Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps exists to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities. Mercy Corps helps people survive, recover and become self-sufficient. We partner with the people we serve to help them recover from disasters and conflicts, secure peace, grow more food, improve health, educate and protect children, empower women and start businesses that improve the standard of living for families and communities.
Oct 19, 2012

Helping Kids Heal in Haiti

Thirteen-year-old Emanuella
Thirteen-year-old Emanuella

Cité Soleil is full of a lot of things, but hope is not one of them.

There’s the fetid smell of smoldering trash. The deafening noise of jets landing at the airport nearby. The piles of cement rubble, some even older than the historic 2010 earthquake. And the tents — scores of blue-and-gray tarps clustered among the ruins.

The neighborhood is one of the poorest and most violent in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Armed gangs used to rule the streets. Many residents lack running water and electricity. For as many as 400,000 residents, there is only one public school.

The devastating 2010 earthquake was just the first tragedy to strike thirteen-year-old Emmanuella's young life: She escaped the rubble of her home, only to lose even more amidst the violence in her neighborhood as her father was murdered and never found.

"When the earthquake reached my house I was watching TV. When I tried to get out a cement brick fell from above onto my leg. I saw people who had died, and people who were trapped. I was afraid because I thought I was going to die. After the earthquake I lived in a tent with my mother. We didn't have beds. We made beds with bricks. I live in Cité Soleil but I am often afraid because sometimes there is killing and violence."

"Life is really hard for children in Cité Soleil," says Franz, Emanuella's mentor and Soccer for Life coach. "Soccer for Life is a program that Mercy Corps has set up in Cité Soleil. Soccer is one of the tools we use to help the children forget a lot of things and live together in harmony. Emanuella has become a model for the children. Emanuella's life turned around. I see that soccer can bring the change that we want in Cité Soleil."

"Playing soccer makes me happy," explains Emanuella. "When I pass, when I hit the ball with my stomach or with my chest, when I score a goal, when my team is the champion, and when we jump when we win."

"Now I feel comfortable like I used to be because I'm not stressed anymore and I'm not scared anymore. That's why I feel better."

Click here to watch this uplifting video to find out how Emanuella has found comfort — and confidence — playing in Mercy Corps' Soccer for Life program.

Emanuella with her mentor and coach, Franz
Emanuella with her mentor and coach, Franz


Oct 19, 2012

Comforting Kids Around the World

Amani and Lyat play at Za
Amani and Lyat play at Za'atari's new playground

In the aftermath of natural disasters and wars, children need help to make sense of what's happened. Our emergency-response teams lay the groundwork for emotional recovery in children by using two programs:

Comfort for Kids, developed in partnership with Bright Horizons Family Solutions, combines training for adults to help kids process trauma with an interactive workbook for children, which helps them tell their story of the disaster in a safe environment. Moving Forward promotes physical and emotional recovery through sports such as volleyball and soccer.

Here's how your incredible support helps Mercy Corps heal and rebuild lives for kids all over the world:

  • After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated New Orleans and swaths of the U.S. Gulf Coast, we distributed 55,000 Comfort Kits to children that included school supplies and stuffed animals. We also helped rebuild playgrounds lost to the storm.
  • New school supplies helped more than 9,000 children feel safe again in classrooms after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, which caused school collapses that killed up to 10,000 students.
  • Nearly 70% of the parents in Gaza said their children showed more optimism and fewer behavior problems after receiving emergency counseling from our teams in 2009, in the wake of Israel's Operation Cast Lead.
  • In our largest response yet, Mercy Corps teams in Haiti trained parents, doctors, teachers and other caregivers to help 90,000 children overcome their fear after the 2010 earthquake.
  • Mercy Corps brought play and art activities to 2,300 Japanese children after the March 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami.
  • In Yemen’s capital, Mercy Corps and partner UNICEF are providing safe spaces for children to learn and play, reclaiming schools that had become war zones.
  • Our teams in the Central African Republic have recently expanded play therapy groups to reach more children displaced or orphaned by the terrorizing Lord's Resistance Army.

To learn more about how your support helps children in need, please click here to check out heartwarming photos from our new Comforting Kids Around the World photo essay.

Our most recent Comfort for Kids initiative is helping Syrian kids who have fled with their families to Jordan and Lebanon. We've built the only playground at Za'atari camp in northern Jordan. Even the refugee camp, far from the fighting, is a distressing place for children, who make up nearly half of the 20,000 refugees here.

Nine-year-old Amani, like most kids in the camp, wants to go home as soon as she can. “We had a happy home with four bedrooms and a nice living room and a garden. I had toys and clothes and there were parks nearby to play in. Now we have nothing.” 

But Amani’s face lights up as she plays. She tells her new friends that she wants to be a nurse when she grows up so she can help people in need. The playgrounds help brighten each day for her and best friend, Lyat, 11 years old, in otherwise harsh and bleak surroundings.

Your continued support allows Mercy Corps to help children like Amani and Lyat heal and recover from unimaginable trauma. Thank you. 

In Haiti, Abigail loves her art therapy program
In Haiti, Abigail loves her art therapy program
Children regain a sense of well-being
Children regain a sense of well-being
A playground in Jordan
A playground in Jordan's Za'atari refugee camp
A typical play therapy session in the CAR
A typical play therapy session in the CAR


Sep 21, 2012

The Sahel Crisis - Donor Questions Answered

Theirno Diallo answers your Sahel questions
Theirno Diallo answers your Sahel questions

The hunger crisis in the Sahel is not an immediate emergency that gets splashed across the evening news. Instead, the tragic circumstances of drought and failed harvests have been building since the beginning of the year.

A slow build might not get as much media attention, but it is no less critical. This wide-spread disaster has left millions of families without enough to eat — and continues to worsen throughout this dry season.

WATCH VIDEO: Food crisis is just beginning

The causes and the effects of this situation are complex, the issues Mercy Corps teams are addressing no less challenging. And you want to know more.

So we passed along supporters' pressing questions to Mercy Corps’ Country Director, Thierno Diallo, in Niger, a nation at the heart of the crisis. His answers shed light on the important work that your support makes possible

What is the impact of the hunger crisis on children there? What is Mercy Corps doing to help?

The hunger crisis has had a negative affect on children’s well being, specifically on their health and nutrition. For example, over 13% of children in one of our target areas, the Tillabéri region, suffer from malnutrition. Many families are unable to access food and basic needs.

Mercy Corps is supporting thousands of vulnerable families through cash-for-work projects and emergency distributions that put cash in the hands of those that need it most so they can buy food. Mercy Corps has also been working with the National Health Extension to support community health centers that screen children for malnutrition; to provide nutrient-rich therapeutic food; to support mothers and improve health of their infants from birth to 2-years-old; and to host health education campaigns in dozens of villages.

How are you helping communities prepare for the future?

We are working to build the resilience of vulnerable communities by providing short-term jobs and cash during times of need or little work. This will help farmers and pastoralists hold onto their assets during the crisis so they can restart their livelihoods when conditions are better. Meanwhile, the projects people work on result in long-term improvements that rehabilitate the land and increase access to water so future harvests and animal health will improve.

They have learned to dig simple, shallow shapes into the land — banquettes for grazing land, half-moons for crops, and smaller crescents for gardening plots — that keep top soil from washing away and collect runoff water. When it rains here, it rains very hard. Rather than just evaporating away, the pooled water now absorbs more fully into the ground. Grasses that animals eat grow very quickly near the pools, which are also a new water source for the animals. The desert transforms incredibly quickly with just a little water — it's pretty amazing!

These areas are also fertilized to improve the soil, and communities are encouraged to plant trees what will slow erosion over the long-term. Additionally, the trees become a source of wood for fuel and the leaves offer more feed for animals.

We are also working with partners to connect more communities with the government's early warning system. Collecting and monitoring more data from throughout the country will ensure future droughts do not go unnoticed before it’s too late.

What has been most surprising about the situation on the ground?

During past crises, men and young people would temporarily leave villages to find work or food in the cities. But the situation is so bad this time that they are no longer leaving women and children behind to maintain their homes; entire families are abandoning their farms for good and uprooting their whole lives to try to survive. The sense is that the situation has become hopeless and people do not see a way of making it work in either the short- or long-term.

How is Mercy Corps introducing sustainable farming/agriculture practices to help people through this drought, and droughts to come?

Mercy Corps is helping people get access to improved seeds that can better withstand dry conditions and more effective fertilization to improve the soil. We're teaching the land rehabilitation techniques outlined above, which can be integrated into agricultural practices for generations to come.

To increase the market value of harvests, our teams are also working with farmers — especially women — on improved storage techniques. Traditionally, small and disadvantaged producers sell crops immediately after harvest. The surplus in the market at harvest time causes prices to drop, and the most vulnerable farmers are forced to sell their produce at unfavorable prices. Our programs teach simple preservation and storage strategies, like completely drying beans and peanuts before storing (if stored while still wet or damp the produce will just rot). This knowledge provides farmers with the skills to preserve a high quality product and allows them to sell their produce when the market has more favorable conditions.

Why did you choose to work for Mercy Corps?

Broadly, Mercy Corps strives to find solutions to complex global crises by thinking differently about the process, using local partnerships and focusing on long-term sustainability. I was drawn to Mercy Corps by the challenging geography in which they operate and the unique development models they employ to create lasting change in these transitional environments.

Why is it so difficult to grow produce in the region?

Niger is in the Sahel, the southern part of the Sahara desert. The region is affected by climate change, which has led to increasingly chronic and recurring droughts every three or four years. In addition to low amounts of rainfall and groundwater, the soil is very poor and generally infertile. Most farmers use traditional production methods, but the improved technology and modern techniques discussed above will help them adapt to these new environmental conditions.

People in crisis respond with courage. What stories of courage do you keep close to your heart?

On a recent field visit we talked to many people benefitting from our projects. They said that when the family eats, they first serve the children, then the men, and finally they serve the women. When food is plentiful, the whole family eats well. However, now that food is scarce, women continue to serve their children and husbands first. Their self-sacrifice is courageous, but heartbreaking.

During our visit, women told us that they prefer the cash-for-work activities. When they work and earn money, they are able to buy enough food for their entire family. They also work to rehabilitate land that was not previously being utilized. In addition to supporting their families, their efforts help the community produce more food and help to increase the water and feed available for livestock, which increases future earnings.


Thank you for your donation. It helps Thierno and the Mercy Corps team continue this important work. Your donation saved lives.

Mothers wait to get help for malnourished children
Mothers wait to get help for malnourished children
Half-moon shapes: land will retain more rainwater
Half-moon shapes: land will retain more rainwater
Land is dry and cracked, causing harvests to fail
Land is dry and cracked, causing harvests to fail


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