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.

“When I come to visit the village, women say ‘Mira is coming, she must have something new for us,’” says Mira Sunar, a female community health worker, describing her relationship with the villagers of Ramnagar, Nepal. “I feel proud and empowered by my popularity and recognition in the village.”

Man Maya Lama and her husband own a small tea shop in Manikapur village in Nepal's mid-western Banke district, but they struggle to earn enough to feed their two children. When USAID's Flood Recovery Program started its income-generation activities in their district, Lama jumped at the opportunity to get involved. She desperately wanted to improve her family's finances, and the only solution apparent to her was optimizing the use of the family-owned land. The acreage was small but that wasn't the main problem; her agricultural skills and knowledge were rudimentary and obsolete.

Unlike their male counterparts, it is difficult for female students in Afghanistan to hold part-time jobs where they can apply their education in real-life experiences. A fourth year architecture student explained, “Being a woman, we face lots of challenges in this field. The most common problem for women is that we have less opportunity for site visits and meeting professional people.”

The village of Yazgulam in Gorno Badakhshan District was one of the hotbeds of Tajikistan’s civil war from 1992 to 1997. Although the war ended years ago, Yazgulam’s inhabitants were still afraid of the militants that continued to wander around the village. “Safety was the main concern. I didn’t have high hopes that this place would ever improve,” said resident Khafiz Azoraev.

A journalism graduate from Kabul University, Ozra worked part-time jobs in radio and television stations to pay for her education. When she joined the USAID project staff in her hometown of Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, she anchored a radio program for the women-run Radio Muska dedicated to communicating municipal messages to citizens. Ozra co-anchored segments with members of women’s shura to reach out to home-bound women in Helmand.

When Mariam Jawad arrived at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in the fall semester of 2010, she entered a library for the first time in her life. She also used a computer for the first time and eventually sent her first email. For a 19-year-old woman who speaks three languages and dreams of becoming a businesswoman, this is surprising.

In the villages of Nepal, where most people live without access to health care, USAID has supported the training of 46,000 female community health volunteers (FCHVs) to deliver basic health care. These women have made Nepal the first country to deliver vitamin A supplements every six months to 3.5 million children nationwide (ages six months to five years) preventing at least 12,000 child deaths annually.

In a country where corruption and inefficiency are endemic, addressing basic problems, like disorganized government files, is a good start. In the Lalitpur District Court in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal, over 50,000 files, some of them more than 100 years old, overwhelmed the small room in which they were stored. Many files were in bad shape with missing or damaged documents.

This article describes some of the activities of USAID's Gobi Regional Growth Initiative. This project, along with its successor Gobi Regional Growth Initiative II, was implemented by Mercy Corps 1999-2008.

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Last updated: January 08, 2015