Lloyd Mulenga attends Bible study at Chisomo Drop-in Centre. Chisomo means "grace" in the Nyanja language. The center, in a neighborhood of tall, swaying trees in Zambia's capital city, Lusaka, is a place of safety and growth for children who have spent months or years on the streets. Along with clothing, meals, schooling and Bible studies, founders Aaron and Josephine Chilunjika share their love and faith. "The greatest result," says Aaron Chilunjika, "has been seeing a child respond to the love of God." MCC has partnered with the center for eight years, providing funds, staff training and support for children's education.
In Hud El-Henna, a garbage collector's settlement on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, the livelihood of many residents depends on collecting or sorting through trash and selling recyclable material. BLESS, an MCC partner organization and part of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, offers literacy classes in a nearby church and elsewhere in Egypt. Students are able, for the first time, to decipher the directions on medications, read the Bible for themselves or read street signs. "When one of my kids becomes sick, I give the doses according to what the doctor said. Now I know how to do that," says Mariam Neaneah. "Before I couldn't."
In the village of Hrustovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, residents such as Izet Omanovic and his wife Hasiba are moving past the pain and divisions of the 1992-1995 war. Izet is one of the few survivors of a July 1992 massacre that killed more than 200 villagers. His family believed for months that he had died. Today his son, Vahidin, an imam or Muslim religious leader, is at the forefront of MCC-supported efforts to build peace in the region. "We can't forget the war - we have to learn how to live with it," Vahidin says. "If we don't talk about our experiences, reconciliation can't happen."
In Awassa Zuria, Ethiopia, MCC partners with the Relief and Development Association of the Meserete Kristos Church to help families raise more food. In an MCC-supported project, Woyitu Yisak joined other farmers to dig terraces on hillsides and plant acacia trees to help diminish erosion. New grass, trees and shrubs took root, preventing erosion around Yisak's crops, including enset, a local root vegetable. The food and cash she received for her work helped her buy a goat. "I don't know about the future but we are eating three meals a day now, thanks be to God," she says.
Zirak Nawzat looks up at his uncle Masoud Mahmad in their home in Debaga, northern Iraq. The family received MCC blankets and a relief kit. These basic supplies are important gifts in a country where ordinary Iraqis bear the brunt of decades of violence, dictatorship, oppression and international sanctions, says Namam Salih, a program manager for MCC partner REACH. Despite the continuing violence, she relishes the diversity that Iraq has, calling it a richness for the nation. "There is hope – this hope is in our hands," she says. "Everyone can change their own way of thinking – that is where change starts."
Across Canada and the United States, farmers such as Jay and Ruth Todd are growing crops that support international agricultural projects. Through the Foods Resource Bank (FRB), proceeds from the Todds' soybeans in East Petersburg, Pennsylvania, helped develop rice paddy land in Laos. Formed nine years ago, the U.S.-based FRB is a partnership of churches and faith-based organizations, including MCC, that helps farmers overseas grow more food in their own communities. For 25 years, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank has provided a way for Canadian farmers to sell crops and donate grain for international agricultural projects and food relief.
At St. Josephine Bakhita Basic Education School in Juba, Sudan, students jog around a schoolyard during gym class. After years of war, people are streaming back to Southern Sudan, and schools such as this one are stretched to bursting. MCC, through partner organization Church Ecumenical Action in Sudan, helped build new classrooms. In areas across Southern Sudan, MCC is helping to encourage peace among the many people who've returned and supporting critical efforts such as health clinics and AIDS treatment and prevention.
Through a community water project, residents of La Cuchilla, Bolivia, including Doña Juana Flores, work alongside and build relationships with Krista Snader and other MCC workers. Snader, of Lancaster, Pa., who served in this area until the fall of 2009, labored with community members as they hauled construction materials, dug trenches by hand and put in pipeline – in this case 4 kilometers of it – from the nearest usable stream to faucets near families' homes. Together, they built not only a water system but also new dreams for the future, including building dry latrines, planting vegetable gardens and building stoves of mud and brick.
In Angkearhdei, Cambodia, Pon Ravy is nearing his goal of completing high school. He would be the first person from the village to graduate since 1993. For many years, the village's only school offered just two grades, and students who continued their studies had to travel long distances. Now, with a new school building and support from MCC's Global Family education sponsorship program, students can study through sixth grade in Angkearhdei. Village leaders awarded Ravy with a scholarship, funded by MCC, with the understanding that he would return to teach at Angkearhdei Primary School for at least three years.
With support from MCC, Tina Bernard of Waycobah First Nation, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, used her experiences as a native Canadian to create gatherings of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The Peace and Friendship Project, supported by MCC Maritimes, the United Church of Canada and Tatamagouche Centre, helps build relationships between native and non-native Canadians. Like many residents of this area, the call of the oil industry and related work led Bernard and her family from Nova Scotia to Alberta in early 2009. MCC continues to provide funding for gatherings.
Rambha Maya Khamcha, 38, shown with her mother Dil Maya, husband Yam Bahadur, son Deepak and daughter Janaki, is one of an increasing number of people in Nepal who are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Yet hope is growing as MCC partner organizations share information about AIDS treatment and prevention with tens of thousands of people in Nepal. People with HIV are speaking more openly about their condition and urging relatives and friends to be tested. Khamcha says she is feeling better now that she is receiving treatment for HIV.
In Haiti, deforestation and erosion exacerbate damage from tropical storms and hurricanes – hitting hard especially for families that already live in poverty. MCC partners with Fonkoze, a microfinance organization that distributes food relief to people affected by hurricane damage and offers interest-free loans to help women who run small businesses recover from the storm damage. MCC also partners with Haitian agencies promoting food justice, advocating for human rights and building peace. MCC supports tree-planting and environmental education efforts meant to help reduce the damage from natural disasters.