Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

Farmers on the 3,259 square kilometers of Oaxaca’s Central Valley struggle to raise their crops with limited amount of groundwater. And when Ricardo Sosa, president of his community farmer association, went to Mexico’s National Water Commission to request permission to dig more wells, he was turned down. The groundwater level had become drastically low because of drought, he was told, and overexploited by inefficient use. Under the traditional system of canal irrigation, up to half of the water never reached the field. Farmers never knew when they would receive water, or how much; it would flow for 12 hours, then not for months.

Paulette Simpson vividly remembers the days of terror. With a grimace, she recalls one of her darkest moments—when she was bombarded with the piercing sounds of gun shots, the shrieking of women and children, and the smell of blood filling the air in her small community of Gravel Heights, in Spanish Town, Jamaica.

Dewdney Scott has always dreamed of teaching film and drama to deaf children. This is an ambitious goal, especially since Dewdney himself is deaf. In order to get into teachers’ college, he needed to pass Jamaica’s standard college entrance exams. Dewdney took the exams each year for ten years, but failed each time. But he was not alone — many deaf people have had trouble passing Jamaica’s college entrance exams, leaving them with limited career opportunities. “The deaf education system here did not teach me how to read, write, or think critically,” he said.

More than half of sixth grade students in Jamaica fail to achieve “near mastery” on language and math tests, and about 30 percent of them are functionally illiterate. The scores among inner-city schools are even worse, and they lack resources to bolster student performance. Hamesh Creighton, a sixth grade student at an inner-city school in Kingston, has beaten the odds.

Members of the Jamaica Pig Farmers Association are moving towards larger, more profitable pig farms, which have brought new challenges in management and record keeping. With the help of USAID, association members are now on their way to achieving their goals of improved record keeping and farm management systems. Volunteers from the United States traveled to Jamaica to introduce basic record keeping principles and to train farmers on a computerized record keeping program.

For many years, twenty-six-year-old José Santos Pérez practiced slash and burn agriculture on his farm in Mapulaca, Lempira in Honduras – depleting his land and producing less each time. Like many rural farmers in Honduras, Pérez did not know any other methods of farming and used the same traditional practices that have been used for generations.

During the 2005 to 2006 electoral cycles, USAID implemented an electoral transition program for 31 pre-selected municipalities in Honduras that had previously demonstrated political will and a commitment to municipal development. The three-part program incorporated civil society oversight into every aspect of the program in order to improve the accountability and transparency of the transition process between outgoing and incoming administrations.

Sabina Vasquez remembers that as a child, the only food in her home was a piece of tortilla, a pinch of salt, and a few beans to mitigate her hunger. Sabina is now a middle-aged woman, mother of three children, and housewife. She is also treasurer of a local community bank and a recognized leader. She lives in Semane, Intibuca, one of the poorest and least developed areas of Honduras, which has benefi ted in recent years from a USAID program aimed at ensuring food security and nutrition for Semane residents.

Rumilda Torres was concerned about the harsh economic conditions in her hometown of Cabañas, located in the mountainous region of Copán. Many children were forced to abandon school to go to work, and Rumilda decided to do something about it. As a retired teacher and community leader, Rumilda became a volunteer facilitator in 1998 with EDUCATODOS, a USAID radio-based alternative education program.

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Last updated: November 22, 2013