BRAC USA

Our mission is to empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice. Our interventions aim to achieve large scale, positive changes through economic and social programs that enable men and women to realize their potential.
Jan 20, 2016

Building houses to help families get back on their feet

BRAC Nepal Country representative signs agreement
BRAC Nepal Country representative signs agreement

Sheetal, our BRAC USA fellow stationed in Nepal, has provided us with updates from the field. Below is her letter:

*****

Dear GlobalGiving supporters,

A big thank you for enabling our emergency response efforts in Nepal. I am excited to update you on our progress and goals for the coming months.

Since our first report in April 2015, so much good work has been done, but there is much more progress to be made to help families devastated by the earthquake.

BRAC is officially set up in Nepal and is looking to start providing long-term relief for families affected by the earthquake. We had hoped that we would be able to begin our project in November, so that the 400 houses we were planning to build would be complete and ready to move-in before the harsh winter started in December and January.

Unfortunately, this earthquake, being the biggest disaster in the history of Nepal, posed a unique challenge – especially to the Government of Nepal who scrambled to organize and plan for relief, rehabilitation and the sudden influx of foreign aid and assistance. Eght months after the earthquake, the victims received 15,000 Nepal rupees – approximately $150 – from the government. They also received some relief materials to rebuild their hoses such as corrugated iron sheets and tarpaulin (heavy-duty cloth). These materials alone are not enough, and many expected more from the government. We hope that we will be able to begin our project by the end of this month to start building permanent structures for families.

 Background on the earthquakes and BRAC in Nepal:

Two massive earthquakes of 7.9 and 7.6 on 25 April and 12 May, 2015, followed by a series of aftershocks in the following months caused tremendous loss of life and economy in Nepal (we are still experiencing shakes of magnitude 4 and higher 2-3 times a week). Thirty-one out of the 75 districts in Nepal were severely affected and among them,14 were declared 'crisis-hit' by the Government of Nepal.

 BRAC was one of the first global organizations that immediately responded to the Government of Nepal's request to provide medical assistance. As Nepal transitions from the relief phase to rehabilitation, BRAC intends to begin its operations by reconstructing 400 earthquake-affected houses in the district of Kavre. 

BRAC officially registered as an international non-governmental organization (INGO) in Nepal on 30 September 2015. Currently, BRAC is in the process of constructing two demonstration houses (both widow-headed households) before beginning the construction of the intended 400 houses.  Simultaneously, we have acquired a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Urban Development for this project. (We had submitted all the required documents, including our design for the houses, budget etc. on 4 November 2015, and thanks to government bureaucracy, after three long months we will be signing the MoU at noon tomorrow!)

We are excited for the future and grateful to all of the donors who are thinking of Nepal and the families here in need of support.

All the best,

Sheetal

Aug 26, 2015

Letter from the field

Women cleaning debris
Women cleaning debris

Thanks to GlobalGiving supporters, BRAC was able to provide emergency support and assist partners on the ground. The BRAC team is working closely with the Nepalese government to decide the scale and scope of its long-term projects. In the meantime, BRAC has sent a fellow out to visit some of the more remote areas of the country to assess what local people need the most and how we can best reach them.

Sheetal is a Nepal native, but has been getting her graduate degree in the US for the last several years. She returned to Nepal to work as a fellow for BRAC, but hadn't been home in years. Below is her letter from the field.

Dear all,
Today, with my brother, I visited a village called Lubhu in Lalitpur district, with a total population of about 10,000 about 7 km north of Kathmandu. This part of Lubhu has a settlement of ethnic "Newar" people who speak Newari, also known as Nepal bhasa. Their houses are built with brick and mud, which you will see is evident in the rubble. 
I'm sharing pictures, and a brief conversation with a local family, and some thoughts. 
From the main road, it looked like only a few houses were damaged. But upon parking our motorcycle and walking inside a courtyard, we saw that many more had been reduced to rubble. With the monsoon rains, the rubble has flattened on the roads. Locals have put pieces of bricks together to make a makeshift path for pedestrians as no vehicle can pass through. 
As we were walking, I saw this young woman, about my age, with a shovel in her hand, shoveling debris of a completely ruined house, and an older woman, probably her mother looking on. I was getting ready to take a picture, when her relatives from the shop on the opposite side, called out in Newari, "daughter, look over here, someone is taking a picture of you! Smile!". At this cheerful gesture, I struck a conversation with the family. I asked them how they were doing. They said they were all alive and safe, but their houses were gone. Right next to the shop was a tin dome temporary shelter, similar to the one that the Chaudhary Group was distributing. I tried to see if the dome had any logos of NGOs, INGOs, but didn't see any. The family had built the dome on their own, with their own money. Relief has not reached them, at least not yet, even after three months of the earthquake. They told me that they heard that the neighboring villages had received relief materials and shelters, but they didn't get any. 
Finally they asked, "will you provide us some relief? Anything would help." Embarrassed by their innocent and hopeful question, we had to answer that we did not have anything to give at the moment, but these pictures we've would help us know what they need. They agreed that if their story was shared, their families would receive some attention, some care. 
A few steps over, we saw men and women scraping mud from bricks and rebuilding on what is left of their house (See picture building on what is left"). They were merely stacking fallen bricks on leftover walls, aware of the questionable sustainability in case of another aftershock or earthquake.
People have taken it upon themselves to clean, pick up and get back up on their feet. And why not, they can't hope for help forever. But any help would be of great help. 
Warmly,
Sheetal
Rubble lines the streets
Rubble lines the streets
Jul 28, 2015

Empowering farmers in Tanzania

Mgeni a livestock promotor in Tanzania
Mgeni a livestock promotor in Tanzania

The agriculture and livestock sectors in sub-Saharan Africa have remarkable potential to foster economic growth – especially in rural areas. But in order to take advantage of regional resources, countries like Tanzania need to equip local farmers with the skills and tools they need to be successful.

With your support, the Livelihoods Enhancement through Agriculture Development (LEAD) program, conducted in Tanzania, has increased farmers’ incomes by teaching them skills such as effective bargaining and confidence in their product through marketing. LEAD also trains the farmers in business tactics: they learn competitive negotiating skills and cost reduction strategies.  By organizing groups through which farmers can cultivate markets and contacts, as well as offering easier access to supplies and modern agriculture technology, many more families have become food secure. In just two years of operation LEAD has formed 5,027 farmers’ organizations for both maize and poultry.

The majority of the farmers participating in LEAD are women. Mgeni is an excellent example of one woman who benefited from a BRAC agriculture program. To start her poultry business, Mgeni took out 250,000 Tanzanian shillings (120 USD) from a BRAC microfinance program. Now, she makes between two and three million shillings monthly (960-1,440 USD) by supplying local shops with eggs; Mgeni is considering buying a car to expand her market even further. Her first small loan has allowed Mgeni to expand her business and apply for a BRAC Small Enterprise Loan (up to 30 million shillings or 14,400USD). Mgeni success story is one of many that will continue to inspire farmers like her to get involved with LEAD and start their own competitive business.

Thank you for donating to this project. As it receives more funding and support, BRAC looks to expand its agriculture programs in Tanzania and continue to train farmers to plant their crops efficiently and maximize outputs.

 

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