Welcome to my Blog

WELCOME TO MY BLOG................

The United Nations Website for reporting on the Millennium Development Goals (www.un.org/millenniumgoals/) reports that more than one billion people live in hunger and extreme poverty. Over 32 million children are out of school. In addition to an increased likelihood of being out of school as compared to boys, girls face gender discrimination that leads to lower earning, increased illness and violent crimes. The likelihood of a child dying before its first birthday is 8 times higher for those in developing countries than for those in developed countries, and 13 times higher for the bottom billion of the population. Maternal health, labor and sex trafficking, access to clean water, HIV/AIDS, and environmental sustainability each bear grim statistics that call for action, and perhaps the hardest of all to acknowledge, is that 24,000 children in developing countries die preventable deaths every day.

The purpose of this blog is to provide information related to understanding these issues and to provide multiple resources to enable readers of this blog to take individual action. The blog will also provide updates on current activities and partnerships addressing these issues as well as some “catch up” backstories as many have asked about the path that brought me to my current passion to address social injustices and the belief that real progress is not only possible it's essential and although many of the issues are complex there are many tangible and specific things that can be done now to reduce the suffering and improve the lives of literally billions of people.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Visit to Myanmar (formerly Burma)

I spent the last five days visiting World Vision projects in rural areas of Myanmar and was amazed at the warmth and hospitality with which we were received in each of the villages we visited. The goal of the trip was to meet with the Area Development Project (ADP) teams providing support to these villages to better understand their work environments, challenges, successes, and ways to best support them. From the capital city of Yangon we took a 1 hour flight to Bagan, then a two hour drive to the ADP office. The villages we visited were yet another 2 1/2 hours away in very remote areas and we needed special visas, 4-wheel drive, and government accompaniment to visit – this created long days but we were rewarded with rich experiences and the opportunity to see and hear in person testimonies of improved health and well-being as a result of several projects that are under way in the villages. The WV facilitated projects include:

Food and Water Security: Providing landscape and conservation principles for water security in dry and drought areas. Sharing best practices in food (agriculture and livestock) production and sustainability

This region is very dry and sandy

Water source for Ohk Hla Village

The pond, a primary water source will be dry before the next rains

Health and Nutrition: Providing instruction on nutrition and maternal health principles such as healthy diet during pregnancy, exclusive breast feeding, and pre-natal and post-natal care. One woman shared that her older children get sick more often than the younger children who benefited from the health training and practices. The younger children maintain healthier weight (more weight), do better in school, and are overall healthier. HIV/AIDS awareness, and reproductive health and family planning are also saving lives and fewer deaths related to child delivery are occurring.

Nutrition Groups - Growth, Energy, and Wellness with Rice in the center
Early Childhood Development: Early childhood development programs help prepare children for school and provide important life skills related to nutrition, behavior, and learning.

Savings and Loan: Two of the villages we visited had established a savings and loan program amongst themselves. Each month the participants meet to make deposits into the common fund. Pass books are maintained and interest is accrued. Loans are available from the common fund as well, at a low interest rate. The implementation of programs like these helps remove dependence on high interest money lenders and provides long term stability to the people of the village.
Savings and Loan group meeting

Silk Weaving

Hospital: A hospital is under construction that is being 100% funded by the people in the village. They receive official support through well priced materials and will also receive official support through staffing of doctors and nurses once the facility is completed. This is not a World Vision project.

Hospital Construction

Reviewing the hospital construction plans - the hospital is community funded. The govt. will provide medical staff.
Reforestation: WV helped provide training on growing techniques that help conserve water. The nursery we visited had several thousand plants and trees planted in small plastic bags and meticulously cared for by people in the village. After 6 months the saplings will be sold for reforestation purposes. This provides ongoing financial and environmental support. I learned that 7 eucalyptus trees grown for 7 years produce enough wood to build one house. The nursery and reforestation project provide long-term sustainability for the village and the surrounding land.
Reforestation planting using water conserving bags for planting

My heart goes out in gratitude to all of the people we met and for the warmth and loving communal experience they live and shared. I am very happy to see the WV projects having a significant and measurable favorable impact to health and economic sustainability, and also pray the way of life I observed will be preserved as there was much joy and strong sense of community displayed throughout our trip.

Other notes: The chalk you see on kids and some adults faces is called Thanaka and is a sunscreen worn nearly all the time by children and women. It is made form the ground bark of the sandalwood tree.  The traditional and standard dress for men and women is long sarong-like wraps of silk, cotton, or silk-cotton blend, called a longyi. Despite being in an extremely dry and dusty region of Myanmar the villages are exceptionally clean and orderly. Work duties are shared between families and between men and women. The drought like conditions create water and food security issues, which have been aided greatly by the improvements to water retention at the main water pond, improved technologies for growing, and increased health and yield from livestock. In the villages we visited the main sources of livelihood were agriculture, weaving, and casual labor.

Additional Photos:

Temples in Bagan with hot air balloons in the background

Temple in Bagan

Village near Chauk

Community Planning

WV facilitation of a community planning session scheduling for a full calendar year

Community planning participants

Mother and Child

Common carts in the villages

Knife sharpenin

ADP Manager Kai Kai

Plums drying

Silk weaving

Drying out husks for next years silk production

Saying farewell

Bamboo fence construction

WV People and Culture Team in Yangon
Chauk ADP Team

Yenan Chaung ADP Manager Saw Marksu

Members of the Yenan Chaung ADP

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Flood Response in Thailand - December 2011

The flood waters in Thailand have been clearing but even months after the flooding began many neighborhoods are still under water and people are forced either into alternate locations or up to the second floor if they have one.  I joined the Bangkok Thai Ekachai church in flood response in Nonthuburi, Northeast of Bangkok and was again amazed at the resilience of the people I encountered.  Wading through water between calf and just above knee high we went house to house bringing welcomed care kits with food, water, and hygiene and sanitary products.  

Even as the flood water recedes the real work and impacts of the flooding is just beginning.  With over 1/3 of the country directly affected by the flood the scope and magnitude is staggering.  Some schools have been closed for more that 18 weeks – those of you in education can imagine how hard it would be to make up 18 weeks.  In rural areas especially this creates great risk.  In rural communities kids often don’t continue past primary school.  In one community 39 primary schools feed into just one high school and 3 vocational schools.  Keeping kids in school not only increases their education it provides safety from exploitation.  Following the floods many rural families have lost their livelihoods. In many cases farmland is mortgaged each year and paid for by the harvest. There will be no harvest this year so people may lose their land. With parents out of work and children out of school there is an increased risk of exploitation by traffickers.  The land will actually become more fertile in a year or two following the flood, but without intervention many will return to work their former land as wage earners. There are many opportunities for advocacy, community education, and vocational training to help the more than 2 million people who have been displaced as a result of these floods.

 Ekachai Church Team Members

Water marks show former water level (4-5 feet) 

 Water marks are higher than the bicycle

Boats are now used to get supplies in and out of the neighborhood 

Adding leg protection - the water is pretty nasty at this point. 

Ekachai Church Team Members 

Multiple Generations from Ekachai Church 

Ekachai Church Team Members 

This Soi (street) gets deeper the further down you walk or boat.
There should not be any water here - this is not a venice like neighborhood.
Note water marks. 

In the front of the boat. 

The boat comes along side a house and people come downstairs, 
and wade through water to receive the care packages, delivered with care.

 More Team Members

Riding in the boat after wading for a couple of hours

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Issues related to poverty and poverty itself can be eliminated

Since joining World Vision I’ve had many incredible experiences and opportunities to learn more about the state of developing countries and least developed populations.  Of these experiences the one that stands out the most is a visit to the Van Yen Area Development (ADP) in Vietnam about 5 ½ hours north of Hanoi. The Van Yen district has a population of approximately 116,000 people.  I took the picture at the top of this blog site not far from this ADP.

Area Development Project Overview

ADP’s are the name given by WV to community transformation efforts in which WV works with local communities for up to 15 years to address needs related to poverty, health, education, and child well- being. There are 36 ADPs in Vietnam and over 1800 ADPs in 60 countries served by World Vision. Ideally the projects are staffed with people local to the area or country, although the difficulty of accomplishing this increases as the remoteness and poverty level increases. The teams of 5-15 that do staff the projects assume significant responsibilities and personal burdens as they are usually separated from their families, at least during the week, and may have long travel to work through remote and sometimes dangerous access conditions.

What made this visit so inspiring and confirming were the results that this community has realized in the five years since the baseline was established.  A subset of the results the Van Yen ADP team of seven, working closely with the community, reported from 2006-2010:

·         The poverty rate has been reduced from 33% to 11% (26% adjusted for inflation)

·         The livelihood development efforts have provided new techniques to farmers resulting in increased productivity and yield of husbandry (285kg/person/yr to >415 kg/person/year)

·         29 bridges that will withstand flooding have been built as well as access roads and irrigation canals.

·         Pre-school and primary school enrollment increased from 63% to 84%.

·         In mountainous areas, where schools and access roads did not previously exist, day-boarding school enrollment increased from 0% to 65%.

·         Malnutrition decreased from 29% to 22%.

·         Improvements in maternal well-being, child well-being, accident preventions, and health education have also been significant.

·         The community is mobilized and actively participating in making these things happen.  In fact the ADP serves a facilitation and education role but it is the community involvement that makes change sustainable.
In 5 years this community has made measurable differences that not only improve the quality of life but also save lives. Through this work and these results I can see that issues related to poverty actually can be addressed and eliminated.  It’s not an overnight process, but it possible within our lifetime and that, for me, was a brand new and amazing realization.

Van Yen ADP Team and Visitors

Hanoi, Vietnam

ADP Manager Showing Communities on Map

North Vietnam