A refuge from the storm
Christian Aid partners have nearly completed its cyclone Sidr rehabilitation projects. Through their efforts, the partners have reached more than 33,000 households covering more than 150,000 cyclone affected poor people who are among the most vulnerable to natural disasters and the impact of climate change. Last year, the construction of five multipurpose cyclone shelters was completed which now provide a safe refuge for 4,500 people. These shelters were put to the test in May 2009 when 3,000 people sheltered from cyclone Aila. Mosharraf Hussain Howlader and his family weathered out cyclone Aila in one of these shelters. He described the shelter as ‘heavy and strong’, adding, ‘If the shelter had not been strong, we would have not gone there. Rather, we would have protected ourselves by taking shelter in the trees as we did during past cyclones when we lost some of our family members.’
As well as shelters, the cyclone Sidr projects provided 625 households with help to reconstruct homes and 8,500 households received help to revive their ability earn a living. Throughout the rehabilitation projects, Christian Aid partners focused on working with women-headed households and targeting women and the most vulnerable from excluded communities.
Christian Aid’s priorities for 2010/11
Christian Aid has ambitious and exciting plans for 2010/11. Building on the experiences of the past year, we will continue to work with our partners to enable communities in the most vulnerable regions of Bangladesh to develop resilience to natural disasters and the impact of climate change. Also, we’ve learned so much over the past year about the importance of enabling people to raise their voices and demand accountability and justice from their government. Key priorities include encouraging people to have their say in influencing local and national decision making and to call for their right to basic services.
JASL/3Cs: A European Commission Project evaluation was completed at the end of last year. The project was found to have “…achieved broadly its planned objectives and the majority of its targets.” Our partners JASL and 3Cs were found to “…serve an important purpose in the public education in HIV prevention, promotion of human rights and support of People Living with HIV/AIDS”.
Children First had a successful workshop with guidance counsellors from approximately 20 schools in the Spanish Town area to discuss the MAN programme, identify issues affecting at-risk young men in schools, and avenues for possible collaboration. This is a positive step in addressing some of the systemic attitudes which work against youth from poor and violent communities, and hinder their chances at education and guidance.
Children First trained 35 at-risk males in videography. There was a 77% pass rate for the course, and this batch of participants has begun using their skills to document community initiatives, and for videos documenting CF’s work. There has been a major boost in their self esteem levels as they are now being viewed as role models and “videographers” by their peers and adults in their communities, instead of as ‘problem’ children.
WROC completed business management and organisational development training with over 100 persons in the 5 project communities. According to the final report, “The impact of the training was evident, for example, meetings were conducted in a more professional manner, there were fewer conflicts and more cooperation, and the community members showed a new sense of purpose in ownership of the project. In Somerset, the difficulty experienced in constructing the first check dam  was not present in the construction of the second and third check dams. Noteworthy is that the community members volunteered the labour to achieve the timely completion of these two check dams”.
Jamaicans for Justice signed with the Social Development Commission to provide training in advocacy and human rights to Community Development officers in seven parishes. This is a significant step in institutionalising awareness of human rights and the role of community advocacy in a key state institution. Training was completed in March 2010, and a new contract is being negotiated for further work in three of these parishes, and for training in the remaining six parishes.
April 18th 2010 marked Zimbabwe’s 30th anniversary of Independence. Yet on that day most Zimbabweans will have mourned their lack of basic freedoms, including their freedom of speech.
In their last report we highlighted the work of Habakkuk Trust who is helping people demand accountability from their leaders. This time we would like to report on a project run by some brave student activists – staff and members of the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe. Through our partners such as SCMZ, Christian Aid is focusing on helping Zimbabweans in deeply scarred communities to choose alternative, constructive and peaceful means to have their voice and opinions heard. There are increasing numbers of predictions that elections will take place in 2011. Christian Aid believes it is important we act now to do what we can to limit the likelihood of the violence that marred the 2008 elections.
Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe (SCMZ)
Many young Zimbabweans have suffered arrests and beatings for being student activists campaigning for an end to extreme poverty in Zimbabwe. During the 2008 elections, many people living in extreme poverty – particularly young people – became caught up in and incited as perpetrators of violence during a period of politically motivated conflict. As a result, many young adults were also severely beaten, bullied and intimidated.
The I-stories booklet brings together the stories of some of the young people caught up in this violence to help them understand each other and what happened. It includes eight personal student testimonies, including stories from several SCMZ staff and student activist members. With support from Christian Aid, the booklet has been successfully distributed nationwide through SCMZ groups in schools, colleges and universities to its 5,000 members.
Christian Aid has produced a powerful audio-slide show featuring these brave and outspoken young people. You can view it on You Tube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96Rodk7I5co
Extracts from the latest Christian Aid report to Commitment for Life, May 2010.
Both CforL Advocate Mary Jeremiah and programme co-ordinator Linda Mead met members of SCMZ whilst on their trip to Zimbabwe in March
CAMPAIGNS AND ACTION
Put this date in your diary now.
20th October Christian Aid Supporter Day & Mass Lobby of Parliament.
Join Christian Aid for a jam packed day – starting at 11am in Methodist Central Hall, hear from their new Director, Loretta Minghella, as well as a world famous activist. Then with friends from Stop Climate Chaos Coalition attempt to lobby as many MPs in the new parliament to make sure climate change is at the top of their agenda. Reserve your place by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
 Check dams are small low cost barriers, often constructed from stones or boulders and built to slow the flow of rain water and reduce soil erosion.
Linda Mead – Commitment for Life Programme Co-ordinator,
Mission Team, United Reformed Church
Commitment for Life is here to help United Reformed Churches and LEPs work for a fairer world and for peace with justice, recognising that change and response starts with each one of us. www.cforl.org.uk