Mercy Corps

To alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.
Jul 22, 2015

Final Update-Saving Lives in Niger, Mali & Sahel

Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps
Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps

Earlier this month, Mercy Corps celebrated 10 years of work in Niger in the heart of the Sahel - where our work to save lives is poised for continued growth. Reflecting on the aid we have provided over that time we would like to acknowledge your support and call out just a few accomplishments: 

  • Responding to the food crisis in Niger in 2005, Mercy Corps established four emergency programs working with the community to provide assistance to 28,000 beneficiaries by 2011 and over 250,000 today

 

  • Developing business training and financial inclusion; growing goat herds; fostering gender integration; and facilitating farmer field schools are generating positive results which include:
    • Increased support/knowledge for cooperatives like dairy as well greater seed capital for women to grow their small businesses – both of which helped communities cope with food crisis’ (increasing savings and income and allowed beneficiaries to help others in need)
    • Two years after an increased goat distributions many herders have more than five goats, fueling an increase in commerce and income in addition to improved diets through milk availability and consumption.
    • Development of farmer field schooling are improving farming techniques in primarily agriculturally dependent communities; generating greater gender coordination as participation levels rise among woman; and malnutrition reductions of 80% (Sawki)
    • Regularly scheduled child screenings (under 5) have led to underweight levels of 42.9% in 2013 to 22% in 2015.
  • In neighboring Mali, Mercy Corps has been reducing malnutrition through the Irtoun program which supplies emergency food vouchers in exchange for work doing agricultural improvement projects like building irrigation systems, among other projects. As a result, in Asongo, farmers and gardening groups have access to seeds for crops that will fare well in the markets and help improve household nutrition. So far the groups have purchased 25 tons of seed for their crops.

 

While Mercy Corps will continue work to save lives in Niger, Mali, and the Sahel region, we will no longer report work through this project page on GlobalGiving. We encourage you to continue to change lives and donate through Global Giving and our Help Turn Crisis into Opportunity project. You can also follow our progress in Niger, Mali, and other countries in the Sahel.

We are sincerely grateful for your generous donations and for supporting Mercy Corps’ effort to help people survive and communities thrive in Niger, Mali, and the Sahel!

May 15, 2015

Education brings Syrian + Jordanian Girls Together

  • In Jordan's Zaatari Village, the school for girls used to be overcrowded with both Jordanian and Syrian refugee students. Community leaders worked with Mercy Corps to come up with a solution. Photo: Georg Schaumberger for Mercy Corps

In a small village in north Jordan, Syrian and Jordanian girls sit side by side at school. Each has her very own desk and there is ample space to learn. But until recently, this situation was only a dream.

The Syrian war, which began in March 2011, forced almost four million Syrians to flee their home country. Most have found shelter in Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey or Jordan, where many have family members.

Some live in refugee camps, like nearby Zaatari camp, but most Syrian refugees live in towns or cities alongside their host community neighbors.

Since Syrians began fleeing nearly four years ago, Zaatari Village has doubled in population due to the influx of refugees. It has gone from a small town of 10,000 to one with over 20,000 people.

This drastic change has created a high demand for local services, including education. With a new, larger population, the school in Zaatari Village was unable to accommodate all of the Syrian girls who wanted to attend school.

Those who were able to attend experienced overcrowding and tension between refugees and Jordanians.

“The school was really crowded, we had to sit in crowded classrooms and everyone was very uncomfortable,” said Raghad, 15, who is Jordanian from Zaatari. “There was a lot of fighting.”


Heba is a Syrian refugee who now lives in Zaatari Village with her family and attends the local school for girls. Photo: Sumaya Agha for Mercy Corps

Heba, 18, fled Homs, Syria with her parents, two brothers and her sister, settling in Zaatari Village to wait for an end to the conflict. “When we first arrived in Jordan, it was difficult to study because of the large number of students,” she said. “We could not understand what was going on and it was impossible to participate.”

Mercy Corps has been in Zaatari Village for two years, working with local people in conflict management training. The training helps both Jordanian and Syrian community leaders resolve tensions that arise in the village.

They are taught how to identify the source of a problem, come up with an effective solution, and then develop a proposal. From there, Mercy Corps discusses the community leaders’ ideas with the local government.


The new girls' school in Zaatari Village can hold 120 more female students and gives everyone the space and tools they need to learn. Photo: Mercy Corps

The leaders saw the problem at the girls’ school and proposed a solution — building a new girls’ school that could serve 120 more female students. Mercy Corps decided to fund the construction of the school, and the Ministry of Education agreed to provide the teachers.

To make the new school their own, students worked with AptART (Awareness & Prevention Through Art) to design and paint a beautiful mural on the side of the building. Just as the community leaders had hoped, the school is making a world of difference to both Syrian and Jordanian girls living in Zaatari Village.


Heba and Raghad show a Mercy Corps team member where they painted on the school's mural. Photo: Georg Schaumberger for Mercy Corps

“Syrian students are now involved in all activities, we are treated the same as Jordanian students,” said Heba. “We are participating in everything, not just sitting.” Heba's favorite subjects in school are math, chemistry and physics. She also told us that she loves learning all languages in the new and improved school.

Raghad, who lives in the village with her parents and two brothers, understands why the new school is making such a big difference for the community. “Before, the Syrian refugees did not fit in – it was too overcrowded and there was fighting over seats,” she said.

“Now, there is a much better atmosphere. We have more space and we have good relationships, and we can all learn and participate.”


In the new school, each girls sits at her own desk and has space to learn. The improved learning conditions have greatly eased tensions between Jordanian students and Syrian refugees. Photo: Georg Schaumberger for Mercy Corps

During his recent six-day tour of the Middle East, The Prince of Wales visited the girls' school and other projects in Zaatari Village that Mercy Corps has helped community leaders build. Throughout his visit, The Prince learned about how the conflict management training is helping communities, and why this work is so important to both Syrian and Jordanian families.

With the improved girls’ school up and running, tensions between young Syrian refugees and their Jordanian classmates have eased, and the community leaders can be proud of what they’ve accomplished by working together.

With Mercy Corps’ conflict management training under their belts, the leaders of Zaatari Village are ready and willing to create more positive changes in their community.

 

 

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.

 
   

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