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Jan 18, 2020

Stepping into the New Year together.

Shoes lined up outside our exercise venue.
Shoes lined up outside our exercise venue.

With your support, more than 300 Syrian refugee women were able to attend our fitness classes at least once during 2019! After a short break over the holidays, we have relaunched our classes in the New Year and are looking forward to all the ladies that will join us for exercise. Every week new shoes are lined up at the threshold to the tent where the classes take place in one of the refugee camps. Attendance depends on the weather, children’s school timetables, husband’s work hours, visiting relatives and responsibilities that limit the women’s abilities to leave their home. However, even during times of political up-heal, fighting in their homeland and instability in our country, every single time that our classes take place, women show up to exercise, encourage one another and form community.

Our fitness instructors have opened their hearts to the women that come together for class and have in turn become an important part of their lives. In the words of one of the participants: “On the days of the week that I exercise, I am the happiest and least prone to flare up in anger. I have come to love the fitness instructors and sometimes I just come to exercise in order to see them. Through being encouraged myself, I have also learned to encourage others and care for the people around me.”

Women stretching at the end of class.
Women stretching at the end of class.
Jan 15, 2020

A New Decade of Hope

A new decade! As we all reflect on the last ten years and ponder what the next ten years have in store, those in the communities where we work have a number of things to be hopeful for. New greenhouses are increasing the options of a balanced diet and the levels of agricultural knowledge, women’s health groups are spreading simple but life-saving actions to improve health. But most of all they have an increasing realisation of the resources they have at their disposal and of what they can achieve together.


Greenhouse project


We have been busy monitoring the greenhouses in two valleys, both school greenhouses and a private ones. We find that regular monitoring helps build a strong relationship with our partners allowing for regular feedback, ongoing training, and quick resolutions to problems they may be facing.            


We conducted a phone survey with all our partners in the Ghund and Shokhdara valleys. We conducted the surveys at the end of the year, when all famers have harvested their crop. The best outcome we had was shown by project partner with more than 700 kg of crop from 56 m3 hothouse at 3200-meter elevation that we assisted with plastic and training.


We held a partners meeting with our newer or struggling partners. We invited to our meeting an experienced farmer as a local adviser. The project aim has always been self-sufficiency by promoting our local partners continuously. This meeting helped us to make stronger relationships with our partners, learning from mistakes, sharing ideas, comparing results, and creating plans. We hope to encourage and challenge our famers and aim for being more independent or totally independent from the project in the near future.


We continue to work on new, more affordable greenhouse designs.


Health project


Zamira is a young mother of three children, living in difficult circumstances. Her husband working in Russia since there are few work opportunities in the remote mountain area where they live. As a child she longed to become a medical doctor and always had a thirst for knowledge. Her family circumstances didn't apply for her to go to medical college because of the cost involved. She loved having the opportunity to attend our lessons relating to childhood illnesses and maternal health topics. Her thirst for knowledge hadn't left her, and she used the knowledge she gained to share with her family and the people of her village.  



One day her sister called her to say she was on her way to the Doctor with her son, because he had ear ache. Zamira asked about the symptoms and explained to her sister that this can happen after the cold if he has been blowing his nose really hard as is the custom where they live. The next day having been to the doctor, Zamira's sister phoned to ask her how she was so knowledgeable about ear ache. She explained that she is participating in the training with Operation Mercy where they learn about childhood illnesses and recommended to her sister participate in such trainings. After this Zamira felt happy and proud that she could recognise some of the health problems and ways of preventing them. And that because of this she was not only in position to help her own family but other's too.



Dec 2, 2019

My visit to North Macedonia

STEP business training in N-Macedonia
STEP business training in N-Macedonia

I have been the international director of Operation Mercy for 3 months now. One of my highlights during those 12 weeks were two field visits one to Jordan and a recent one to North Macedonia.

North Macedonia is a little different from most of our project countries, it is in Europe it is a tiny country not even recognised by all its neighbours and predominant Christian. It is also better off than most of the other countries we work in, ranked 80 on the Human development index.

What such statistics and info sheets don’t tell very well is the story of minorities, the pain still in the hearts of many even two decades after the Kosovar war. North Macedonia is home to a large number of what we often call Kosovar Albanians who are Muslim of faith and spread over Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania, in North Macedonia this group is living in a sub culture that surprised me beyond anything I could have imagined. Skopje is a divided city – it feels like crossing major culture lines just walking through the old town.

Our team works on building bridges in this divided society – some of our Macedonian staff are learning Albanian and are getting push back from their own community for it. Our health and hope drop in centre in the middle of the Albanian part of town, gives women from very conservative backgrounds a place to come and get advice, do exercises for their backs and have a cup of coffee among friends.

Recently we started the STEP project, a vocational skills development programme for Albanian women. Currently they are learning about business, marketing, clients – as well as ethics and growing their own self confidence as entrepreneurs. In the new year they will start their apprenticeship in hair dressing, tailoring and baking.

Equipped with new skills and new confidence these women from a minority group are stepping out into society – making their way, creating family income, opportunities for their daughters and sons.

Our team in North Macedonia creates hope, capacity and community – for those forgotten after years of conflict and mistrust.


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