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.

Nicaragua's Criminal Procedures Code had not been changed since it was originally established in 1879. This code gave judges alone the principal responsibility for investigating and prosecuting crimes. All evidence was required to be presented in writing, and people accused of crimes had little or no opportunity to present their defense in court.

The El Gorrión Cooperative, located 100 miles north of Managua in the municipality of Yalí, was founded in 1995 by 30 small-scale coffee producers who joined forces to increase incomes by selling a greater volume of coffee. Over the decade since its founding, El Gorrión grew to include more than 500 members, achieving economic independence and self-sufficiency, and managing no less than one million pounds of raw coffee produced by its members. 

For centuries, Indigenous Misquito and Mayangna communities lived off the land in what is now Nicaragua’s Bosawas Biosphere Reserve. For years, Nicaragua’s government did not recognize the indigenous peoples’ claim on the land. Also, since the end of the civil war in 1990, poor farmers, or mestizos, from different parts of the country migrated to Bosawas, converting natural forests to grazing lands and threatening both the integrity of the indigenous communities and the region’s biodiversity.

Alternativa Solidaria A.C. (AlSol), a local microfinance institution serving women in the Chiapas region, has grown and improved its operations spectacularly. With USAID support, AlSol has become financially sustainable and now serves over 16,000 women.

But with this success, its director, Katia Corroy, felt a more urgent need to establish a marketing position that would keep a continuous eye on the needs of current and potential clients; research market expansion and product development; and manage client satisfaction.

As one of the first developing countries to commit to specific goals to combat climate change, Mexico has implemented the Special Program on Climate Change (PECC in Spanish), which aims to reduce emissions by 51 billion metric tons of CO2 per year by 2012 . To achieve this ambitious goal, Mexico's Ministry of Environment (SEMARNAT) assumed responsibility for gathering and processing data from government agencies with climate change commitments .

Eighty-year-old Rogelio Vazquez doesn’t have to work on his Oaxaca coffee farm as often as he used to, now that his four sons have assumed responsibility for the family business. In Mexico, supporting a family on coffee income was never easy, but now that he has adopted new methods and new markets, Rogelio is able to support his four sons and 36 members of their extended family.

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.

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Last updated: January 12, 2015