Hidden Lives and the Struggle to Survive


Written by Salam Kanaan, CARE Jordan country director

Imagine your wife is sick. She has cancer. But you do not tell her, because you have no money to pay for her treatment.

Your children cannot go to school. They have to work because you are injured and cannot generate an income for your family.

You are living in a tiny, damp room with mold on the wall and nothing but an old mattress to sleep on the cold ground. You might have to move out of the dwelling soon because you already owe hundreds of dollars to the landlord.

You were not able to pay the rent in the past two months.

This is the story of Faisal, a young father and a Syrian refugee in Jordan. Faisal’s reality is the reality of many of the 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Jordan and other neighboring countries who fled the war in Syria.

CARE International has found in a new study that the more than half a million Syrian refugees living in urban areas in Jordan are increasingly struggling to cope with inadequate housing, high debts, rising costs of living and educational challenges for their children. Continue reading

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Did you know there are more than 3,000 varieties of potatoes in Peru?

Andrea RodriguezLast fall, Andrea Rodriguez, an account manager for small business (Quebec) at EDC, was a small business development project manager at CARE Peru. Her role was to continue the work of her predecessors in order to document the regional strategies aiming to encourage economic and social development.

She wrote us this blog while she was in Peru.

When asked about Peru, the first images that come to mind are likely Machu Picchu, the Incas or their lamas. You may be surprised to learn, however, that there are over 80 microclimates in the country, making Peru an ideal and unique place to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including potatoes. There are more than 3,000 varieties of domestic potatoes–papas nativas, as they are called here–making potatoes one of Peru’s primary exports. Continue reading

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Displaced in South Sudan at the Breaking Point

CARE staff work on latrines for the displaced population in the UN compound at Malakal, South Sudan.

CARE staff work on latrines for the displaced population in the UN compound at Malakal, South Sudan.

Canadian Alain Lapierre, who is serving as emergency team leader for CARE in South Sudan, was recently in Upper Nile State’s UN compound in Malakal scaling up CARE’s water, sanitation and hygiene response for people displaced by South Sudan’s internal conflict. 

I spent the last three days in Malakal camps. The situation of the 21,500 displaced people sheltering there has reached a very fragile stage.

For the moment, their conditions barely meet minimum standards for water, sanitation and shelter. Population density is a lot higher than it should be, bringing a high risk of outbreaks of disease.

When the rains start in earnest in just a matter of weeks, their situation will go from very bad to much worse. Continue reading

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India: Energized to fight climate change

Claudia VernoLast fall, Claudia Verno, a senior economist in the Corporate Research Department at EDC, served as an advisor on disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation at CARE India. Claudia assisted in developing a long-term DRR and climate change strategy, based on extensive field visits in which she reviewed and assessed CARE India’s ongoing disaster risk mitigation and climate change adaptation programs.

She wrote us this blog while she was in India.


After more than a month and a half working from the Delhi headquarters of CARE India, I recently went on my first field trip. I needed to see first-hand how CARE operates on the ground, and to better understand how climate change is affecting real people. I felt that I needed such a practical experience to do a good job on my particular project, which is to advise CARE India on how to factor climate change into its programming.

The project I visited was part of the global “Where the Rain Falls” (WtRF) program, which aims to enhance communities’ resilience to climate change by improving water resource management. In India, WtRF is focused on the indigenous populations that live in remote areas, and in particular on involving women in decision-making related to water governance. Continue reading

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Zambia: A pleasant surprise at a community water project

zambia_water_IMG_3277Written by Shannon Elliot, direct marketing manager for CARE Canada. Shannon travelled to visit CARE’s projects in Zambia in January 2013.


After 15 minutes heading north on the Lusaka city roads out of Zambia’s capital, we turn right into the Kanyama Compound.

The CARE staff truck careens over the uneven dirt road, dark red mud and rock. I am reminded that the mineral-rich and rocky formation of Zambia has played a central role in its story.

After the very lucrative Zambian copper industry collapsed in the 1970s, thousands of people lost their jobs and left the city. The government, which had invested heavily in copper and suffered irreparably in the copper crisis, could no longer afford to provide many basic services – including water and sanitation.

To escape crushing food prices and a struggling capital city, many poor families established what were meant to be temporary settlements in Kanyama as early as the 1960s. Initially illegal, the settlements were unplanned and haphazard with no planning or provisions for water or sanitation.

The people never left and the water never came. Continue reading

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Zambia: Access to savings and credit

Bruce Dunlop

Bruce Dunlop

Bruce Dunlop, Vice-President, Risk Management and Acting Chief Risk Officer

Bruce was a Local Economic Multiplier Advisor at CARE Zambia. He worked on a project to measure the economic benefit that Zambia’s social cash transfers (i.e. welfare) have had on local economies.

My intern, Andrew, asked me, “When did you open your first bank account?” I told him I thought it was when I was about eight. I remember my mom walking me over to the Royal Bank at Westgate Shopping Centre and introducing me to the manager. I got my own passbook and I remember it being a big deal – almost ceremonial.

Now, imagine that you live in a village, 35 kilometres from the nearest paved road (because your family has lived there for hundreds of years) and you have no access to transport, not even a bike. It’s a three-hour walk to the nearest town and there is no bank there. How do you save money, even if you want to, and how do you arrange a line of credit to fund your great idea? The only way, other than the local loan-shark, is to join a VSLA (village savings and loan association). Continue reading

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After a long time away, can you ever really go home again?

Margaret CapelazoWritten by Margaret Capelazo, CARE Canada’s gender advisor

As Canadians, we often ask ourselves the question above when visiting a childhood hometown over the holidays. Women in northern Sri Lanka are asking themselves this as they rebuild their lives after 26 years of war.

Last September, I talked with some of these women to get ideas about how CARE can design its activities to best meet their needs. They told me:

“I used to manage a farm with 50 dairy cows, now I have a herd of six.”

“My herd was 60 cows, now my husband just bought our fourth.”

“When he was alive, my husband and I used to have a large herd. I had to sell most of my cows because I just can’t take care of so many by myself.”

The income from four or six cows won’t feed a family, so these women have given CARE a new challenge: design a project that promotes women as small dairy farmers. Continue reading

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Shelter from the Storm

“The shelter kits from CARE will help the most vulnerable people who are desperately trying to rebuild their homes," says Ramon de la Cerna, mayor of Albuera.

“The shelter kits from CARE will help the most vulnerable people who are desperately trying to rebuild their homes,” says Ramon de la Cerna, mayor of Albuera.

Written by Suzanne Charest, communications director for CARE Canada. She has travelled to the Philippines to support CARE’s response to Typhoon Haiyan. 

A banner across the town hall building in typhoon-hit Albuera reads:

“Hard pressed but not crushed, struck down but not destroyed, perplexed but not hopeless, thank you very much for your wholehearted help.”

On November 28, help arrived in this part of the Philippines in the form of shelter materials—tarps, nails, and tools—for three villages in the municipality of Albuera. Continue reading

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Twice a Survivor: One Volunteer’s Story

IMG_0732Blog by Laura Sheahen, CARE Emergency Communications Officer

“It was the most terrifying moment in our lives,” says Fay Camallere, a woman from the typhoon-stricken city of Ormoc in the Philippines. “I felt death was coming.”

Fay had felt death coming before. In 1991 at age 13, she was walking home from school when powerful flash floods ripped through Ormoc. As the waters rose, Fay swam to a three-story building and waited with others until the flood subsided. But on the way home, she saw bodies on the road. “I thought my family was dead.”

Thankfully, Fay and her family survived the floods over twenty years ago. But in early November, another catastrophe engulfed their city. Typhoon Haiyan, locally also known as Yolanda ripped through the streets, twisting metal sheets into spirals and uprooting trees. Continue reading

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Much more challenging than Haiti

David Gazashvili is CARE’s Emergency Team Leader managing the response to Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. David is in Ormoc, western Leyte, one of the hardest hit areas, and talks about the logistical challenges of such a massive relief operation.

David Gazashvili_RP_2010

I managed CARE’s emergency response to the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010, but the response to the Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is so much more challenging than Haiti. This means that the response is taking longer which is frustrating when we know so many people need supplies now.

The disaster in Haiti was localized in a small area, so once the rubble was cleared from the roads, it was easy to drive and deliver aid. We could get everywhere affected in just two or three hours. The airport was functioning quickly, so things could be brought by air, or by road from the Dominican Republic.

Here, the disaster is spread across three or more islands. To get somewhere it takes days – not just for sending relief items, but for staff. You have to take a boat, and then a car, and the roads haven’t been cleared. Debris is everywhere. Fuel is not available. The boats are full. The lines are so big for the boats, and people are waiting hours just to find out that the tickets are sold out.

In Haiti, we had an office that hadn’t been affected by the quake. We had somewhere to sleep. Here, every building is flattened. Nobody has anywhere to sleep – not the people affected, not the officials, not the aid workers. The weather is horrible. It’s been raining a lot. The place where we worked from today has no roof, and it’s now flooded inside. That was our sleeping space, but we can’t sleep there anymore because it’s full of water.

Communications is also a huge challenge. Coordinating a massive emergency response over such a large area requires good communications to ensure we have all the information about who needs what where, to order supplies, and to work with other agencies to make sure we’re reaching everyone and not duplicating our work. In Haiti, the communications was restored very quickly. But here, the electricity is down, the phone lines aren’t working, there is no internet. Thank goodness for the satellite phones.

We’re looking at solutions, such as using shipping companies, private boats. We need to bring cars and trucks in by ferry. The government and international community are working to get the airport open in Tacloban and clear the roads. But it’s all taking time. It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing, knowing what we need to do to help, having good staff that can do it, but not being able to get the supplies in quickly enough.

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