Somber and Hopeful: Commemorating 20 Years since the Genocide

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Concern Worldwide, Emergency, refugees, Rwanda, Voices from the Field | No Comments »

 

Walk to Remember is an event organized by the youth as a way for Rwandans to recall lives lost during the 1994 genocide as well as to make a commitment: “Step-by-step, never again in Rwanda.”

Walk to Remember is an event organized by the youth as a way for Rwandans to recall lives lost during the 1994 genocide as well as to make a commitment: “Step-by-step, never again in Rwanda.”

By Karen Power, Communications Officer, Concern Worldwide

On April 7, 2014 at noon, following a minute of silence, the official commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide began in Amahoro Stadium with a survivor telling his story to 30,000 listeners, including dignitaries from around the world.

Screams and wails rang out in Rwanda’s largest stadium during the ceremony which included a powerful performance featuring khaki-clad soldiers saving slain Rwandans, as well as remarks from President Kagame and Ban Ki-Moon.

The genocide began after an airplane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana of the majority Hutus was shot down on April 6, 1994. The killing of minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus by soldiers and Hutu extremists followed over the next 100 days, during which some 800,000 people were killed. The country was devastated.

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I’m Grateful to Fundraise for Concern Worldwide

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Concern Worldwide, Development, Donate to Concern, Malawi, New York Staff, Philanthropy, Tanzania, Zambia | No Comments »

by Jordan Rickard, Senior Major Gifts Officer, Concern Worldwide U.S.

Concern Worldwide works in partnership with people in their own communities to develop lasting solutions to extreme poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries. Or in other words, Concern is working towards a world where a person’s hopes can be fulfilled.

Concern Worldwide works in partnership with people in their own communities to develop lasting solutions to extreme poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Years ago I lived in southeastern Africa for six months. I spent time in countries such as Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia. Like many Americans who travel abroad, I confronted firsthand both the devastating impacts of poverty and the resiliency of the people working their way out of it. I learned quickly there are no easy answers to these problems and yet the need for solutions is urgent as poverty is a life and death struggle for so many people in our world.

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A Report from Bentiu, South Sudan

Posted by MConine in Concern Worldwide, Emergency, South Sudan, Voices from the Field | No Comments »

By Elke Leidel, Concern Worldwide Country Director, South Sudan

Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity State, was taken over by anti-government forces on the 19th of December, just four days after fighting broke out in Juba and swept across the country.

Some 8,000 people are living at the United Nations base in Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity State. Concern Worldwide South Sudan country director Elke Leidel traveled to Bentiu to assess the needs of those displaced by the fighting, which broke out in Juba on December 15th and quickly spread to more than 20 sites across the country.

Some 8,000 people are living at the United Nations base in Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity State. Concern Worldwide South Sudan country director Elke Leidel traveled to Bentiu to assess the needs of those displaced by the fighting, which broke out in Juba on December 15th and quickly spread to more than 20 sites across the country.

Our three staff based in Bentiu left on an evacuation flight just in time before the fighting broke out. All NGO vehicles, including our own, were seized by anti-government forces, while fighting spread to other cities and towns in Unity State. Thousands were forced to flee their homes, including many who have been living with little to no assistance since then because the ongoing violence and insecurity has made it difficult for humanitarian organizations to reach them.

On January 5, I traveled with colleagues from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other humanitarian organizations to Bentiu to assess the needs of the civilian population. For the past three weeks, Bentiu was almost completely inaccessible as fighting and instability has made travel to the area by road impossible. We were apprehensive of what we would find.

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Memories of Mandela: A Seeker of Justice and AIDS Activist

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Concern Worldwide, HIV & AIDS, Voices from the Field | No Comments »

By Breda Gahan, Global HIV and AIDS Adviser, Concern Worldwide, Dublin, Ireland

I remember the night of February 2, 1990, well.

I was working my first post with Concern Worldwide in Sudan, where I had arrived from Ireland in 1988 to help train traditional midwives and community health workers in a small village called Dinder. Most of our health education work was done at night, as it was difficult for the village women to go out during daylight hours. After a late evening Dinder’s town hospital or at the Midwifery School in nearby Sennar, I would head home, where the radio was one of my few windows to the world outside my little village. One night in February, I heard a BBC broadcast announce that South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela had been freed after 27 years in prison.

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War and Landmines: I Only Saw the Survivors

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Cambodia, Concern Worldwide, Development, HIV & AIDS | No Comments »

As Concern Worldwide draws its programs in Cambodia to a close after 23 years, Senior Health and HIV Advisor, Breda Gahan, recalls some of her experiences there in more turbulent times

Breda Gahan of Concern meets 14-year-old Breda Huot, who was named in her honor, in Kompong Speu, Cambodia.

Breda Gahan of Concern meets 14-year-old Breda Huot, who was named in her honor, in Kompong Speu, Cambodia.

Twenty-three years on, it’s a different country entirely

Back in 1991, there was a lot of insecurity. While a peace agreement was signed in Paris, the country was still marred by warfare. Working conditions were difficult. We set up office in the Monorom Hotel in Phnom Penh and for the next three years I spent there, change in the country was always evident.

While my job was in Cambodia, I first traveled to Thailand to better understand not only Concern’s work in the refugee camps, but also what people felt about returning to Cambodia. When I reached Aranyaprathet town in eastern Thailand where the Khmer refugee camps were mostly located, I could hardly believe the size of the “camp cities.” I had never seen anything like it. The camps, at that time more than a decade old, had a sense of order. However, as permanent as they felt, you could sense people’s enthusiasm to return home.

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Life Lessons in Ethiopia

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Concern Worldwide, Education, Ethiopia, Livelihoods, New York Staff, Voices from the Field, Water, Women Can't Wait | No Comments »

By Amanda Ruckel, Education Officer, Concern Worldwide U.S.

Stachel, Grainne, Jeffrey, Dee, Catherine, Ciara, Chloe at the Concern office in Addis Ababa.

Stachel, Grainne, Jeffrey, Dee, Catherine, Ciara, Chloe at the Concern office in Addis Ababa.

Driving through the mountains of Ethiopia from the capital, Addis Ababa, to the northern region of  Wollo, one cannot help but be impressed by the towering trees, the green, rolling hills, and the cool, crisp mountain air. Prior to traveling to Ethiopia, I had heard it was a beautiful country, but I soon realized pictures and anecdotes couldn’t do justice to the sheer beauty of the country that is known as the birthplace of humanity.

I traveled with two other Concern Worldwide staff members from Dublin and New York, one student and teacher from the United States and four students and two teachers from Ireland. The students who participated were fairly familiar with Concern’s work overseas, as the Irish students had debated development issues over the past year and had won the national Concern debates and the American student, Stachel, is a member of the Global Concerns Classroom (GCC) Club at her school and has served as a student leader for the past two years. Together, we spent six days visiting several different Concern programs and learning more about the rich Ethiopian culture.

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In a Nairobi slum, conversation as a catalyst for tackling poverty

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Community Conversations, Concern Worldwide, Kenya, Voices from the Field | No Comments »

By Aoife Ruth, Program Support Officer and Assistant to the Overseas Director, Concern Worldwide

Community Conversations Groups in Mukuru Slum

Participants from various Community Conversations groups in Mukuru Slum, Nairobi during a training session.

In these times of financial turmoil, it is natural to question government spending and examine how our limited resources can be best put to use. Overseas aid budgets have come under intense scrutiny from citizens of countries the world over, with some people preferring that we cease all aid in favor of spending on domestic projects during this cash-strapped and difficult period–the ‘charity begins at home’ outlook.

Many others recognize the importance of aid to the world’s poorest, whether for reasons of social justice, compassion, or diplomacy. Amidst all the voices and opinions, I have noted the growing unease and at times, cynicism, people have about aid and its efficacy. “We give and give, but nothing ever changes” is a phrase I have often heard.

Implicit in this unease is the notion that the world’s poor are simply recipients, simply needy, waiting to be led out of poverty. What we do not see represented as often is the tireless commitment and dogged determination of communities and of average community members to improve their lives, to increase their opportunities, their access to jobs, health care, and education.
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In Afghanistan, an Endless Battle against the Elements

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Afghanistan, Concern Worldwide, Disaster Risk Reduction | No Comments »

By Kieran McConville, Multimedia Producer, Concern Worldwide

Dawlat Mohammad has lived under harsh conditions all his life, but the natural environment of his Afghanistan homeland has become more hostile than ever.

Dawlat Mohammad has lived under harsh conditions all his life, but the natural environment of his Afghanistan homeland has become more hostile than ever.

He strides purposefully across the harsh, rocky landscape, a heavy chapan draped over his shoulders despite the 85-degree heat. Every day of Dawlat Mohammad’s 65 years under the Afghan sun is etched into his face, his bright blue eyes twinkling merrily as he greets us in the traditional way: “Assalomu allaikum.”

We are standing in what could easily be described as a moonscape—gravel and boulders strewn in all directions, huge rocky hills in the distance. This has the appearance of a vast, dried-up river bed and, in a way, that is what it is. All across this part of northeastern Afghanistan, huge flood beds dissect the landscape, a product of the mountain rains and melting snows of springtime.

The extreme seasons have always been a challenge to those who live here, but over the past decade that challenge has increased dramatically. “Over there,” says Dawlat, gesturing to the base of a low hill about 200 yards away. “That is where the river used to run—a small stream most of the time. Now the floods are wiping us out.”

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Back to the basics: Fighting hunger with conservation agriculture in western Zambia

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Concern Worldwide, Conservation Farming, Food Security, Zambia | No Comments »

By Carl Wahl, Concern Worldwide Conservation Agriculture Coordinator, Zambia

Matumbo Yembe, 44, like so many Zambians, lives off the radar.

Handicapped from polio as a child, Matumbo Yembe lived alone without any support from aid programs until she was introduced to conservation agriculture. Today, she is growing her own food and slowly inching her way out of poverty.

Handicapped from polio as a child, Matumbo Yembe lived alone without any support from aid programs until she was introduced to conservation agriculture. Today, she is growing her own food and slowly inching her way out of poverty.

Her right leg withered and weak, Matumbo was tragically crippled as a child from polio and moves around with the help of a stick. She has scratched out a living doing whatever piecemeal work she could to get by. Because she lives alone and has little or no social connections, Matumbo, never benefited from any aid programs—that is until she was introduced to conservation agriculture.

Over the past few years, I have witnessed a transformation. With support from Concern Worldwide, Matumbo is now growing her own food and slowly inching her way out of poverty. What impresses me about her is that so many people in her position—alone, disabled, and poor—would lose all hope and fade away. But Matumbo, as my old football coach used to say, has “no quit in her.” Every time I visit her, there is not a single weed to be seen and the crops are perfect. She is nothing short of remarkable, and I continue to be amazed by how the techniques that we call “conservation agriculture” can be such a catalyst for people to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

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Rana Plaza: The Real Cost of Cheaper Clothing

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Concern Worldwide, Disaster Risk Reduction, Voices from the Field | No Comments »

Bijoy Krishna Nath, Head of Risk Reduction & Response, Concern Worldwide

Farida holds up a photograph with the hope of finding her missing son, who worked at Rana Plaza.

Farida holds up a photograph with the hope of finding her missing son, who worked at Rana Plaza.

Farida did not know if her son was alive or dead. Tears streaming down her face, Farida showed person after person his photograph, but no one had any information. Doctors, firefighters, policemen—no one had any evidence that he made it out alive.

Her son, a garment worker in the now-famous Rana Plaza, could be one of the more than 600 people killed when the nine-story building collapsed, enveloping more than 3,000 people in concrete and steel. I met her amidst the search-and-rescue mission the day after the factory collapsed as part of a small assessment team with the humanitarian organization, Concern Worldwide.

The scene was sheer chaos.

More than one thousand rescue workers, from members of the armed forces and firefighters to everyday people, tirelessly tore through the building’s remains in search of survivors. Emergency medical clinics were overflowing with people in need of immediate care, while relatives of garment workers, like Farida, frantically searched for their loved ones, their fear growing palpably greater by the minute that they would not be among the lucky ones pulled from the rubble.

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