Haiti: Mercy Corps mobile wallet innovation brings purchasing power to Haitians' cell phones
BLOCKHAUSS, Haiti -- As a rule, there is nothing sexy about humanitarian food aid. String the letters USAID in front of a program that distributes beans and rice to the needy after a natural disaster, and you have a formula for lifesaving do-goodery that rings, well, a little dull. Enter Mercy Corps; 16-year-old Etienne Emanie, palming a green cell phone; and Dorcent Larousse, the 37-year-old owner of Dieu Tout Puissant market, the biggest store around, where business is suddenly brisk in this destitute outpost high in the hills above the Bay of Saint-Marc.
Haiti: Mercy Corps works to educate Haitians about making water safe
CITÉ BOB, Pétionville, Haiti -- It helps to be nimble to visit this hanging tent city where Lucienne Henrius shares a tarpaulin hut with her three young sons, John Charles, Jean-Paul and Jerry. Even the goat kids watch their steps as they climb from one tiny stomped dirt foundation to another. Perched on a slope above Port-au-Prince, this small camp overlooks a flood wash, dry in the aftermath of hurricane season, that is speckled with goats, naked boys and an infinite array of plastic debris.
Haiti: Haiti’s mobile money
In a small church near St Marc, a small, elderly woman taps intently on a cell phone. With just a few strokes, Lydia Paul receives 60 gourdes — that’s about $1.50. But it didn’t go to her bank account — she doesn’t have one, and she can’t afford one. It went to her phone. The phone is a bank account. You don’t write checks, you send text messages. This is mobile money. Haiti isn’t known as a leader in finance or technology. But some of the country’s poorest residents are leading the way to new system of cell phone-based banking.
Niger: Buy locally to feed Africa's hungry
NIAMEY, Niger — Gado Alhadi is 67 years old, a farmer, and the patriarch of a family of 11. He lives in a small, rural village in southern Niger. Alhadi, like many in Niger, exists on the edge of hunger. Unbeknownst to him, he is at the forefront of a major change in United States food aid policy.
Haiti: I’ve seen the future (in Haiti)
Cash is so 20th century. I’ve been experimenting with a 21st-century alternative, using money on a cellphone account to buy goods in shops. It’s a bit like using a credit card, but the system can also enable you to use your cellphone account to transfer money to individuals or companies domestically or internationally. And it’s more secure because a thief would have to steal not only your phone but also your PIN to get access to your money.
Meet your mentor
Need a mentor? Want to be a mentor? MicroMentor.org is a free online service that connects small-business owners with volunteer business mentors run by Mercy Corps, a nonprofit humanitarian agency.
Indonesia: Mercy Corps leads project in Jakarta's slums
JAKARTA, Indonesia — In Kalideres, a slum on the western edge of Indonesia's capital, the story of water is either too much or not enough. During the rainy season, flooding causes sewage to overflow from gutters and seep into streets and homes. But for daily living, the lack of safe drinking water means residents must buy it in large plastic jugs for about 33 cents a day.
Soothing traumatized children
Among the vital supplies sent to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake, some of the most important may turn out to be thousands of kids’ coloring and activity books. Created by Mercy Corps, an international relief organization based in Portland, Ore., these workbooks are designed to help traumatized kids process what happened to them. Building on recent psychological research, the workbooks aim to provide children who do not have access to professional counselors the tools to heal on their own.
Haiti: Sweepin' the clouds away
Following the January 12 earthquake that ravaged Haiti, Mercy Corps was one of many organizations that hit the ground running. Throughout 2010, it has actively participated in a number of heavy-lifting projects, including delivering emergency food supplies and creating drainage ditches, clean water systems, and latrines. But when it came time to begin healing the minds of the Haitian children who were traumatized by the disaster, the Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit joined with a group that has been the source of many sunny days -- Sesame Workshop.
Mercy Corps Action Center looks back on its first year
Twenty-two thousand. That's how many people -- most of them Portlanders, some not -- came to visit the Mercy Corps Action Center in the past year. Perhaps more impressive, most of those 22,000 visitors have been young people -- middle school, high school and college students. The truth is, when the Action Center opened its doors one year ago, on Oct. 9, we weren't sure what to expect. Our headquarters building in Old Town was new on the block so our challenge was establishing a presence and attracting the community.