. It has left a legacy of poverty and uncertainty to a region that is a stranger to neither. During the war between 1.2 and 4 million cluster munitions were dropped. About 40% of these cluster bomblets did not explode. Many of them have yet to be cleared, and they continue to kill and main. The bomblets have also severely damaged agriculture, rendering formerly fertile fields into virtual no-mans lands. Hundreds have been killed since the end of the conflict, and farmers take risks by continuing to work fields which have yet to be fully cleared. They do so because if they do not work the fields, they will become one more in a growing number of unemployed. Additionally, landmines are a part of daily existence. There are an estimated 150,000 landmines still deployed in Lebanon. The vast majority of minefields remain both unmarked and unfenced. Alongside cluster munitions they destroy both lives and livelihoods.

The impact of the landmine problem in southern Lebanon also includes issues of internally displaced people, basic services and socio-economic development. After the conflict, all humanitarian and development assistance efforts were hampered by the threat of mines, resulting in a lack of rehabilitation and resettlement areas, a lack of land for agriculture, an increase in costs of development, a deterrent to tourism and, of course, a devastating impact on people. Experience has shown that an integrated approach to a landmine/UXO and social rehabilitation problem in an affected country is necessary to achieve maximum efficiency, to reduce risk, and to achieve increased security. Additionally, an integrated response could address the problems of mine/UXO surveying, marking and clearance; terrain verification; and mine awareness in a coherent and coordinated manner.

HCI has had a long history of working to improve the lives of land mine and UXO victims in the region, we have collaborated since 1995 on numerous projects with local partner Tamkeen Association for Independent Living, which is a nonprofit organization that takes care of the disabled and works on their rehabilitation. Some of the many projects implemented by HCI include equipping the special education center, early intervention center and the physiotherapy treatment center for rehabilitation of disabled people (particularly landmine victims), securing emergency relief funds for those affected by the July 2006 war and the numerous conflicts the area has seen, a landmine and unexploded ordnance danger awareness program and a micro loan program for disabled people and their families among others.

HCI’s latest venture with Tamkeen is the Backyard Production Support project. The project provides complementary services to the farmers and entrepreneurs such as offering them seeds, soil fertilizers or any materials they may need -all free of cost – to improve their production, better manage their projects, and of course support their livelihoods as small scale farmers and entrepreneurs. The importance of this project lies in the fact that the beneficiaries are able to secure an income through micro farming and other enterprises close to or outside their homes, without the need to commute, placing them on the path towards self sustainability and improving their self esteem. We would like to share with you the stories of some of the individuals who benefited from the Agricultural Extension Project.

Nasser Oubeid

Landmine victims in the South of LebanonNasser Obeid is thirty seven years old; he lives in the Southern Village of Jibchit. He is the sole breadwinner to a family of eight children. He used to be a construction worker, but after stepping on a landmine he was disabled as a result of his injuries and was unable to continue construction work. Last year he started a small backyard farming and cow rearing project as a more feasible way for him to support his family given his current physical condition.

Since receiving HCI’s small grant Nasser’s backyard project has been very successful, he is aiming to buy ten thousand Carob plants in the near future.

Landmine victims in the South of LebanonSamih Nasser

Samih Nasser is forty five year old father of two daughters that have speech and hearing disabilities. He lives in the southern village of Deir Syrian. In 2001 he was injured by a landmine and as a result his left leg was amputated below the knee, he is still undergoing treatment and rehabilitation.

Samih used to own a small shop near his home that he was unable to continue running, this caused him a lot of anxiety, and he was eventually forced to close it down. HCI’s intervention has helped him operate a small farm near his home and given him hope that his family will have a better future.

Landmine victims in the South of LebanonHoussam Tabajah

Houssam Tabajah is thirty six years old and lives in the southern village of Kfartibnit. After a land mine accident he lost his leg and as a result of severe head trauma also lost his sight.

Thanks to HCI’s intervention he was able to successfully set up and operate a small kiosk that sells food items and snacks among other things. Houssam’s success has inspired him to dream of bigger plans for the future; his new goal will be to eventually set up a citrus farm and raise cows.

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Oct 282009
 

The number of orphans and children from single mother-headed households in Sudan has risen dramatically over the past few years due to war, natural disasters, and other crises. Poverty and economic hardship also have added to children born out of wedlock who, according to Sudanese law, are considered orphans. Since 2003, HCI has been addressing this problem by sponsoring orphans in Sudan as part of HCI’s regional Child Sponsorship Program. There now are over 140 orphans from Sudan’s poorest communities having their basic needs met–health care, nutrition, education, guidance–getting a shot at a brighter future.

Today’s Orphans, Tomorrow’s EntrepreneursBuilding on HCI’s extensive regional experience in orphan sponsorship, HCI has been exploring new ways to reduce immediate needs of orphans and to create greater opportunities for their future progress.

Entrepreneurship 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. For orphans, entrepreneurship is a bottom-up method for generating an income, self-reliance and a new innovative path to earning a living and caring for oneself. More importantly, when these end-results are met, the psychological health of the orphans improves; when orphans, for the first time, generate an income and develop self-reliance, they are going to feel worthy, confident, and self-confident.

Today’s Orphans, Tomorrow’s EntrepreneursFurthermore, the majority of orphans, especially children from single mother-headed households living at home, rely heavily on financial and in-kind assistance from either better-off individuals or from institutions. Such children become passive receivers of charity, meaning that they rarely get the chance to explore and build on their capacity. With such mindset, such children rarely try, at older age, to make the leap from survival to long term sustainability by investing in entrepreneurship. The reason behind this is not only the fact that they rely on charity every month and thus feel no pressure to work, but also because they have been passive receivers for such a long time that they have lost the mental readiness to actually build progress on their personalities. These children, as adults, no longer believe that they can be productive – they lose self-confidence.

It is October, there is a group of fifteen teenagers gathered together eagerly taking notes, we are in one of HCI’s entrepreneurship classes held in Sudan, these eight girls and seven boys’ lives are about to change; they are one of many groups of orphaned youth to be selected for HCI’s program. In a series of six three-hour classes, they are cultivating a positive attitude towards entrepreneurship, developing entrepreneurship within the group, getting a deeper understanding of running a business, receiving hands-on entrepreneurship training, testing their business ideas under realistic circumstances, and most importantly, getting “a sense of and feeling for” entrepreneurship and business by implementing the concept of “Business for a day” in which they are asked to carry out a spontaneous business activity, which is subsequently evaluated.

Today’s Orphans, Tomorrow’s EntrepreneursAlia is one of these students; She lives with her mother in a makeshift house made from bits of plastic & aluminum, her father and brothers were killed several years ago in the bloody civil unrest that plagues the country. She is one of the many internally displaced people that have fled the violence in the south of the country and live in the slum-like settlements around Khartoum. The only opportunity she has to improve her life is the education and the help she receive through HCI’s sponsorship program. Even though she is just seventeen, she is already full of business ideas, she tells us that she is learning a lot from the classes and is excited to start her own business; “there is no running water in our area, the women have to trek for 45 minutes to the nearest well to fetch water every morning. If I take out a micro loan, I will be able to buy a donkey and use it to carry water from the well and sell it to the women in the settlement. By doing this way the girls in the settlement will have more time to go to school and learn”.

There are thousands of young people like Alia in Sudan, needing a just little bit of guidance and a small push in the right direction in order to unlock their full potential and build up the confidence to develop their own livelihoods; after all the visions we offer our children shape the future.

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