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.
Giving Women a Voice
World Neighbors is working in the districts of Uranmarca, Cocharcas, Chincheros and Uripa, in the Department of Apurimac, Peru. Apurimac is ranked as the second-poorest department in Peru -- where World Neighbors is currently working with 2,098 men and women in over 32 communities. As part of the program, 167 women from 15 women’s organizations attended trainings in ways to lead and strengthen their organizations.
These workshops first addressed the various roles of family members and their decision-making processes and, as a result, there is greater participation of women in the training sessions on sustainable livelihoods, community health and financial literacy, as well as in leadership roles inside the Savings and Credit Cooperative. The participation of women in community and district meetings and in decision-making processes has significantly improved.
One of these strong women is Marcelina. Marcelina is an active participant in these programs, and she expresses the change in her life and in her community since the arrival of World Neighbors: “With World Neighbors I have learned how to work with credit, how to install vegetable gardens, how to produce organic fertilizers, and many other things. Now I can say that thanks to all that I learned, I have livestock which provides a permanent income for me and my family. We now have a better life. In my community, all the people live better than before. We used to ask for aid, but now, thanks to the way World Neighbors works, we have many strengths, so we can implement our own initiatives.”
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.
“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:
- Select the nearest water source.
- Provide all the labor to dig the trench, lay pipes, fill up the trench, construct water collection
- Transport all the materials to the project site.
- Provide local materials like sand, stone, etc.
- Establish a repairs and maintenance fund through contributions from the community, and
ensure smooth water supply with timely repairs and maintenance of the system.
- 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
At 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.”
Odira changed her family and community
Odira Dervilus, from Bayonnais, Haiti has improved the lives of her six children through the integrated training she has received from World Neighbors.
"Before I was in the women’s group, I didn't know how to manage something, but now I know techniques for planting trees, storing corn; every week I go to the health community center. That's where I learned how to pick leaves for tea, I got advice on preventing malnutrition, birth control, it spoke to the whole family. I get along well with my husband and we make decisions together. Inside the organization there is credit for women, and that credit activity allowed me to do commerce to help with the kids. I buy chickens which produce others that I sell. Awhile ago I borrowed money to pay the kids school without problem."
The change wasn't only in Odira's family, but for their entire community. The roads and paths were in bad shape with the mud making it difficult for people to walk.
"Today the locale's face has changed. I can walk around easily, I see plantains and cassava planted, springs are capped, and people have cisterns to water gardens and serve households."
Odira remembers a time when she was pregnant and only had three measures of corn to eat during her pregnancy and while nursing. “In that time the misery was hard, but now I have plantains, papaya, beans, corn and rice; I have beans to store."
Odira does not want her own children or the other children in her community to experience the difficult life she had. Through her participation in the group, she is making positive changes in the well-being of her community and she continues to want more improvements, “I would like to see the community have a hospital and a good market where people aren't sitting in the sun and on garbage."
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.
He 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.”