Tomoyo: A Surprising Case for Hope

Whether in the developed or developing world, hope is a make-it-or-break-it factor that allows people to dream beyond their current reality. Oftentimes, it’s easy to default to talking about ending poverty through simply providing resources like education, clean water, and livelihood training—and forgetting about hope.

Food for the Hungry (FH) addresses the key aspect of inspiring hope—the hope of Christ—in the lives of those we partner with all around the globe.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

The Invisible Dimensions of Poverty

In the 2 Corinthians verse, Paul is referring to the “unseen” eternal kingdom of God. However, we think this verse also applies well to FH’s work in ending ALL forms of human poverty.

Food for the Hungry believes that development begins as an attitude in the hearts and minds of people—in the unseen world. Attitudes and beliefs dictate behavior. As the logic flows, if you want to encourage healthy behaviors, you must first influence their thinking.

In the same way that giving someone a suit and tie doesn’t guarantee a job promotion, providing school supplies to children—who don’t believe they’ll make it past grade school—can also only go so far.

Food for the Hungry applies a Biblical worldview to community development, which means we care deeply about how minds are being renewed and transformed in the quest to lift communities out of poverty. Increasingly, even secular institutions like the World Bank are acknowledging the effective role of faith-based organizations in development. So let’s talk about hope.

Tomoyo, Bolivia: A Case Study

An excellent example on how hope changed everything is from a USAID-funded project that Food for the Hungry worked on in the Tomoyo region of Bolivia. At a high level, the project kicked off in 1993 as a food security program. In 1997, FH started a massive project to bring irrigation to 400 families. Over time, the US Department of Agriculture tacked on an element to strengthen agroeconomic activities in the region as well.

By the time the project concluded in 2008, impacts on production, income, and malnutrition were remarkable. Reports showed successes such as:

  • Chronic malnutrition decreased from 59% to 18%
  • The gross annual income of farmers increased by nearly eight-fold from $268 to $2065
  • The community was irrigating over 687 hectares of land, extending the agricultural season from 6 to 11 months

Even better, three years after FH exited the community, Tufts University conducted a sustainability study in 2011 on the Tomoyo project and found that many of the program results persisted several years after completion. While those results were enough to cause celebration, FH was also interested in how people were doing. So we went back to ask them.

Measuring the Emergence of Hope

Five years after ending the project, FH returned to the community of Tomoyo in March 2017. They documented evidence of lasting and holistic changes of the project. In the process, Tomoyo and Maragua, a nearby community never served by FH, were studied to compare their levels of hope.
FH is the only known humanitarian organization that measures invisible dimensions of poverty such as the “emergence of hope.”

This is quantified after a series of interviews and activities. The emergence of hope takes into account an individual’s:

  • Perceptions of the past and present
  • Attitudes toward the future
  • Recovery from critical events
  • Self-esteem
  • Support of others
  • Recognition of the role of spirituality

What they found was incredible. Compared to the nearby community of Maragua, the community of Tomoyo experienced three times higher levels of vision for the future, with concrete plans for what they want to achieve through the irrigation system and within the community. Tomoyo also showed twice the levels of self-esteem over Maragua. They acknowledged their God-given potential to achieve what they have planned. The women of Tomoyo understood that they can develop their potential either through studies or by implementing business initiatives. The children and youth also express a desire to go to college or take vocational courses.

Want to be a part of bringing hope?

When you sponsor a child, you are instilling the hope of Christ into a child’s life. You are showing a child that God loves them by writing letters, providing resources, Biblical teachings, and funding projects within that child’s community graduation plan.

Learn more about sponsoring a child here. If you’re still a childhood sponsorship skeptic, you’ll want to check out this blog post.

“And now these three remain faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13