Browsing Category: 25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope

Hope in Slovakia

The Roma people are one of the largest ethnic minorities in the world who have no home country. Spread throughout Europe, their reputation and history have brought significant prejudice and abuse upon them.

“They have an intensely private culture and usually oppose help from outside their community,” says Michael McNamee, former Regional Director of Convoy of Hope Europe.

The Roma live in separate settlements outside of towns, many of which have no power, running water, or even weather-proofed homes. Entire families live in shantys — their homes consisting of rotting plywood, collapsed roofs, and walls with gaping holes. And yet, families with little children live there in the middle of the cold Slovak winters.

Slovakia has one of the highest Roma populations around the world. One settlement, outside of Vtackovce, held just over 1,000 people living in very rough conditions. “When some teams came … to work in the community,” Michael remembers, “we would sometimes send their medical people … to check on the [Roma] villagers, but there was still a significant resistance on their part.”

In 2015, Convoy of Hope Europe decided to host a Community Event in Vtackovce, Slovakia, to try and build relationships with the community. The event was in April, the snow was melting, and flowers began to appear in fields all over the mountains. Despite the hilly terrain, Convoy had medical tents, food distribution, games for the children, face-painting, live music — the works. Guests of Honor had tickets to come through the tents at predetermined times to avoid overwhelming the different stations.

Thanks to our wonderful volunteers and partners, it went off without a hitch. Most every one of the 1,000 people living in the camps attended. Convoy of Hope Europe has held several Community Events throughout Slovakia, and each of them have been incredibly successful.

“Most of society always keeps them at a distance,” says Aaron Davis, a Convoy of Hope team member. “Kind gestures and smiles crossed cultural barriers into their hearts.”

Seeing the incredible transformation that took place in so many families that day makes us at Convoy so grateful that we were able to be a part. And that is all we are — part of a movement of compassion.

 

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope

Growing hope in the desert

“The desert” brings images to my mind of sand dunes and a quest for water. However, not every desert looks like the Sahara. In reality, the desert is a harsh ecosystem where everything fights to survive. In the rain shadow of Nicaraguan volcanoes lives a community of people who were in need of new ways to thrive in this harshness. This community was smart and motivated. All they needed was some resourcing to help them thrive.

Working with the community, Convoy of Hope’s Agriculture team put our heads together to find something that would work well with the assets this community already had. Though the community was in desert-like conditions, agriculture appeared to be the best answer. Growing food in this environment wasn’t going to be easy, especially because drought conditions were anticipated for several years.

The team decided to focus on a cash crop that could grow in the dry environment — dragon fruit. Dragon fruit is a perennial cactus that produces a large fleshly body which can be consumed and exported around the world. A dragon fruit plant can produce viable fruit for over 10 years once it has been established. The stage was now set to start farming in the desert.

As the project moved forward, we worked with a group of first-generation farmers with little or no knowledge on the production of dragon fruit. Convoy’s local Agriculture staff educated them on all aspects of production. This included pest management, choosing varieties, fertilization, irrigation, and harvest.

When the planting began, the sandy volcanic soils provided a great foundation for the plant to thrive. The cooperative clearly understood that in two years they would provide the startup plants for another cooperative who needed resources just like them.

Nine months after planting, I walked into the dragon fruit plantation and was blown away by the level of precision agriculture and human talent. The growers had set up experimental blocks away from the main field to test new varieties, pest management plans, and try new techniques. The cooperative had purchased a drip irrigation system so they could water the plants based on true evapotranspiration rates. Each plant was being managed with nutrients individually, not just as a whole field, allowing for environmental stewardship.   

Convoy’s Agriculture staff were working with the growers almost every day, transferring knowledge so they had the skills to problem solve on their own when problems came up. As we continued to walk the field, I hear how they have fought off disease, pests, and lived through acid storms*.

As the plants grew and started to produce fruit much earlier than anyone expected, the government of Nicaragua started to take notice. As Nicaraguan government agriculture staff toured the fields, they found themselves learning from the individuals in the cooperative on best practices and what they had learned from the process. The government staff now goes around teaching what they learned from Convoy’s staff and partners.    

There are now several dragon fruit cooperatives working with Convoy and the government, learning and working together like never before. A hope is seen in a group of people who are living in the rain shadow of a volcano.


*Fun Fact: The flower is almost 10 inches long. When the volcano is active, the steam clouds hold acid in their vapor. As the steam clouds move away from the volcano, they create their own weather. The rain that falls is acidic, burns the blossom, and destroys their ability to complete fertilization.   

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Agriculture

Volunteering with Convoy of Hope

Volunteers are at the heart of everything Convoy of Hope does. From bagging groceries for Community Events around the country to removing debris after a devastating storm, Convoy of Hope volunteers walk hand in hand with us to help those in need.

We asked a few of our wonderful volunteers to share why they’re passionate about bringing help and hope to impoverished, hungry, and hurting people around the world.

Linda McCalister, a Convoy of Hope volunteer, has served as a community event lead volunteer for two years, volunteers at Hands of Hope, and serves with Convoy:Women. When asked why she would encourage someone to volunteer with Convoy, she says, “You will make some new friends, learn new things, and join an organization that opens the door to hope for thousands — if not millions — of people. It will change your life.”

COMMUNITY EVENTS

At Convoy of Hope Community Events, guests receive free groceries, health screenings, haircuts, career services, and much more. Linda recalls a story from one event of a mother and her young daughter who had walked two miles to a local Community Event so they could receive shoes.

“All she had to wear were plastic shoes that wore blisters on her feet to the point she could not even try on the [new] shoes. The volunteer found the right shoes for the little girl and bandaged her blisters. Then they connected her with someone who gave them a ride home! Something so small that meant so much.”

In 2018, Communities Events served more than 96,000 Guests of Honor at 62 community events in 48 cities. These events would not have been possible without the nearly 28,000 volunteers who partners with Convoy of Hope.

HANDS OF HOPE

On Tuesday nights, Convoy of Hope opens the doors of our World Distribution Center in Springfield, Missouri, and welcomes volunteers in for a weekly volunteer opportunity called Hands of Hope. Volunteers help sort, pack, count, and label items that are distributed throughout the world.

“It’s a great opportunity to serve and provide others in the local community and around the world with the essential items they might not have been able to get,” says Connor Louthan, a lead Hands of Hope volunteer.

In 2018, Hands of Hope partnered with more than 5,500 volunteers who invested more than 12,500 hours during the year.

FIELD TEAMS

Gerald Norz, another Convoy of Hope volunteer, has served on multiple Field Teams during the past five years. He loves working with partners in the field, saying one of his most memorable experiences volunteering with Convoy is, “seeing the children waving as we arrived at the site in Tanzania … such a great welcome and such warm smiles.”

Eighty-two Field Teams — comprised of more than 1,000 volunteers — served in 11 countries around the world in 2018. These teams serve people through projects and interaction connected to Convoy’s Children’s Feeding and Agriculture programs.

***

Community Events, Field Teams, and Hands of Hope are just three of several volunteer opportunities with Convoy of Hope. Whether it’s driving a Convoy of Hope truck, answering phones, or deploying with our Disaster Services team, every volunteer makes a difference in a person’s life through the service they provide. In 2018, we had more than 57,000 volunteers serve domestically and internationally. We are so thankful for each person who serves with their heart and their time! Visit convoyofhope.org/volunteer to learn more about how you can volunteer at Convoy of Hope.

 

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Community Outreach / Join the Convoy / Volunteering

The Extra Mile

Smoke and dust twist together lazily on the Honduran road that marks the frontline of poverty for this community. Birds call quietly back and forth to each other over the low rumble of heavy machinery in the distance. On one side of the road is a small, two-room schoolhouse, and on the other a towering hill holding back a mountainous expanse of garbage.

In 2016, six-year-old Ana had a choice to make every day: she could dig for recyclables to sell so she could eat, or she could go to school and learn. Hunger won out a majority of the time, and she regularly spent her days combing through the dump looking for things to sell.

“One day, Ana’s mother sent her to school, thinking that we would feed her,” said Principal Katherine Mejia. “It was a Monday, so Ana hadn’t eaten all weekend.”

Weakened by hunger, Ana stumbled to school and dropped into her chair. Ana struggled to concentrate on her lessons as her eyes glazed over. Without warning, she tumbled onto the concrete floor.

Ana was not the only child struggling with hunger at the school. Many came every day with an empty belly. “That was very hard for us, but it was impossible to provide [for them],” said Principal Mejia.

Ana’s case is not uncommon for kids in struggling schools around the world. Soon after Ana’s incident, Convoy of Hope began delivering food to her school. Since then, Ana’s situation has changed dramatically. “Before, when she was hungry, she was super shy. She didn’t talk and stared at the floor,” said Mejia. “So we can see her health is progressing [slowly with proper nutrition], but it’s a long road ahead.”

“Before she can start to learn, she needs to be healthy.”

In 2018, Convoy of Hope reached a milestone goal — feeding 200,000 children throughout the world — two years ahead of the 2020 target.

“The goal Convoy of Hope set in 2016 was a lofty one,” says Convoy of Hope President Hal Donaldson. “At the time, 160,000 children were a part of our Children’s Feeding initiative. Reaching 200,000 seemed like an achievable goal, but one that would certainly take until 2020 to reach.”

The increase of nearly 23,000 children in one year is a direct result of the community surrounding Convoy of Hope. We’ve never been content with the status quo, and we choose to partner with those who feel the same way. Rapid strides in both meal donations and financial support fueled Convoy’s ability to grow and has brought us to where we are today.

Today, Convoy of Hope is operating in 1,131 program centers around the world. In 2018, we began Children’s Feeding interventions in Sri Lanka, India, and Uganda while continuing our work in 11 other countries, including El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Haiti, South Africa, Nepal, and Lebanon.

In addition to leveraging these strategic feeding initiatives, Convoy of Hope has also established complementary interventions in many program countries to foster thriving communities. In 2018, more than 6,400 individuals were engaged in our Agriculture initiative, and more than 6,700 women joined our Women’s Empowerment program.

“We strategically feed children in schools to strengthen our relationship with each community and empower broader impact through families,” says Heath Adamson, Convoy of Hope’s Chief of Staff. “This milestone represents hundreds of communities and thousands of individuals who know their value. Compassion not only makes a difference — it makes the difference.”

For Ana, the food she receives is key to her education … and education is vital to breaking the cycle of poverty that has trapped generations of her family. At Convoy of Hope, we believe Ana deserves a bright future, full of opportunity, health, and safety. It’s our privilege to help clear the path that will take her there.

*This story first appeared in the 2018 Convoy of Hope Annual Report. Find the full report at convoyofhope.org/annualreport.

 

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Children's Feeding

Empowerment for women, hope for the future — Sitota’s story

When Sitota found out she was pregnant, her whole world changed. Her boyfriend was adamant that they not keep the baby, but Sitota wanted her child and refused to get an abortion. This lead to her and her son living on the streets.  

“Usually during the nighttime I’d stay with a stick since some drunks or some people come and pee on us,” Sitota says of her time on the streets. “Some, they try to rape me. My child didn’t get proper food for one year and it hampered his growth.”

Though life was hard, Sitota saw her son as a source of strength, living each day with the hope of a better future for the two of them.

Soon Sitota was introduced to Convoy of Hope, where she entered into the Women’s Empowerment program in Ethiopia. Through this program, Sitota received training — how to prepare food, how to start a business, how to calculate profit and loss — and received startup capital to open her own business. Thanks to the Women’s Empowerment program, Sitota was able to open her own shop selling coffee and tea.

“Because of my business, I was able to start saving money for a new house. It has two bedrooms,” Sitota says. “Now I’m very happy with my life. I can support myself and my child.”

Since the beginning of Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment in 2010, nearly 17,000 women around the world have been empowered through the program! Starting in Ethiopia, Women’s Empowerment is now in nine countries, including Nepal and Lebanon which were added in 2018.

Just like Sitota, Convoy of Hope believes every woman deserves the opportunity to thrive and be successful. Learn more about how you can support the empowerment of women like Sitota at convoy.org/women.

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Women's Empowerment