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

Dear friends of Operation Mercy, 

it is a difficult world we live in right now; my plans were to visit the projects in Afghanistan this summer instead we are talking online, monitor not only the COVID statistics but also the impact of the pandemic on our project participants and our partners around the world. 

We have started COVID 19 response projects in all our countries and if you want to give specific to that check out the project here on GlobalGiving. The pandemic is still heavily affecting our work and has arrived in our midst with people we know and love being sick and losing family members to the virus. 

The people we work with are some of the most vulnerable in countries with low capacity heath care. So is there anything good to report anything that gives hope? 

YES there certainly is - one of the most amazing things for me is how the pandemic has broken down silos in projects and the whole organisation that we have wanted to see disappear for a long time but it took pain to make things shift. 

For example the response to the pandemic has lead to a lot of cross programme and project work, in Afghanistan the staff of the Self-help group programme, the WASH programme and the Rahmat Good Books publishing project have created two booklets on COVID 19 together and are reaching all their previous project participants across the project boundaries with this important awareness lessons - the books have been distributed over 80,000 times in Afghanistan. 

We also have seen an amazing community among our country directors as we come together initially weekly and now every second week - learning from each other, building each other up, raising funds across country boundaries and seeing the others needs first. 

So while there are worries the community and communal capacity that is rooted in deep relationships across our projects and work has grown and is making us a stronger and more resilient organisation today then we were six months ago! 

You want to be part of that community? You can by giving but also by following us on Facebook or Instagram and spreading the hope, community and capacity we see develop in all our projects. 

I also want to invite you to celebrate with us the achievements for 2019 in our attached annual report, which also includes a finance and audit report for your information. 

https://www.instagram.com/opmercyint/  https://web.facebook.com/OpMercyInternational/

Yours Andrea 

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Its the time of the year when annual project reports come into my mailbox. It is the time of the year where I am so proud of my people, our teams and local friends and partners. What we can achieve together you at home and we in the international office and the many many staff and volunteers in our countries - it is amazing. 

let me share my favorite story from this weeks reports. 

Alisher is a boy with autism, who struggles to interact well with his world, struggles with behaviour and attention and is not able to speak. Alisher’s mother has often in the past had feelings of shame or hopelessness when she goes with her child out into her community. She is bombarded with questions like: ‘Why is your child behaving like that? Why can’t he sit still? Why doesn’t he speak?’. For this reason she finds it difficult to take her son out into public or participate in community events like weddings.

But in December this year Alisher and his mother were invited to a community event organised by one of our key local partnres to celebrate International Disability Day (3 December). This event took place in one of the local event venues and over 100 children and their parents were there. It was a special day, with beautifully decorated tables and festive food donated by local sponsors. Children with disabilities did performances, dances and poetry recitation. Two locally famous singers came to the event, which brought a celebratory atmosphere through their music, inviting everyone to participate in local communal dancing.

During the programme, Alisher ran around in the venue. As usual he was not able to sit still for a long time, and this concerned the mother. She was wary of what people might say about her son ‘not behaving’. But one of the staff members put her at ease: “This is the day for these children to dance celebrate. Let him enjoy it!”. And he did! Alisher was so happy to run around and be a part of all that was happening. When it was time to leave, Alisher’s mother was crying tears of gratitude: “This is the first time I leave a community event without hearing criticism in my ears from those around me. Usually I hear questions and comments about my son’s bad behaviour, and that makes me not want to take him out anymore. But today both I and my son had a good time!”.

Providing a new community, an atmosphere of caring acceptance has helped this mother to receive new hope for her child and grew her capacity as a carer. 

Thanks fro partnering with us to build hope, community and capacity. 

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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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Operation Mercy gives thanks and appreciation to Dr. Scott Breslin who has served as Operation Mercy’s International Director for the past 10 years and welcome's the new International Director Andrea Vogt.

Andrea joined operation Mercy in1996 as a volunteer for work in Uzbekistan engaging in work among the blind and disabled. From 1996 – 2005 she led different community disability projects, eventually becoming the Country Director of Operation Mercy in Uzbekistan. After a pollical change in the country forced many NGOs to leave the country, Andrea studied at UCL in London, completing her MSc in International Community Disability Studies in 2007. From 2008 to 2018 she served as Country Director of Operation Mercy Tajikistan. Andrea returned to Germany in April 2018 and after a period of readjustment at home, accepted the role of Associate Director for Operation Mercy International in December 2018. On 21 May 2019, the board of Operation Mercy appointed Andrea Vogt as the next International Director.

 “I am excited to step up to this challenge after growing and developing with Operation Mercy over the last 23 years. I believe we have the potential to be an even greater blessing and resource for hurting communities in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. My goal is to grow our capacity so we can fulfil this potential.” – Andrea Vogt

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Two weeks ago I retunred from a ten day visit with our project staff in Afghanistan.  We have over 100 staff and two office locations where our staff focus on self-help groups, maturnity health, water & hygene, and literacy.    I arrived in Mazar, Afghanistan in the morning via a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul.  As  we decended on Mazar, I was struck by the endless brown landscape with seemingly no trees, green plants, rivers or contrasting colors to the dry clayish brown terrain.  When I stepped off the airline I was struck by 40 C tempatures and it was early morning!  The airport was crowded with armed military personel reminding me I was now in a war zone.

But what I discovered on the ground, as I visited our staff and the projects they were running, stood in contrast with the somewhat inhospitable physcial geography in which the projects take place.  The Operation Mercy staff were generous, outgoing, and motivated to help imporve the quality of life for the poor and marginalized in the region.

I accompanied our staff to a training program on maturinity healthy to an internally displaced community on the outskirts of the city.  This community had been forced by armed insurgence to flee their villages in the mountains of Afghanistan.  What was unusual about this maturnity training is that it was for men and taught by male Operation Mercy staff.  The idea being, that since men in Afghan society are key decsion makers in Afghan families, they need a better understanding of the pregnancy process and related health issues.  The program is called Birth Life Safety Skills (BLISS).  See https://mercy.se/afghanistan-bliss/ for more details.  I watched amazed as I sat among 40 village men of different ages in a room wth no roof.  The Opeation Mercy trainers did a fantastic job keeping their attention and answering difficult questions.  I've attached a few pictures.  One of the older men said, "If only I would have known this information earlier.  I'm glad my sons can learn it."  

I also visited several Self-Help Groups (SHG) in Kabul.   Operation Mercy facilitates over 20,000 women in more than 1000 SHGs in and around Kabul.  SHGs have the potential to transform Afghanistan from the inside.  They are having a great impact by almost every way you can meassure impact.   See https://mercy.se/afghanistan-shg/ for some cool SHG stories.   I also enjoyed a visit to a WASH (Water Santitation & Hygene) project.  It was a real treat.

You know, it is not only the projects that are important but it is the fact that Operation Mercy staff are on-the-ground being a supportive and encouraging presence to marginalized people who are largely forgotten and overlooked.  There is something transformative and good by just standing together... against the aloneness.  Thank you Opeation Mercy staff in Afghanistan.  You make your nation proud.  

Warmly,

Dr. Scott Breslin, CEO

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Organization Information

Operation Mercy

Location: Orebro - Sweden
Website:
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Project Leader:
Andrea Vogt
Orebro, Sweden
$14,425 raised of $60,000 goal
 
124 donations
$45,575 to go
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