Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘development’

One Million Clients

Dear Gabriel,

Two significant moments arrived recently. The kick-off in our general election season you no doubt noticed. The other was much more significant for FINCA. Thanks to the generosity of supporters like you, we took a leap towards finding and funding our one millionth client.

This advance against the general election backdrop, made me think of Ronald Reagan and his famous line about relations with the Soviet Union that you may recall or at least have heard about: “Trust – but verify.”

‘Trust – with verification’ is such a perfect summary of FINCA’s method for working with our clients and our donors that it could almost be our tag line!

Trust with verification is the model that has brought FINCA tantalizingly close to sponsoring our one millionth client. It’s the model that has earned us the respect and faith of donors like you, and over 100,000 other Americans.

Since 1985, we have entered into commitments with our clients based on trusting them to establish and manage micro-businesses – in tailoring, food production, craft-work and hundreds of other local in-demand products, by using funds invested by FINCA, with one condition: FINCA verifies that clients fulfill their commitment to us and are repaying their loans on time.

Simultaneously, we have been asking you, our supporters, to trust in our professionalism, expertise and commitment to the poor, particularly financing women entrepreneurs, those who live in impoverished communities, where women are expected to accept a passive or even submissive role. But this has not been blind faith – we have encouraged you to verify the results. And now look: Almost 1,000,000 clients!

FINCA’s results – your results – continue to be magnificent!

Closing in on client one million is, in many respects, the ultimate evidence of our work’s and your support’s impact, durability and success.

Today we are seeking just one thousand people to make a donation of, on average, $100.

Become one of the 1000.

Your donation today should not be made in blind faith. Verify the impact of your support: Meet our clients, hear their testimonies.

Help us find and fund client number one million.

Thank you for your support,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President, FINCA
New Business Development

Empowering Rwanda’s Children

I was on the board of The Ihangane Project and continue to support their work. This is a wonderful article.

From The Huffington Post
by Suzanne Skees
15 April 2012

Rwanda Now: Healing the Grandchildren of the Genocide

Julienne was just four during the 1994 genocide. She is HIV-positive and works as an artisan for this member-owned women’s collective through The Ihangane Project. Ihangane brought solar lighting to the health clinic where she gave birth safely without transmitting the virus to her 4-month-old son, Kingi; they also provide nutrition supplements for Kingi and gardening and nutrition training for Julienne.

Ruli: Rwanda: Far up in the hills of central Africa in a village called Ruli, families live as do 90% of Rwandans, working the land. To get to Ruli, you have to go off the map, over 2.5 hours of bumpy roads, winding your way northwest of Kigali; and you have to be willing to leap backward in time. Here, people live mired in the past, swinging hoes and hoisting water, centuries behind in infrastructure, yet also suffering the aftereffects of a more recent past — the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Already challenged by poverty, this land-locked country with a legacy of colonizer-instilled tribal conflict experienced decades of violence that culminated in a gruesome genocide of nearly 1 million Tutsis and Hutus. Another 2 million fled to hellish refugee camps in neighboring countries. Houses burned, livestock died, fields languished, and the economy nosedived. It took years to discern whom to prosecute and forgive, who owned what, and how to live together again. Women were widowed, children orphaned, and an already-high prevalence of HIV skyrocketed among women survivors of rape.

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Dr. Wendy Leonard practices family medicine and HIV/AIDS/TB care in California and Rwanda.

U.S. physician Dr. Wendy Leonard decided to take action. She boarded a flight in 2006 as the first physician volunteer for the Clinton Foundation’s HIV clinical mentoring program in Rwanda. They sent her to a remote village called Ruli, and told her to oversee government health initiatives. She found, instead, that she had a lot of listening — and learning — to do.

“It’s really about understanding who it is you’re trying to help,” Wendy says. “Every time I’m in Rwanda, I learn more about the people and the culture.”

The first week on the job, Wendy’s mentor, Dr. Jean de Dieu Ngirabega, told her, “If you want to help our community, you must first get to know us.” He took her to a local wedding, a Catholic/traditional ceremony that carried on all day. Hundreds of guests sat patiently in searing heat on wobbly wooden benches, trading stories and gossip, watching a never-ending procession of neighbors bearing gifts in agaseke, hand-woven lidded baskets borne atop women’s heads filled with rice, beans, seeds — anything the new couple may need to start their life together. The father of the bride presented them with a cow. Wendy knew the hosts were among the poorest of Africa’s poor, and all her theories about charity evaporated in the stifling air as she watched them feed every single person who showed up.

“Everyone gets a Fanta, and everyone gets fed — even if only corn on the cob,” she marvels. “No matter how poor you might be, everyone provides for each other.” She saw this practice again at the clinical level. For example, surveys revealed that 200 community health volunteers wished for increased nutrition training — not salaries. “It makes sense to try and raise funds to pay even a small stipend,” Wendy reflects now, “but just by asking, we discovered that was not their motivation at all.”

Then, the doctor from America flipped the model — from top-down development to community-based grassroots–and launched The Ihangane Project in 2008. The name means being patient; its mission is to improve healthcare and economic development. Ihangane is “just facilitating what Rwandans are already doing,” Wendy explains. “All our projects are initiated by Rwandans. We always ask, What can we do to strengthen their capacity?”

45-year-old Dr. Avite runs the 168-bed Ruli District Hospital, where he sees patients for accidents on motorbikes and in “unofficial local mines”; cardiovascular and cirrhosis problems. Throughout Rwanda, the population suffers a high rate of alcoholism and PTSD, anxiety, and depressive disorders: Part of the legacy of the genocide. Dr. Avite and his wife have three adopted teenage children.

Ihangane provides technical and financial support for community-created models:

artisan sales by microenterprise collective
cross-sector collaborations
solar power initiative
maternal and infant care
rural hospital improvements
local healthcare linkages
nutrition, gardening, and pig-farming projects

Ihangane aims for self-sustaining solutions that soon will graduate from donor inputs. “For example,” explains Wendy, “for HIV-exposed infants in Ruli at high risk for malnutrition, we provide sosoma, a porridge of soya, sorghum, and maize fortified with vitamins and minerals. This supports one of the many truly beautiful protocols from the government [Ministry of Health]; but the funding is not there. So, we are building farming collectives to grow component grains. We’ll grow locally and sell to Ruli hospital at a much more affordable cost. The farmers also can sell their surplus crops for an additional profit.”

The day we visit, rain falls softly at the top of one of Rwanda’s “thousand hills,” and the red soil looks rich. However, this land has been stripped by one-crop farming and poisoned by toxic pesticides. Many farming families have been reduced to a diet of rice and maize. Banana trees carpet the hills, yet only a few still produce fruit — often used to make beer. Now, Ruli residents have asked for diversified garden inputs and training on how to grow high-yield crops and cook nutritious meals.

The main hospital has electricity; however, several of the eight outlying health centers previously had no power. Women who went into labor at night had to give birth in the dark. “Now we have solar lighting in eight health centers,” Isaac, an Ihangane volunteer and lab technician, tells us. “We can light the maternity ward 24 hours a day, power a microscope and a radio phone used to call for an ambulance if needed.” Partnering with Catapult Design, “the Ihangane solar project is just on time,” Isaac smiles.

Gratien, another intern, bicycles from his father’s nearby farm to help the Ruli Women’s Cooperative launch a pig farming enterprise in nearby Nyange. Livestock farming will diversify their income and allow them to increase their membership. “Pigs are simple,” Gratien laughs. “They are not complicated. They need only a small pen. They eat slop.” Ihangane will raise funds for initial building and livestock materials, and then Ruli will take it from there.

A few of the thirty artisans of the Ihangane Women’s Association. Each member pays $25 to join. They put 10 percent of profits into savings, create group loans for one another, and divide the remaining 90 percent among members. Founding president Madeleine (far right) taught the members to dry sisal fibers, dye them, and weave into traditional wedding baskets. They also produce cards, pictures, and jewelry.

“Sometimes when we want so badly to help, we just come in and try to help,” Wendy muses. “If we come in to learn who they are first, sometimes we find amazingly rich resources already in the community.” For the artisans, Ihangane provided startup materials, and will provide follow-up training through local fair-trade expert from Rwanda Economic Development Initiative (REDI).

Read complete article and see video at The Huffington Post.

Tunisia’s Revolution

From Nation of Change by Mary Elizabeth King
15 December 2011

One Year On, The Roots of Success for Tunisia’s Revolution

The news has been filled with contention over Egypt’s November elections, but far less attention is being paid to the voting in Tunisia—also recently liberated from the rule of a dictator. More than 100 political parties participated. Tunisia’s October balloting was designed to elect members of the 217-member assembly that will deliberate and draft a new constitution and form a parliament. On the scene as an international observer, former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter noted, “It appears that everybody wants a good election—the politicians, the military (who are not political), the powerful trade unions, the police, the people—and everything is being done with compromise to make this happen.” Many in the Arab countries now view these elections as a prototype, and they prominently displayed the characteristics celebrated in modern political thought. Clean elections, of course, do not occur spontaneously. So how did this happen?

Tunisia’s uprising has been in the making since at least 2008, when protests began in the mining basin of Gafsa. The country’s hounded civil society was able to unite nearly the entire society in pressing for fair elections. Mohamed Bouazizi—the unemployed fruit and vegetable seller who set himself on fire in the central town of Sidi Bouzid on December 17, 2010, triggering their nonviolent revolution—was not the first aggrieved Tunisian to commit suicide by fire. Two other young people, one in coastal Monastir, on March 3, 2010, and the other in Metlaoui to the southwest, on November 20, 2010, had self-immolated themselves. French journalist Olivier Piot writes that as early as 1998 the burns unit of a major Tunis hospital did a study showing that an estimated 15.1 percent of its admissions were “suicide by fire.” The study’s authors considered these acts “extraordinarily” violent but viewed them as “a response by our country’s youth to another type of violence.” (I am indebted to Piot for sharing with me his book and English-translated article on the revolution.)

With 40 percent of the population under 25, unemployed college graduates were the first to activate themselves after Bouazizi’s death. Their efforts galvanized towns such as Thala, Sbeitla, Sidi Bouzid, Regueb, Douz and Kairouan—located in the neglected interior, as opposed to the coastal areas that had been endowed with monies to support tourism and development. With little hope for employment and no delusions, they led the revolt.

Indignation then turned into social upheaval and spread throughout the central and western regions. A 31-year old man self-immolated himself in Metlaoui on January 5, the day that 5,000 attended the interment of Bouazizi. In this mining town of 50,000, the local branch of the main union, the Tunisian General Union of Labor, well knew that 40 percent of the active population was unemployed and 75 percent of employees had been laid off in the previous 25 years. As Metlaoui heated up, the neighboring towns of Kasserine and Thala did too. Workers and Tunisia’s educated young were now in alliance. The parents and grandparents of the young soon joined them.

Early in the Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali regime, political activists began watching the extent of his clan’s corruption. As the family took over national enterprises during its 1995–2005 privatization schemes, their corruption became common knowledge. Beside unemployment, ending a culture of endemic, systemic corruption and impunity became a priority for Tunisians.

After a strike in the Tunisian city of Hawd el-Mongamy, young online organizers set up what became the Progressive Youth of Tunisia. Organizers in Egypt and Tunisia began exchanging views over Facebook. According to Piot, one in three Tunisians use the Internet. Egyptians were persuaded that Tunisians faced a more severe police state than their own because of Tunisia’s strict controls on blogging and press freedoms, but they perceived Tunisian labor unions as more powerful and independent. To Egyptians, Tunisia’s revolt was more “modern” and politically mature, because its discourse was that of educated, literate classes, who spoke the language of human rights, liberty, citizenship and democracy.

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Police repression against young demonstrators from poor areas swelled and recoiled, causing a second detonation on January 7 and 8, 2011. Tunisians burst with simmering resentment against the 150,000-strong police forces, long recognized for their arrogance, corruption and contemptuous behavior.

During Ben Ali’s 23-year rule, Tunisia’s civil-society organizations suffered severe, stifling repression. Yet they now emerged as politically important with their large networks of associations, radio stations, musical bands, clubs and human rights groups. Some claimed an apolitical identity, including Amnesty International. Others expressly came into being to oppose the Habib Bourguiba regime (1956‒1987), and then that of Ben Ali. Among these is the Tunisian League for Human Rights; founded in 1976, it is the oldest advocacy group of its kind in the Arab world.

With all political organizations dubbed the “illegal opposition” in Tunisia, the student movement—avidly organized during the 1970s and 1980s in the General Union of Tunisian Students—had gone underground years earlier. Yet the UGTT’s web of trade unions meant that local leaders were in place. These dispersed power centers, if mobilized, could represent a diverse opposition against the regime.

Ben Ali’s closing of all educational establishments on January 10 finally provoked the UGTT labor unions to react. They gave the go-ahead to locals in Sfax, Kairouan and Tozeur to organize a general strike for January 11 and 12, and in Tunis on January 14. Workers may have sparked the uprising, but as it spread to the middle classes, the nation’s academicians, bankers, doctors, lawyers and shopkeepers became engaged. This reach matched the geographic spread of the protests. Tunis, Sousse, Sfax, Gafsa, Gabès and Bizerte—the largest cities—rose up in turn, especially after the successful January 12 general strike in Sfax.

Professionals, traders, merchants and financiers came on board, many of them allied with the Bourguiba regime and with Ben Ali in his early years. The ranks grew of those who felt embittered about being pushed aside by Ben Ali’s networks, especially the Trabelsi clan of his second wife Leila.

In Sousse, a city favored by tourists, workers from the Farhat Hached hospital organized a massive protest march. They were soon joined by hotel employees. The upheaval expanded to the upper crust as, on January 8, a delegation of business executives from Sousse, Ben Ali’s base, called on the presidential palace in Carthage to ask the president to step down. On January 14, Ben Ali left Tunisia.

Even if subdued, the free-standing civil-society networks with independent leadership provided Tunisia with what Gene Sharp calls the capacity for “corporate resistance and defiance.” As I have previously written, a clear link exists between the cohesion of a nonviolent civic coalition during the years prior to a democratic transition and the depth of its self-governance in the outcome.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

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