Inspiring Stories of Transformation

Below are just a few of the the most uplifting, life-changing stories from rural communities in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean . World Neighbors-supported communities have fought against hunger, poverty and disease, and made changes in the lives of their families and communities forever.

Tula García - Guatemala

Tula Garcia is a 37-year-old single mother, rearing her three adolescent daughters in a three-room reed home in Loma de Paja, Comatán, Guatemala. Thanks to World Neighbors, she is also an entrepreneur.

“When World Neighbors first came, I was afraid to participate because, many years ago, another organization came to promise us support, but they were not serious and it was a setback,” she explains. “I talked to the World Neighbors staff about my fears and they assured me they would not fail us.”

Tula and other community members met with World Neighbors in 2014 and learned how a credit program would allow them to borrow money to expand their businesses. Tula was elected as facilitator of the group and was trained in the best way to track, invest and repay the loan.

“After training I received a check, which I cashed and distributed to the women as I had learned in the trainings,” Tula says. “World Neighbors also trained me to use a spreadsheet so I could track the interest and loan payments made.”

Tula used the microloan to expand her family’s food business. She used to sell only tamales but has since added cooked corn, bread and fruit popsicles called “titucos.” The group of women she leads – which has grown from ten to 20 women – also invests in coffee.

“We buy coffee beans at seven quetzals; then we process it and sell it for 15 quetzals. We are a group of very smart women,” Tula chuckles. One quetzals equals about 13 cents in the United States.
Tula says life in her village has improved since World Neighbors began investing in it last year. She says all 90 of the families living in Loma de Paja participate in programs developed by World Neighbors.

"World Neighbors makes a difference because they provide training,” Tula says. “I put into practice what I learn and I am doing better at my business. I can pay my loan on time every month and still have a fair income for my family.”

Tula has become so successful that her advice is often sought by other women and business leaders. She encourages her group to invite more women to participate and has seen families finally able to afford necessities such as latrines or improved stoves.

An agrarian village, Loma de Paja’s high quality products are being noticed by purchasers and distributors from other areas. Tula hopes that an increase in productivity will help improve the quality of life for all community members.

“I would like to improve our agriculture by returning to traditional organic fertilizers instead of harmful chemicals,” she says. “We also need many things such as latrines and other sanitation services so that we can better fight diseases.”

With the help of World Neighbors support, Tula feels confident that her poor but hardworking community can improve its quality of life. For Tula, that means taking better care of her three daughters.
Her oldest daughters, 18-year-old Olga and 16-year-old Milvia currently attend school. But 12-year-old Heidi stays at home with her mother.

“My youngest had to leave school to help me but I want her to go back to school,” Tula says. “My daughters dream of being professionals and, if my business keeps expanding, I will be able to send them all to school.”

Thanks to World Neighbors, Tula is receiving the training and support she needs to build a better future for her village and for her daughters.

Martha Carpio - Peru

Martha Carpio’s day begins between four and five am, when she wakes up to care for her elderly father and two disabled brothers. Martha never married or had children, but, with help from World Neighbors, the 51-year-old has become a successful farmer, provider and community leader. Martha lives in the village of Llaccolla, located in the district of Ocros in Ayacucho, Peru.

Surrounded by a forest of eucalyptus trees, Martha kneels to tend her organic lettuce field, which is thriving thanks to a water reservoir she learned to build.

“Before, my water tank was small and I did not care about improving it,” she says. “But when the technicians from World Neighbors showed me that a better tank would improve my crops, I took their advice. Now I am the model for my neighbors and I teach them from my own experiences.”

When World Neighbors first came to the community of Llaccolla in 2014, Martha was suspicious of outsiders in the village. The local authorities assured World Neighbors staff that Martha was hard working and well respected in the community. Developing trust with her would be vital to the success of the project.

“I was kind of shy,” she says. “I didn’t know what to say.”

Despite her initial misgivings, Martha is a calm and generous person. She is an excellent hostess and works to make visitors feel at home. She is proud of her community’s culture, especially its festivals, when people who have moved away from Llaccolla return home for the celebrations.

Of course, caring for her father and brothers has always kept Martha near her home, but with the sustainable farming techniques she gained from World Neighbors, she has increased her crops exponentially.

“I used to produce maybe one sack of carrots and beetroot,” Martha says. One sack weighs 20 kilos, or 44 pounds. “But now I can produce up to eight sacks, thanks to the support given and the advice provided. Building a good water reservoir and buying proper tools has increased my production.”

At least three Fridays a month, Martha and her brothers take her products to the market fair in Chumbes, which serves as the commercial hub for nearby villages. The market is 18 kilometers (11 miles) from her home. She takes public transportation, usually a truck, to get her products to the market.

“My customers pay me a better price now because my crops look healthier and beautiful,” Martha says. “I have a big variety of legumes and vegetables in a larger space.”

With the increased revenue, Martha is more confident purchasing seeds in bulk now that she knows how to better care for them. Her dream is to buy a three-wheeled truck for taking crops to market.

Because of her knowledge and optimism, Martha is often asked to take leadership positions in the community. She is reluctant to take on too many responsibilities for fear that her father and brothers will not receive proper care. But her desire to help others and her hope for the future dwarf any worries or burdens she may have.

“I want to help other women of my community, especially those who are raising a family on their own, so they can have a chance to escape poverty,” she says. “I have improved my life by myself and I appreciate how World Neighbors works because they gave training and knowledge to work out my own solutions.”

There is still plenty of work for World Neighbors to do in this region. All the surrounding communities have been negatively affected by political violence and terrorism of the last several years. The region has experienced higher rates of school dropout; illiteracy; chronic malnutrition and poverty.

Fortunately, people like Martha help ensure our work makes a difference.

Emmanuel Fortuné - Haiti

We met Emmanuel Fortuné in Léroux, a small village between the municipalities of Gros Morne and Pilate in northeast Haiti. Flanked by the Grand Riviére du Nord, Léroux lies in a humid valley, accessible only by dirt roads, which are often impassable. The area’s key crops include tropical fruits and forest trees. The village is home to some 115 families, with a total estimated population of 900 inhabitants.

Although Emmanuel (age 52) described himself as shy, he was enthusiastic about sitting down to tell his story. Seated among his fruit trees, the sounds of passing motorcycles and children at play seemed to fade as the farmer began to speak. He lives with his wife Desina (age 45) and their seven children in a three-bedroom humble house with a kitchen and a pit latrine at the back. The walls are constructed of local rocks covered by cement and has a very old calamine roof which has started to develop a swayback. The house has two external doors and a little window.

World Neighbors came to Léroux in 2008 to work in four lines of development: sustainable agriculture; climate change adaptation and mitigation; and community health and sexual/reproductive health. The World Neighbors model has been successfully used throughout the world for decades – it is a model that respects the local community and involves its members in solving problems.

“Before World Neighbors came here, I didn’t have much knowledge about sustainable agriculture,” Emmanuel said. “Our community didn’t work well together to solve problems like sanitary services or to fight diseases like Chikungunya and Cholera.”

Emmanuel described how World Neighbors-Haiti staff first sought to understand the people and the community needs, then worked gained their trust and friendship. Later, World Neighbors-Haiti began to send technicians, economists, health promoters, social workers and other trainers.

“All these activities led to great changes in my life and my community,” Emmanuel described. “We didn’t know how to prevent diseases but with training and education, we are able to fight these diseases.”

With help from World Neighbors-Haiti, area farmers united to become an organization of the first rural section of Gros Morne (OPG1). The group’s goals include: updating and improving capacity for sustainable agriculture; improving solidarity among community members; and providing better services to group members. These services include micro-credits, socio-cultural education, sanitary education, clean water initiatives, and the prevention and treatment of disease.

“We still have some problems because the dry season has prolonged, but now we don’t lose all our crops like we did before,” Emmanuel said. “I am hopeful for the future because, out of all my problems, I have realized I’m not alone and there are good neighbors that will always lend me a hand.”

Like all parents, Emmanuel wants his own children to finish their education and become professionals. He hopes at least one of his children becomes an agronomist and works the family farm. Maintaining the area’s beautiful green spaces and avoiding deforestation are prime concerns for him.

“I want my group to continue making exceptional progress,” Emmanuel said. “We dream of having a community center to improve the services to we provide to members. I want to see our rural saving and credit committee grow stronger.”

A goal-oriented leader, Emmanuel wants to become a reference and leader in sustainable agriculture production. He knows that, with the help of World Neighbors-Haiti, his hopes and dreams for himself, his children and his community can become a reality.

“Four years ago, I was elected chief of my rural section to help and lead my community,” Emmanuel said. “It was my job to be a leader and provider for the community and, during that time, we improved the roads and built a new cemetery.”

With the leadership of people like Emmanuel and the assistance of World Neighbors-Haiti, changes are being made in Haiti. But the communities in this area remain at high-risk. The coexistence of different faiths often threatens social cooperation in the village. Political violence and social unrest continue throughout Haiti, often undermining the hard work and efforts of groups like Emmanuel’s. Despite these challenges, Emmanuel remains hopeful.

“We need more high schools and agricultural institutes to improve our knowledge,” Emmanuel said. “We also need better roads and provision of supplies to improve our productivity. With all that, I’m sure we can continue advancing.

Beyond a Thorn-riddled Path 

Jérémie Guitanga lives in Gnagna Province of Burkina Faso where the landscape is rugged and agricultural productivity has declined over time due to deforestation, soil erosion and erratic rainfall. At the age of 31, Jérémie is supporting a household of nine people. Married with one child, Jérémie depends on his small farm to support his extended family. 

Jérémie used the knowledge and skills he had gained from World Neighbors to improve his farm.Life was difficult and miserable but what could I do but continue to till my land even though the yields could not feed my family? My despair continued, until one of my in-laws spoke to me about joining a self-help group. It was through the group that I learned of World Neighbors and the Gnagna Integrated Development Program.” 

Jérémie used the knowledge and skills he had gained from participating in the capacity building sessions and farmer field schools offered by World Neighbors.

His first goal was to improve the massive erosion on his farm. With support from other group members, he began establishing erosion-control sites on his farm. Jérémie used ‘stone-bunding’ as a way to slow down surface run-off caused by rain. Also, in order to improve the soil, Jérémie established a compost manure pit to fertilize his farm.

Through his hard work, Jérémie has seen a sharp increase in his farm production. This increase is providing for his household’s needs, and now he only has to purchase minimal grains just before the next harvest. Jérémie believes that if he continues along this path and consistently applies the knowledge and skills he has gained, his family will never lack food. 

Water: A source of change for one village

Samalbong, a small village in West Bengal, India, once faced a water shortage. Villagers spent hours everyday carrying water from the nearest water source – almost six miles away. The small amount of water they could gather was used to water their gardens and livestock, and for cooking and cleaning for the family, but it was never enough.

A precious resource that many of us take for granted everyday was a vast source of tension for the people of Samalbong. Man Kurmari Rai, mother of three children, feels terrible when she thinks about the days of walking hours to gather water.

“I started working as a porter when my son was just six months old. I could not leave the baby behind so I had to carry him all the time and do the works like cooking, tilling and carrying water, fodder or fuel wood. While working as a porter I carried the baby over the top of my load, like every other nursing mother. I had to spend more than four hours a day carrying water from the nearest water spring. But, my worry was how long am I going to live that kind of life? I wanted to do something else and be able to generate some income for the family so that I could get out of the misery.”

In 2004, World Neighbors began work in Samalbong and saw the villagers’ desperate need to have clean water closer to their homes. World Neighbors told the villagers they would offer support to bring down the spring water to their village, provided the local community was ready to supply local labor and materials necessary for the water project. After a community meeting was held, the people agreed they must complete the following tasks in order for the water project to be successful:

  1. Select the nearest water source.
  2. Provide all the labor to dig the trench, lay pipes, fill up the trench, construct water collection
    tank, etc.
  3. Transport all the materials to the project site.
  4. Provide local materials like sand, stone, etc.
  5. Establish a repairs and maintenance fund through contributions from the community, and
    ensure smooth water supply with timely repairs and maintenance of the system.
  6. Be responsible for protecting the water supply system.

World Neighbors agreed to help by carrying out a feasibility survey and providing all of the necessary polythene pipes of different sizes, fitting materials, etc. The community, thrilled about the idea of the water tank, banded together to complete the project. World Neighbors and volunteers from Kalimpong Silent Workers Association (KSWA), a partnering organization, worked with the community during the project, however, one person from each household was assigned to work on the water project.

Mr. Dil Bahadur Budhathoki, an elderly man with no family in the village, was assigned the task of team leader and organized the daily activities. After three months of very hard labor, 124 households had tap stands with potable water near their doorsteps. A second water project was initiated and 5 taps were constructed, which provided water to 23 more households. The
project also benefited 700 students of the nearby school and other local community people. The entire project took one year to complete.

Man Kurmari Rai tells how her daily life was completed transformed after the water project. "This water has changed my whole life. Now, I have enough time to work in my kitchen garden, to look after my children and livestock, and I’m also involved in some income generating activities. I have started a small grocery shop to help support my livelihood and it is generating a good income. The pig-raising business that I started with the loan from the Savings and Credit Group has been beneficial. The most important thing is that I have no worry for water. That has helped me and my husband considerably to reduce our tension in other aspects as well. My children's health has improved noticeably and they also go to school.”

World Neighbors programs in South Asia had never funded such a large project of this length (almost six miles) from the source to the reservoir tank. Thanks to World Neighbors and the hard work of so many villagers, this community now has water 24 hours a day for drinking, washing, cleaning and irrigating kitchen garden.

A young farmer transforms his land

Julian's FarmAt only 22 years old, Julian Vasquez, a farmer in the Polochic valley in Guatemala, wanted nothing more than to make life better for his family using the small piece of land that belonged to his mother. So when he saw other farmers participating in a World Neighbors program and saw firsthand how much healthier and productive their fields were, Julian wanted the same for himself.

“Before World Neighbors, my field did not look like this,” Julian said. “It instead was full of weeds and couldn’t produce a healthy crop. World Neighbors taught me to terrace my field to prevent erosion and to improve the health of my soil using organic compost.”

Julian also learned to implement an irrigation system using an old plastic soda bottle in an effort to conserve rainwater during the dry seasons.

His mother, who originally had doubts in the work Julian wanted to do with World Neighbors, now says, “I want to thank World Neighbors for helping Julian learn how to work. Julian has always had in his mind to put into action what he’s learned and has been very smart to put World Neighbors teaching into practice.”

What began as a small spark of enthusiasm by one young man has now spread into other farmers learning and implementing World Neighbors tools and techniques.

“I now train other farmers to use what I learned,” Julian said. “What World Neighbors has done is very special to me because I never thought I would have such successes.”


Sikandar forfeits foreign job for farming

Sikandar Chaudhary from the village of Haripur in the Terai Region of Nepal, was fed up with using chemical fertilizers and pesticides on his farm.

"I used to waste at least NRs. 9,000 ($120 USD) every year on fertilizers, but still my agricultural yield was declining,” he remembers.

Whatever he grew in his fields wasn’t sufficient to feed his family for the entire year. He also couldn’t afford to send his children to school and his dream to renovate his old, small house remained unfulfilled.

He tried to travel to Malaysia for foreign employment, but he was unable to do so due to financial constraints. Sikandar had to give up a section of his land to the local merchant of his village when he couldn’t pay back the money he had borrowed.

When Sikandar joined a savings and credit group initiated in his village by World Neighbors partner RWUA, he received trainings on agro-forestry, livestock urine collection, vermi-composting among others. When Sikandar started agro-forestry on his land, he realized that he didn’t need to walk all the way to the forest to collect fodder for his animals anymore, allowing him to invest in more animals.

Sikandar used vermi-composting to eliminate the use of chemicalsHe starting vermi-composting which gradually allowed him to reduce his use of chemical fertilizers in his fields, eventually discarding them altogether. He soon become a renowned producer of vermi-compost in the village and is making a profit by selling it. When he started to collect livestock urine and apply it on his farm, he discovered that it boosted his agricultural production even further.

Sikandar also started a vegetable garden purely for commercial purposes. Today, he grows cabbages, potatoes, tomatoes and other vegetables which he sells in the local market.

With his new sources of income, he has been able to provide his family with better health care, send his children to private schools, and renovated his house. With his sufficient income, Sikandar no longer feels that he has to go to a foreign land to find work. "Thanks to World Neighbors and RWUA, I have managed to make a decent living in my own country.”