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Aug 9, 2018

August report from O. Mekembjes in Kosovo

Merita is learning new skills, how to make clothes
Merita is learning new skills, how to make clothes

We are enjoying a busy summer at O. Mëkëmbjes, with lots of different activities going on for the ladies in the program as well as the kids in their summer holidays. 

Merita is a mum of five grown-up kids, who came to our program from an abusive family where she was very rarely allowed to leave the house, and never alone. Even though she is nearly 50 years old, when she first arrived she didn't have the confidence to leave the house or speak to people other than the staff. But with lots of encouragement and learning new skills through our program, Merita is feeling much more confident. She says, “I already know a little bit more than before, and now I have more courage. Before I used to be afraid to go out, to see this or that person, thinking “how can I do it?” but now I can go and I am not so worried. I just want to walk forwards in my life.”

The children that come to our program from a violent family past often have difficulties in school and at home because of the trauma that they have experienced. Agim is 8 years old, and earlier this year his behaviour was becoming worse and worse - he was so stressed about not understanding lessons in school that he was fighting with other children and having tantrums. Our psychologist realised that he is struggling with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and started giving intensive one-on-one help to Agim and his mum. Within a few weeks, his behaviour has improved so much that we are amazed with his progress! Our teacher says, "Agim's behaviour has changed a lot through working with the psychologist. He's no longer aggressive and has more desire to learn and to help the other kids in the class."

It is so encouraging to see progress in the lives of families damaged by violence. Sometimes the progress is slow, but in each family, we can see new hope for a good future as they grow in healing, skills and confidence.

O. Mëkëmbjes has applied to take part in the September Accelerator Campaign which will allow us to join GlobalGiving in in our own right. We will post another update nearer the time but we will be running a fundraising campaign for this project where we will need to see $5000 rasied from at least 30 different donors over a 4 week period. That would be a great time to support this project and encourage others to do so. 

Thank you again for your support of our work in Kosovo. It is very much appreciated.

Kids enjoying their summer program of activities
Kids enjoying their summer program of activities
Aug 7, 2018

Lessons Learned from Operation Mercy Country Directors

Lessons leaned
Lessons leaned

At Operation Mercy, we expect lives to be transformed as a result of our project work.  Not just the lives of program beneficiaries and participants but all we expect the lives of our staff to be transformed too.  Here are a few of the things that Operation Mercy Country Directors recently told me they were learning.

Iraq  - The greatest investment you can make is time spent with people, especially those you see regularly. Therefore, one of the best investment’s you can make is through the local staff that you hire. 

Kazahkstan - One of the biggest things that I have learnt over the past year is to keep pressing on in the small things. It is nice to see a big project succeed but I am learning that over time, repeatedly doing things – even without the glamor –  progress is made and people grow for the better as they seek to learn from each other.  I have also learnt the value of partnership. There are many others that are also working towards the same goals we are working towards here. Receiving support from our close partner organization so that we could continue for another year was encouraging.

Jordan -  Have a clear policy for warning and firing staff. I had to fire a local employee in February. The policy I concluded on was: 1st verbal warning with explaination of the policy (and record the incident). 2) On 2nd repeated offense, issue a written warning (two copies) with the person’s signature, and save it in his/her personnel file. 3) Third repeated offense, issue a letter in a short meeting with the person explaining briefly they are being fired and the reason.

Afgahanistan -  A key lesson for us all has been seeing how committed our local staff have been to the needs of their communities and their desire to continue working in the face of extreme challenges and risk. 

We have been extremely proud of their perseverance and very encouraged to see their vision for transformation and change

Macedonia - Another lesson is not to allow mission-creep into a project before adequate funding is secured.  Actually and paradoxically, I don’t know how we could have avoided this.

Iran -  Our in country Operation Mercy Management Team is working well to maintain better communication for managing, leading, developing new projects and empowering staff, and maintaining, revising and making new policies as needed.  We continue to need to work on virtual team work management and follow agreed rules of the road for ongoing communication, decision making and accountability.

Jul 23, 2018

Out and about with the team

So much bad news! Everyday it seems we get bombarded with bad news on our televisions, on our phones, in the papers. Well Operation Mercy and our eight communities have been creating some good news that we would like to share with you.


High Altitude Agriculture

Our main effort since the last report is to complete two new greenhouses. These are an experimental design and could reduce the cost of our existing design by $800 making it much more affordable for people in the Pamir mountains to grow fresh vegetables.

We also had a visit from a veterinary doctor and community trainer from a partner organisation in Kyrgyzstan. Together we visited livestock owners and government veterinarians in the communities we work with. We spent time trying to understand the issues that the livestock and their owners are facing and working on some possible solutions. We hope that we will be able to carry out some specific training and support later in the year.

Finally, we have been monitoring the greenhouses we built last year with schools. Despite some teething problems, growing is well underway and it looks like it will be a good harvest.


Community Health

In the Pamirs, little new information or improved practice will get through to mothers and children unless the mother-in-law agrees. This last month we have been focusing on 16 mothers-in-law in one of our communities to help them understand the information we are sharing with their daughters-in-law. We have seen some real breakthrough where women, previously very suspicious of our work and approach, now want to attend the lessons themselves.

We helped four schools in villages we work with hold International Children's Day celebrations. This is normally widely celebrated in Tajikistan however, in the more remote schools, it is forgotten or written off as a waste of precious money. We have planned affordable and educational fun-days, together with the health workers in the village, to demonstrate that an affordable celebration of children is possible.


Orchard Improvement and Fruit Processing

In the past months we have been focusing on supporting our partners with all they need to make a success of the coming juicing season. Helping order new packaging from China and offering training on small business accounting and marketing has been key.


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