HOTLINE - week of February 15, 2010

One month later, quake survivors in Haiti face long recovery; Young bonded laborers in Pakistan gaining their freedom; Rwandan youth caregivers start honey and rice projects

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Woman building a shelter
Haiti--A quake survivor fastens sticks together with recycled wire to build a temporary shelter for her family in a camp north of Port-au-Prince.  CWS and its partners are helping to provide relief supplies among the displaced.
Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance

Haiti earthquake emergency

In Haiti, “The fear of staying in a house or building for fear it will collapse; traversing around piles of rubble; the embarrassment of conducting private acts in public, these are now all accepted parts of daily life,” says Church World Service’s Chris Herlinger.

Since Jan. 12, CWS has provided more than $1 million in relief assistance, including more than 31,000 CWS Hygiene Kits, some 5,400 CWS Baby Care Kits, and approximately 4,000 CWS Blankets.  CWS has also provided 60 Interchurch Medical Assistance medicine boxes.  (Each box contains enough medicine and supplies to treat the routine illnesses of approximately 1,000 adults and children for some two months when placed in a rural clinic.)

The CWS-supported ACT Alliance has assisted more than 150,000 people thus far, with the majority getting ongoing support such as water, sanitation, shelter or regular food supplies or meals.

CWS and the ACT Alliance are working with numerous local organizations, providing assistance for some of the most vulnerable among the survivors.

2009 tax benefit to Haiti relief donors, for gifts made by March 1, 2010--The IRS has announced that cash donations for Haiti earthquake relief made after Jan. 11, 2010, and before March 1, 2010, may be claimed as donations on your 2009 tax return.  You must itemize your deductions to qualify for this special tax provision.  For more information consult your tax advisor or visit www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=218678,00.html?portlet=7

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Pakistan

Raja dreams of flying through the night sky as a pilot. The 17-year-old couldn’t have imagined the dream until recently.  He’s among the first generation in his village of Biel to enjoy freedom from bonded labor.

“Before we used to have constant pressure,” says the shy teenager. “It was sort of a prison.”

Pakistani law has barred bonded labor for years. However, in caste communities, where no one reads or writes, there has been a lack of awareness of the protection the law can afford.

Raja, who has completed 10th grade and is focused on math classes, is benefiting from a CWS-supported project to educate villagers in Pakistan through theater. Solomon Khurrum, director of Society for Safe Environment & Welfare of Agrarians in Pakistan, a longtime CWS partner, says that theater is the best medium to help rural Pakistanis discover they have rights.

“This has an instant impact,” Khurrum says. “They see it and it changes their lives.”

CWS supports several troupes that tour Pakistan’s most rural areas, and from their performances dozens of communities have been motivated to seek their rights.

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Rwanda

The Abisunganye Youth Working Group, supported by the CWS Giving Hope program, began a honey producing project in 2004.  “We learned that one of our members knew how to make traditional beehives from banana leaves and to harvest honey,” says group leader Iyakaremye Martin. “Honey is a valuable product in our area.  Everyone volunteered to collect banana leaves for beehive construction.

“Our first harvest was wonderful. We not only had enough honey to sell, but we invited our younger brothers and sisters [to a party] and we all had bread and tea with honey,” Martin continues.

“We are using our honey proceeds to not only increase our joint savings, but also support our second joint project--rice growing. We approached our local authority and requested use of the community’s marsh land.” The group itself works in the rice field, but, with the large harvest, says Martin, “We began using a portion of our honey profits to pay casual laborers to work in the rice field.”

The CWS-supported Giving Hope program is working with more than 10,000 youth caregiver households in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.  Through the program, young people whose families have been affected by HIV-AIDS or conflict are empowered to continue their education, grow food, make items to sell, or start small businesses.  They are learning to work together with other young people to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

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