10 ways you made the world a better place in 2015

December 10, 2015

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  • After a powerful earthquake rocked Nepal in April, you responded with compassion and gave people like Sujita the chance to get back on their feet. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

As 2015 comes to a close, we want to pause and reflect on what we’ve been able to accomplish together this year. In a world of tough challenges, we see opportunity — but your support is what turns that opportunity into lasting change for families around the world.

This year, your help gave 25 million people the resources they needed to survive crisis and improve their own lives.

You helped refugees survive and gave them safe food and shelter. You offered young people the chance to start their own businesses. You responded with incredible kindness after the earthquake in Nepal.

Your support is truly what makes our work possible. Thank you.

As part of our global community, you know that change is possible when we work together. Children, families and individuals around the world are grateful for you.

Scroll down to see just a few of the many ways you’ve made the world a better place this year.

You helped families survive war inside Syria

Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

Photos of families inside Syria cannot be shown due to safety concerns. This mother and her child are Syrian refugees living in a makeshift camp in Lebanon, where they receive assistance from Mercy Corps to meet their basic needs.

As the war in Syria nears the five-year mark, millions of people are still suffering inside Syria. The effects of the war have been traumatic. More than 11 million people — half the country’s pre-war population — have either been killed or forced to flee their homes.

But thanks to your support, we are working hard to reach vulnerable families who need food, water and support to survive. Just this year, you’ve helped us reach more than 2 million people living in Syria’s most hard-to-reach areas with lifesaving humanitarian relief.

Each and every month, we reach 500,000 families inside Syria. To reach them, we work through local partners, who are risking their own lives in a constantly shifting environment.

For many of the Syrians you’re helping, the food they receive is their only form of support. You are their lifeline as they await peace in their country and hope for a better future.

You helped refugee families cope and children play

Photo: Sumaya Agha for Mercy Corps

Lulu (back) and her family live in Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp. One of her favorite things to do in the camp is go to Mercy Corps' child-safe spaces. "I like the swings and slides, and drawing," she said.

For families who’ve made it out of Syria, life as a refugee in nearby countries is still fraught with challenges. Syria’s neighbors — Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey — have been overwhelmed by the needs of incoming refugees, and resources are scarce.

Your help makes a huge difference for families in need. Last winter, when brutal storms blanketed refugee camps with snow and slush, you helped us reach more than 100,000 Syrian refugees with blankets, clothing and shelter to keep them safe and warm.

And because of you, more refugee children in Jordan have the opportunity to play and heal. This year, we created 11 new playgrounds, eight new sport fields, two new computer labs, and 19 other new child-friendly spaces in refugee camps.

These new spaces mean that 16,000 more Syrian refugee children have the opportunity to learn, play and make friends each day — bringing them joy and a sense of normalcy they wouldn’t otherwise have.

You gave with compassion after the Nepal earthquake

Photo: Tom Van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps

Saraswati's home suffered serious damage during the earthquake in Nepal. She received cash from Mercy Corps after the disaster to help her family rebuild. “It will be helpful,” she said. “It will help us buy more tin roofing, because we weren’t able to buy enough.”

After a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal in April, followed by powerful aftershocks, supporters like you responded with kindness and compassion to help people get through the emergency and rebuild their lives.

In the first six months after the disaster, your support helped 135,000 people in earthquake-affected areas of Nepal. We provided emergency supply kits, food, safe water and temporary shelter to families in hard-to-reach areas.

Because of you, 115,000 people received solar lamps that gave them electricity and helped them communicate with family members, thanks to the included phone charging outlet.

Those families also received cash assistance after the earthquake. This allowed them to prioritize their needs and purchase what was most important to them at the time, all while helping the local economy recover.

Thanks to your support, we were able to respond to the earthquake in Nepal quickly, and our teams on the ground are still working hard to make sure that the people of Nepal have what they need to get back on their feet, and be better prepared for when the next disaster strikes.

You helped people build stronger economic futures

Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

Lucy runs several small businesses to support herself and her two young children, including a meat and egg operation and a motorbike taxi business. Through Mercy Corps, she's received business mentoring and help accessing loans. “I don’t have any fear. I can speak my mind anytime to anyone. It’s a transformation," she said.

Starting a business is a powerful way to change your future — but getting that first loan, or having the confidence to branch out on your own, can prove daunting for many people living in poverty or challenging environments.

Your support is helping people around the world learn the skills needed to run successful businesses that will support their families and improve their communities.

This year, we’ve helped more than 26,000 entrepreneurs and small-business owners access grants, loans and training — helping them earn higher incomes and dream big.

Because of you, more than 50,000 women now have the financial skills and knowledge they need to start their own business or save for their children’s college education.

With higher incomes and more savings, people around the world are better able to feed their families, give back to their communities, and plan for a brighter future.

You gave youth the power to transform their communities

Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

Zahra, 18, is a youth leader in Iraq at her former high school. Through a Mercy Corps program, she leads students in physical activities and lessons that encourage positive life skills. "I just want to help others. I want to spread love and peace everywhere I go," she said.

Youth represent an incredible source of hope, determination and resilience, even in some of the most complicated and challenging places around the world. With the right support and resources, youth have the power to create lasting change in their communities.

In places like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Gaza and Nigeria, youth are growing up amidst conflict, turmoil and constant threats to their future. Our goal is to empower youth around the world to become positive, contributing members of their local communities.

Together this year, we’ve supported more than 75,000 children and adolescents suffering through violent conflict. Our safe spaces, discussion groups, art therapy and emotional support help traumatized youth feel safe again so they can heal.

In Syria’s neighboring countries — Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey — conflicts between refugees and host communities are not uncommon. Our work in the region aims to bring both Syrians and their neighbors together to address local conflicts and learn how to create peaceful solutions.

This year, more than 10,000 adolescents in the region have participated in our leadership trainings and workshops focused on conflict resolution. These trainings give them the skills they need to become future leaders and create positive change.

You empowered small farmers to grow more healthy food

Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

Akemkwene and his young son examine tiny sesame seeds after harvest. Mercy Corps has helped Akemkwene and his wife learn how to farm the new crop and sell their product on the global market. "Because we are farming, we can sell and make money. So much has changed from what we thought was possible before," he said.

When communities grow more healthy food, everyone benefits. The farmers and their families have enough to eat, and they earn higher incomes, boosting the local economy.

When farmers succeed, local diets become more diverse and include more healthy fruits and vegetables, preventing malnutrition and other food-related disease.

You helped us distribute more than 18 million pounds of seeds this year to farmers in more than 20 countries. These seeds allow them to grow a wider variety of profitable crops, and help add variety to diets in the community so that people are healthier, stronger, and more resistant to illness.

Because of you, more than 100,000 smallholder farmers now have the resources and information they need to farm better and produce more food.

You kept girls safe and helped them learn

Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

Zaina, a Syrian refugee, has been living in Lebanon with her family for two years. At her school in one of the poorest areas of Lebanon, Mercy Corps provided healthy packed lunches to ensure that they stayed full, focused and ready to learn.

Girls and women are often changemakers in the places where we work. But they are also routinely treated unequally from birth and denied opportunities to learn, work and make their own choices.

In places like the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Colombia and Lebanon, our gender-based violence prevention trainings have given more than 400,000 people the information they need to protect girls from violence and address their unique needs.

Your support helped us reach more than 700,000 Syrian girls with lifesaving humanitarian relief that helped them stay safe and healthy despite the conflict around them.

And this year in Nigeria, we helped more than 3,800 out-of-school adolescent girls — in our safe spaces they learned about finances and how to become young entrepreneurs.

You gave people life’s most vital resource — water

Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

Clean water runs from a tap in the Bulengo displacement camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There, Mercy Corps gives people like this young girl safe water, latrines, and hand-washing stations. Educational lessons in the camp teach children about how to stay clean and healthy.

Life doesn’t exist without water. Having clean water to drink, cook and bathe with is essential for all of us, no matter where we live. But in displacement camps and drought-stricken communities, safe water is not always easy to come by.

Thanks to you, we improved access to clean and safe water for more than 1.2 million people this year in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jordan, and Ethiopia.

Our work this year included rehabilitating wells, improving local water infrastructure and helping communities learn how to manage their own water systems more effectively.

To make sure that communities stay healthy, your support also helped us reach more than 1.5 million refugees and host community members with sanitation services and hygiene supplies. With clean water and proper sanitation, families stay healthier and the threat of communicable disease is limited.

You helped mothers and children stay healthy and thriving

Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

A mother and her baby attend a group meeting in rural Guatemala, where Mercy Corps programs helped mothers learn about pregnancy, health, and how to keep their new babies healthy and well-nourished.

Every mother wants their children to grow up healthy and strong. This requires nutritious food, safe water, and most of all — knowledge about how to make healthy choices.

Because of your support this year, more than 800,000 women and children are now living healthier lives as a result of our maternal and child health care programs.

These programs teach new mothers about the importance of breastfeeding and offer support groups where women can talk and learn together in a safe environment.

Thanks to you, mothers around the world now know how to incorporate more healthy fruits and vegetables into their families’ diets, and are learning new recipes and dishes to cook. With more nutritious food, their children are growing up healthier and stronger.

You offered kindness when people needed it most

Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

Ahmed fled violence in Iraq with his wife and two children just seven months ago, and their home was destroyed. They're in a safer place now, and the cash they received from Mercy Corps is helping them pay for rent and utilities.

When disasters strike, economies collapse or conflicts erupt, we’re there — thanks to your incredible support — to help people survive and get back on their feet.

Because of your continued compassion and kindness, we are able to respond quickly and effectively to disasters and crises around the world, in places like Nepal, Iraq and Guatemala.

This year, you helped give more than 250,000 families in crisis cash assistance, allowing them to purchase what they needed most from local shops and markets. By giving cash, families are able maintain their dignity in a time of emergency and make their own choices.

In Iraq alone this year, you helped provide cash and crucial food, water and shelter support to 230,000 of the most vulnerable people in conflict-affected areas.

And in disaster-affected areas of Nepal, India and Timor-Leste, your support provided solar lamps and clean cooking stoves to 82,000 families. These alternative energy sources help people light their homes, cook nutritious meals and give their children the chance to safely do their homework at night after school.

You make this change possible

War, disaster and disease are creating new global challenges every day. But supporters like you turned a year of crisis into one of hope. Your support today means that, together, we can save and improve more people's lives in the year to come. Give now ▸