HOTLINE - week of February 14, 2011

Some Kenyan women are improving their livelihoods, with CWS help; Families in two Guatemalan communities gain better food security; CWS helps communities locally and around the globe develop disaster preparedness strategies.

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Teresa Awuor
Kenya--Teresa Awuor has developed several small businesses with help from the CWS Improved Livelihoods Program.
Photo: CWS


Three groups of women from some 90 households in the Voi District take part in the Church World Service Improved Livelihoods Program.  CWS works with local partner the Organization of African Instituted Churches, OAIC, to provide training in business management and access to a savings and loan program.   

Teresa Awuor, who is married and has four children, is a member of the Nyakamo Women’s Group.  She heard they were doing great work.  When she came to them, she owned a small restaurant that was feeling the effects of post-election violence in the region.  Most of her customers had been displaced by the violence and her restaurant was no longer sustaining her family.

Through the program, Awuor met with other women who faced similar challenges.  They came together to listen, share and work on solutions to their problems.

Awuor began to save money, and she learned new skills in business management, group dynamics, savings and credit.  After saving enough of her own money, she took a loan to start a poultry business with exotic breeds of chickens.  The business became successful enough to supplement a new catering business she is developing and help it grow.  

“I feel good,” says Awuor.  “I am almost through in paying back my loan.  My family has changed into a new family.  My children go to school.  They get the best health care around.  

“I am looking forward to taking another loan to expand my catering business,” Awuor adds.  “Besides this I was able to buy a cow and a half an acre of land on which I plant maize and beans.  Thanks Nyakamo, thank you OAIC, and thank you CWS.”

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Five hundred rural indigenous families in Totonicapán and Quiche departments, in western Guatemala, are becoming more food secure, with the help of CWS and partners the Foods Resource Bank and CIEDEG, the Guatemalan Conference of Evangelical Churches.

Some 250 of the families, ethnic Maya-Ixil, live in five communities in Santa Maria Nebaj, Quiche--an area long affected by conflict.  Another 250 Maya-Quiche families live in seven dry and highly deforested communities in Totonicapán.  All of the families have been affected by food insecurity and chronic malnutrition.   

Through the program, communities have created demonstration greenhouses, gardens and water recycling systems, and also learned to identify edible plants and fruits that are available locally.  In addition, families have learned about pest control, soil management, organic fertilizers and diseases in tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.  

This past year, families in Nebaj who are new to the program built eight new greenhouses and saw the results of their first harvest--nearly 100 pounds of tomatoes, 310 cucumbers and156 red bell peppers.

Families in Totonicapán, longer in the program, grew enough tomatoes for their own use and to market some 3,500 pounds.  They also grow other vegetables--radishes, beets, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and turnips--that provide variety in their diets and to sell in the market.  

In addition, CIEDEG is introducing more fruit trees to families and has provided them with training and tools for pruning and grafting.

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Disaster preparedness

In the hills of northern Haiti, along the U.S. Gulf Coast, the beaches of Indonesia and the mountains of Pakistan, people are better off because CWS makes disaster preparedness part of its ongoing work.    

"They say, 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,'" says Aaron Tate, CWS's Haiti earthquake response coordinator.  "That's why, even as we do major emergency relief and reconstruction work in Haiti after the earthquake, we are also trying to help communities learn how to prepare themselves for disasters large or small."

It's a philosophy that undergirds CWS's work both internationally and domestically, and is based on a simple premise:  "We are concerned about human life, the community and the environment," says Bonnie S. Vollmering, who oversees CWS's domestic disaster response programming.  "A disaster is an opportunity for the community to address risks and vulnerabilities that could be prevented in the future by implementing risk reduction and mitigation plans.”

In Periaman, Sumatra (Indonesia), CWS has worked with coastal communities on just-in-case plans that include creating evacuation routes and even installing signs that direct residents to sites safe from tsunamis.

"We're trying to get the kids and community ready for this.  That way, when it happens, we can evacuate," Ridwan Ali, head of Balai Nareh village.  "We feel safer because CWS has helped us."

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