HOTLINE - week of March 8, 2010

On this International Women's Day, CWS honors the courage of women in Haiti, in quake recovery; Families begin long recovery following quake in Chile; CWS responds in wake of Ugandan mudslide; Pakistani widow provides for her family, with CWS help

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A woman cooks a meal for hundreds of people at homeless camp
Haiti--A woman cooks a meal for hundreds of people at a homeless camp in Jacmel, a town on Haiti's southern coast that was ravaged by the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance


On this International Women’s Day, March 8--and almost two months after the devastating Jan. 12 quake--CWS honors the work, struggles and achievements of women working to recover following the emergency.

To Haitian women like Saint Elene Alcidonis, 52, newly widowed and the mother of seven children, the immediate issue is how to care for families in crowded displacement camps. Alcidonis' husband, a mason and carpenter who perished in the quake, was the principal breadwinner in the family.

"It could be months, I don't know what to expect," Alcidonis said recently in one of the many displacement camps in Port-au-Prince--camps where CWS Blankets, Hygiene and Baby Care Kits are making a difference for quake survivors.

Alcidonis' short-term concern is survival—she is going to have to care for her family. In the long-term, humanitarian assistance like that being provided by CWS needs to be based on "resources that will help her and other women gain the skills and support necessary to do so," says Donna Derr, who coordinates emergency response for CWS. "We've been doing it in Haiti and around the world for decades.

“Women are humanitarian responders in Haiti; they are also in many cases the backbone of their communities and families,” Derr adds, “Their gifts must be front and center for any kind of humanitarian response and development efforts.”

For more on CWS response in Haiti or to donate online, visit

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CWS continues to work with local and international partners as they assess needs and provide initial emergency assistance, following the devastating Feb. 27 earthquake and tsunami. More than 450 people have died, and there is a high level of damage and destruction. CWS and the ACT Alliance are working on a coordinated response to reach the worst-affected communities. CWS provided an initial grant of $15,000 to partner the Methodist Church of Chile, which is coordinating with international agencies to meet emergency needs.

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At least 86 people have died from the March 1 mudslide that engulfed three villages on Mt. Elgon in eastern Uganda. Between 250 and 300 are missing. More than 700 persons have been affected, says CWS local partner the Foundation for Development of Needy Communities. Working with CWS, FDNC--which has already provided psychosocial support for traumatized survivors--plans to provide shelter for 100 displaced persons at a vocational training center, with a special priority being given to children. FDNC also plans to provide food--including corn flour, beans, and sugar--as well as cooking utensils, mattresses, blankets, sheets and mosquito nets, water; mobile toilets, and medical supplies.

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Sufia is providing for her family with the help of CWS
Pakistan--Sufia, a widow with five children, is providing for her family, with the help of CWS.
Photo: Donna Fernandes/CWS

CWS joins people of the world in celebrating0 International Women’s Day by renewing the call for increased support for women’s empowerment. Throughout the world recognition is taking hold that investment in women bears fruit in the well-being of families, communities and society.

In Mirpurkhas district, Pakistan, for example, Sufia, a mother of five, lost her husband ten years ago. Through a CWS-supported self-help program in Mirpurkhas, she is now running her own shop. She is participating in a CWS-sponsored group savings and development program that is assisting women as they work to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

“I had assisted my husband occasionally with the field work, but was primarily engaged in household chores,” says Sufia, who says she felt helpless after her husband’s death.

“I received training in kitchen gardening and vegetable preservation and I was saving by not spending money to go and buy vegetables from the market,” Sufia explains. Through her savings group, Sufia was able to borrow money to start a shop, where she sells things ranging from biscuits, tea and chips to items like soap.

“With time things have gotten better in my life, and the training and guidance have given us the foundation to move ahead,” says Sufia. “Besides, we have been made economically independent, and this is essential in today’s world.”

The CWS-supported Mirpurkhas food security and livelihoods project benefits women in 50 villages every year through empowerment activities and training, with a focus on community-based self-help groups.

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