Mercy Corps

To alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.
May 15, 2015

With Confidence Comes Change

  • Boys and girls in low-income areas of Iraq and Pakistan are learning to build confidence through games and leadership training that will help them achieve their goals. All photos: Mercy Corps

In Iraq and Pakistan, adolescent youth are facing huge challenges as they try to grow up amidst the conflict, danger and uncertainty that surrounds them. With fighting and other security issues interrupting their daily lives, it’s nearly impossible to learn, grow and make important life decisions without a strong support system.

That’s why our programs in these countries are designed to offer adolescents the crucial support they need at the time they need it most.

With support from The Coca-Cola Foundation and Coca-Cola Içecek, Mercy Corps is helping youth in Pakistan and Iraq by offering them a safe place to be active, learn essential life skills and become leaders in their communities.

After-school groups meet every week to play games and engage in meaningful discussions on topics like inclusion, teamwork, communication, relationships, goal-setting and social responsibility. Trained coaches provide direction, but each session is run by a young person so they can stretch their new leadership skills.

Both Iraq and Pakistan have been plagued by regional instability and violence. Growing up in these places is not easy — even when youth have access to school and family support, they may not have the confidence, guidance or skills they need to go after their dreams.

For young girls, the struggle of adolescence is compounded by long-held cultural beliefs that can hold them back from reaching their true potential. Instead of being supported and encouraged in their studies, girls are often pulled out of school early to help with household chores.

But in Lahore and Baghdad, girls in our program are treated equally to boys — for some, it’s the first time they’ve experienced gender equality, engaged in sports or felt the freedom to express their opinions.

That freedom can be transformative.

Iraq: Meet Ala'a

In Baghdad, 17 year-old Ala’a is the youngest girl in a family of six. The neighborhood where she lives with her family regularly experiences bombings and kidnapping threats — they say it’s now just a way of life.

Because of the constant threat of danger, Ala’a has little freedom. Her brother must accompany her to school every day. "My family is very protective of me,” she says. “It made it hard for me to go to school when he was busy.”

Before she joined Mercy Corps’ youth program, Ala’a was painfully shy and had few friends. “I did not have the courage to make new friends,” she explains.

But after just a few days of leadership training with the youth program, Ala’a came out her shell. She began participating in discussions, made new friends, and learned to develop her confidence and leadership skills.

Now, Ala’a runs discussions with other youth on her own. “I love my youth team members,” she says. “We are friends now and we can learn from each other.”

The effects of the youth program reach beyond the group sessions. Because of her newly-gained confidence, Ala’a is no longer afraid to speak her mind. “I feel that my family and friends are listening to my opinion now and I can discuss things with them more freely and openly.”

Pakistan: Meet Mahnoor

In Lahore, a girl just a few years younger than Ala’a is learning some of the same skills through the youth program in her neighborhood.

Mahnoor, 14, lives with her large family in a poor area of Lahore, where most people are factory workers just trying to survive. Before joining the youth program, Mahnoor was doing poorly in school and struggling to find purpose.

While she was unsure at first, Mahnoor quickly became a capable leader in the youth program. After a few learning experiences, Mahnoor learned how to effectively lead a group of her peers in discussions by engaging with them and listening to them.

Before long, Mahnoor became a respected leader in the program and developed friendships with many of her peers. To improve her studies, Mahnoor started a study group with some of her new friends. “I realized after conducting sessions that as a team we can work better, so I thought to make a group for studying together,” she says.

Mahnoor’s family can see how much she’s grown in just a few short months. Because of her new skills and improved confidence, she is doing better in school and is more involved in her own family. “She’s active in sports now and she has started helping our family in different things. It’s all because of the program’s activities,” says Mahnoor’s sister.

In the last year, our youth program has trained approximately 5,000 youth leaders like Ala’a and Mahnoor. After learning new skills through the weekly discussions, youth are then encouraged to create events and projects that will further help their community.

Through the events that they have created, youth in Lahore and Baghdad have reached nearly 25,000 of their peers. The program is empowering thoughtful youth leaders in low-income communities where jobs and opportunities are tough to come by.

Young girls and boys are benefitting from the program in important, but different ways.When both groups come together, they have the power to influence change.Young people like Ala’a and Mahnoor now have the confidence and skills they need to achieve their goals — and the courage to inspire others in their communities to do the same.

Apr 13, 2015

Humanitarian Crisis Continues in the Sahel

Every day there seems to be a different country in the news with a new tragic headline.

Last year, we saw an unprecedented number of humanitarian crises around the world, and thanks to supporters like you, we've been on the ground helping people survive and continue working toward a better future despite unimaginable circumstances.

As the humanitarian crisis continues across the Sahel in Nigeria and Sudan we are looking ahead at the following challenges we must address in 2015 — and what new ways we can make a lifesaving and lasting difference for millions of people facing displacement, hunger, violence and disease.

South Sudan

by
Photo: Lindsay Hamsik/Mercy Corps

The Situation: The world’ youngest nation has been battered by civil war since political violence erupted in the capital of Juba in December 2013. The conflict soon spread across the country, destabilizing markets and forcing more than one million people to flee their homes. Many ran into the bush with nothing on their backs but their children.

This is only the latest conflict, after decades of another civil war that ultimately led to South Sudan's independence in 2011. For a couple years it looked as though this most underdeveloped country in the world would have a chance at peaceful growth, but “The roots of the conflict are well in place and haven’t been dealt with,” says Redmond.

Now, the entire country is in the grips of a massive hunger crisis — the U.N. warned recently that more than 2.5 million people are at risk of famine. In a country where most people have been dependent on subsistence farming, families are unable to grow food after being forced to leave their own land behind, and markets are barren because traders do not want to risk being attacked en route.

How We're Helping: “We’re trying to focus on food security and look at markets. That’s what needs to happen because food security is an ongoing problem,” says Redmond. But the challenges are steep. “How do we do it within a conflict? How do we do it on a big enough scale to matter?”

Mercy Corps is working in remote villages in South Sudan to help displaced people grow more food to feed their families. We’re also providing cash assistance to the most vulnerable people so that they can purchase food in local markets.

Our work helping traders maintain their businesses is helping keep South Sudan’s markets alive, and our team in South Sudan is continually looking for new ways to help the people of this young country survive and recover in the delicate and constantly changing environment.

READ THE LATEST: Escape to safety — one staff member's journey 

 

Nigeria


Photo: Fatima K. Mohammed for Mercy Corps

The Situation: Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and is, in many ways, a model of prosperous development in Africa. But stark economic inequalities remain — roughly 70-percent of the population lives in poverty, and women and girls have especially-limited access to education and resources.

Ethnic and religious conflict is still seen in pockets across the country, and now, the rise of extremist violence by Boko Haram in the north of the country is putting millions of people at risk and threatening neighboring countries. Nearly one million people are now displaced in Nigeria, creating new humanitarian needs. “That’s a serious one to watch,” says Redmond.

How We're Helping: Our emergency response teams are on the ground and assessing the areas of most urgent need and how best to respond.

Despite the potential for more serious conflict, Mercy Corps’ ongoing programs to support young women's education and job training continue. Their safety and security is our top priority in the insecure environment, but we believe we cannot give up on addressing the root causes of inequality and poverty here.

By helping girls stay in school longer, and providing tutoring and economic and business skills lessons, they will be empowered to make better decisions for their families and contribute to the peaceful development of their communities.

Apr 1, 2015

Our Final Update On Typhoon Haiyan Recovery

Photo by Casandra Nelson, Mercy Corps
Photo by Casandra Nelson, Mercy Corps

In November 2014, we passed the one year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. During that time, we reflected on the aid provided and we want to share just a few accomplishments because of you:

  • Within the first few weeks after Typhoon Haiyan, Mercy Corps coordinated with other organizations and provided food, water and emergency supplies to more than 18,000 people in communities that had received little or no aid. In addition, Mercy Corps established two child-safe spaces to help children process fear and trauma.
  • To improve water and sanitation services for people living on remote islands Mercy Corps coordinated with other organizations to build toilets and hand-washing facilities in schools, repairing community wells and providing water filters to serve 5,000 people.

  • As distributions of food and emergency kits slowed down in January 2014, Mercy Corps transitioned to recovery efforts - helping people rebuild with cash assistance, financial training, and access to needs-based finacial services, including loans, insurance, and savings products.

  • To provide the assistance Mercy Corps worked withBanKO, a local bank that has a purely mobile, branchless banking model that is unique in the Philippines. Together, we reached more than 25,000 households on northern Cebu and Leyte islands with cash transfers - many of whom are living on less than $2 a day. The cash transfers helped families to rebuild their homes and communities.

  • Based on an estimated average household size of six, programming benefitted approximately 155,000 people on Cebu and Leyte Islands. By February 2015, nearly all the program's beneficiaries (97%) had received cash transfers that totaled $2.3 million. 


Lives affected by the typhoon have been improved because of you. Thank you. 

Though we will continue our long term efforts in the region, we will no longer be doing a project page through GlobalGiving. If you would like to still donate to the mission of Mercy Corps through GlobalGiving, we encourage you to change lives through our Help Turn Crisis Into Opportunity project. You can also continue to follow our progress in the the Philippines and see our other programs in the country as well. 

We are truly thankful for your generous contributions and for continuing to care 16 months after the typhoon. You have helped the people of the Philippines get back on their feet quicker!

With gratitude,

Peter

 
   

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