8 ways you made the world a better place in 2016

December 14, 2016

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  • In 2016, you helped us reach 30 million people, like Afghan refugee Sonia, with emergency supplies, educational support and so much more. Photo: Sara Hylton for Mercy Corps

As we near the end of 2016 and prepare for the year ahead, we want to take a moment to acknowledge all that we’ve been able to accomplish together this year. When faced with some of the world’s most difficult challenges — you see the possibility of change. And working together, we’re making that change a reality.

This year, you helped Mercy Corps transform the lives of 30 million people across 40 countries.

You gave children in Syria fresh bread to eat. You empowered young girls in Nigeria to stay in school. You offered refugees safe shelter and space for their children to play. And you responded with kindness to emergencies in Greece, Nigeria, Haiti and Iraq.

Your support and compassion makes our work possible. Thank you.

As an important member of the Mercy Corps community, you know that a better world is possible when we work together. Today and every day of the year, children, families and individuals around the world are grateful for you.

Scroll down to see just a few of the many ways that you transformed lives this year.

You offered lifesaving support during emergencies

A Mercy Corps staff member watched Ahmed, 3, at the beach in Greece. He and his family are refugees from Syria who face an uncertain future in Europe. Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

When conflict forces families to flee, a hurricane rips through an island town, or severe drought causes a hunger crisis, we’re there to respond thanks to caring individuals like you. For families trying to survive amidst conflict, or in the aftermath of a disaster, our emergency response work is a critical lifeline — and the first step toward a better future.

Around the world, 65 million people are displaced from their homes. In places like Syria, Iraq, Greece, DR Congo and Nigeria, people who’ve fled their homes are faced with a lack of resources and often an ongoing threat of violence.

The global refugee crisis is massive — and you’ve helped us reach out a helping hand to so many people affected by it this year. Together, we’ve helped more than 8 million refugees and people in their host communities across 22 countries.

As the war in Syria continues, we know that it can be hard to see any light through the overwhelming darkness of ongoing violence. Your support helps Mercy Corps team members run one of the largest humanitarian operations in Syria, and the work that they do every day is truly lifesaving.

Our efforts there are far from finished, but this year you helped us reach more than 2.6 million people inside Syria with emergency food and supplies. And we continue to help Syrian refugees across the region get the resources they need to cope with their experiences and look toward a more hopeful future.

Boko Haram’s violence has caused a displacement and hunger crisis in Nigeria, and severe drought in Ethiopia left millions of people without enough to eat. In these countries, you’ve helped 154,000 people access the food and clean water they need to survive and take care of their families.

Your support this year also helped us deliver 420,000 emergency supply kits to families in places like Haiti, Iraq, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Nepal and Yemen. Thanks to you, our team members are able to deploy quickly and respond effectively when emergencies strike.

You helped people stay healthy and feed their families

A young boy holds fresh bread, which is a staple of the Syrian diet. Inside Syria, we are helping bakeries stay open so that people have enough to eat. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps 2013

It’s hard to think of much else when you go to bed with an empty stomach. Millions of people around the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and it can be truly debilitating. Children face stunted growth, young people can’t focus in school and parents get sick and can’t work.

Food is at the heart of our being — it brings people together, nourishes our bodies and helps us achieve our goals. In this way, we are all one and the same. Thanks to you, more than 3 million people in some of the hardest-to-reach areas of the world have more food to eat.

Together, we’re there when people need us most. You helped us deliver roughly 640,000 pounds of emergency food to hungry children and families in Niger, where growing crops to feed everyone is a constant struggle. In Yemen, we were able to reach 100,000 families suffering through the ongoing war with emergency food baskets and vouchers.

And we’re working with local communities wherever we can. In Syria, where we provided emergency food to approximately 750,000 people this year, we also worked with local bakeries — giving them the flour they needed to stay open and feed 100,000 people each and every month.

To give refugees in Greece a warm meal after their harrowing journeys, and to help the local economy, we partnered with local restaurants on the islands of Kos, Leros and Lesbos. Together we served hot meals and offered packed lunches to more than 260,000 refugees as they moved through Greece toward other parts of Europe.

It’s impossible to measure what every meal means to a family in need. But thanks to you, we know that families across the globe will be better able to feed their families, transform their own lives and contribute to their communities.

You gave children and youth a bright start

Dahara, 14, attends a safe space for girls in her village in Niger. There, she learned how to start her own small business in her spare time after school. Photo: Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps

In our work with children and youth around the world, we’ve seen time and time again that they are powerful agents of change. Given the right education and support, children and youth can achieve their goals and transform their communities from within.

In places of crisis, youth face incredible obstacles as they grow up. They may suffer from malnutrition, be unable to attend school, or experience trauma that delays their emotional growth. And that’s where you come in — your support is helping 16 million young people around the world access education, grow up healthy and cope with their experiences.

Around the world, we work with young people to help them heal from trauma and find joy in learning and activities. This year, you helped 180,000 young people get the assistance they needed to overcome the stress they experienced during a crisis. And more than 110,000 children and youth participated in Mercy Corps’ play therapy activities like sports, art and drama.

Whether they are in a formal school or not, we want youth to have access to whatever education is possible in their community. Because of you, we helped 160,000 young people access education, built or rehabilitated 275 schools, and trained more than 7,000 local teachers.

And in places like Niger, where it’s especially difficult for girls to attend school, we offered safe spaces for adolescent girls where they could gather together to learn about health, nutrition and the dangers of early marriage and pregnancy.

You’ve given 10,000 Syrian youth in refugee camps safe places to play and learn, and you’ve helped 49,000 girls in Nigeria get the support they need to stay in school or start a small business.

Your impact stretches across the globe — children and youth in these countries are more able to grow and learn thanks to your compassion and kindness.

You helped people remain dignified in the face of crisis

A Mercy Corps team member shows Syrian refugee Ahmed how to withdraw his cash distribution from an ATM in Greece, where he and his family are seeking refuge. Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

What do people need most in an emergency? It can be different for every family and every situation. That’s why sometimes the best thing we can do for families in crisis is offer them cash in the form of pre-paid debit cards or vouchers.

To a refugee family in Greece or worried parents in Iraq, that means giving them the dignity of choice — with their cash they can purchase whatever their family needs most, whether that’s food, shelter, warm clothes for their children, or anything else that will help them survive and recover.

With your help, we provided this kind of emergency cash assistance to more than 730,000 people around the world this year.

We were the first organisation to offer cash cards to refugee families arriving in Europe in search of safety. And we gave more than 57,000 people affected by conflict in Iraq the cash they needed to buy essential food and supplies.

Because of you, people facing incredible challenges were able to provide for their children and families even during difficult times. And because cash recipients often spend their funds at nearby small shops and vendors, we’ve helped infuse £11 million into local economies, helping them recover and grow stronger.

You gave people a place to call home

Your support has helped many families affected by the global refugee crisis find places to stay, improve makeshift shelters and find comfort in their temporary homes. Photo: Sara Hylton for Mercy Corps

Losing your home can feel like losing everything. For families who have faced natural disaster, conflict or displacement, safe shelter is often the foundation they need to move forward and begin the process of recovery.

Even a temporary shelter can protect a family from the elements, provide a comforting place to gather and keep children safer and healthier. In other situations, a makeshift apartment can feel much more like a place to call home with just a few repairs and amenities.

This year, you helped us provide shelter to more than 170,000 people facing emergencies around the world.

With your support, we gave emergency shelter supplies like tents and tarps to more than 90,000 people living inside Syria. And in Turkey, we were the first organisation able to address shelter needs of refugees in Izmir, along the Aegean coast — offering financial rental assistance and shelter supplies to families in need.

Refugees of the Syria crisis living in nearby countries often have trouble finding safe places to live. That’s why we’ve worked with more than 3,300 Syrian refugees and their Lebanese neighbors this year to help them find homes, improve living conditions and rehabilitate older homes and apartments.

You helped us provide safe and clean water

Around the world, you’ve helped more than 3 million people access clean water to cook with, bathe in and drink. Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

Clean water is life’s most vital resource — without it, none of us can survive. But for millions of people around the world, clean water is no guarantee. Often, the water available for families to drink is not clean. And in many of the places we work, girls and young women must spend hours every day walking and carrying water for the family to use — keeping them out of school or unable to break the cycle of poverty.

Thanks to you, 3 million more people around the world have access to clean and safe water this year.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, our efforts provide clean water to more than 1.5 million people, most of whom are displaced families living in and around the city of Goma. We also provided hygiene education to more than 700,000 people in the area, helping them keep their families safe and healthy.

In Jordan, one of the driest countries in the world, we made more clean water available to 48,000 people. And you helped us give more than 160,000 Syrian refugees and local families clean water in Lebanon.

Because of you, these families now have more clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing. As life’s most basic necessity, we know how much clean water can mean to people in need — and how much more they can accomplish when they have it.

You jumpstarted aspiring entrepreneurs

After her parents died when she was young, Rasheedat, 18, was unable to attend school. She recently started her own beaded jewelry business with help from Mercy Corps. Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

This year you gave more than 500,000 people around the world hope for a better future by providing job training. And you helped 35,000 entrepreneurs jumpstart small businesses with services like loans and grants.

For families struggling to make ends meet, or trying to recover after disaster or crisis, a secure job or small family business can mean the difference between despair and hope for a better future. You’ve reached out a helping hand to people all across the globe, and thanks to you they can work to provide for their families and lift their communities up.

In Nigeria, we helped entrepreneurs create nearly 500 new small businesses, and supported 700 existing small businesses with additional access to loans. Together we empowered more than 3,000 adolescent girls to start their own ventures.

In Afghanistan, where accessing education is extraordinarily difficult, we offered job training in more than 20 different career fields to roughly 2,000 young men and women — giving them the skills they need to provide for themselves and their families.

And in Myanmar, you helped us support female entrepreneurs and the environment through our clean cookstoves programme. Because of caring people like you, more than 300 women there have sold 11,000 stoves that are better for the environment and reduce deforestation.

You empowered farmers to grow more food

Women in Niger water their vegetable garden that helps support the families in their village. Photo: Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps

Getting enough to eat is a challenge in many of the places we work around the world. To make sure that everyone is healthy, communities must grow more food. Fortunately, growing more food has two significant benefits: more people have food to eat, and local farmers get a major economic boost.

With your help, we work with people wherever possible to help them increase production so that they can feed their families and also start to transform their communities. Thanks to you, we gave 1.3 million farmers the resources they needed to grow more food and earn higher incomes.

In Uganda, we provided agricultural training and vegetable seeds to some 18,000 women, which helped them grow healthy food and increased their incomes by 70 percent. As part of the local economy, the women gain respect and have more say in community decisions.

Feeding entire communities is especially hard in places like Niger, in the dry Sahel region. Many communities suffer from extreme poverty, and the land makes it extremely difficult to grow successful crops.

This year, you helped us reach 15,000 farmers in Niger with agricultural training, education about proper storage techniques and access to local veterinarians for their herds. Because of you, farmers are doing better — and the number of people growing two or more varieties of nutritious food at home tripled this year.

You’ve also helped people in places like Syria, Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Colombia learn how to improve their farming practices and feed their communities.

Thank you! You make this change possible

We faced many global challenges this year, but you were determined to see the possibility of change. Thanks to you, we helped 30 million people this year, and planted the seeds of lasting change in communities across the globe. We hope you’ll stand with us in the year ahead. Give now ▸