The Bangladeshi writer, economist, and community developer Muhammad Yunus once famously said, “The fact that the poor are alive is clear proof of their ability.”
As a matter of fact, people in poverty face incredible challenges every day. And as Yunus points out, their survival in the face of these obstacles is evidence of their innovation, problem-solving, and daily determination.
Thanks to the generosity, creativity, intelligence, kindness, and entrepreneurship of people Food for the Hungry (FH) serves, 2018 was an amazing year full of triumphs despite challenges. While big issues continue to face the world’s most vulnerable people, today I want to highlight the way that some people in poverty are changing their own lives and those of their families and communities. This is FH’s work. Here are some 2018 success stories.
At the close of 2018, child sponsors in the United States directly supported 128,322 sponsored children, plus their families and entire communities, in 17 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. With the support of FH, adult and youth change agents continue to lead community development projects, learn livelihoods skills, practice positive health behavior, and share important messages on topics like nutrition, hygiene, and worldview. 101 projects planned and executed in countries from Bangladesh to Ethiopia to Guatemala are evidence of community members’ increased capacity to lead, accomplish projects, and sustain change.
A Story of Development
One amazing example of this is Amenu Kumera, a 42-year-old father of three children living in Ethiopia. For years, he worked long hours every day on his family’s small farm, but still didn’t have enough to feed his family. But when FH entered his community, Amenu’s three children entered FH’s sponsorship program and began receiving educational support. Amenu no longer had to borrow money just to send his children to school. Years ago, Amenu quit school in grade 5. He has a dream to be a community leader, but this would have been difficult to achieve without education. Yet Amenu’s desire to learn was rekindled again by FH’s presence in the community and their awareness campaign about the value of education.
Today, Amenu attends class with his daughter Hana! They sit side-by-side in the classroom. Hana’s goal is to one day become a doctor while Amenu dreams of leading his community.
More articles you may be interested in:
How to Build A Culture of Peace
Why Participation Is Not the End Goal of Development
What Do Community Graduation and a Train Board Have in Common?
The number of climate-related disaster events has doubled since the early 1990s. Climate-related disasters now account for more than 80% of all major international disasters, with an average of 213 events occurring every year between 1990 and 2016. The world’s 2.5 billion small-scale farmers, herders, fishers, and foresters are the most vulnerable to natural hazards, from which they glean their food and income. Many of the people FH walks alongside work in these occupations.
In 2018, Food for the Hungry responded to 17 disaster events in 11 different countries. These events included both natural disasters, like the Typhoon Mangkhut response in the Philippines, and our ongoing work in the Rohingya refugee camps near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
A Story of Hope Within Disaster
Amina Khatun is a 24-year-old Rohingya mom. She carried her baby girl across the border when she fled with her husband from Myanmar to Bangladesh. When her daughter came down with a high fever, she bravely decided to bring the child to one of FH’s health centers. The baby was diagnosed with the measles. Even though Amina had never heard of measles immunizations and she was afraid of the shots necessary to cure her daughter, she continued bringing the baby to the health center every day. Her daughter is getting better now, thanks to Amina’s bravery and determination.
One of FH’s core values is “Invest Wisely and Focus on Results.” That means that it’s important that we capture the impact of our programs…so that we know for sure that what we do actually helps change lives. In 2018, FH’s learning and evaluation team completed 4 program evaluations looking at the big picture of FH’s work in the countries of the Dominican Republic, Mozambique, Peru, and Uganda. FH also zeroed in on one element of the program and studied our work in education in 6 countries: Burundi, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Peru, and Rwanda.
A Story of Impact
The story of Angel and his mother Cindy suggest that FH’s education program is making a difference in Nicaragua. Angel is a two-year-old boy who has Down Syndrome. As a result, he hasn’t developed the fine motor skills and brain maturity of other children his age. Naturally, this worried his mother, Cindy, and his father, Uriel. Of course, they wanted the best for their son. But like many parents, they weren’t exactly sure how to help Angel develop to his fullest potential. Cindy visited the hospital again and again. Uriel moved to another country where he could make more money to support his family financially. While striving to give their son the best life possible, they neglected just simply spending time with Angel.
Thanks to Cindy’s friend Elimabeth, a local mother trained by FH in health topics, Cindy connected to FH’s neighborhood training. There, Cindy learned about early childhood health and education. After hearing a few lessons, Cindy knew what she had to do. She immediately began incorporating small daily activities into Angel’s routine. She learned how the family environment and relationships are crucial to helping young children develop. And this inspired her to incorporate more play, songs, and games into her son’s daily routine. She started spending much more time engaging with him in small ways. She even made toys out of recyclable materials! Just these small steps have already made a big difference.
Reflect and Celebrate
A key part of the community development process is reflecting on accomplishments and celebrating successes. This validates the effort of those involved. It also sets the team up for creating new goals and achieving even greater accomplishments in the future. Development itself is a process, and therefore a continual process of reflection and action. This year, we at FH are grateful for those who make our work possible. Most of all, we are grateful when we reflect on the people in FH communities around the world. They reveal beauty, goodness, and truth to us. Let’s celebrate together!
Learn more about the process of development and FH’s work here.