Philippines: One Year Post-Yolanda

november 2013
November 2013

 

November 2014
November 2014

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SCHOOLS | HOUSING | DAY CARE CENTERS
LIVELIHOODS | PSYCHOSOCIAL

One Year Snapshot

HOUSING
59 repaired houses
116 newly constructed houses

SCHOOLS
19 new buildings
39 new classrooms
89 repaired/renovated buildings
189 repaired classrooms

DAY CARE CENTERS
18 repaired Kindergartens
5 newly constructed Kindergartens

AGRICULTURE
142 hectare land cultivated
introduction of organic farming
municipal demonstration farm revived
construction of 2 farmers’ training center buildings
construction of 3 nursery buildings, structures for composting/vermi-culture
construction of labs, seed banks, storages

PSYCHOSOCIAL
Child Friendly Spaces in 11 villages
trauma healing for 330 children and mothers

Over one year has passed since 200 mph winds wreaked havoc on the coastal belt of East Samar in the Philippines. From the beginning, AMURT has worked in close collaboration with government authorities and the people themselves to play its part in rebuilding shattered lives.

Back to school

AMURT’s reconstruction teams, under the capable leadership of local civil engineers, have built 39 new classrooms and repaired 189 classrooms in 108 schools, making it an important implementing organization in East Samar. AMURT’s efficiency and excellence have attracted visits from high ranking officials. Both the president of the Philippines and the secretary general of education have visited our project to witness the achievements and offer their appreciation for the way AMURT prioritized the need to get children back to school.

AMURT has adopted the motto, popularized after the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, of “building back better.” So, not only did AMURT rebuild and repair, but it upgraded entire school campuses, replacing all termite-infested wooden structures, for example, and even repainting the flagpoles.

In addition, AMURT has renovated or constructed 23 daycare centers, transforming dark and cramped facilities into cheerful, light-filled centers of learning.

Safe new houses for typhoon-affected families.
Safe new houses for typhoon-affected families.

Home sweet home

AMURT construction teams have been rebuilding individual homes in the barangays of Agnaya and Asgad. A total of 116 homes are being rebuilt and 59 homes are being repaired. 60% of the beneficiaries, selected through a lottery system, have started moving into these permanent structures that are built to resist powerful storms.

AMURT offered the beneficiaries design choices, to give their homes a personalized feel. Hence, people could opt for terraces, or bigger living spaces, or more windows. In this way AMURT accommodated individual needs, providing people with a sense control over rebuilding their lives.

This reconstruction project was made possible through the tireless endeavor of the mayor of Salcedo to secure suitable land for the houses. Many of the beneficiaries lived too close to the ocean, in what has now been declared a “no build zone,” and had no choice but to relocate.

AMURT has forged a highly productive relationship with the mayor and his team in what has become an exemplary private-public partnership. Right from the beginning, when AMURT was still mobilizing resources, the spirit of cooperation prevailed, with the mayor providing AMURT with vehicles and warehouse space.

The demonstration farm provides farmers with new technologies and new possibilities.
The demonstration farm provides farmers with new technologies and new possibilities.

Strengthening the base

An estimated 33 million coconut trees were destroyed, by Typhoon Yolanda, wiping out the livelihood of many already poor famers. Given that coconut trees take 6 – 9 years to grow to maturity, an alternative source of income is crucial. AMURT has been in a dialogue with the Department of Agriculture of Salcedo municipality, and the farmers themselves, to find alternative solutions.

AMURT rebuilt and improved the municipal demonstration farm, which serves as a source of seeds and organic fertilizers for local farmers (with the capacity to generate 20 tons of fertilizer each month). Moreover, the training facility built by AMURT will provide the farmers with new farming methods such as compost making and integrated pest management. AMURT sees the demonstration farm as a catalyst for sustainable agricultural development.

AMURT staff worked with local farmers to form 33 new farmers’ associations, and to unite all the associations into a farmers’ federation that serves 1900 farmers. The federation distributes essential farming inputs to the farmers, and purchases and markets their produce, thereby cutting out the middle men so more profits go to the farmers themselves. This was a crucial step as the Department of Agriculture will only fund farmers who organize themselves into a federation.

Typhoon Relief Response in Philippines

Thousands of people are feared to have been killed when Super-Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines early Friday morning with winds reaching as much as 310km/h (195mph), possibly the strongest ever to hit the country.

AMURT & AMURTEL were already engaged in earthquake recovery in the area and immediately began typhoon relief. Read more

Syria Crisis Response 2013 Report

syrians-register-for-food

 1 Year Snapshot

  • School support for 550 kids
  • 3,000 refugees kept warm
  • 15,000 refugees given food
  • Facilitated 1,000 families’ refugee status

Over 1 million Syrians fleeing the war have poured into Lebanon so far: more than to any other country. This generous nation of only 4 million people has limited capacity to deal with a refugee influx of this scale. Yet, as fighting intensifies, the number of innocent civilians affected continues to grow.

AMURT Lebanon extends emergency relief to Syrian refugees and helps them to get their children back to school. Food, blankets, mattresses and hygiene kits are supplied from AMURT’s warehouse. The team also works to ensure families can weather the harsh mountain winter by providing and installing new heating stoves for the most needy and distributing fuel they can burn. Only 15% of refugee children in Lebanon are in school. So AMURT supports local schools to increase their capacity, then provides fees, bus transport and clothing to give the most vulnerable families access to education for their children.[one_half]

Back to School

Innocent children are suffering most as a result of the Syrian war that began more than two years ago. Many have gone without education for a long period since the outbreak of fighting and the vast majority of refugees streaming into Lebanon remain outside the school system.

school-children_lebanon

AMURT pays school fees and arranges transport for refugees spread throughout the mountains in a scheme sponsored by Kinder Not Hilfe (Germany). It is a vital help to get these youngsters back into school, where they can experience social inclusion, stimulation and a stable routine to help soothe the horrors of war and dislocation. AMURT also engages psycho-social specialists to assist their healing process and conducts teacher training to provide children a broader support network.

The joy of not being left out: being able to wear a school uniform.

Education: Hope for the Future

Last year, this Syrian girl’s parents had to choose which of their children to educate, as they couldn’t afford the expenses for all of them. Teachers recognised she was unusually gifted, and requested she stay in school, helping as they could. She adapted quickly to the Lebanese curriculum, which employs less Arabic, and proceeded to excel in all her subjects. This year, due to AMURT’s intervention, she is fully registered in school along with all of her siblings. AMURT also provided text books and their very first school uniforms.

Blackboard

Help for Struggling Schools

Many Lebanese schools were already struggling before the enormous wave of refugees. Now refugees fill 30% of the classes in some schools, which is becoming a considerable burden on resources. Upgrading essential equipment is one way AMURT helps schools cater for newly arrived Syrians.

Joy_of_belonging

The Joy of Belonging: Wearing a School Uniform

Children affected by the trauma of war and being uprooted from their former life require quick re-establishment of an educational routine and psycho-social support to regain a normal development path.

Winter Relief

Chouf_winter_freeze2

To help vulnerable refugee families though the bitterly cold mountain winter, AMURT is distributing heating stoves and fuel on behalf of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

harsh_conditions

Harsh Conditions

This family is smaller than most, but endures harsh conditions all too common. Referred to AMURT by the local municipality, they live in a 10m2 section of a concrete shed used for farm machinery. There is no window glass, just holes, and no running water. They collect water from a spring 200m away; bathing and toilet are outdoors. The mother, when already 9 months pregnant with her second child, slipped and fell in the icy cold: the baby did not survive. The father works long hours for the farmer, earning under $5 a day.

Winter_stoves

Winter Stoves

Weather forecasters predict an especially cold winter this year for Lebanon’s mountains, where snowfall of 2 meters occurs in some areas.

Fuel-burning stoves are essential items, particularly for the many families living in poor housing or caring for a relative with a medical condition.

Motherless children

Motherless Children

Two girls now in their grandmother’s care, who explains how their mother died in a bombing just one hour after giving birth to the younger child. She points to the eldest. “She kept asking for her mother for one month; but after that she came close to me.” Their father remains in hospital in Syria.

Food_distribution

Food Distribution

Refugees just arriving from Syria often lack even the most basic essentials. AMURT provides all who reach Chouf District with certain emergency assistance they may require: ranging from food to blankets, mattresses, and special kits for hygiene or baby needs.

AMURT is the main international NGO based in upper Chouf and works with village coordinators, municipalities and local and international NGOs. In addition to international support personnel, AMURT Lebanon has a ready pool of dedicated local staff and volunteers: team members include Lebanese and displaced Syrians, who have a strong desire to ease the suffering of their country-folk.

According to the UN, this is the worst refugee crisis for 20 years. More can and must be done. AMURT is uniquely positioned to make a difference. Your help will make that possible.

Help expand services for the flood of new refugees seeking assistance: make a secure online donation now.


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Typhoon Relief Response in Philippines

AMURT & AMURTEL has relief teams in the area where deadly typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines over the weekend. More than 10,000 people are feared dead in a trail of utter devastation.

One of our team reached Bogo in North Cebu on Sunday and found total devastation and no other organizations active. They started a food distribution of both cooked and dry stock, and will continue throughout the week.

A second team reached the worst hit Tacloban and had to use chain saw to cut through trees blocking the roads in the city. They reported a tense security situation with people searching for food and water. From Cebu a third supply team is en route to Tacloban with food supplies under armed guards.

The task is great and the teams on the ground deserve our support. Donations can be made here:

Recurring Donation
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Notes

 

 

Report from the Field:

Dear friends,
I hope that you are healthy and secure in your own place.

Written Sunday: A few minutes ago I spoke with Savitri, who is just now traveling back from Bantayan Island with most of the AMWC staff. They went for initial survey and service.

They found destruction far beyond that of northern Cebu Province, which was really quite bad enough. From place to place the number of houses completely destroyed ranged from 75% to 90%. In some places house destruction was 100%

Bantayan Island has a population of about 150,000 people. 40,000 are in Madridejos where they went. On this first trip they brought with them food sufficient for only 2000 people. So in one of the places they stopped, the onslaught of people coming for food was so huge that they had to back out, knowing that when they could not feed them all, there could be a backlash. Instead they only gave food to a smaller but just as needy community. Other trips with greater amounts of food will surely follow.

Written Monday: In Tacloban, though the situation is so highly publicized, nevertheless the bureaucracy and other factors stymies the government networks, such that we continue to be one of the only sources of food there. Our team of volunteers continues their now systematized though limited relief work. Presently the team members number 15. Every day they are feeding only about 2500 people. As the need is obviously much more than that, so yesterday and today in Cebu we purchased 20 more stoves together with foodstuffs amounting to US$10,000 which will be shipped tonight, so that in Tacloban they can hopefully feed around 5000 people daily. We are also sending 400 liters of diesel so that our trucks there can be used to bring food to the most needy outlying areas, which until now have received nothing.

You may probably have heard news reports about the dangerous and violent people in Tacloban due to their desperation. Yes, they are desperate, but at least our experience is that they are not at all violent. Rather when we conduct feeding programs, 100% of the people are cooperative, as they fall into the four lines of children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens. And then just before each feeding program starts, we arrange for brief prayer to be led by the local barangay (town) leader. Immediately after that everyone literally cheers as the AMURT/EL food distribution begins. Imagine them as they cheer joyfully in unison, as if they have no care in the world. Such a noble people. It humbles all of our teams to serve them.

In Tacloban we continue to be the one and only source of cooked food and cooked rice. We give nothing but cooked food and drinking water. This is our policy because no matter how great a quantity we give the people, we know it will definitely make its way to hungry people’s stomachs, rather than enter into the growing black market of misappropriated relief goods to be sold at high prices.

Meanwhile, we have received a guarantee from the German children’s relief organization KNH , who presently have four representatives moving with us to survey and decide precisely where our joint long-term children’s projects will be established. One of those projects will be Children’s Friendly Spaces, i.e. informal kindergartens which enable the children to resume education in a safe and supportive environment, including a hot meal a day, and frees their parents for some time so they can work on getting their lives back together.

————

The following was sent to us from one of the AMURT/AMURTEL teams working in Cebu Province

It is now midnight Tuesday. Yesterday morning we sent a team to survey the damage in northern Cebu Province, where the Eye directly passed.

Yesterday evening we sent a team by specially charted ship to survey Tacloban. And this morning we sent another team to the already surveyed northern Cebu Province — this time with food for the survivor. The Tacloban team had a tough time even reaching there. To get there we partnered with the Federation of Volunteers through Radio Communication (FVRC), of which the Chief Officer is our close friend. The FVRC is one of the first to go to any catastrophe area, as other communication systems are usually down. The ship arrived in Hilongos, due to the danger of sailing directly into Tacloban, where at least 10,000 were already dead. From Hilongos the 140 kilometer trip was by 4-wheel drive jeeps, and it took many hours due to trees across the road. Along the way, the team cleared the road of fallen trees by means of power saws to make the route passable for others. They reported that from the half way mark until finally arriving in Tacloban — 99% of the houses and structures were demolished. Try to imagine that.

In the city they temporarily established a base in the damaged but still standing city hall, and from that time we began intensive communication with our team leader, Avaniish. Approximately in his words:

“The faces of the people look completely blank — like zombies. The damage is 10 times beyond the earthquake (where he had also worked for many days). Debris is piled everywhere, and the smell of death is unavoidable. All the government offices are wiped out, no where to turn for protection. The military only to be found at the airport. Here they are in the worst need for food.”

And so we have made a plan to purchase food tomorrow (Wednesday) for Tacloban, and are arranging military escort and a ship — hopefully by tomorrow itself. We will most likely send it with cooking equipment and serve it cooked, as people simply have no stoves to prepare uncooked materials we might give them.

It will be far from sufficient, but at least it is a start. As to the team that went this morning to northern Cebu Province: Our van had less than a 3 hour drive before encountering a scene hardly better than Tacloban. Again most of the houses leveled to the ground. Children and adults standing in the road begging for food and water. The only difference from Tacloban was that not so many had died because there had been no storm surge, so no drowning. But the hurricane winds had done their work with equal power, demolishing almost everything in sight. Tens of thousands of houses were destroyed.

Our contacts were in Bogo City, precisely where the Eye had passed. No government workers, no non-governmental workers had been there to help them. We were the first on the site, and the people were overwhelmed with happiness to see our volunteers. We brought cooking equipment, and a small amount of food, enough to serve 600 people. Upon receiving the food, many cried and embraced those serving. In fact it was painful not to be able to help others.

And so tomorrow we will purchase food for the north, and likewise serve it to them cooked.

More days of great need will follow. Our global and sectorial AMURT/EL staff are doing what they can to drum up support. We shall likewise do all we can to serve as many as we can according to the funds sent.

Later when the threats of starvation and disease are less pressing, we shall think about house rebuilding and other long-term works.

AMURTEL Responds to Flooding in Colorado

With rains continuing to frustrate rescue efforts in Boulder and surrounding areas on Sunday, September 16, flood waters are increasing in and around the city. Eight people are now presumed dead with hundreds still left unaccounted for in the rural and mountainous regions affected by the unprecedented storm. Rushing waters have cut off whole communities from contact, and entire hillsides have swept away, pulling homes and cars with them. Rescue workers are making progress, but efforts are difficult; muddy, rugged terrain has prevented helicopters from being able to access the areas in most dire need, and the landlocked city has few boats or water-ready vehicles to transport rescue workers and survivors.

AMURTEL is coordinating its disaster response from Denver with a team collecting supplies and partnering with groups in the Boulder area for distribution.  Supplies and financial contributions will be immediately allocated to persons affected by the storm. Supplies needed are: flashlights, socks, water, portable stoves, candles batteries, canned food, juice, and shovels; money donated will be used to purchase more of these supplies. If you’re in the area, please bring supplies to: 1224 Washington Street (a collection box is on the porch of the school) or 3644 Clay Street (box on front porch), Denver, CO.

Financial contributions may be made through the AMURTEL website by paypal or by check. Visit http://www.amurtel.org/donate/ for details; add “Colorado” in the “Notes” section of a one-time or recurring donation. Or Click Here to get directly to a paypal page.

We will be helping families with the daunting task of clean up after the flood waters recede. If you would like to help out, please let us know. Info@amurtel.org.

Please contribute to this emergency situation and the continuing efforts of local AMURTEL volunteers during post-disaster cleanup and rehabilitation.

Haiti Update Summer 2013

Amurtel Project coordinator Kate Bass just sent this report on current Amurtel Programs in Haiti.

 Port au Prince Projects

 Microcredit and Ekonomi Solide:

The Microcredit program in Port au Prince is going very well—the Animators (community organizers) are very pleased with all of the participating groups, citing a special five as doing extremely well. Last month, several groups paid the first installment on their 2014 loans. No group is behind payments or struggling. The Animators cite good facilitators and motivation as the reason for this success. Getting Ekonomi Solide going for the two existing groups is proving more difficult. One of the groups doesn’t have enough training and the other doesn’t have the materials we need. In general, both of these groups deserve more time and attention than they’ve been getting. The idea is to try to combine Ekonomi Solide with the Microcredit groups, so that each Microcredit group also participates in Ekonomi Solide. That way the women have a few extra resources if they aren’t able to pay back their loan on time. They’ll also get extra financial instruction, and finally, the Microcredit groups can share successes and brainstorm together. This will require time, planning and training. We hope to focus on this throughout the fall. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the programs need a small amount of funding.

Espas Pa Mwen (adolescent girls program) :

We have around 60 girls in our current two groups. There are already 100 in other camps, however, that have signed up for the next session. We have also begun training four new ‘Mentors’ who can facilitate the courses, with close guidance from the Animators. The program has been difficult to coordinate in the last month because of rain, the timing of the classes, and school tests. We’re planning to change the time of the groups to the morning to avoid some of these issues this coming week. The funding for the project ends at the end of September, and unfortunately the Haiti Adolescent Girls Network is not going to be able to renew the grant as indicated. While they are applying for grants themselves, they haven’t yet been able to secure funding for the rest of the year. However, there is a possibility that AMURTEL can partner with a local yoga studio to help expand the program to Jalousie in Petyonvil, as well as Bourdon—folding new ‘Mentors’ for their program into our Mentor trainings. That group has a network of donors, and a joint fundraising campaign might be enough to raise the money for a second year of Espas Pa Mwen with new mentors and more participants. For Espas Pa Mwen, as the program is so demanding—of facilitators and participants alike—the Animators and I believe it would be useful to finish these groups in September as planned and start up the next group in January. This would give us a few months to raise money, evaluate the program, draft a more concrete curriculum, and train the new Mentors.

Banan Projects

 Self Help Groups

Overall the project is extremely successful, benefiting close to 1000 women and helping them establish a secure financial base. Nancy is growing in her role as Project Official and Natasha, the AMURTEL mobile nurse, offers invaluable support by visiting the groups and supporting the project staff.  I plan to spend several days in Banan this week, talking with the facilitators, visiting groups, helping set up a better structure for planning for the projects, supporting Nancy in writing the trimester report, and shooting video for fundraising. We will also be meeting to find a way to adjust the budget of the project with the 25% reduction from our donors going into effect this month.

Ansapit Programs

 Journalism:

We have 20 new journalists-in-training in Ansapit! The program is going fantastically. George is an excellent teacher and the students are not only engaged while in the course, but are actually writing and reporting outside of the class as well. George had originally estimated being able to produce one final project, or newspaper. Now he thinks the group might be able to produce two newspapers and/or a radio show. We’re talking more about how to make the program as sustainable as possible, and maybe taking a trip to Port au Prince with the students.

Garden Plans:

During this trip to Ansapit, there have been several meetings about how to better manage and take advantage of our land and garden. A father at the school has extensive experience in sustainable and organic agriculture and is giving us ideas. The first step has been to survey the land and take measure of what we have and need. Next, we’ll need to designate someone in charge—likely Vikram, our logistician in Ansapit—to manage the garden and plans. Another aspect of the garden is to re-open education programs for the kids in the school in the garden, which will take extra work and supervision. The other goal of improving the garden would be to give food to the parents of the kids. So the goals are: 1. Education 2. Food sharing and production. Our partner AMURT in Port au Prince has extensive vegetable gardens at their school and teacher training center and I will plan to visit there later in the month to get their advice. Overall I believe this will be a good project for Liz Scarinci, our new project coordinator for Ansapit.

Summer Camps:

The summer camp in Ansapit has about 80 students participating. It is our only summer camp, as we do not have the funds (3-4k) to do camps in Banan and Port au Prince as well. I have been having conversations with Didi, the Animators, some teachers, and a new volunteer from Wesleyan about how we can plan the summer camps and lower the budget for next summer. I think if we plan adequately, this is an ideal time to solicit qualified volunteers from the United States to help us by teaching specific skills like music and art for 2-6 weeks. I’ll be looking into developing an internship program that we can maybe put on the website as well.

Himalaya floods

Uttarakhand Update and Banking info

18 workers and volunteers of AMURT and 10 workers and volunteers of AMURTEL have distributed two trucks loaded materials consisting of 20 quintals of rice, 18 quintals of flour, 4 quintals of pulse, 150 cartoons of mineral water, 5500 pieces of torches, 800 blankets, 150 cartoons of clothes (Saris shirts and children’s wear) milk powders, tea leafs, soaps, juice, towels etc. in the worst affected villages such as Agust muni, Chandrapara, vijayawada, Falayi, Gangapur, Sitapuri, Baniary, Chaka etc of Gupt Kashi Area (Kedarnath) of Uttarakhand.

Your help to Uttarakhand victims in kind or cash will be highly appreciated. Following In charges may be contacted.

1. Ac. Raviprakashananda Avadhuta (Sectorial AMURT Coordinator) is based now near Agust muni in Rudraprayag. mobile number : 08449057629

2. Ac. Devakripananda Avadhuta (RS) Allahabad camping at Haridwar, Mobile- 09897619190

Name of the beneficiary : Acharya Devakripananda

Name of the Bank : State Bank of India, Vidhansabha Marg Branch, Luckhnow.

Account no. 30695868369, IFSC ISBN No: 0060284, Branch code : 60284

3. Sri Chakradhar Prasad (Shastriji) Haridwar- (AMURT Incharge) Mobile- 09997087456

Chakradhar Prasad

State Bank Of India Ranipur Branch , Haridwar

Account No. 10667850376.

 

Photos are here    |  International donation link is here

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Summer camps in Haiti

Before we determined if we could even offer summer programs for the children in the camps,  parents let us know they had already enrolled their children and in fact had invited other families to participate as well- bringing the total to over 400 children.  Regardless that we don’t have the funds needed to host the programs this summer, we have to find a way to make this happen.

These summer ‘camps’ help the children keep up what they’ve learn

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ed during the school year, keeps them safe during the day in often unsafe environments,  and brings music, dance, yoga, puppet shows, theater, and much needed joy to these kids whose daily lives are filled with so much challenge.   After reviewing the budgets from last year we  have been able to come up with a way to make this work for $8,000. Now we invite you all to help us make this a reality- if you can help with even a small donation, it could make all the difference to these kids.   Thanks so much.  

 

Haitian Women Fighting Poverty

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We were invited by an NGO to participate in a program setting up Self Help Groups (SHGs) in Banan, Haiti, a large community near the border with the Dominican Republic, about 9 months ago. This is a very different model from the more traditional micro finance programs we have been doing and after going through training on how to facilitate this approach, we became quite excited about the potential for empowering women and families.

The Self Help Group approach is based on the idea that poverty is essentially a denial of basic human rights. The data on women living in poverty is shocking: 70% of the world’s poor are women. Even though women and girls put in more than half of all working hours they own less than 1% of the world’s goods. In many areas in the world they are excluded from education, health and social services and have no property or ownership rights. This exclusion of women and girls from access to and control of resources and opportunities for development reinforces poverty. In times of economic crisis, women bear the burden of providing for their families basic needs; one in three women cares for the nourishment and education of her children without a man’s help. This huge responsibility is often not balanced by access to decision making, either within the family or in community or political levels.

The importance of the empowerment of women to overcome poverty is the foundation of the above-mentioned context. The SHG model seeks to combine the social, economic and political aspects of community development, leading to empowerment. It is founded on rights-based principles that facilitate an atmosphere wherein individuals and communities realize their potential and work towards their own. Basically, the women in a community are invited to participate in a SHG—made up of about 20 members per group. Each group meets once a week, and sets up a savings program. Each woman commits to bringing in a certain amount of money each week, which is then recorded in her own ‘bank book.’ The money is kept with the elected secretary of the group, and is available for to be ‘withdrawn’ when the woman is ready to use it. Along with the amount saved by each member, there is also an amount each person gives to the general account. This is used in case anyone in the group has an emergency and needs a loan, in essence, providing a security net for the members of the group. At each meeting, the SHG discusses the underlying reasons for poverty, their ability to overcome it, and members support each other in finding options for growth. It seems like a simple approach but it is incredibly powerful. In Banan, Amurtel has organized close to 1000 women into SHGs and the results are amazing.

At a recent meeting of about 300 of the women, the women spoke on the affect the groups have had on them personally and their families. One woman spoke of how after 6 months, she was able to take her savings and invest it into a vegetable stand. She went from saving 14 cents a week to 2 dollars a week, and now has 3 vegetable stands. Another spoke of how when her daughter recently died she was able to pay for a casket and her funeral. One woman shared how she has been able to buy shoes for her children so they can go to school. All the women spoke with strong emotion of the importance of the group- what a difference it has made to know they are not alone in their struggles, and of how much stronger they feel as women and their ability to demand change. Each woman motivates the others to keep moving forward, and collectively they have brought some much needed changes to their community. One example they shared with how difficult it was to find a market for their goods. They would have to cross the border and sell in the DR, which was a long and demoralizing trip. After discussing it amongst themselves they went to the mayor and petitioned to have a market started in their own town.

The Self Help Program is scheduled to continue for another year. After that Amurtel hopes to have the women themselves take over program and continue to expand it.

 

East Kenya: Working Towards Food Security

 

Toward the end of 2010 the United Nations declared a famine in the Horn of Africa, compounded by a tremendous number of refugees fleeing Somalia for East Kenya. I decided to return to Africa and see what AMURTEL could do to help provide support to the women and children in the rapidly forming refugee camps.

Once there it became clear a desperate need was to address the alarming rise of malnutrition in the children. After meeting with women’s organizations, other NGOs working in the area, agricultural experts, and evaluating our capacity, we chose to partner with staff from Abha Light Homeopathic Clinic (www.abhalight.org/home) in Woti, the SE part of Kenya, and focus on developing spirulina farms.

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that thrives in warm alkaline fresh water. Internationally, it is being developed as the “food of the future” because of its high protein content as well as essential amino acids and vitamins, minerals and iron in an easily available and digestible form. It can easily be grown in tanks, harvested, solar dried and fed to malnourished children, (which in Kenya is one in three).

In January 2011 we began training local women in the how to grow and manufacture this amazing food. We started with 2 ponds and this year have expanded to 4 ponds, doubling production. We set up a feeding program for malnourished children through the homeopathic clinic and gave 100 children a supply of Spirulina and porridge for three months, tracking their height, weight and arm circumference to see the results. Periodically we hold trainings to teach more people how to develop Spirulina farms, with the hope of spreading the capacity to create this nutritious food.

After a successful beginning, Amurtel plans to continue to expand the project and build 3 more permanent tanks.

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