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2009.09.24

Visit to the Iftar Tent

090924 This week is the last week of Islam’s fasting month of Ramadan. Excitement and anticipation in the area grew as the “time-off for Eid” neared the 20th day of Ramadan. During Ramadan, various companies set up tents throughout the city, offering Iftar or `dinner after sunset`, completely free of charge. These tents are mainly used by those who have completed the spiritual journey but either cannot enjoy Iftar with their family, or cannot afford it. JEN’s office in Amman was very near a tent run by a Jordanian trading company.

JEN always tries to express their interest and respect for the ritual and often visits the tents. Obviously we understand the spiritual importance of Ramadan to Muslims, and as the tents are primarily for those entering into Ramadan, a Hijab scarf hiding hair is always worn for female staff, and long-sleeved shirt and pants by all.

090924_2 Once inside the tents it was clear that it is mostly male laborers who use the tents, with only three family groups. Many were very interested in this unfamiliar group of Asian women, as understandably they were not the usual type of person you would see eating Iftar!  Nevertheless, we were always welcomed warmly by the locals. The tents offer different dishes every day, the days dish being a “Moroccan stew with tomato and gram”. It was indeed very delicious! They are open everyday during Ramadan.

September 24, 2009 in Iraq |

Enjoying iftar with the local staff

Last week, all the Islamabad office staff prepared iftar. Iftar is a meal that Muslims eat during Ramadan, after the sunset. In town, there is an “iftar buffet” at the restaurant, attended mainly by Pakistanis gathering for that buffet.

A first, they begin with small portions of dates, then pakora a spicy fry like tempura and then samosa. On another occasion, when we were invited by a Pakistani woman, an almond juice was served, a milk-white drink, sweetened with syrup, but without overpowering the coconut taste... During the iftar, we tried some salad with chick beans, and small pasta and with fruit salad dish.

All JEN staff tried to eat the way the local people did Staff were surprised by the fruit salad, as surprisingly it was slightly spicy. Since the other salad was also spiced, it wasn’t strange to eat them together. Today was an education in ifter for the JEN staff!

September 24, 2009 in Afghanistan |

Local People’s Concerns

090924_bglkcggcg008_7909s Myanmar is now facing the end of rainy season, and will enter the dry season in mid-October. JEN is currently preparing to build a shelter-type elementary school for the locals in two towns where almost half of their residents have been lost during the last cyclone tsunami.

This picture was taken as we were investigating the soil consistency around the area. We carried out the investigation based on the cooperation from the local people who worked with us in rain and thunder. Following the construction company’s preliminary opinions, we had initially agreed that we wouldn’t need a foundation post. With further investigation, however, we realized that the ground is extremely soft and that we might need to install metal posts in the soil. By planting posts in the ground, we would be able to build large buildings even on soft soils.

Posts, however, are extremely expensive commodities. We are troubled by such unexpected costs. The villagers also seemed concerned as they observed our investigation until the end in the rain.

090924_bglkcggcg017_7909s For the local people, cyclone is an extremely frightening experience, and they claim that what they need right now more than anything is a place where they can escape to at a time of another cyclone. To relieve their apprehension, we are conducting a detailed survey of the construction site, so we can build a strong and rigid cyclone shelter.

September 24, 2009 in Myanmar |

Blossom for the future

090924_20090912swatassessment_gulba   300 schools are completely destroyed in the valley of Swat due to the recent war. It shows the same image as the Kashmir and NWFP earthquake in 2005.

  This time it is not because of earthquake, but it is done intentionally by human being. Students of Swat are very intelligent and brilliant in their studies, what is the reason why currently Large number of Swat people have a  position in civil services. Swat is located in NWFP where is not such favourable for the female education, because of cultural and religious restrictions. But, still the ratio of male and female students is almost the equal.


  The school buildings of Swat were very nice. Students and teachers were taking much care of school gardens and flowers. We saw nice flowers in the lawns of almost every destroyed school which make us sad, there are no students and no building but flowers are still there. People are hoping that good time will come again when there will be a new school building with the same flowers in the lawn and their children will take care of those flowers.

  In Swat, education sector needs a big support from every one.

September 24, 2009 in Pakistan |

Life is back

090924_monitoring_canoe_usagemull_2   I am Sellan Mailvaganam, a longstanding member of Fisherman Co-operative Society in the village call Mulliwadduvan.  I lost all my belongings including fishing gears due to the war and not in a position to restart my livelihood, affected both mentally and economically.

  JEN supported our Fisherman Society by way of providing Canoes and fish net sets and got opportunity to be a Canoe user.  I am utilizing this Canoe for fishing in the Tank and I earn a considerable amount of money.  I cover my family needs from this money and also contribute some money to our Fisherman Society enabling the Society to help the others who need assistance for livelihood.   

  While nearing to the landing centre after fishing, I saw one of the JEN staffs standing at the center asked me “ Aiya”,   Do you engage in only fishing or you have some other source of income.  I told him, NO, I am making dry fish also, as I can not depend only on selling fish because I can earn more money when I sell Dry fish and I can double my income. 

From: E. Komeswaran- JEN Field Officer
Batticaloa, Sri lanka.

September 24, 2009 in Sri Lanka |

2009.09.17

JEN’s Secret Mission

091001_p1070985_2 JEN has assisted returnees that after the 20-year-long exile throughout the civil war.

Participants of the project and local staff have worked for returnees from the neighboring countries and other parts in Sudan.  Persevering efforts made by the local staff is essential to the eventual success of the project.  All staff have worked very hard, and especially Mr. Haire, who has been working in the area with JEN since the Eritrea days, and a truly inspiring leader.

The number of people who flee the strife in Eritrea has increased.  Here in Juba, we meet many people who are from Eritrea. There are restaurants that serve injura, the main staple of Eritrean people.

JEN employed an Eritrean as manager of the School Construction Project.  The artisan, who will turn sixty very soon, spreads his knowledge and skill to young workmen in Sudan.

In fact, this workmanship provided by people from Eritrea is the main part of the Project. Thus, the secret mission of JEN Sudan is to contribute to the development of Southern Sudan, through integrating capacity and knowledge available in Sudan.

September 17, 2009 in South Sudan |

A New Project, and a New Phase in the Eastern Province!

090917 JEN launched its second phase assistance for IDPs* who had returned in Batticaloa District of Eastern Province in September, whilst also working on emergency and humanitarian aids in Northern Province.
(*IDP: internally displaced person)

In the previous phase, assistance started in October. JEN supported those IDPs who just retuned to get back to their own jobs. JEN will target more people in the second phase who have been struggling to survive without opportunities to restore their livelihoods due to the long civil war.

JEN realized after various interviews that local people need wells in order to secure water for better production and thus higher income from agricultural activities in dry season (from April to September). JEN will enable the community to construct 40 wells and O&M for one year. At least eight households per one well are expected to join.

The second phase of assistance will be financially supported by the Government of Japan, Chabo! Group and other individual supporters like its first phase had been. JEN recently had members of Chabo! Group (Ms. Katsuma and Ms. Takano) visit project sites of both phases.

090917_2 The Project Contract for the second phase was signed at the Embassy of Japan on 8th September. JEN highly appreciates your support and cooperation and will keep you updated with the project progress.

September 17, 2009 |

A new house where no one lived

090917_20090913swatassessment_kabal    Recently JEN staff completed a rapid needs assessment in the beautiful Swat valley. It was unbelievable to see such a lot of damages in this once peaceful area.

  JEN staff had visited here 2.5 years ago with his family and found every one lived happily in the valley. People were running their businesses, children were going to the schools, females were going to the markets for shopping etc.

  Today, everything has been changed drastically, due to the war. People have a fear that any incidents can happen anytime, so they prefer to stay at home, instead of going out.

  JEN staff met a person whose newly constructed house was totally destroyed. The house owner said that he sold his farming land to build this house and they were planning for their son's marriage, but unfortunately the security situation became worst and everything changed suddenly. They had to leave their house with all the belongings inside the house, and became IDP. After 2 months, when they returned to their house, not only they couldn’t see it at all, but just a ground with a huge amount of Debris. He lost everything he made for his family to live happily. His old mother became unconscious due to the shock. 090917_20090913swatassessment_kab_2

  Life treated him and his family badly, now he doesn’t have land to sell anymore, and will start reconstructing his house. He doesn’t know if it is possible for him to recover fully from this incident, but he is still hoping best for him and his family.   

September 17, 2009 in Pakistan |

2009.09.10

Crocodile Appears…

Crocodiles have come back.

090910_bglktytbk065_13809s A crocodile has appeared in the village of Guwechaunji, where JEN is promoting school construction and disaster prevention training. Unfortunately, some domestic pigs were attacked and eaten by this crocodile. This area used to be a habitat of crocodiles; however, since the cyclone, not one had been seen. It seems that they have returned from hiding.

In the neighboring village of Tabochon, JEN and the villagers have worked together to build two bridges These bridges seem to be useful not just in terms of  crossing the river during a high tide, but also in terms of protecting children from crocodiles.

Nowadays, Myanmar has seen an unprecedented number of tornados that produce some casualities. Villagers’ pain is far from being overcome — while much more time is needed for the recovery from the cyclone, the villagers now also have the crocodiles to worry about.

Despite such conditions, villagers’ lives are gradually improving towards secure and independent living, thanks to JEN’s support.

September 10, 2009 in Myanmar |

Traffic jam around mosques

090910__low   Arab world is in the midst of Ramadan (the month of fasting) which continues for one month once a year. Through the month, Muslims live more faithfully following Islam’s teachings than other months. Muslims frequently go to mosques and pray in morning and evening.

  JEN’s Amman office is located near  a white and comparatively new mosque in Amman. We can hear the “azan”, a loud announcement for salat, the prayer, five times a day. I am glad that I can live an environment where I can enjoy hearing azan when I go to sleep and when I am working.

  However, there is only one thing I am annoyed with. That is the traffic jam around mosques. A street crossing close-by that we must use to go everywhere is packed with  double-parked cars along the two sides of the street. Sometimes the cars block the whole street crossing!

September 10, 2009 in Iraq |

For support with continuity

 JEN's ultimate goal in Afghanistan: to understand the people who participate JEN's activity; to maintain communication with the central and local government; to always seek opportunities for progress, and understand how to maximize their capability.

  When we interviewed and surveyed the inhabitants of the village, we were often told that there was no supplement for soap distributed after the project. Consequently, despite the children having learnt correct hygiene habits, they often  forget to wash their hands six months later.

  To promote the project effectively, it is necessary to communicate with the government and the local people. over bureaucratic and administerial issues. Points raised include  soap distribution rights after the project is finished and whether the budget is pre-prepared or are goods to be distributed by the community. JEN and UNICEF are discussing the continuation of this project with the Afghanistan Education Department.

  As in the case of inspecting water, the function of management after digging the well and providing clean water, is also important. It is vital to design an effective care system to follow up the project,,to clarify departmental duties concerning water inspection, as well establishing an infrastructure which enables discourse between local people and local government, in order to rectify poor standards. ,.

September 10, 2009 in Afghanistan |

Fifth Ramzan

  It’s true that time flies so fast. It was Four years ago during Ramzan 2005 (month of fasting), when the huge earthquake hit the Kashmir region.

  Thousands of people died and thousands of families lost their houses and living spaces. JEN had started to work since the holy month of Ramzan that year in Kashmir. The tireless efforts of JEN International and local staffs supported the affected people of disaster and left the inerasable memories in the local people’s mind.

  In the second year’s Ramzan 2006, JEN was still working intensely in Kashmir and was busy in the reconstruction of permanent schools and provision of water supply schemes to 249 schools in the mountains of Kashmir. JEN staffs and partners on construction site didn’t care of their hunger and thirst. They were remaining busy to work for the affected people.

  The third year’s Ramzan 2007 was the most rainy Ramzan in the region, JEN staff were busy in distribution of school furniture, reinforcement of school tents and provision of disaster preparedness education to the school children, their parents and teachers.

  The fourth Ramzan in 2008 was the last year of JEN activities in Kashmir. It was very sad moment for all JEN staffs to finally leave Kashmir where we worked for 3 continuous years. JEN was again busy in construction of semi permanent shelter schools, Children’s sports activities project and hygiene education project in the remote areas of Kashmir.

  The fifth Ramzan brought JEN staff to NWFP. The security situation in NWFP was very bad due to the  bomb blasts occured every week in different cities. JEN provided support to the displaced people of conflict areas in two different districts of NWFP. Now almost all the IDPs has returned back to their hometowns and trying to start their normal lives.

September 10, 2009 in Pakistan |

2009.09.07

Agricultural Trainee, Akita Momiyama #2

090917__low We will continue introducing Mr. Akita Momiyama (hereafter called ‘Mo’)!

JEN: Could you explain how and why you ended up training in Iketani?

Mo: Agriculture can be interpreted in more than one way. I was originally interested in “rice terrace” and “hilly and mountainous areas.” Therefore, I consulted an NPO, Tanada Network, and they introduced the Iketani Village to me.

JEN: I heard that your training term in Iketani is two and a half years. It sounds like a long time.

Mo: At first, I was planning to come here last October and stay to get training until this November. However, I decided to extend my training term since I really believe in Iketani’s activities and its stance. I am now planning to stay until March 2011.

JEN: What are your objectives of the training?

Mo: Farm families are called “hyakusho,” meaning various (a hundred) people with their own different names. Indeed, I feel that their lives cannot be successful unless you do everything you can to help. Raising crops is not enough. As hyakusho, my tasks widely cover sales, accounting, machine reparation, agricultural road paving, and interpersonal relation-building. I also feel that we should appreciate the blessing of nature as much as possible by not wasting these home-grown vegetables. I would like to experience all that’s necessary to earn an agricultural living and learn farm families’ mindset.

JEN: I see. After listening to your explanation, it seems agriculture is very different to the stereotype that many people have, ’agriculture = raising crops’ in mind.
Please give me your typical daily schedule.

Mo: Villagers’ schedule is pretty regularized.

Agricultural work before breakfast
8:00 a.m. agricultural work
(10:00 a.m. break)
12:00 p.m. lunch break and nap
13:30 p.m. resume to work
18:30 p.m. dinner

After this, I participate in the Village Revitalization activities and meetings. My daily tasks are agricultural work, sales of rice, and preparations for events.

That’s all for today so we will deliver the final report about him next time!

September 7, 2009 in Niigata |

2009.09.03

Various Types of "Witch Doctor"

090903_20090803_jpf2_kajo_keji_akub This is a story I heard in an elementary school in Central Equatoria, Southern Sudan. As part of hygiene education introduction, students of upper grades worked on research and mapping of their neighborhood. Through the work with the students, I learned, interestingly enough, that in the neighborhood there were people called "Witch Doctors", who are said to cure a sick person with the local medicinal herbs.

All 20 elementary schools that have received JEN's support are located far away from the main roads, and we must drive very bad conditions to get to those schools.  It is almost impossible for people living in those school neighborhoods to go to public clinics and to buy necessary medicine in case of sickness. Given such a situation, generally people take medicinal herbs, and "Witch Doctors" are believed to be professionals in prescribing medicinal herbs.

According to the local JEN staffs, it is said that those "Witch Doctors" can also fix fights between husbands and wives by using the herbs, that they pick up some special herbs to stop the flirtation of a lecherous husband.  Therefore, some think that those "Witch Doctors" as trustless, weird, and they even disregard such people who depend on "Witch Doctors" for remedy.  A driver working for JEN told that he would divorce his wife if she saw a "Witch Doctor".

It was interesting to know that there is a big difference in impression people hold toward "Witch Doctors".

September 3, 2009 in South Sudan |

Agricultural trainee, Akita Momiyama #1

090903_r0018798_low This time, let us introduce Mr. Akita Momiyama!

Those of you who participated in Niigata Volunteering should be familiar with him already, but even if you have not visited Iketani, make sure you read this entry about Mr. Momiyama, as he is somebody who has worked extensively with JEN.

As an agricultural trainee, Mr. Momiyama is staying in Iketani since October 2008 until March 2011. What drew Mr. Momiyama, (born and raised in Shonan) to agriculture?

Momiyama: I was born and raised in a big city, so I have always been interested in nature and farming-centered lifestyle. Traveling and mountain climbing and reading essays of Michio Hoshino, an animal photographer, and books by Tsuneichi Miyamoto, a folklore scholar, had eventually led me to ‘agriculture’.

JEN: I see… So did you choose to study agriculture at university too?

Momiyama: I was passionate about agriculture, and certainly intended to study it extensively. However, I ended up devoting 4 years to a school festival committee. 

JEN: You must have made unforgettable memories. What did you do after graduation?

Momiyama: After graduation, I spent on year focusing on farming and studying at Nippon Nogyo Jissen Gakuen, http://www.nnjg04.com/ in Ibaraki Prefecture for a year and worked as an assistant and officer in this farm. After experiencing what it is like to study agriculture, I came to feel the necessity of practical experience and background in an agricultural field and decided to go on training.

JEN: Let’s call it a day. Next time, we will offer an article about how Mr. Momiyama got to Iketani and what he wants to learn from the training.

Do not miss the next entry!

September 3, 2009 in Niigata |

Home garden - Working together

090903photo_for_web_articlebarric_2   We are often visiting out beneficiaries houses for follow up, to make sure that beneficiaries’ lives are getting better.

  While visiting house one by one, I dropped by the house of Mrs. Retnasingam.  She is an active beneficiary in our project. As far as I know, her family is consisting of 4 members.  But I was surprised to see such a big crowed gathering in her home garden.

  When I asked Mrs. Retnasingam about others,   she replied 

"They are my  neighbors." 

  She further said,

"Support from neighbors and working together is a strength to me, as well as to develop our community”.                              

  This is what we did not observe 10months ago, when we started our support in this village. It’s a great pleasure to see this kind of positive change.

Subojini – Field Officer JEN

September 3, 2009 in Sri Lanka |

Equality for all

  During implementation of emergency relief project for the IDP’s(Internally Displaced Persons) of Swat and Buner, Government were providing support and registering just those IDPs who had their ID cards available, the same criteria was for every organization including JEN.

  But during the assessment, JEN staff observed that there are many IDP families who aren’t registered because they didn’t have ID cards available with them. One such kind of special case was seen in UC Panj Pir when a woman approached to JEN office in Swabi.

  Security guard stopped her to enter the office and informed JEN staff about her. JEN staff met her and she said that she has a family of 5 children herself and her old father in law. She said that her husband died due to sickness a few years ago.

  None of them had ID card because they belonged to far flange area of Swat. She didn’t realize that ID card is such important for her, that’s why she didn’t go to ID card office in Swat, which is 2 hours far from her house in Mengora city. Her father in law has ID card but he couldn’t bring it from Swat because of emergency evacuation. JEN staff discussed the matter in office meeting next day and decided to ask about her from Union Council Nazim, who was responsible for the IDPs matters.

  Next day Nazim and JEN staff went for assessment and found the family really vulnerable. She was living in worst condition with a host family in one small room made by mud. JEN provided support to her next day and raised the point in the coordination meeting next week. JEN staff told clearly that JEN will provide support not only to Registered IDPs but to those vulnerable unregistered IDPs also, who couldn’t bring their documents because of some reasons.

  For JEN every one is equal if he is registered or unregistered.   

September 3, 2009 in Pakistan |