@Landesa_Global: Honored to be counted among many @PrizeCoalition members in @ngoadvisor #Top500NGOs. http://bit.ly/2jMIj9I
: @PrizeCoalition thanks for helping vital #NGOs tell our stories. When donors understand what we do, we all win. #HPCstorytelling
(Sheetal Tuladhar at bottom row left, with BRAC ELA club members)
Ms. Sheetal Tuladhar is currently a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with BRAC, the largest development organization in the world, which is devoted to empowering people living in poverty. Originally from Kathmandu, Nepal, she received her Master’s Degree in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University in 2014. In this blog post, Sheetal writes about her experience working in Nepal after the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, establishing BRAC as an INGO in the country, and the programs that have provided her with first-hand experience in the world of international development. Sheetal is also featured in the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program documentary “On Shifting Ground.”
In April and May 2015, two massive earthquakes and numerous aftershocks shook Nepal. Fast asleep in my Brooklyn apartment, I began to receive frantic calls from my Nepali friends living in the U.S. around 3:00 a.m. What followed was a series of attempts to call my parents and family back home in Kathmandu, without any success. Photos and videos started pouring in on social media of buildings and ancient cultural heritage sites collapsing and reducing to rubble. At the time I thought, everything is gone.
I had just finished a three-month internship with BRAC USA. As an eager and fresh Master’s graduate in Sustainable International Development, I was looking for opportunities to work in the development sector for an organization that had meaningful and true impact in the lives of poor people. Within a week of the earthquake, I received a call from BRAC USA to go to Nepal to help set up BRAC International’s newest office in Kathmandu as a Fellow. As unfortunate as the earthquakes had been, they gave me an opportunity to go back home, and as cliché as it may sound, to make a difference.
When the earthquakes struck Nepal, BRAC was one of the first global organizations to respond. With a six-member team from Bangladesh, the organization set up medical camps in coordination with the Government of Nepal-Ministry of Health and other international organizations, including CARE. Apart from the medical camps providing immediate relief, each BRAC staff member had the opportunity to contribute one day’s salary, and BRAC matched that amount to make a fund of USD 1.5 million to set up operations and work in long-term rehabilitation of earthquake-affected communities in Nepal. Over the next few months, BRAC registered as an INGO in Nepal and began implementing a reconstruction project in Kavre, one of the most affected districts.
During this project, BRAC Nepal built two permanent houses for two widow-headed households in the Sunthan and Charikot villages of Kavre district. At the same time, we launched pilot programs in health, sanitation and youth development to facilitate longer-term rehabilitation in the earthquake-affected community of Shyampati Village Development Committee (VDC) in Kavre. Due to the damages sustained to their toilets during the earthquake, residents of Shyampati were forced to use the forest to relieve themselves. BRAC Nepal is restoring and constructing new toilets to rehabilitate the 265 damaged in the earthquake to make Shyampati an open-defecation-free zone again.
During times of disaster and peace, women and girls are pillars of strength and resilience in the community. They have indeed become an instrumental part of BRAC’s programs in Nepal. Female community health volunteers (FCHVs) are a key component of the health system. Started in 1988 by the Government of Nepal, the FCHVs provide health services to communities in coordination with the VDC. BRAC Nepal is providing trainings to strengthen the capacity of existing FCHVs so that they can better provide health education, preventive and curative health services to their community members.
Another BRAC program in Nepal is known as Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA), which focuses on empowering adolescent girls. This is one of BRAC’s most successful initiatives worldwide and has proved especially valuable in Nepal. Despite a declining trend, child marriage is pervasive across Nepal. Ten percent of women are married before the age of 15, while 37 percent are married by the age of 18. Poverty is both a cause and a result of child marriage. Empowered adolescent girls are able to break the cycle of poverty, unlocking their economic potential through education, life skills and livelihood opportunities. The first of its kind in Nepal, ten ELA clubs have been set up as safe spaces for adolescent girls aged 11-21 to read, play and socialize. Some girls are trained as mentors, and through them, the other girls receive training in health and nutrition, life skills, livelihoods and financial literacy. Over the course of the program, they will also have the opportunity to be linked to microfinance institutions, to take out small loans for any income-generating livelihood activity they like.
To say that this has been a life-changing experience is an understatement. I always wanted to work in Nepal, but my younger self was only slightly aware of the challenges. After returning from eight years of (comfortable) living in the United States, I found myself overwhelmed by the dynamic, haphazard urbanization and population growth of Kathmandu as well as the intricate bureaucracy that must be navigated at every step of our work in Nepal. One day I would be addressing government officials at the national level, another I would be working with local community members to discuss their pressing needs, and then the next I would be meeting donors and INGOs to discuss potential collaborations to add value to the development of Nepal. While learning about my country, I get to learn and grow as an individual, personally and professionally.
As a part of the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program, I had the opportunity be a part of “On Shifting Ground,” a documentary that highlights the role of non-governmental organizations at the time of humanitarian crisis. Now as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, I have the opportunity to enhance my skills as a development practitioner in disaster resilience, learning first-hand how organizations working closely with communities can strengthen their own capacities to build the resilience of their beneficiaries.
(HPC Storytelling Program Director Steve Connors interviews Sheetal Tuladhar with beneficiaries in Nepal, February 2016)
How can storytelling transform the way community organizations work together? Join us for a webinar screening of the Hilton Prize Coalition short documentary, “On Shifting Ground,” featuring six prize-winning development organizations that mobilized in response to the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Stories told by staff on the ground before, during and after the earthquake offer lessons on disaster preparedness and community resiliency.
The screening will be followed by a discussion about how the process of filming created new avenues for collaboration between the participating organizations: BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, HelpAge International, Operation Smile and SOS Children’s Villages. Through the film as an example, learn how your organization can use storytelling as a tool to bring together a group of organizations working in a particular region or concentration.
Steve Connors, Director of the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program, will speak about his experiences connecting with the organizations’ Nepal-based staff in February of 2016. Representatives from HelpAge USA, Handicap International and BRAC Nepal will also join the discussion, addressing the ways that storytelling can influence programming on the ground and inspire the next generation of leaders.
Click here for more information about the film and the Storytelling Program.
Through its Disaster Resiliency and Response Program, the Hilton Prize Coalition works to implement innovative, collaborative models for building resiliency in communities before a disaster strikes and administering efficient, collaborative approaches to disaster response. The Coalition has developed a series of disaster protocols which facilitate information sharing amongst member organizations responding on the ground. With increased knowledge of each other’s activities, Coalition members are better able to work in concert with one another.
When a disaster strikes, the Coalition activates its disaster protocols: member organizations on the ground are immediately identified and communications are sent to assess the safety of staff and beneficiaries. Updates are then shared on Coalition social media channels and highlights of Coalition members’ immediate relief efforts are collected and shared on a dedicated page of the Coalition website. The response may also include convening of information-sharing calls and coordination of resource-sharing among Coalition members in the countries or regions affected to assist with recovery.
Activation following the Ecuador Earthquake
The Coalition disaster protocols were most recently activated on Saturday, April 16, 2016, when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the northwest coast of Ecuador. As of April 28, the death toll neared 600, with more than 16,000 injured. Communications were deployed among the four Coalition member organizations with active staff in Ecuador: Heifer International, International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), Operation Smile and SOS Children’s Villages. Two additional Hilton Prize Laureates, Handicap International and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, sent teams from neighboring countries to assist with immediate relief efforts.
Highlights of these relief efforts can be found on the Hilton Prize Coalition website. For more information on the efforts of each organization, click on the links below.
Handicap International 2016 Ecuador Earthquake
Heifer International 2016 Ecuador Earthquake
MSF 2016 Ecuador Earthquake
Operation Smile 2016 Ecuador Earthquake
SOS Children’s Villages 2016 Ecuador Earthquake
Amul Thapa is a photojournalist with KathmanduToday.com. He is also an alumnus of Coalition member organization SOS Children’s Village Kavre in Nepal. Amul was a creative partner in the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program in Nepal, supporting Steve Connors, the Master Storyteller. He served as a photographer, travel liaison and assistant during filming. In this blog post, Amul shares his thoughts on relief programs in Nepal following the April 2015 earthquake and aftershocks, as well as the ways International NGOs can work together throughout the humanitarian sector.
Returning to Normal
by Amul Thapa
Almost a year has passed since the people of Nepal faced a tremendous earthquake. As a photojournalist, I observed the scenario of this great crisis and have been documenting our efforts as a people to return to normalcy. Though we have slowly been recovering psychologically, we are still under the same level of humanitarian crisis in terms of building shelters and other basic infrastructure necessities.
This January, I got a call from SOS Children’s Villages, the place where I spent my childhood. I was brought up at SOS Kavre, where I had been taken at the age of nine. Now I am living on my own, and this is all because of SOS. I was provided an opportunity to work with Steve Connors, a British filmmaker. My assignment was to assist him in depicting the stories of emergency response programs conducted by SOS and the other Hilton Prize Coalition member NGOs in the disaster-affected areas: BRAC, Handicap International, HelpAge International, Heifer International, and Operation Smile.
In the beginning, our team visited the representatives of the NGOs for the purpose of obtaining interviews, mainly focused on the areas of their support to the disaster-prone people. After concluding the first phase of interviews in the Kathmandu city offices, we set off to visit the various rural areas where the NGOs rendered their services. We learned how these services helped to release people from some of the terrible trauma caused by the sudden and unexpected tremors. The NGOs focused on bringing some stability back to the lives of the people by providing them various supports such as basic funds for sustainable livelihoods, establishing Child Care Spaces (CCSs) for children so they could be released from the daily pressures of dealing with the traumatic situation, and building temporary makeshift shelters.
I was continually impressed to learn how effectively the emergency relief campaigns were conducted by these NGOs. With the support of these NGOs, communities seemed to be able to return to their normal livelihood activities. When the schools and colleges in the rural areas were closed, the children continued their educational activities in the CCSs established by the NGOs.
All the service providers as well as the beneficiaries had a lot to tell. Throughout our journey to different places I was struck by the similarities between the stories told by the different people, and how relevant our experiences were to each other. Before getting involved in this project, I was unaware of the Hilton Prize Coalition member NGOs other than SOS. Through this project, I was introduced to five other NGOs and their areas of work, which seem to be strongly interrelated. After visiting the working areas and talking to representatives, I understood how the work and the people were interconnected. Though the nature of the work of these six organizations may vary, the target groups are similar and the objectives of the organizations are the same: to improve the living standards of the people and make them ready to cope with the situation. It seems that our efforts will become better and more effective as these organizations find more ways to work together to make optimum use of the available resources and to facilitate services to help their target groups return to normal.
(Amul, at right, connects with a young girl and her grandmother, who are living in a temporary shelter camp in Kathmandu. Photo taken by Steve Connors.)
Click here to learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program in Nepal
Rasmi Dangol currently serves as the Accountability Assistant for HelpAge International Nepal, where she has worked since 2014. She has been an instrumental player in the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program in Nepal, supporting Steve Connors, the Master Storyteller, and working alongside the In-Country Coordination team. In this piece, Rasmi reflects on her experience as a young Nepali woman finding a balance with the people she has met during discussions of how the April 2015 earthquake affected people and communities.
The Beauty of Our Journey
by Rasmi Dangol
I have been fortunate enough to have spent hours and hours in our working areas, supporting our beneficiaries and communities, spending many nights inside hotel rooms whose walls and windows seemed to veer slightly every now and then. I have seen many older people cry tears of relief and joy when we have handed out what we in HelpAge believe to be ‘age-friendly’ earthquake relief support materials to our communities affected by the April 2015 earthquake. These materials are distributed so that their immediate medicinal, nutritional, or simple everyday needs can be met. Few moments have been as innately complete and resonant as the one I just concluded with my small team of five – Steve Connors, our director, Amul, my new friend at SOS Children’s Villages, Shyam dai, our cameraman, and Dawa dai, our fearless warrior behind the wheel.
When my supervisor first described the job details for the Storytelling documentary, I had just treated the meeting like our usual meetings – talk about work to be done, data to be updated, beneficiaries to meet, and so on. When he asked me if I was interested in being the coordinator, this is when my heart skipped a beat! I was pleasantly nervous about it!
Then, from the first introductory call, I knew that the Storytelling project would be a good project to work on. Now, the entire pre-production work has almost wrapped up, and I suspect Steve is probably taking in more than his normal daily espresso intake as he works furiously on post-production. Each one of us is now back to our work, busy as always. But every now and then, I take a moment to think and remember that one month – where all five of us, representatives from organisations who barely knew one another, just clicked and brought this documentary into fruition in a spirit that was almost extraordinary on its own.
All together from six organizations – BRAC, Handicap International, HelpAge International, Heifer International, SOS Children’s Villages, and Operation Smile – we were able to capture the stories of people including key staff members, beneficiaries and stake holders that were impacted by the 2015 earthquake and aftershocks. When I look back on the overall memories of our time together, the travels, the endless conversations, the occasional highway stop to take in the ‘beauty of our journey,’ and when I hear words of gratitude and thanks from all, I truly feel that I have contributed a small, wee bit.
Of course, a collaborative effort like this is only possible when you have the support and encouragement of everyone you work with. And I can safely say that that has happened. For everything that has transpired, especially in the course of my involvement with the Storytelling movement, I am truly grateful.
(Rasmi – 3rd from right, connects with HelpAge beneficiaries in Sindhupalchowk district during Nepal Storytelling program)
(Storytelling Team, L to R: Amul, Dawa, Steve, Shyam and Rasmi, Helambu Village Development Committee in Sindhupalchowk District)
Click here to learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program in Nepal
By Bob Kelty, Executive Director, Amref Health Africa in the USA
Ma Soumah, mother of six in Forécariah, a district in Guinea at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak where it all started over a year ago, lost her husband to the virus. He was taken away from his family and never seen again. Soumah became infected while looking after him, but was turned away from the health facility, due to poor health worker training, even though she was clearly exhibiting Ebola symptoms. Even now Forécariah doesn’t have a place to test blood samples.
She eventually went back to the facility over the objections of her family, who thought she would be safer with them, and was transferred to the treatment center where husband died. Soumah believed it was unlikely she would be cured, but at least she would die in the same place where her husband passed. Miraculously, she survived.
Bordering Sierra Leone, Forécariah is 60 miles and over four hours of bumpy, dusty, traffic-laden routes out of the country’s coastal capital of Conakry. With only a small portion of Guinea’s 12 million people, Forécariah’s population of 136,000 represents 80 percent of all new Ebola cases since January.
Dr. Sakoba Keita, Guinea National Coordinator for the fight against Ebola, describes Forécariah as “the snake’s head” of the Ebola crisis. “If we can address the issues preventing the control of Ebola in Forécariah, then we can go a long way toward eliminating Ebola in Guinea.”
Shortly after arriving in Forécariah, I asked the manager of The Ebola Platform, the group coordinating non-governmental organizations like ours, what the principle challenge is to reaching zero cases. The answer– community resistance.
Much of this resistance was a backlash against the “hard approach” (here he smacked his hands together to enforce his point) taken in the initial stages of the intervention. Messages about prevention and management of Ebola were delivered by outsiders – without any involvement of community leaders. No trust was fostered. No one knew what was going on. Rumors started that thermometers and the chlorine mix used for disinfecting public spaces and hand-washing were actually tools to spread Ebola.
Because of these and other early missteps, it took months for health workers to gain the trust of the community. In November 2014, Amref Health Africa came to Forécariah and began speaking with community leaders to learn how they could put health protocols in place while still respecting traditions and culture. After a month of consultation, we decided that the best route would be to avoid direct intervention and instead, work though Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), trusted and known members of the community. Over the next few months, Amref Health Africa trained a number of people from local religious, youth and women’s groups to go door-to-door with educational materials and sanitation kits, and to identify individuals with Ebola symptoms.
While it took months of work to overcome those early mistakes, residents of Forécariah have since grown accustomed to the basic protocols of hand washing and temperature taking. But when it comes to adopting safe burial practices, there is still significant community resistance. During my recent trip there, a taxi carrying a fully dressed corpse, complete with hat and sunglasses, was stopped at a checkpoint. The six passengers were arrested and put in isolation. According to a survey by The Ebola Platform, 59 percent of the population still doesn’t believe that Ebola can be transmitted through a corpse. Health worker after health worker in Forécariah, told me that resistance to safe burial practices is the single, greatest barrier to reaching zero cases.
Clearly the way to eliminate Ebola is through continued education and engagement with the local community. Leading UK expert and past head of the Ebola campaign in Sierra Leone, Donal Brown, puts it this way, “You can’t just press a button and change behavior. You can’t just sign a cheque and change behavior. It’s about person-to-person engagement. It’s about verbal communication.”
And that’s exactly the route Amref Health Africa is taking.
At a ‘community testimonial meeting’ we organized with Unicef, I met citizens, district government officials and members of CBOs. The CBOs spoke about the need to increase the capacity of their organizations. Government leaders expressed concern that the international NGOs would leave or discontinue funding before the work in Forécariah was completed. Individual citizens expressed their frustrations and shared ideas on how to better educate their communities.
Challenges persist and will continue for many, many months, but at least everyone is talking and slowly wrestling that snake’s head to the ground.
And Ma Soumah? She was paralyzed for 12 days after Ebola, but has since made a full recovery and is now selling pineapples to support her six children. She’s also become an advocate for prevention and improved, quality services – speaking out at community meetings to help ensure fewer people experience what she endured.
Follow Bob Kelty on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bkelty