Vulnerable artisans have received work equipment. Professional organizations of craftsmen have been reinforced. Craftsmen have benefited from thematic training. These are the main results achieved by the project "Integration and Support to the Empowerment of Artisans in Ivory Coast". Launched in 2015, the project aimed to improve the living conditions of artisans, especially those affected or infected by HIV-AIDS. Implemented by AVSI in partnership with the National Chamber of Crafts of Ivory Coast, and funded by the European Union, the project was officially closed on Monday, December 18th, 2017 at the Regional Episcopal Center of West Africa in Cocody.
“Our main goal was to bring a change in view of the precarious working conditions, the lack of equipment and the social exclusion of those whose stigmatization is linked to HIV-AIDS,” said Dr. Bamba Lassiné, project coordinator, while presenting the project results to an audience of dressmakers, mechanics, carpenters, hairdressers, ironworkers, sculptors and many other craftsmen.
HIV-positive, 54-year-old Koné Seydou was one of the beneficiaries of the project. After spending two years in a coma, away from his six children, Koné was only able to regain his strength after joining the AVSI project.
The support that greatly affected his entire life was the rehabilitation and equipment support for his ironwork shop. Today, his activities have regained their dynamism and people ask him in the city to do work or train other young people in the industry.
“This is what I'm most proud of, because some of the young people I'm currently training are going to be self-employed soon. Today, I once again feel my worth and I am proud of who I am,” says Koné who is currently participating in HIV awareness activities by giving testimonials about his life. “I explain how I went from death to life and became a source of motivation and example to other patients. I hope that this kind of concrete project that AVSI leads is extended to many people like me, because it gives us hope. It shows us that hope is allowed”.
The project benefitted 5,000 artisans and their families and brought awareness on work laws, and entering the formal market to about 55,000 total artisans in Ivory Coast.
“I cried, ” admits Raed without shame. A grown man in his late 50s, Raed works hard to support and maintain his family in Midan, a poor district in Aleppo, which during a recent and long battle was among the most affected by the bombings.
The bullets did not spare him either. They traveled through his body and can still be found in his shoulder, lung and liver. The bullets have been there for a while because to remove them, Raed would need an operation he cannot afford. He had to learn to live with them. Now a painful hernia keeps him up at night and forced him to stay in bed for weeks. A new health issue that is separate from the bullets. During the Aleppo siege recently, when water was scarce, Raed had to transport heavy containers of drinking water from the collection sites to his home. At home and waiting for him were his 5-year-old daughter and wife.
"I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy when the doctors gave me the news", explains Raed. “Finally, I will be operated. I waited for my turn for too long".
Raed’s tears are not a surprise in Syria, where to get an operation, even the most simple of operations, is almost impossible. The last report published in November by the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirms the reality of the ceaseless health crisis. Less than half of the hospital structures are still fully functional, which is clearly not enough to treat the over 11 million Syrian currently in need of care. This dramatic statistic is the result of the constant bombing of the health facilities, the fleeing of most doctors and nurses, and the difficulty in finding medicine.
It was on our latest field trip to the Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement that we met Miriam. In fear for the lives of her five children, she fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2012 in search for “a better life without war”. Miriam and her children walked for several days to reach the Ugandan border. On arrival, they were put in a bus headed to Rwamwanja in the Ugandan district of Kamwenge. At the settlement’s reception centre, they were registered, underwent a health screening and given a hot meal. The family was then allocated land and given a distribution of non-food items. Miriam’s husband later joined the family, and now, 5 years later, with 2 more children, Miriam and her family reside on the same piece of land in a small mud hut.
“With more and more people arriving we were forced to divide our land and now we don’t grow anything. The soil is bad; we don’t have anything to eat, we live on food distributions”, Miriam says. “But I would never go back to Congo because even if we still don’t have anything, here I can at least sleep all night”.
It is clear that the situation is not sustainable. With the unrealistic hope that households that have lived longer within the settlement are more adapted and economically secure, the quantity of food distributions begin to reduce. It is therefore not surprising that Miriam’s family among thousands of others, suffer from chronic malnutrition.
But there is hope. This New Year brings the start of the USAID-funded Graduating to Resilience project (2017-2024), implemented by AVSI in consortium with Trickle Up and IMPAQ International. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Office of Food for Peace (FFP), this uniquely Ugandan model helps women and their households graduate out of poverty and sustain improvement works. It provides Ugandan policy makers, especially government, with a cost-effective tool to change the historical trend and eradicate poverty from Uganda. How? By using AVSI's Graduation Approach, successfully implemented by Ugandan SCORE model, and targeting women and youth, this activity will increase levels of knowledge around nutrition, health and hygiene and encourage behavior changes, which are supported by group dynamics and changing cultural norms and practices.
After spending a week visiting the six departments in Haiti where AVSI is implementing the project “Let’s Work for Our Rights” (LWR) with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Rana Dotson, International Relations Personnel with the US Department of Labor (USDOL), was pleased to see how the agency’s funding supports and reshapes the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable in the country.
“It’s important to witness how our work and USDOL funding have been used in the field,” said Rana Dotson, who visited the project for the first time in December.
Since 2016, AVSI is implementing LWR, a project that aims to reduce and prevent child labor in Agriculture in Haiti. Until 2019, LWR will be implemented in the North and North East departments, and in the communities near official border areas with the Dominican Republic, including the Central, West and South East departments. Currently, AVSI is supporting 4,800 children engaged in child labor, including domestic work and agriculture, and their families, through a comprehensive set of interventions in the areas of Education, Social Protection and Economic Strengthening.
During her field trip, Rana participated in an encounter organized by CRS in collaboration with AVSI called “Children and Work”. During the event, Régine Lamur, Minister of Youth, Sports and Civic Action (MJSAC), the General Director of City Hall in the region of Cap Haitien and the Secretary-General of the Department of Commerce of the Industry of the North (CCIN), and representatives of private sector and civil society, reflected alongside children supported by AVSI-Haiti on ways to improve vocational training and job search. Through an open dialog, the debate highlighted the challenges and opportunities for young adults to find jobs and the actions needed to improve their socio-economic conditions.
This year, at New York Encounter 2018, a FREE three-day public cultural festival held in New York City,
AVSI-USA highlighted the work of our partner organization Meeting Point International, which serves the HIV/AIDS affected population in Kampala, Uganda. During the eyewitness presentation Love Without Boundaries, Rose Busingye spoke about her experience at Meeting Point International. Rose brought a video to New York in which the women teach how to craft their famous beaded necklaces.
We also invited our friends to attend events like A Human Gaze, a History; and The Fundamental Economic Resource: The Human Person; and the exhibit Surprise Encounters, curated by Ezio Castelli, AVSI-USA President. At the AVSI-USA booth, we were able to raise almost $3,000 exchanging donations for crafts designed and manufactured in countries where we have projects and partners. This year, our booth featured crafts from Uganda, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Rwanda.
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