Making a difference for displaced women and families [Updated]

If you follow the YPP on Twitter or Facebook, you've probably seen me mention the House of Light Foundation recently. House of Light is a local organization based in Aden; we've worked with HoL's founders, Sahar and Alaa, on a few projects over the years. Right now we're helping them raise money to provide clean clothes and hygiene products to Adeni women who, along with their families, have been displaced from their homes by the fierce fighting and airstrikes in and around Aden. Thanks to several generous donors in the US and Europe, we've been able to send $2,000 to HoL so far. They've raised even more from local donors, enough to provide aid packages to 200 women. To thank everyone who has donated to HoL via our campaign page so far, and to encourage others to give, I want to share some photos that Sahar just sent me from Aden. In these you can see some of the colorful dresses that Sahar's grandmother has sewn (she makes kid-sized dresses with the fabric remnants), along with the soap and sanitary pads that are also included in each aid package. For House of Light, this campaign is a family affair; below you can see Sahar's mother and young cousin helping to prepare packages for the second group of 100 displaced women.

We're proud to help House of Light make a difference in the lives of displaced women and their families, and it's exciting to see the first 100 aid packages head out the door. But we're only starting to scrape the surface. With your gift, we can help our friends at House of Light do much more. Read more about this campaign here.

You can donate directly to the campaign using this widget:

If you're outside the US and the above widget doesn't work for you, you can also donate via Paypal:

Ramadan Karim

With Ramadan upon us, the YPP has launched its second annual Fast for Yemen campaign to raise funds for direct relief efforts and YPP operations. Last year, in the midst of Yemen's popular revolution, we used our Ramadan campaign to raise money for the field hospitals in Change Square in San‘a and Freedom Square in Ta‘iz, and for IDP camps in Khormaksar, ‘Aden. I don't recall exactly how much we brought in during the holy month, but between March and the end of 2011 we raised about $10,000 for those three causes from supporters all around the globe. It's not a lot by the standards of big-time NGOs, who can't do anything without several million dollars. But by delivering 100% of the cash raised directly to the hospitals and camps, we were able to make a real difference. More importantly, our efforts sent a message to our friends in Yemen, that someone out there in the wider world was paying attention, that they were not alone. Though some progress has been made in the political arena since then, Yemen's massive humanitarian crisis has only grown. Today a record number of Yemenis face hunger or food insecurity. According to Oxfam, "some 10 million people – 44 percent of the population of Yemen – do not have enough food to eat. The UN estimates that 267,000 Yemeni children are facing life threatening levels of malnutrition." Take a moment to read that quote again. 44%.

This year we've decided to partner with a new, Yemeni-run organization, Hemmat Shabab. Hemmat Shabab's mission is to train and empower Yemenis to make a difference in their own communities, and to develop grass-roots, Yemeni solutions to Yemen's problems. Last month they launched their Ramadan food collection drive at an event hosted by Prime Minister Basundwah. Hemmat will follow their Ramadan campaign by opening Yemen's first public food banks. Food banks are a particularly effective tool in combating Yemen's current hunger crisis, because much of the problem stems from a crisis of affordability. That is, there is food in the markets, but many Yemenis can't afford to buy it. Many families have to choose between food and other necessities, like fuel, medicine, or water. In a recent article, Iona Craig tells of a village near Yemen's Red Sea coast that has had to abandon subsistence farming because they can't afford fuel to run their irrigation pumps. Food banks, along with cash transfers (as implemented by Oxfam and other large NGOs) and other means of direct assistance, significantly ease the burden on families and allow them to budget for other necessities.

In the first 24 hours of our campaign we've raised over $600. By the end of Ramadan we hope to have raised at least $3,000. I hope you'll join us this year in Fasting for Yemen, and I wish all the readers of this blog a blessed Ramadan.

"One Yemen" relief campaign

As our supporters know, the Yemen Peace Project has been raising money since March for the field hospitals in San‘a and Ta‘iz, and since June for IDP camps in 'Aden. The money we raise is sent to those responsible for these relief projects via trusted YPP volunteers inside the country. Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers and the generosity of our donors, we've been able to contribute several thousand dollars so far. We're pleased to announce that another concerned friend of Yemen has launched a new initiative to provide the field hospitals with much-needed medicines and equipment. This new project uses an online platform to collect donations. The donations go to a German medical charity that then supplies medicine and medical equipment to a network of volunteers in Yemen.

Make a contribution to the One Yemen campaign here.

Please note, the One Yemen campaign is not managed by or affiliated with the Yemen Peace Project. The link above will take you to an external website.

Islamic Relief

Two days ago, the NGO Islamic Relief USA announced a new Emergency Campaign for Yemen. We were curious about this, as our contacts in Yemen told us months ago that IR was providing no medical assistance in the context of the protests throughout Yemen, because the situation was too politically sensitive. We have also been told that IR's Yemen operations are notoriously corrupt and inefficient. At the same time, many people have been asking us how they can help Yemenis affected by the humanitarian crisis in Abyan and 'Aden. People have asked if Islamic Relief is working on the situation.

So, I sent an email to the contact person at IR in Washington, DC, asking for details about the new campaign. I also asked if IR was now going to support the efforts of Yemeni medical volunteers in other cities, as YPP has done. Here is the response I received:

Thank you for your interest in our Yemen campaign.  Our Yemen Emergency Campaign focuses on the emerging humanitarian crisis in Abyan and Aden.  We seek to support internally displaced people (IDP's) of the region by providing food for families and host communities.  Our relief efforts are slated to include creating community kitchens for communities affected by the massive displacement.

The campaign plans to include distribution of hygiene kits as well. Currently our campaign does not include supporting the work of medical volunteers, but I have sent a request to our programs department to notify me if such initiative will be undertaken in the future.

I'm sharing this information so that our friends and supporters can make their own decisions about how best to help. I've also been informed by Yemenis in New York that several mosques there are collecting for Islamic Relief. YPP will of course continue to collect and send funds to people working in Abyan, San‘a, and Ta‘iz. Thank you.