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Poverty Alleviation Projects

2007 Projects

November 30, 2007

Dear Friends:

Welcome to your November 2007 report for The $10 Club.

After nearly five years of violent internal conflict, the reports out of Darfur in Sudan are troubling to say the least. Disparate rebel groups, including those that have split into further factions, are fighting against the government; nomadic herders are in conflict with subsistence farmers over resources; an internal militia called the Janjaweed (“devils on horses”) uses rape as a method of terror; an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people have been killed; and more than 2 million people have been displaced from their homes.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that an additional 30,000 Sudanese were displaced in October alone, and the tension in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) is increasing. A reporter for the BBC described one camp as “dusty, bleak, and short of water—the kind of area most of us would want to escape,” where people “live in a patchwork of flimsy straw huts, some topped with plastic sheeting.” Provisions in the camps are hard to come by and their residents struggle to attain necessary quantities of food, water, and medicine.

Since 2005, War Child Canada has been successfully implementing its Humanitarian Relief Project in West Darfur, and has since established four support centers for displaced children and youth—one in each of the Ardamata, Dorti, Krinding and Riyad IDP camps located on the outskirts of El Geneina, West Darfur. Each camp has approximately 20,000 people.

In addition to providing a safe space in the midst of incredible violence, the centers provide psychosocial support; literacy training; recreational activities including volleyball and soccer; and vocational training in masonry and food preservation. Such programming helps to improve the overall well-being of children and others, alleviate poverty, and deter young males from joining rebel armies and militias.

This month, 370 of us joined together to donate $3,700 to War Child Canada to distribute textbooks and pens to the children in the camps in an effort to help fulfill their literacy training programs. In partnership with a partner organization, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, our donation will enable the distribution of 1,620 textbooks and 900 pens to kids in need. The textbooks will cover basic literacy and math (depending on availability, hopefully in both Arabic and English). We will be helping children as young as 9 or 10 years old. The aim of this informal education is to provide kids who have missed out on education to “catch-up” and rejoin regular school. Over the life of this initial project, some 2,000 young people will benefit from the textbooks. However these textbooks will remain in the centers and will be used in future projects (thus, they will reach thousands more beneficiaries). Thank you.

They can also be used by older inhabitants of the camps. For instance, Mokhtar is 24 but before attending the literacy/math classes he couldn’t read or write. He participated in these classes because he’d met many people who had previously benefited from the program. They told him about the different types of skills they had acquired and they encouraged him to participate. In addition to literacy and math skills, he learned about many topics (such as HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence) that he didn’t know much about before the course. He now feels that he is “a more useful person to his community”.

In their book Not on our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond, Don Cheadle and John Pendergast write: “The inability to protect human life when it is threatened en masse is the most significant failure of the international community.” In the midst of the current struggles to get Congress, the UN Security Council, international corporations, and others to act, it is vital that there are compassionate citizens like you willing and able to step up in the face of the madness and protect the people in greatest need.

It’s worth looking at the photos in the book: a four year old girl carrying her malnourished 13 month old brother after their parents, uncle, and older brother were all killed or went missing; women having to choose between staying in camp and starving or risking rape and murder by venturing out to collect firewood for cooking; a camp bulldozed by the government—meaning its residents lost both their homes and their temporary shelter. It’s heartbreaking stuff. You can’t help but cry when confronted with these images and the stories behind them.

Violence, corruption, apathy, torture, death, hopelessness. It’s quite simply a desperate situation. But just at the moment when I teeter near complete despair at my inability to help displaced people in Darfur, I take some comfort in what we’ve done this month. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes estimates the 2008 Darfur humanitarian operations effort to cost $825 billion dollars. But this month we found a tangible, measurable, and important way to help. I say it to myself every month: “I can’t do everything; but I can do something.” And thanks to you, textbooks and pens will be shared with thousands of children in need in and around Darfur. There is hope…

Saving the world, ten dollars at a time,

PS. PLEASE get in your December contribution if you haven’t already! Let’s finish the year strong. Feel free to “re-up” for 2008 now if you prepay the year in advance.

Have you thought about giving the gift of poverty alleviation for the holidays this year? Give all your gift recipients a year’s worth of $10 Club projects (or as many months as you’d like). Talk about the gift that keeps on giving...

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