7 inspiring ways our teams are taking on today’s challenges

An instructor leads a class while standing at a chalk board.

This last year will no doubt be remembered as one of crisis and turmoil. But against the odds, people in communities around the globe persevered and forged a path forward. When our team members look back, what they see is progress — what can be achieved when we all work together.

To shape a brighter future for every person and every community, it takes all of us working together with determination and a vision for what’s next. As you find new ways to spark change in your community and for people you may never meet, get inspired by the Mercy Corps team members across the globe who are making an impact.


1. Team Kyrgyzstan refuses to let COVID‑19 cancel classes

A collage of young peoples faces taken while they attended virtual lessons and reading programs.
In Kyrgyzstan, our team members keep kids learning during COVID-19 lockdowns. We’re connecting thousands of students to virtual lessons and reading programs.

Since March, COVID‑19 has kept primary-grade children out of school in Kyrgyzstan. Our teams digitized dozens of books, helped 1,900 parents organize educational activities, initiated remote reading summer camps with 224 schools and supported 600 teachers as they prepared to teach online.

The reading camps inspired teachers and captivated students in some of Kyrgyzstan's most rural areas. By providing this support to children now, we can ensure they don’t fall behind during this critical time in their educational development.

“The lockdown has brought new challenges, but also opportunities to develop new creative solutions. In the coming year, we look forward to supporting the education of even more children.”

‑ Nurzat Esengulova, Mercy Corps Director of Programs in Kyrgyzstan


2. Team Nigeria turns the dial toward peace and education

As lockdowns threaten education for girls and the virus raises tensions in communities, our team in Nigeria found a creative approach accessible to nearly everyone: radio.

By putting lessons on the air our team helped provide schooling for thousands of girls during the COVID‑19 lockdowns. Through the radio, WhatsApp and SMS texts, students took classes on English, mathematics and life skills. This prevented a pause in education and provided a means for bonding with family through a shared learning experience.

Three people sit around microphones wearing headphones.
Mercy Corps Nigeria hosts a weekly radio program to promote positive social change and peaceful coexistence through anti-drug messaging, lessons on conflict resolution and discussions about the rise of gender-based violence during COVID-19 lockdowns. Women's Groups also use the platform to discuss key topics affecting their communities.

“We hope to hit the ground running, reducing conflict and engaging more women in the peacebuilding process to further our efforts!”

‑ Rahama Baloni, Mercy Corps Senior Program Officer in Nigeria

In addition, team members produced a radio program to amplify a message of peace to communities competing for natural resources during the pandemic. By broadcasting how working together is the most effective way to stay safe and take on shared challenges, our team is strengthening communities against violent extremism and slowing the spread of COVID‑19. The radio program also allows community members to call in and join the discussion, with more than 1,400 listeners already having received advice so far.


3. Team Democratic Republic of Congo ensures communities lead the way forward

It’s essential that every community guide the solutions to the challenges they face. That's why our team helped 24 communities establish distinct COVID‑19 resilience plans that support the unique needs of that community. Together, they set up hand-washing stations for thousands of people in high-traffic public areas, provided farming supplies to 826 families, reached 1,409 families with critical health information, and negotiated with local traders for the fair prices of basic goods.

By working with local leaders, our team members are building lasting strength within communities as they face the pandemic and for the challenges ahead.

“Our teams will strive to put communities at the center of their own empowerment and ensure we're solving problems from the bottom up.”

‑ Thierry Kayandi, Mercy Corps Senior Officer in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Three people harvest vegetables from a garden in the democratic republic of congo.
A family poses in celebration inside of their permagarden,
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, our team works with communities to help them overcome the challenges they face. By helping families set up gardens, they can grow quality food that’s hard to come by during the pandemic.


4. Mercy Corps Northwest backs small businesses with pandemic relief

Small businesses and women entrepreneurs have been hit hard by the pandemic. To help them hit back, our Mercy Corps Northwest team is assisting small businesses in Oregon and Washington states with upwards of $1 million in grants. This has proven to be a lifeline for 213 small business owners who are grappling with the economic downturn.

A shoe shiner works on the boots of a customer.
The owners of a small business pose for the camera in portland international airport where their shop is located.
The pandemic decimated air travel and profits for H and his father Lowell’s shoe shine business. With a $5,000 grant from Mercy Corps Northwest, they’re getting the help they need to make it through the economic downturn.

In addition to financial support, our Women’s Business Center has provided one-on-one consulting to 150 entrepreneurs and more than 600 small business owners through free online training. When small businesses can bounce back from crisis, they power their local economies and enrich their communities for years to come.

A small business owner smiles for the camera in front of a sign for their shoe shine business.
H is studying for an MBA at Willamette University, and is using the skills he learned there to ensure his grant is used as effectively as possible and build a business strategy for the future.

“Besides continuing to provide support that keeps small and microbusinesses on their feet, we also hope to expand accessibility of our digital business resources and set up a sustainable mentorship network that can provide essential expertise to micro-entrepreneurs.”

‑ Stefka Waite, Project Manager in the United States


5. Team Puerto Rico creates a blueprint for healthy communities

To help communities in Puerto Rico slow the spread of COVID‑19, our team members created a design for handwashing stations that use rainwater. The DIY design, manual and tutorial reached more than 15,000 people on social media.

Not only does this solution provide people with a new affordable and sustainable way to keep their own communities healthy during the pandemic, it will be a vital resource for people recovering from hurricanes and other natural disasters in the future.

“We want to do even more to meet urgent needs in our communities, and bring smart new ideas to people all across the archipelago.”

‑ Alfredo Perez, Mercy Corps Infrastructure Project Officer in Puerto Rico

Members of the mercy corps puerto rico team pose with a hand washing station they constructed, delivered, and installed.
In Puerto Rico, our team developed DIY instructions to build handwashing stations, providing a sustainable sanitation solution. Designed to be easy and cost-effective to build, the stations can provide nearly 80 hand washes per 55-gallon tank of water.

6. Team Somalia builds a workforce … and better farms

This year, our team in Somalia planted the seeds of prosperity with a farmland rehabilitation project. By paying nearly 2,000 people to improve irrigation canals, ditches, troughs and culverts, we’re helping community members meet their immediate financial needs while strengthening their futures. A total of 2,400 hectares of farmable land has been reclaimed for hundreds of smallholder farmers, increasing food availability for nearly 8,000 families.

“Our goal is to ensure we reach the most marginalized, most vulnerable of our communities and leave a sustainable impact.”

‑ Abdiqalak Mohamed, Mercy Corps Education Program Officer in Somalia

People in a field work on vegetative growth
In Somalia, Mercy Corps helps create farmland and job opportunities. After paying young people to prepare the land, our team provides support to young farmers as they grow and sell their harvests.


7. Team Lebanon helps small businesses rebuild after a devastating explosion

A small business owner speaks with a mercy corps member inside of a store in beirut.
A Mercy Corps team member provides critical assistance to a small business owner in Beirut, so they can recover from the devastating explosion in August.

After the explosion in Beirut, our team led eight international and local organizations in determining the needs of over 1,300 affected small businesses, 79% of which were unable to pay rent. Now, Mercy Corps is providing cash grants to the micro and small businesses most affected by the blast, with a focus on women-owned and women-employing businesses.

Cash grants will help these small businesses repair damaged infrastructure, restock inventory and reopen, while some will choose to cover their families’ essential needs that have been neglected due to the loss in income.

“We hope to reach hundreds of small businesses, expanding beyond their immediate needs to improve their supply chains, their marketing and sales, and their ability to provide better services. We hope to create real change they are able to carry forward and to build a better future for themselves.”

‑ Abbas Fadlallah, Mercy Corps Emergency Response Project Manager in Lebanon


Your support

You can join our community of humanitarians and be part of what’s next. With your help, our teams can continue to work with communities to take on the world’s toughest challenges. Together, we have the power to reshape the world.

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