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Blessings

October 2013

O p e r at i o n B l e s s i n g I n t e r n at i o n a l

operationblessing.org

Taking a Bite Out of Hunger A community gardening project brings health and hope to a hungry village in Guatemala { page 8 }


Bill visits with a community in Guatemala.

A Message from The President

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n the cover of this issue we feature a sustainable gardening story about a Guatemalan village that had been buried by a volcanic eruption. Our team invested in building materials and after several months of training, the villagers are harvesting bumper crops of vegetables, and best of all they can now manage and replicate the growing beds on their own. The Guatemala project follows the “teach a man to fish” principal of sustainability. We have launched sustainable agriculture programs in an increasing number of countries that are now running on their own, producing food and income long after our teams have left. Fish ranching is the best example of sustainable food security that I have ever seen. Unlike fish farming, where fish are raised in tight quarters and fed high-protein food so they can grow as fast as possible, fish ranching works in open ponds, lakes and reservoirs. Massive numbers of baby tilapia are released to forage on their own. Tilapia are herbivores and thrive grazing on algae the same way that cattle or horses graze on grass. Fish that cost a dime grow into fish worth $5 or more in less than a year. We are pioneering fish ranching in Haiti working with the Haitian Department of Agriculture as well as a faith-based local charity that builds lakes and reservoirs. Our goal is to populate these and other barren public waters all over Haiti with tilapia. We have already planted well over 500,000. As they grow and mature, fishermen will catch many to feed their families and to sell for income, but many will survive, breed and multiply for years to come. This strategy has been hugely successful in many other countries, and it will be successful here. As a supporter of Operation Blessing you are part of this modern day “loaves and fishes” story. You are truly partners in our efforts to feed the multitudes!

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May God bless you,


Inside this issue Cover

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Taking a Bite Out of Hunger A community gardening project brings health and hope to a hungry village in Guatemala

4 Hungry in South Sudan Impoverished families in South Sudan’s refugee camps face a devastating food crisis 7 Exploited at 15 An Operation Blessing-supported shelter gives hope to girls who have been beaten, abused and trafficked

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11 The Gift of a Well After years of struggle, a single mom in Laos is bidding farewell to the hardship of fetching water for her family 12 “Extreme Blessing” for a Family in Need In the wake of an EF5 tornado, a single dad and his sons struggle to recover until they receive an unexpected blessing

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14 Longing for a Place to Call Home Operation Blessing teams bring help and hope to a young family in Peru after a devastating storm page 14 3


SOUTH SUdan

Hungry in South Sudan Impoverished families in South Sudan’s refugee camps face a devastating food crisis

Starving families in South Sudan receive food staples such as beans, rice and flour to help them survive. 4


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angerous conflict in Khartoum and Darfur has forced many Sudanese families to flee their homes in search of safety. Now, these vulnerable women and children are without homes or jobs, traveling from place to place looking for shelter and food. Many have found a temporary home at Abubu Refugee Camp in South Sudan — the newest nation in the world — but food shortages and rising cost of supplies mean that children are going hungry. Recently, in partnership Operation Blessing teams deliver more than with the local church and Regent 25,000 pounds of critical relief to desperate families. University’s Center for Trauma Studies, Operation Blessing delivered truckloads of emergency supplies to Abubu and other nearby refugee camps and impoverished villages. Teams distributed more than 25,000 pounds of critical relief and food staples such as beans, rice and flour to aid orphaned children and desperate families. Thanks to Operation Blessing partners, these supplies are bringing hope in the midst of crisis. “I want to thank Operation Blessing for supporting the work that is being done in South Sudan,” said one community leader. “The food that you gave will really, really help the South Sudanese. Thank you, and God bless.” ◆ To view more photos of relief in South Sudan, visit ob.org/southsudan. 5


Get the facts: South Sudan

South Sudan achieved independence on July 9, 2011, after two long periods of conflict that took the lives of approximately 2.5 million people — mostly civilians and largely due to starvation and drought. Today, they are rebuilding a new nation.

Facts:

• South Sudan has a population of roughly 11 million, including more than 15 different ethnic groups. • The median age of citizens is just 16 years. • South Sudan is home to more than 200,000 refugees, mostly from Sudan, DR Congo and Ethiopia. • Nearly 200,000 South Sudanese have been displaced from their homes just since 2012. • South Sudan has one of the richest agriculture areas of Africa, producing crops such as maize, rice, mangoes, sesame and cotton.

The Need:

Decades of conflict paired with severe droughts have created widespread poverty in the world’s newest nation. Refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) are left especially vulnerable to starvation as a food crisis grips the nation.

How We’re Helping:

Operation Blessing teams first began aiding impoverished families in South Sudan following its independence in 2011. Since then, teams have delivered critical relief to refugee and IDP camps when it is needed most — providing nutrition and sustenance for desperate families. ◆ *All statistics from CIA World Factbook

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LATIN AMERICA

Exploited at 15 An Operation Blessing-supported shelter gives hope to girls who have been beaten, abused and trafficked

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ofia* (name changed to protect identity) was just 15 years old when she was lured from her hometown with the promise of a job, which she desperately needed. When she arrived in the city, she was moved from place to place by her traffickers, beaten and eventually forced into prostitution. “That is where I would suffer from being beaten up, treated badly and insulted,” Sofia said. “I was feeling dirty and I hated myself.” Sofia was eventually freed from her traffickers and placed at an Operation Blessing-supported shelter. There, she has a safe home where she receives an education, medical care and counseling as she rebuilds her life. Thank you, Operation Blessing partners for giving Sofia and others the hope of a brighter future! ◆ 7


GUATEMALA

Taking

Out of H A community gardening project brings health and hope to a hungry village in Guatemala

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ust one year ago, the remote village of Panimache was covered in black ash after a nearby volcano erupted. The ash buried their crops, destroying their food supply and impairing the soil — making it nearly impossible for villagers to produce the food they need to survive. Today, the landscape couldn’t look more different. Operation Blessing brought in an agronomist to teach the villagers how to build raised beds with locally obtainable materials, like bamboo. The families participate in weekly workshops that provide training in family farming, fertilizers, transplanting, harnessing water, crop management and more. They were even provided with rich soil, plastic sheeting, organic fertilizer and plenty of good seeds to get started. The new techniques they are learning — such as drip irrigation, which maximizes growth and water efficiency, and plasticulture, which utilizes plastic to regulate temperature and protect plants — allow the families here to grow a variety of nutritious vegetables to supplement their diets using growing tables. They are even able to produce enough maize and beans to sell their excess for income. “It’s a beautiful program which provides food plus easily salable organic veggies,” said Bill Horan, president of OBI.

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g a Bite

Hunger Now, families in Panimache are able to grow a variety of nutritious vegetables to supplement their meals and feed their children.

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Perhaps better than anyone, Esvin is a living example of how this program is changing lives. Esvin lost both of his legs to polio, and he thought his productive life was over. His wife did everything she could to provide for their family, but after the volcano erupted, they were unable to work their land. Now, thanks to Operation Blessing’s garden project, Esvin is able to provide food for his family by using growing tables to cultivate their crops. Panimache was once a small, forgotten community near the Esvin lost both of his legs to polio, but today he’s able to provide food for his family thanks volcano’s crater, but today the to Operation Blessing’s innovative techniques. villagers are taking a bite out of hunger thanks to these innovative and sustainable growing techniques. ◆

Did

? You

Know

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Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. But sustainable initiatives that train families how to grow nutritious vegetables are taking a bite out of hunger. Operation Blessing has implemented similar projects around the world in places like El Salvador, Peru, Honduras, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Rwanda.


LAOS

The Gift of a Well After years of struggle, a single mom in Laos is bidding farewell to the hardship of fetching water for her family

Mo used to fetch water from a river near her home, but the water was murky and contaminated.

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or years Mo has been solely responsible for collecting enough water for her family’s needs. But as a single mom of four growing children, the time she spends retrieving water often means she is unable to work the rice paddies near her home — and unable to earn the income she needs to provide for her children. But today, Mo is celebrating. A brand new well drilled in her village will mean that she can access clean, fresh water at any time for cooking, cleaning, bathing and even watering her small vegetable garden. “My life and my family have become better because of having clean water from the well near our house,” Mo said. “I do not worry about not having enough water anymore.” This well and four others in the region are providing clean water for hundreds of villagers. The access to water means that children will be able to attend school more Today, Mo and her neighbors have access to fresh, consistently, parents will have more time to clean water thanks to a farm and care for little ones, and the whole brand new well in their village. village will benefit from better health. “I am very happy now,” Mo said. “All my hardship in fetching water is a thing of the past!” ◆ 11


OKLAHOMA

“Extreme Blessing” for a Family in Need

In the wake of an EF5 tornado, a single dad and his sons struggle to recover until they receive an unexpected extreme blessing

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hen tornado sirens sounded in their community, Floyd didn’t take any chances. He scooped up his two young sons and headed to a nearby shelter. There, they waited in safety as the widest EF5 tornado in U.S. history swept through the area. When they headed home, Floyd was relieved to find their house still in one piece. But just a few hours later came a torrential downpour that caused a nearby dam to break, and Floyd woke to hear water rushing through his home. He pulled Austin, 7, and Fred, 4, out of bed and waded through deep waters to safety. When the flooding receded, their home was left devastated. Volunteers from all across the nation joined The three of them lived in one Operation Blessing disaster relief teams to room, sharing a bed, while Floyd help repair Floyd’s home.

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began gutting the damaged sheetrock. But rebuilding while caring for his two boys proved difficult. When Operation Blessing heard about Floyd and his sons, teams were quick to offer help. “I remember standing in his almost empty home talking to Floyd as he shared how he was struggling trying to accomplish this all on his own and how grateful he was that we were there,” said Jody Gettys, OBI director of U.S. disaster relief. Floyd and his sons were put Volunteers welcomed Floyd and his boys home up in a hotel, told that Operation to the surprise of a lifetime — a completely Blessing would “try to put up some refurbished and furnished house. sheetrock” and asked to stay away from the home. Then, over the course of three weeks, Operation Blessing installed sheetrock, completed masonry work, installed siding and utterly transformed the house from the inside out — even completing it with furniture, family photos and a special swing set for the boys in the backyard. When the young family returned home, they were greeted by cheering volunteers and presented with the surprise of a lifetime — an “Extreme Blessing” home makeover. “You could hear the boys literally inhale all of the air in the room and say, ‘Daddy, this is so nice!’ ” Gettys said. As the boys ran to inspect every room, Floyd could hardly take it all in. “I knew you were putting up some sheetrock in the den, but I didn’t have any idea it was going to Austin and Fred explore their “new” home. be anything like this,” he said. “Fred’s so happy,” Austin added. “So am I!” In the wake of devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma, Operation Blessing has provided food and relief to victims — including serving more than 16,000 meals — coordinated more than 7,200 volunteers to assist residents with debris cleanup and removal, and completed three Extreme Blessing projects, including building the first new home from the ground up. ◆ 13


home Peru

Longing for a Place to Call Operation Blessing teams bring help and hope to a young family in Peru after a devastating storm

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avid and Elizabeth long to provide their children with a safe home to call their own — but looking at their land, they could see only rubble. During a severe storm three years ago, they had barely escaped as their home started to crumble around them. “The house began to move, so we went out and as soon as we all went out the house collapsed,” Elizabeth said. “I thank God my mom received us in her house and even now we still live with her because we could not build our house again.” Although David works hard as a cook on a fishing boat, his income varies based on the fishing. He earns barely enough to provide two meals a day, and not nearly enough to rebuild a house. He has looked for steadier employment, but David was born without a portion of his arm and work is hard to come by.

“All my life won’t be enough to thank you for building our house,” David said. 14


Today, David and Elizabeth are able to earn a better income by selling empanadas in their community.

To help supplement their income on the weekends, Elizabeth and her mother make and sell empanadas, a local favorite. But they cook over an open fire on the floor, and the smoke becomes trapped in the home — making it difficult to breathe. Even with the extra income, David often gives up his own portion of food for his children, four-year-old Tayor and two-yearold Alex. “I give everything for my children,” David said. “I can resist hunger, but they cannot.” But today, all that is changing. Operation Blessing teams in Peru helped David rebuild their house so they will have a safe place to call home — with a proper kitchen and enough supplies to expand their business selling tasty empanadas without endangering their health. The extra income means little Tayor and Alex won’t have to go hungry anymore. “All my life won’t be enough to thank you for building our house,” David said. “God bless you and multiply what you are giving.” ◆ 15


Gifts of Love. Hope. Action. C

ING G GIVATALO

f so ift . G ve . Lo ope on. H cti A

Operation Blessing’s Giving Catalog is here, offering gifts that do good and feel great.

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ew gifts have the power to change lives and demonstrate God’s love to those most in need of it, to be an agent of answered prayers. But that’s what the amazing gifts in this catalog have to offer. Which will you choose? Select your gift at ob.org/givingcatalog

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Copyright © 2013 by Operation Blessing International, P.O. Box 2636, Virginia Beach, VA 23450. For more information, call (800) 730-2537 or visit our website at operationblessing.org


Taking a Bite Out of Hunger - Blessings Magazine - October 2013