2017 was a year of new and expanding initiatives that strengthened HRI’s vision: to serve children and families impacted by extreme poverty by responding to crisis, building resilience and creating opportunities that treat and prevent hunger and malnutrition.
Tackling the major challenges that confront vulnerable children and families requires our persistent humanity, our trust and partnership with one another, and our openness to expand our approach so that we may truly improve the lives of those in need.
Every year at HRI, we strive to build on our knowledge and experience.
In 2017, we continued to refine our core nutrition programs while also looking to the horizon and implementing new, high-impact initiatives with our partners. These new programs and trainings have put into motion a shift that is positively changing the long-term trajectory for children, young adults, women and families by elevating physical and psycho-social well-being and increasing opportunity. The combined impact of these programs is not only changing these individuals, their families and their communities for the better, but these actions have a further ripple effect on their cities, regions and eventually their nations.
Relieving Hunger and Creating the Foundation for Better Nutrition
Resolving chronic food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition remain HRI’s core priorities. Each year we strive to do more to fight against these major challenges. In 2017, we observed significant progress on each of these issues.
Our first priority is to provide immediate and consistent food assistance to children who reside in extremely food insecure households or institutions. HRI’s daily meal programs ensure that babies and school-aged children do not go hungry and receive the basic nutrition that they need during critical phases of their development. Without this assistance, the lives, health and well-being of thousands of children would be severely compromised.
Our second priority is to educate children, parents and caregivers about key food and nutrition basics. This educational and training component of our programming is intended to improve child and family health as well as to gradually shift food related behavior and dietary choices in a healthier direction.
Our third priority is long-term, sustainable food security driven by families and communities. This means working with families to help them improve their food security with the food that they already have access to while also helping them to grow and produce additional food themselves.
Meal programs combined with nutrition trainings as well as sustainable nutrient-rich gardens all help ensure that beneficiary children and families no longer suffer from the effects of hunger and that they receive the basic nutrition needed to learn, grow and thrive now and in the future.
The map below illustrates the root causes of hunger and malnutrition and how we are working together with our partners to address them.
In 2017, HRI expanded our reach by launching new programs that build resilience and create opportunities for extremely vulnerable youth and families living in extreme poverty.
THREE NEW PROGRAMS LAUNCHED IN 2017!
Children First is a unique program working to protect extremely vulnerable children from harm in high-poverty urban slums of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This program targets children who are at “very high risk” for abandonment, exploitation and trafficking. Children First works to keep families together and prevent a host of tragic alternatives through multiple support services for parents and children.
• Enrolling children in school
• Providing a nutritious meal each day at school
• Offering homework assistance, life skills activities and psycho-social support
• Equipping parents to be better communicators with their children
• Helping strengthen the bonds between parents and children
• Identifying, training and facilitating opportunities for parents to increase their household incomes
The overarching goal is to stabilize the family unit and to ensure that families are able to remain together – that no child ever be left in an institution or orphanage due to extreme poverty afflicting families. This program launched in September 2017 with 21 children and their families participating.
From Chaos to Calm, Children First Creates Happier, Healthier Homes
Jacques is the 37-year-old, single father of Nadia, an 8-year-old little girl. During a recent home visit by the Children First Project Coordinator, Jacques shared the impact the Children First program has had within his own family:
“Before Nadia was enrolled in the Children First Program, the atmosphere in our home can only be described as chaotic. Nadia was struggling with poor behavior. She was acting out, being disruptive and sometimes even shouting to draw attention to herself. I had no idea how to handle her, and often became angry. Basically, I was making a tough situation worse, and the angrier I became, the more she acted out.
After attending the HRI-sponsored workshops on good parenting, I was inspired and felt equipped to address the “chaos” in our household from a position of knowledge and understanding instead of anger. The workshops helped me to reassess my own core values, which I also understood are reflected in my children’s behavior and the values they are adopting as they grow. I wanted to teach my children better values!
At first, it was a real struggle for me, but I persevered and worked very hard at fully integrating the lessons into my own behavior with my children and even with the outside world.
The trainings gave me a pathway toward true parenting. They helped me to become the kind of parent I want to be, someone who is there for my children. The workshops also taught me how to overcome conflicts with other people
in the neighborhood.
After only two weeks of the Parenting Perspectives workshops, I had a meeting with the school principal and the teacher about Nadia. They asked me what I had been doing differently at home lately, as her behavior had noticeably improved in just the past few weeks.
The teacher said that Nadia is much calmer, and she is able to listen better. Again, she asked what I was doing differently in my home. All I could say was that I was participating in parenting workshops and that I was so glad they are having a positive impact on Nadia’s behavior.
In short, I will say the work that HRI is doing for parents and future generations is significant: the passion, creative presentations, the obvious comradery and respect the staff has for one another, their willingness to share their personal experiences with us is inspiring. Above all, I was affected on a spiritual level and saw my role as a parent from a different point of view. I pray that I have the strength to implement what I learned each and every day and to remain a loving, committed and communicative parent.”
Micro-Enterprise for Orphaned Youth is a program dedicated to stopping the cycle of poverty, exploitation, fear and anxiety confronting young adults aging out of orphanage care. This program works to better equip teens with a combination of training and real-life experience to develop marketable skills that can be applied in their communities and allow eventual financial independence.
Teen orphans are learning how to generate income by starting, managing and operating their own small businesses. This program launched in August 2017 with 20 young adult participants from five Haitian orphanages.
The youth are now running their own successful small businesses, including managing car washes, selling used clothing and shoes at their own kiosk, selling phone credit to make money for college, and selling phone credit to save profit to invest in another dream business—a video game venue. The work ethic, percentage of savings and achievements the youth business owners have had already are extraordinary examples to other children in the homes who now see they too can become financially independent before they age out of the home. Fear has been replaced with hope!
Abandoned Orphan Now Sees a Successful Future, Thanks to Micro-Enterprise Program
“After the 2010 earthquake my mother and I lost our home and ended up living on the street. My mother had a nervous breakdown that left her completely disabled, even now. She still lives on the street, cannot work and is unable to cope with life. I was just 8-years-old at the time of the earthquake. I was picked up on the street and taken to an orphanage where I have lived since 2010.
I am so excited about the opportunity HRI has given me to learn how to start, operate and manage a business! I am part of a group of 5 boys who are running our own car wash. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of hard work, but I am so happy to earn my own money. Now I feel like I can finally help my mother! I love living in the orphanage, but I miss my mother, and I want to be with her again. I see this small business as a first step for me with the possibility of expanding the business and even starting other small businesses with the income from the car wash.
This program has opened many doors for me and the others in my group. Now, we all believe and know we have a future, and we will be able to take care of ourselves and our families.”
Youth Leadership Development targets teens in impoverished and dangerous communities who are at risk for gang membership, violence, illegal migration, child and sex trafficking, teen pregnancy and perpetual poverty.
HRI youth programs engage teens on a variety of life skills and leadership topics with the goal of demonstrating that they have other attainable options and opportunities. This program launched in a rural area in June 2017 and has since expanded to 3 urban “zonas rojas” in Guatemala City with more than 50 youth actively participating.
From Participant to Mentor, How Monica Overcame All Odds
Living in El Limon isn’t easy. The community has a reputation for being one of the most violent in Guatemala City. Plagued by dangerous gangs – violence, extortion and intimidation is part of daily life. High-rates of poverty, lack of opportunity and a host of other social issues compound the challenging situation. Monica has fought to rise above it, and she won.
Monica grew up with two siblings and her mother. She and her siblings were mostly raised by grandparents—whom she refers to as her parents. It was then that Monica was first introduced to youth programs and her leadership potential.
During this time, Monica’s brother fell victim to violence and was killed in the streets of El Limon, a fate too many young people and families are forced to endure in this community. Despite the odds, Monica overcame overwhelming fear and continued her volunteer work to support youth activities designed to keep children safe.
In 2017, when HRI initiated formal youth activities in El Limon, Monica joined our program. She initially became involved as a participant, but we quickly encouraged her to shift into a role of volunteer teacher and mentor.
At age 24, Monica is happily teaching and leading the girl’s youth group. She assists in hosting the after-school program that focuses on building self-esteem and leadership skills for children and teens. She helps show them they are important individuals with rights and the potential to change their trajectory in order to end the cycle of poverty, pain and violence for their family. She helps create a space for youth to have a voice within community leadership and teaches them how to advocate on behalf of their peers to help ignite positive change. Monica teaches young people in her community to hope, to dream and to aspire for a better life.
After so much life experience and drive to make a difference in her community, Monica has become a true mentor for this generation. She has evolved through sheer personal determination to rise above the challenges and losses. HRI is proud to have Monica as part of our youth leadership team. She inspires many young people to dream big and grow beyond their circumstances!