Archive for the Voices from the Field Category

Somber and Hopeful: Commemorating 20 Years since the Genocide

Posted on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 at 1:04 pm

 

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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A Report from Bentiu, South Sudan

Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2014 at 3:34 pm

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 on Friday, December 20th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

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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Life Lessons in Ethiopia

Posted on Thursday, August 8th, 2013 at 10:51 am

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 on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 at 1:44 pm

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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Rana Plaza: The Real Cost of Cheaper Clothing

Posted on Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 at 8:55 am

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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How a Flowery Plant is Fighting Malaria in Tanzania

Posted on Friday, March 15th, 2013 at 11:12 am

By Crystal Wells, Communications Officer, Concern Worldwide U.S.

Hapines is Lovenes’ first daughter and at just three months old, she is already fighting malaria.

Lovenes Joas, 22, sits on the edge of a metal-frame hospital bed, cradling her three-month-old daughter, Hapines Joas, in her arms. As she he tries to comfort her squirming daughter, Lovenes crushes up a soft yellow pill and mixes it with water. She tilts her daughter’s head back to force the syrupy liquid down her throat. Hapines wails, tears streaming down her cheeks, and slowly settles back down to a whimper against her mother’s chest.

Hapines is Lovenes’ first daughter and at just three months old, she is already fighting malaria. Lovenes and Hapines share a bed with another mother and child, Stella Peter, 30, and Nizelesos Peter, 10 months, who is also being treated for malaria. “Malaria is a big problem in my family,” says Stella, raising her voice so that we can hear her above the cries of a dozen or so children. “I am a farmer. Right now I could be farming, but I am here losing time because of malaria. It hurts the health of my kids…Even now [while I am here], my three-year-old at home has malaria, but no one is available to take him to the hospital.”

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With Kenya’s Elections Less than a Week Away, Concern Prepares for Potential Crisis

Posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 at 8:43 am

By Ivy Ndiewo, Communication and Documentation Officer

Voters queue to cast their ballots in Kajiado, Kenya during the 2007 general elections. Photo by Manaya Kinoti.

With less than 10 days before the first election under Kenya’s new constitution, fear and speculation are at an all-time high that what happened in 2008 could be repeated, even escalated. The results of the last general election in late 2007 were immediately disputed, and soon the nation exploded into weeks of political and ethnic violence, leaving with over 500,000 people displaced and more than 1,500 killed. I remember those grim days like they were yesterday.

The violence that erupted in 2008 caught the whole world off-guard, including the humanitarian community that then had to launch into an emergency response from scratch. Today, humanitarian organizations, including Concern Worldwide, are working with the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Kenya’s National Disaster Operations Center to set up contingency plans if civil unrest sweeps across the country as it did in 2008.

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Why Didn’t All the Aid Reach the Poorest? Here’s Why…

Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2013 at 1:37 pm

By Julia Lewis, Area Manager, Democratic Republic of Congo, Concern Worldwide

Concern staff prepare kits for distribution

When academics or the media criticize aid organizations for inefficiencies or promises unfulfilled, I can’t help but think about the vast and endlessly tangled complexities of this work.  Crisis follows crisis, harsh realities are compounded by harsh realities, and every day there are situations where we are forced to take decisions when no option offers the perfect solution.

That’s often the case here in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the epicenter of what was called ‘Africa’s World War’ (1998-2003), the deadliest conflict since World War II, and especially in the eastern reaches of the country where violence and terror have continued since the supposed end of that war.  Conflict and preventable disease continue to take the lives of tens of thousands each month—five years ago a fellow international organization here put the toll at over five million.  The situation has little changed since then.

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A Path to a Better Life in Haiti

Posted on Friday, January 11th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

By Niall Murphy, Concern Worldwide

Juna Dely, one of the first participants in Concern's Path to a Better Life program, with her one-year-old son.

Juna Dely lives on the island of La Gonave, Haiti, with her partner Jean Wodline, his mother, and five of her six children. Between 2007 and 2009, Juna participated in Concern Worldwide‘s Chemen Lavi Miyo program, which translates to “Path to a Better Life.” The program sought to do exactly that—give Haiti’s poorest people a path to a better life through income-generating activities as well as access to health, education, and credit services based on their needs.

I met Juna because I am currently researching to see how effective the program was in breaking the cycle of poverty over the long-term. She is one of 500 female-headed households that have participated in Path to a Better Life across four of Haiti’s districts. As to be expected, I am finding that the program had many successes, but it was not without challenges. Read the rest of this entry »

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