Partnering to build hope, capacity, and community

by Operation Mercy
Partnering to build hope, capacity, and community
Partnering to build hope, capacity, and community
Partnering to build hope, capacity, and community
Partnering to build hope, capacity, and community
community mapping in Niger
community mapping in Niger

Dear friends of Operation Mercy, 

 

one of the pages in our newly published annual report starts like this: 

"Operation Mercy is a community of hope. We are a community that is diverse in backgrounds, personal stories, skills, and vocations. We are a community working in 10 countries, from many different nations. Our community represents men and women, young and old, many languages, ethnicities, and faith backgrounds. Even though we are different, we are united in wanting to see people raised up, in and through community, because we share hope which enables us to look beyond the pain and suffering that we encounter every day." 

... and it is absolutely true! 

During the first six months of 2022 we have been looking out to continue to grow our community. I strength and resilience as we continue to work in difficult, challenging places - but also by adding friends and new partners to our community. 

In April I was able to spend a week in Niger, a country ranking at the bottom of the human development indix in many areas, dry, hot, forgotten by many. But during this week i met people of hope, who have dreams for their own communities, people who like us want to see restoration and new life in places of barrenness. 

The workshop had not only men and women from Niger but also Mali, Chad, Senegal and Mauretania - people full of passion for their own communities. 

Talks have started with several of them to see where new partnerships can be build, how lessons we have learned in other fragile hard places can be applied here, what these communities know that can be of value elsewhere in our network. it is an exciting journey - and we hope to be able to share more news about those places with you in the future! 

At the same time we continue to build our community of hope bringers, like yourself. We connect to our members during our annual meeting and were able to present our annual report 66 pages of stories and news from our projects. Check out the link below and have a look!! 

 A special thanks goes as every year to our many international and national volunteers - who put in an astonishing 60 734 hours of professional work in 2022. This means that through our volunteer, self financed staff we can add 2$ to every 4$ you donate! 

These 6$ are enough to touch a life and a person in need through our work. 

Thanks for being part of our community of hope bringers! 

 

Yours Andrea 

community garden
community garden

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women in Central Asia sharing their stories
women in Central Asia sharing their stories

Dear friends,

2022 is only six weeks old and already we have seen a few challenges but most of all a lot of hope and vision from our teams and local partners. 

A little while ago someone quoted this proverb to me: 

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life." 

(Proverbs of Salomon) 

 

I think that describes very well what we are experiencing in the middle of much trouble. Two stories for you: 

 

Afghanistan: 

For the last 5 months we were in touch with our local staff and partners, many facing fear and anxiety - hope had been crushed and deferred ... their hearts and souls were sick, virtual support can only help with limits. 

In January we joined the UN nutrition cluster, got training started, groups of staff meeting together, planning a Nutrition Project for Under 5 year old and breastfeeding mothers. The first of our international manager was able to go and join them for a few weeks and get things going. 

The staff and the international team, are starting to dream again. We are starting to see that we are still welcome, yes even invited to make a difference in these horrible times. 

If our team was a tree - it certainly was withering over the last months but now it is coming back to life, and we are full of vision and hope to provide life to many children and mothers in the next months. 

We are not sure yet if we will fundraise for this project here on GG - but if you want to contribute write us or give to this general project with a note Afghanistan Nutrition Project and we ensure that it will go to the right place!! 

 

Kazakhstan:

The country we considered the most stable of all our project locations started the year with riots, demonstrations, military shooting demonstrators. 

The team went into lock down. Once more there was fear and worry what was happening, where would this leave us our women's groups, the anti trafficking work, ...

but only 3 weeks later the groups are meeting again, and in the women's empowerment groups we see a trust and through that hope and life like never before. 

Last week a new women walked into the group - after listening to the others for some time, she said i have heard about you and that i can trust you not to judge or gossip. I need to tell someone something I have never told anyone before. 

Then she shared a story of abuse she had experienced as a girl. Something that in this "shame and honour" culture was not permitted to happen, or to be confronted. Something for which society blames the girls never the perpetrator.

For the first time in her life, this woman was able to unburden herself, find comfort and listening ears and hearts in this group of women who all have gone through hardship in life. Together they show and build in each other, resilience and hope ... through which they can find life. 

I hope you can celebrate these stories with us - and dream with us so that the tree of life might grow in the middle of these communities. 

Thanks for partnering with us for hope, capacity and community. 

 

Yours Andrea 

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Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Dear friends of Operation Mercy,

 

as many of you know one of our biggest offices is in Afghanistan. So we want to give you a glimpse of the last days of some of our international staff in the country as well as my thoughts of the situation as we go forward.

 All our international staff were evacuated on the 17th of August. We are in regular contact with all our local staff and are happy to report that so far all of them are safe and unharmed. We have undertaken many efforts to bring those most at risk out of the country, but this is been extremely difficult.

 

The last days ... through the eyes of our colleague:

 A few days before I left my home in the North of Afghanistan, my taxi driver, whom I used to call now and then when I had to go somewhere, called me and asked if I was still in town. He offered me and my house mate to come and stay with his family, so that we wouldn't be alone given the security situation. This despite the fear among people in general that contacts with foreigners would even more compromise their safety in the event of a takeover by the Taliban. But my taxi driver – my friend – meant it: “It’s better if you stay with us instead”.

 Some families brought in an extra 3-4 families in their homes, as people fled the countryside into the city. Even some of our staff had their house full of guests (never would they called them anything else) but still came to work and took responsibility for a thousand other things at the same time. “How do you handle the stress” I asked a colleague. “It is what it is.” she said. “We could never do otherwise than to take them in.”

 Some people showed such a tight-knit calm those days before Mazar-e-Sharif was taken. Like they were watching a storm cloud build up over their heads, but steeling themselves. A friend who was there in the 1990s, and thus well aware of what could take place on the streets at the time of a takeover, said he would buy himself some canvases before the storm broke loose. "I won't be able to concentrate so I can read" he said, "but painting might work." As if he pulled out a mental sun lounger, sat down under open skies just waiting for the downpour. "I can't leave my family. I'll stay here." I myself moved on to Kabul before the first drops of the rains even began to fall. But with me I took a deep respect for the patience, care and faithfulness I have seen in many Afghans.

 The last few nights before we left town, I slept on our roof. But I wasn't sleeping. I looked at the stars in the balmy night breeze. Listened to the dogs barking now and then. Heard the sound of bombings, 3-4 of them, some distant away in a couple of disputed villages on the outskirts of the city. I prayed for the city. Felt grateful to be surrounded by it. Somehow being a part of it. And so, the sun rose over the rooftops.

 Afghanistan has had a sleepless night for 40 years. I pray it would dawn and for the sun to rise soon. I pray I would be there to see it.

 

Was it all for nothing?

That is a question many people ask these days, was all the work, the funds – yes even lives of soldiers and development workers – that we have to Afghanistan for nothing?

My deep conviction is NO! A generation of lives have been changed, girls and women have been to school, have learned that they have value and abilities – these are not things one can forget, unlearn or suppress with a change of government.

Our health projects have saved 1000s of new born children and mothers from death, our publishing project has brought books and stories into Afghan homes, the Self Help Groups and community water sanitation and hygiene projects have empowered women and whole communities to care and work together for what is going on in their neighbourhoods. These are lessons learned, behaviours practised, and relationships build that can not be undone by a law or rule.

So we look into the future with hope, even as all work is suspended and our local staff are staying at home to reduce the risk to their well-being at this point.

Yes the future under the new rule will look different, but we hope that they will also keep their word that they value the contributions of international organisations in health and education and that in due time, it will be safe for our people to return to work and once more “restore hope, grow capacity and promote community.

One key condition is that we will be able to employ and work with and for women in the future.

 

We will keep you updated how all of this will go forward over the next months – but the foundation for new strategies to serve Afghan people in Afghanistan and the neighbouring countries will be laid now, so we continue to be YOUR Partner for supporting the people of Afghanistan.

 

I hope you excuse this strong focus on Afghanistan in this news update.

 

We are also celebrating 30 years of Operation Mercy this month - more about that on our social media spaces, for this the Operation Mercy leaders and the board will meet this week. They will also discuss many other plans and strategies to bring hope, capacity and community to places where it is most needed in this world.

 

I will update you soon about the discussions and discissions taken on that.

 

Yours Andrea

30 years OPM
30 years OPM

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Dear friends of Operation Mercy, 

this morning I was in an online training with over 30 of our country and project leaders, we discussed what is poverty and what do we think of the theory, that at the root poverty is a breakdown of relationships? 

We looked at resourcing, and what can the local community contribute to a project, that will make them proud of doing this work rather then making them grateful to and dependent on us. 

We practised monitoring and discussed why it is so important that we track our progress towards the goals the community and we have set together. 

Next week we will finish this 30 hour online Project Management course - we can see our own capacity grow week by week, as we discover new things, new ways of doing "old" things, or are reminded of best practice we knew but started to not think about any more. 

But this is only the first step, already we are discussing, how can we pass on what we are learning to the rest of the local staff, to our local partner organisations, to the community and stakeholders in the community. 

It is so exciting to see the capacity of my team build up, but it is even more exciting to then think about how to build the capacity of others, how to implement and multiply what we are learning. 

So, thanks again for your support, that is making it possible to build up our own and the communities around us! 

If you want to know more about how that is happening practically - I also have good news, the annual report 2020 with many great stories and insights, windows into our communities is now online on our webpage, to have a look and enjoy our stories, click on the link below!  

You can also follow many of our projects on social media so have a look and say "hello" as you do! 

A quick word about the pandemic - numbers are still raising again in several our Central Asian countries, some projects have been put on hold once more, and relief to those who have lost income due to restriction on day and migrant labour is ongoing. 

on the other hand, immunisation is starting to happen, and we are working hard on helping all our staff who want to be vaccinated to get access. 

I am planning my first field visit in 18 months by the end of July, when will have both my shots. 

So I am looking forward to share first hand again with you all after that! 

 

Yours Andrea - international director of Operation Mercy 

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food package
food package

Dear friends and hope givers with Operation Mercy, 

 

this has truly been one of the most unusual 12 months in my life. As a long term worker with Operation Mercy I have lived abroad for over 20 years and then since taking leadership travelled to visit our teams to understand their specific situations, celebrate successes and build capacity in what we do. 

Now it is almost 12 month since I last travelled. But this doesn't mean that our work has stopped, that we are standing still, that the candles of hope are flickering and that community and capacity is dwindling. 

Community actually has increased in some areas as all our teams have faced the common specific issue of COVD 19 - and we have developed joined strategies and support structures. We are grateful to you all that we have not had to lay off staff or cancel any projects in 2020 or 2021 so far. 

Instead we have been able to provide relief to those most affected by the pandemic and through this gain new insights into the communities we work with; stepped into homes and talked to people previously outside of our circle of influence. 

These experiences will enable us to continue to build better and stringer projects for these communities in the future. 

Here a specific example from a COVID 19 relief project in Kazakhstan a few weeks ago: 

Covid19 Distribution

During the second distribution we were able to fill 200 bags with 43kgs of staple food, cleaning and hygiene supplies. Our project managers worked together across our four projects – disability, life skills, women’s empowerment and antihuman trafficking - to get the relief to those in our projects who needed it the most.

 Many times, during the distribution we heard the thankfulness for the timely relief. One woman said: “I used my last teabag yesterday and today you arrived with more tea.”  Another said: “I used my last drop of oil and I had no idea how I was going to get more, and then you came!”

 One single mom with a very small child was amazed at how much food we were giving her. “I can make this last two months for my child and myself!” she exclaimed.

 People were delighted to accept the food relief during the crisis and in the midst of winter – Covid19 has made things more difficult for everyone and as one lady said: “It’s good to help each other through the crisis.”

 During the distribution, we were reminded again that poverty isn’t only the lack of food or material things, it’s also the lack of relationships and community. During the second COVID 19 relief distribution in Kazakhstan we saw how it helped to build and deepen relationships and communities. 

We had a relief delivery point where members of our women’s empowerment groups were told to come and collect their parcels. The parcels were extremely heavy and even though the women all lived within the area, we mostly needed to provide transport to get them and their parcels home.

 As we transported them home in the van with the food there was community being created in the car, learning where each person lived, often only a few roads away from each other. One mother’s young son had a jacket that wasn’t warm enough for the snow. The women were problem solving together, one woman said: “Maybe we could sew a flap over the zip to make it warmer”, and others offered their suggestions.

 When we arrived at the home of one grandmother, the gate to her entrance was locked and she couldn’t get into her one roomed home. She didn’t want to inconvenience anyone further, so she told us that she would just wait until one of her neighbours came home (in the ice and snow). With that, one of the younger mothers climbed through the fence and managed to unlock the gate for her.

 Most of the women needed help carrying the parcels all the way into their homes. Carrying parcels over the threshold, however, means that you need to eat bread together. In the one roomed homes, there was usually only a small amount of bread on the table and the cupboards were bare, with no margarine to put on the bread. Despite this, we needed to “touch our mouth” with the bread so as not to as to think ourselves greater than the bread.

 Our project mangers enjoyed having a reason to visit people’s homes and to see how they lived and, in many cases, to observe the extent of their poverty.

 The relief distribution went a long way to meet people’s immediate physical needs, as well as to build community.

 

Thanks for continuing to build hope, capacity and community with us in 2021! 

Yours Andrea Vogt 

International director of Operation Mercy. 

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Organization Information

Operation Mercy

Location: Orebro - Sweden
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Andrea Vogt
Orebro, Sweden
$14,746 raised of $60,000 goal
 
130 donations
$45,254 to go
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