Give A Goat – A Goat Donation Works!

This is Thermogene, a widow in Haiti. Give A Goat and help someone like her. Because someone decided to donate a goat, she has reason to smile.
This is Thermogene, a widow in Haiti. Give A Goat and help someone like her. Because someone decided to donate a goat, she has reason to smile.

Hope for many people has four legs and goes “Maaa!” It is time again to Give A Goat!

I bring this up because it is time once again to consider goats, and to invite them into our lives. I will buy several this year, even though I live in a city, and have nowhere for them to roam. I will buy several as Christmas presents for family, and turn them over to people who desperately need them. Give A Goat! It is truly Humanitarian Aid.

I recently took a trip with World Concern to visit Haiti, a country filled with wonderful people who struggle to eat, learn and find work. Then, last summer, three hurricanes and a tropical storm further ravaged the country.

I met families in Haiti who live on resources that would baffle most people. It is not unusual for someone to stake their livelihoods on a couple of goats, but that is exactly what people I met are forced to do.

I met a sweet grandmother in Haiti named Thermogene who lost everything – EVERYTHING – she owns in the hurricanes, including goats, and she was left without an income. For Thermogene, an income comes from raising a few animals, including goats. And the storm killed every animal.

When I met Thermogene, it was about 100 degrees. I was hot. It was dusty. She was dressed in her best clothes. She was ecstatic. What in the world would make this woman smile so much?

Someone decided to give a goat to her through World Concern’s Global Gift Guide.

Thermogene received two goats from World Concern, and with it she will be able to sell milk and sell the kids, when her goats have babies. People who donated through World Concern also gave her fruit trees.

These are such simple gifts. It is easy to donate – to Give A Goat. To Thermogene and so many others, goats provide life.

Check out goats and the rest of the Global Gift Guide at www.worldconcern.org/ggg

Glimpses of hope in Haiti

UN member countries contribute police forces to help stabilize Haiti's security.
Ever see one of these near your home? UN member countries contribute police forces to help stabilize Haiti's security.

Haiti is a country of contrasts. Some roads in downtown Port-au-Prince look like a rocky river bed, with jagged rocks and certainly no indication of recent maintenance. I was amazed to see piles of trash dumped in city streets or sidewalks, the mounds rotting or smoldering.

The country’s government is a fragile entity. When World Concern staff travels to Haiti, we carefully evaluate the security in the country to minimize risk. You might see some Haitian police forces, but at least as often, you will notice UN security forces. Sometimes they will be working on foot. Other times, they will be in full armor, travelling in an armored personnel carrier, which looks very much like a tank. The poverty is so widespread, I was wondering when I looked at some poor families selling their fruit or other wares – if they could really find a better life.

There is another Haiti, though. It’s the Haiti that once was, and a Haiti that may one day return. I saw this in the white sand beaches that could be any Carribean paradise. If only tourists felt safe getting to the beaches, they would come. They could walk under beautiful canopies of trees, with coconuts and bananas growing in villages. Actually, as I understand it from locals, some cruise ships do now dock on an isolated area of the northern coast, allowing passengers to enjoy a secured beach. The locals tell me that cruise ship operators don’t make it clear that they are in Haiti. ¬†They say the city name instead. Maybe one day there won’t be the stigma. Haiti once did enjoy tourism.

I can also see this potential with the Haitians who are able to educate their children and who value the rights of women. I am proud to see how World Concern humanitarians are helping Haitians who share our sustainable vision. Once-hungry families are now able to feed themselves.

There is a movement in this often desperate country to break out of the despair.¬† In situations where it’s easy to focus on the enormous challenges, it is refreshing to see hints of a better life for the good people of Haiti.

In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, piles of trash line many streets, sometimes set on fire.
In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, piles of trash line many streets, sometimes set on fire.
Does this look like Haiti? It is a beautiful beach, near Les Cayes, on the southern coast.
Does this look like Haiti? It is a beautiful beach, near Les Cayes, on Haiti's southern coast.

Haiti Humanitarians – Great Gawky Goats!

Goats are a prized commodity in Haiti. Poor families can raise and sell kids to pay school tuition.
Goats are a prized commodity in Haiti. Poor families can raise and sell kids to pay school tuition.

Goats makes me chuckle. Their crazy grins and non-stop noisemaking are a source of amusement for me. But I’ve seen first-hand in Haiti that these silly, awkward-looking animals provide a tremendous value to the very poor. They mean food. Income for medical expenses. Often, a single goat can pay for a year of school tuition. It’s hope with hooves.

Humanitarians at World Concern gives goats to families. Moms and dads often trust the goats’ care to children. Kids with kids, as we say. As an American, I thought of a goat as an unusual pet, but these are no pets. Goats do important work.

Some families drink goats’ milk and make cheese. Goats produce quite a bit of milk every day, often enough for families to sell the surplus in the marketplace.

Other families strictly raise goats to have babies. Once grown, the kids are put up for sale. I thought they might bring around $25 in a village marketplace. But in Haiti, the price of food is high. People are starving in the Haiti food crisis. These goat-keepers are able to make about $50 a goat. In Haiti, that’s a good chunk of an entire month’s income. Very often, that money sends a child to school, giving them a better future.

We’ve heard some tremendous success stories, like the family of that has raised nearly 20 goats over the last decade, allowing the children in the family to go to school. They know how to raise the goats well, and have truly seized on the concept. So it’s no surprise that goats are a hot commodity.

I saw grandmas receiving goats in southern Haiti. This is a country with no social support structure, so when Hurricanes decimated the region last summer, people there have been struggling. The storms killed crops – and animals. These goats were the first livestock they were able to obtain after the storm. There have been some hungry months. The grannies were so happy. A goat may be just livestock to us. For them, it’s a safety net against starvation.

Here’s how you can buy a goat for $35. Or – check out our “Complete Goat Package!”

Watch a video on this page about how World Concern helps during the Haiti Food Crisis.

A goat provides an income for this grandmother in Haiti who has little other income.
A goat provides an income for this grandmother in Haiti who has little other income.

Haiti Humanitarians – Hurricane Relief Tree By Tree

World Concern humanitarians give a man in Haiti a fruit tree to help feed him after hurricanes.
World Concern humanitarians give a man in Haiti a fruit tree to help feed him after hurricanes.

This does not look like hurricane relief. No tarps. No emergency crates of water. But with some saplings, World Concern is providing relief that will last.

Jacmel, Haiti, has been through disaster many times, most recently enduring several hurricanes last summer.

This week, World Concern humanitarians identified families in great need in this coastal community and gave them small fruit trees to replant. Families with orchards lost their crop last year, as strong storms killed trees, plants and livestock.

Families have faced periods of hunger over the past half a year. These families don’t farm and raise livestock for fun. They do it to survive.

The tree distribution actually had some tension, as the families wanted to make sure they received trees. People wanted to know that they were going to be included in the project.

For many, it was their first time to get a chance to begin growing again. It’s a chance at trying to make it on their own – and not rely on ongoing humanitarian support.

And that’s what World Concern wants people to do. Take responsibility. We help them plant their hopes and guide them as they grow.

Haitian children wait for fruit trees, as World Concern helps feed families after 2008 hurricanes.
Haitian children wait for fruit trees, as World Concern helps feed families after 2008 hurricanes.

Haiti Humanitarians – HIV Seamstresses

This woman is learning how to sew in World Concern's HIV support program in Haiti.
This woman is learning how to sew in World Concern's HIV support program in Haiti.

It’s not exactly a place filled with optimism, but I saw glimpses of hope today in a World Concern Haiti care center for those living with HIV. Within a compound surrounded by concrete and a sliding metal gate, I slipped into a warm, sun-lit back room that was packed with sewing machines, amateur seamstresses and a couple of teachers.

While many of these HIV positive people may have lost their jobs because of the ongoing stigma about HIV and AIDS, these ladies will be able to start their own tailoring businesses once they learn this valuable skill.

Today I saw these seamstresses hard at work, but they were not sewing clothes. It wasn’t even fabric. They were cutting out paper patterns and practicing on those before they moved on to the real thing. If they stick with it, one of their first paid jobs will be to make school uniforms for children in Haiti.

And here’s the really inspired thing: Many of those school children are orphans who have lost one or both parents to AIDS. So you have a generation of seamstresses facing an enormous obstacle brought on by this horrible disease who are helping children who are also touched by AIDS, but still have plenty of hope for a good future.

This is good humanitarian aid. Incomes for people who were shut-out from opportunities – and promise for the next generation. Pretty cool!

Finding Hope in Haiti

I find it interesting how people react when I tell them that I am going to Haiti for a week and a half. “We’ll pray for you,” is a common response. No one seems to have a good impression of the country, though many Haitians try as hard as they can to live good lives. The problem is that the country is broken in many ways, and has been for far too long. The rate of AIDS is quite high (5.6%), Port-au-Prince is a haven for crime (don’t go out after dark, I am told), and people are eating dirt out of desperation (really).

World Concern's Derek Sciba shows boys in Kenya their image on a video camera viewfinder.
World Concern's Derek Sciba shows boys in Kenya their image on a video camera viewfinder.

World Concern humanitarians have worked in Haiti for a long time, through crises and hurricanes and political upheaval. We’ve had the same director there for the past couple of decades. In spite of the ongoing poverty, we’ve had a significant impact on the thousands of lives we’ve been able to touch.

My goal in Haiti is to document what’s going on there right now. Our programs include support for those with HIV and children orphaned from AIDS. We are rebuilding water systems and livelihoods after hurricanes roared across the island last year. We’re even doing simple things that mean so much, like giving children goats. The goats have babies and produce milk, providing income and tuition for schools.

I’ll have a still camera, a video camera and a notepad, and will travel with Christon, the country director, to projects across the island. If I can get my international phone to work as I wish – I will also microblog on World Concern’s Twitter account. We want to show our supporters how their money is being spent – and relay stories about those promising people who are determined to change the nature of the country.

After I return from Haiti, I will spend a couple of weeks back in America, then head to Southeast Asia to document World Concern’s work in that region.