Nov 142011
 

Help Us Help the Vulnerable People of Horn of Africa

© Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 312011
 

Sudanese Refugees in LebanonMillions of individuals in the region face discrimination, persecution, and even violence solely because of their ethnicity, beliefs, language or social class. Their path out of poverty is especially challenging. HCI helps them to be heard and recognized so they can exchange oppression for opportunity.

In 2010, HCI built the capacity of a diverse group of underprivileged youth from an ethnically and religiously diverse suburb in Beirut, Lebanon to recognize and address the needs of internally displaced people, refugees and other marginalized members of their community.

HCI’s approach to civil society development emphasizes cross-cultural understanding and empowerment of vulnerable and under-represented members of society and pays equal attention to existing social tensions, and conflicts including but not limited to gender, religion, sect, and race. The rights of women and girls are a critical issue in this sector, and are incorporated in many of HCI’s programs.

Raising Awareness of the Plight of Migrant Women Workers in LebanonHCI also focuses on rights of people with special needs, refugees, displaced people and migrant workers. Our approach aims to build and improve societal relations based on the principles of peaceful coexistence, accountability and participation.

In 2010, HCI joined in raising the awareness of the plight of migrant women workers in Lebanon. Also, HCI continued its work in support of Iraqi refugees in the region, internally displaced people in Sudan and new settlers in Lake Nasser in Egypt.

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Mar 092011
 

Life can change for millions of families in an instant: natural disasters can take loved ones and the outbreak of war drive families from their homes. When the unthinkable happens, HCI delivers rapid, lifesaving aid to hard-hit communities with the provision of food rations, clean water, non-food items, transitional shelter and emergency medical supplies and services.

The Gaza strip has been devastated by several wars and crippled by a blockade that prevents any meaningful rebuilding, following the opening of Rafah, Gaza’s only gateway to the rest of the world that is not controlled by Israel in 2010, HCI imported food items as part of the Food Security Project through the Rafah crossing for thousands of food-insecure Gazans, paying special attention to provide protein-rich foods such as meat and fish, which are difficult to find or to afford.

As HCI continues to help vulnerable Gazans rebuild their lives two years after the war, our approach has evolved to address the economic, social and psychological impact of war through several multifaceted approaches that target food insecurity, psychosocial support, rehabilitation, and livelihood revival. In 2010, young preschoolers were provided with food, clothing and educational toys. That same year, HCI’s Psychosocial Support for Children Project provided focused support to the most distressed children in Palestine, especially those who lost family members, children with a new physical disability, children who live in women-headed households, and in families that have lost their livelihoods.

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.

As a result, local low-income farmers were provided the opportunity to supply the basic food items and agricultural products to the bakery HCI established in Gaza as part of The Food Point Project in 2010, giving them access to a direct market and improving their economic stability. The bakery, which provides baked goods to hundreds of food-insecure households, also offers employment opportunities to local vulnerable women, particularly widows and women with special needs. In the same year, economically deprived families in Gaza and the West Bank were provided with income generating capabilities such as backyard production units.

Vulnerable Gazans, particularly people with special needs, were provided with tailored services to boost their employability such as the distribution of appliances that contribute to accessibility and mobility, essential medical equipment and other essential items, contributing to independence and a better standard of living as part of the Reviving Lives and Livelihoods project.

HCI has been providing lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees and internally displaced people forced to flee from war or disaster in the Middle East for decades. In 2010 HCI worked with the internally displaced in Khartoum, Sudan helping disabled entrepreneurs to set up small businesses and teaching young orphans entrepreneurial skills. In the new Lake Nasser Settlements in Egypt, HCI distributed food and meat during Ramadan and Eid al Adha feast to underprivileged settlers.

HCI is always on the forefront of emergency response in the Middle East, always ready to intervene whenever crisis strikes, our interventions are swift yet carefully tailored to suit the situation at hand. HCI welcomes your partnership in caring for the world’s poor, including those affected by situations requiring an emergency response. Right now, our teams are working to provide aid to vulnerable children and families who are clinging to survival in the wake of natural and man-made disasters.

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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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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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May 042010
 

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

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

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

Gaza:

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

Egypt:

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

Lebanon:

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

Rights Based Approach:

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

Future Challenges:

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

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