HN 28 | Communities of Courage

 Written by Eryn Austin-Bergen

Have you ever tried to change your family’s diet? Convince your children to eat new foods like cauliflower rice or chopped spinach in their tomato sauce? It can be a hard sell. Many of us struggle with change. Perhaps you’ve had to learn a new and seemingly impossible computer program for work, adapt to driving a manual car, or cut monthly expenses in order to save for that replacement phone you really need? It takes courage to change a habit or routine, try new technologies, or embrace different beliefs. And we all know new habits aren’t formed in a day! We have to persist (especially with that cauliflower rice), sometimes fail, and muster the courage to try again.

FH partner communities around the world daily show this courage as they attend FH workshops, adjust their parenting styles, grow new foods, share lifestyle-changing ideas with their neighbours, and so much more to create a brighter future. The COVID-19 pandemic brought significant challenges for all of us, including those living in FH partner communities. But volunteer leaders have courageously stepped-up, keeping their eye on community development goals in spite of new challenges. They’re moving their families and neighbours forward toward thriving sustainability. These individuals’ stories of transformation and hope for the future stand as a testimony to the courage of communities on their journey out of poverty.

Courage in Scarcity 

Char Borobila, Bangladesh

“I could not do anything before the training...[Now] we can use our skills for income generation as well as for the development of the society. I am grateful because it brought development among helpless people.” — Muslima

Before joining FH, Muslima’s community was struggling. People lacked literacy, access to sanitation and clean water, and a reason to send their children to school. In addition, everyone was fighting so hard to survive, there was little group cooperation. The rate of child labour and child marriage was high. Like most in the community, Muslima’s family of seven struggled financially. It was a strain just to meet their daily needs. Her husband’s meagre earnings as a day labourer meant nothing could be saved. 

When FH started Savings and Loans groups in the area, Muslima made the decision to try something new. It was a big step to join a social group outside her household. Most Bangladeshi women living in rural areas don’t form relationships with non-relatives; in extreme cases they’re discouraged from even leaving the house without a family member. But in collaboration with 16 other women, Muslima dared to help form Golap (Rose) Women’s Development Group. Her peers quickly recognized her untapped gifts and appointed her as secretary. Muslima participated in leadership development training with FH and began to see her own potential to change her circumstances. 

She embraced sewing training with FH and began making and selling clothing in her community. With her new venture, one stitch and spool at a time, she began to raise her family income! Finally, they could even tuck a few taka away. This had such a powerful effect on their daily lives that Muslima is sharing the knowledge by teaching other women in the community how to sew. Additional FH workshops also empowered the community with critical health and education information so that Muslima’s family’s health has improved and she sees the value of sending her children to school. With these positive changes, her family has grown closer. 

As she gained leadership experience, Muslima took on leading a Cascade health group. She’s now a respected member of her community and helps resolve conflicts among neighbours; she was even able to stop a child marriage. Her new role in the community has shifted the way her family views her. Previously, her opinions didn’t carry much weight; now family members consult her before making any major decisions.

Through leaders like Muslima, the whole community is changing. Neighbours are willing to help each other, family conflicts have decreased, and more children attend school. As parents’ attitudes change, child marriage and child labour have become less common. Because of one woman’s courageous example, more people are daring to dream and serve their community. 

“I feel lucky to be part of FH’s [work],” Muslima shares. “I could not do anything before the training I received. Not only me but also many people who were left behind [in poverty] could participate in FH awareness and learning sessions. We can use our skills for income generation as well as for the development of the society. I am grateful because it brought development among helpless people.”

Courage to Learn Together 

Ta Siem, Cambodia

“As a volunteer, I am more courageous now and am not afraid. I have good relationships with my neighbours because we learn together.” — Vouch Sor

Vouch Sor is a caregiver volunteer trained by FH Cambodia. These special caregivers’ primary focus is to improve the lives of the children in their village and includes education on children’s mental and emotional development, health and hygiene, and nutrition. In addition, Sor and her husband participated in agricultural training to improve their family’s income and food security. These days, health and hygiene lessons also include how to protect herself, her family, and her community from COVID-19. 

Before partnering with FH, Sor explains how her family was struggling in poverty. “Ten years ago when we arrived in this village, we were having a very difficult life. We built a house which can provide us shelter but we did not have any latrine…My eldest son at that time was 15 years old and dropped out of school.… During those times, we were living day-by-day to just survive.” 

Then Sor started attending FH meetings with fellow villagers. Along with many of her peers, Sor agreed to have her two youngest children join child sponsorship. This was a door that opened opportunities for her and her husband to begin making significant changes in their family’s life. Together with other village members, Sor became a volunteer and began learning and working alongside her neighbours for the betterment of her community. “As a volunteer, I am more courageous now and am not afraid. I have good relationships with my neighbours because we learn together. I am driven to share my new knowledge with my neighbours. I always join in community activities and want to help in whatever way I can.” In addition to volunteering in her community, Sor also boosted her family’s health by building a home latrine and installing a water filter. 

So far, her favourite group training has been how to make toys for young children using materials easily found in the community, often upcycling pre-used items. “I learned a lot and I came to understand about the development of our children, especially their brain development,” Sor shares. “We also know how to respond to newborn babies to help them develop.”

Sor is grateful for the changes she and her community are making as they learn together, not only as caregivers, but also in Savings and Loans groups. Through participating in group-based saving, Sor and her husband expanded their farm and began raising chickens, improving their food security and income. With a smile on her face, Sor says, “We see a brighter future for our children. I increased my knowledge and despite the limitation of my own education in school, it was not a hindrance for me to learn new things.”

Courage in a Pandemic 

Bukiende, Uganda

“I felt worried and helpless on how we would survive this pandemic but with the trainings I have been a part of, I feel more empowered that we will beat COVID-19 and come out stronger, healthier, and wiser at the end.” — Fred

When news of COVID-19 reached Bukiende, everyone was scared. Misinformation was rampant, rumors abounded, and panic spread. 

Fred was worried for his family. He and his wife, Naigaga, care for their own daughter and two sons, as well as three additional children from the community. He didn’t know how to protect them from the virus. Thankfully, Fred is a member of his Village Health Team. These selfless volunteers dedicate their own time to learning critical health lessons from FH and sharing that information with neighbours. In 2020, alongside other volunteers from the community, Fred attended life-saving COVID-19 awareness training. While many in the village were afraid to leave their homes because of the virus, Fred and the Village Health Team began safely moving through the community to battle the rumors and empower people to stay safe. 

Fred shares that, due to the Village Health Team’s efforts, “the best COVID-19 prevention practices such as wearing a mask, physical distancing, and regularly washing hands with clean water and soap have been greatly adopted by community members, especially within communal spaces like the market and health facilities. I am very vigilant when it comes to implementing preventive measures and ensure to constantly remind my fellow brothers and sisters to remain alert.” In addition to measures to stop the spread of the virus, the volunteers also learned and shared about nutritious foods that are easy to grow which will boost children’s immune systems.

“Within this short time, I feel valued and hopeful,” Fred says, “I know there are people out there like the FH team who have our best interests at heart.”

While Fred now feels confident his village can weather the pandemic, these times are not without their struggles. His main source of income is from running a private school, but due to lockdown measures the school has been closed for months. To support themselves, the family has ramped up their farming.

With the support of volunteers like the Village Health Team, the community continues to work together to build a future of hope, looking beyond the pandemic. Dreaming of tomorrow, Fred shares, “I would like to lead an exemplary life for my children, see them complete school, create more sources of income from my farming, adopt improved practices regarding health and finances to provide a better future for my little ones, and have a peaceful and happy home.”



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Food for the Hungry: HN 28 | Communities of Courage
HN 28 | Communities of Courage
Food for the Hungry
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