Counterpart founders, Betty Silverstein and Father Stan Hosie
By Maggie Farrand
"We didn’t go in the South Pacific blindfolded. We listened to them and let them lead the process. It was a groundbreaking approach back then.”
Those are the words of Counterpart International’s co-founder, Father Stan Hosie, who visited our offices last week to share the story of Counterpart’s early years.
Staff and visiting board members joined Father Stan for lunch, where he led us through those early days as a Marist priest in Australia, and how he first met Betty Silverstein in New York City.
He shared details on their first conversations about finding a way to help the peoples of the South Pacific.
He described the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific’s first office – 8 feet by 10 feet – and the tiny thrift store off 5th Avenue in Manhattan, where he and Betty raised money.
How it all began
Stan and Betty, back in 1965, realized that in order to really make a difference in the South Pacific, they had to first understand exactly what the local people needed.
So they recruited a Marist anthropologist from New Zealand, Dr. Gerald Arbuckle, and a French-American couple, Emile and Nell de Monchaux, to travel to the islands in the South Pacific and assess the people’s needs. These three experts sat down with local leaders, villagers and government officials.
With this collective effort, they produced a nine volume study, titled “A Socio-Economic Survey of Selected Melanesian and Polynesian Areas.” The study showed Betty and Stan ways in which they could provide immediate assistance – it even listed half a million dollars’ worth of projects in urgent need of financial assistance.
That is where Counterpart’s programs began.
Expanding Counterpart's reach
Stan and Betty continued to lead Counterpart, with successful programs in Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.
In the mid 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, they decided, with a nudge or two from USAID, to go global, expanding their work and impact to Eastern Europe and beyond.
“Stan’s visit was truly inspiring. Many of our current staff had only heard of Father Hosie, so it was a wonderful opportunity for us to meet him and see Counterpart’s history through his eyes,” said Joan C. Parker, Counterpart’s President and CEO. “I can see the roots of Counterpart in how we work today.”
Staying close to our roots
45 years later, Father Hosie spoke to the current Counterpart staff about how much has changed since those early years – especially the size of our operation – yet how much truly remains the same.
In Stan’s own words, “Those first guiding principles - helping local communities help themselves, involving communities in the planning of projects - still apply today. They make Counterpart the great organization that it is."
Khachpar village is approximately 15 km (9 miles) southwest of Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. Of the 2,700 inhabitants, more than 98 percent are Azerbaijani refugees. The village has 40-50 kindergarten-aged children who, before the reconstruction, had to commute to school in Yerevan or nearby villages because of the local kindergarten’s poor conditions.
What We Did
Counterpart International, through a $25,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State (DoS) Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), reconstructed the kindergarten in Khachpar village, including the replacement of old walls, floor covering, windows, doors and pipes. In addition to these changes, electrical and bathroom fixtures were upgraded, and water supply and sewage systems were installed for the kitchen and sanitary facilities.
The Khachpar mayor’s office relocated to a different building in order to donate their office space to the new kindergarten. They also contributed furniture, school equipment and a playground. Counterpart oversaw the implementation and management of the project, which began in September and was completed in November 2010.
In addition to providing a safer and more hygienic learning environment, the new kindergarten will facilitate the teaching of the Armenian language for the young children. With such a high refugee rate, early exposure to both the Armenian language and culture will help the children become better integrated into Armenian society.
Ghazar Martirosyan, Head of Khachpar village community, remarked, “I want to express my deepest gratitude to Counterpart and to the BPRM for the implementation and funding of this wonderful project. Finally, our dream has come true and after 15 years, the Khachpar village community has a completely renovated kindergarten. This reconstruction project not only serves the children but the entire village as well. Thank you for the generous gift and thank you for making our children smile.”
By Maggie Farrand
Every year, from November 25th through December 10th, communities and organizations worldwide rally together to raise awareness about gender-based violence, a campaign called “16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence.”
This year, in honor of the 16 Days Campaign, the Department of State hosted a panel of gender experts to speak on the critical role men and boys play in addressing this global issue.
Praise for Counterpart's programming
Melanne Verveer, the U.S. Department of State Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, moderated the discussion, and praised Counterpart International’s Garima project for its efforts in incorporating men and boys into their program activities.
Verveer, in her remarks, reminded everyone of Secretary Clinton’s words: “women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.” She stressed just how important it is to engage men and boys in the fight against gender based violence (GBV).
She praised a local Garima partner, the Independent Commission for People’s Rights and Development (ICPRD), for their recent efforts in mobilizing men and boys from low income and rural communities of India to address gender violence through street plays and performances.
“What struck me about the performance was its ability to explain, in such a compelling way, why behavior like this is not proper or moral. The message of the performance resonated throughout the community, from women and girls, to men and boys, to the young and old, and to individuals who were unable to read or understand in more formal ways.”
ICPRD, a Delhi-based NGO, seeks to build upon the best practice model of their initiative, Youth Forums Against Gender Based Violence (YFAGBV) that creates sustainable change agents at the village level who will serve as allies in a traditional society to enhance the rights and the status of women; to reduce gender based violence; and to promote reproductive child health in partnership with women’s groups.
The youth groups work closely with women groups to address GBV through the development of stronger networks between young men and women at the community level.
Verveer continued, “The performances had the ability to change the ideas and beliefs that perpetuate violence against women; it spread awareness in the community and turned boys and men into champions for the cause.”
Counterpart's Garima project, funded by USAID, works to provide institutional support to Indian government agencies and community-based organizations to further strengthen Indian women's ability to proactively fight against gender-based violence; support women's ability to address reproductive health issues more effectively; and to increase women's access to and information about the justice system.
Counterpart International implements Garima in partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). The project is Counterpart's first project under the Global Civil Society Strengthening Leader with Associates (LWA).
Local Election Commission receives technological support from Counterpart
Mrs. Sue Bremner, Chargee d’affaires, signs the documents to deliver the materials.
On Monday, November 22, 2010, Counterpart International presented the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI) with computer equipment and other material support at a ceremony held at the Bureau Permanent des Elections (BPE) in N’djamena, Chad.
Counterpart International is implementing Promoting Elections, Accountability and Civic Engagement (PEACE) in Chad, a two-year program funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The goal of the program is to promote broader citizen participation in democratic processes through peaceful, free and fair legislative and presidential elections. This contribution is part of a broader initiative to work closely with CENI to boost their capacity to effectively administer electoral processes in preparation for Chad’s upcoming 2011 elections.
Mr. Renzo Hettinger, Chief of Party for the PEACE program, presented the materials to the Chairman of the CENI, Mr Garmadjal Gami. Also in attendance at the ceremony were Mrs. Sue Bremner, the Chargee d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Chad, Mr. Leslie McBride, USAID representative in Chad, and Mr. Ahmat Hissein, head of the BPE. The total contribution of $145,053 included: 25 desktop computers, three laptop computers, a generator, a hard disk Multimedia Storage, an inverter, a UPS and a voltage regulator.
The Chairman of CENI commended Counterpart’s timely contribution, expressing that the computers would address CENI’s “lack of computer equipment, which has been one of the causes that delayed the proper functioning of various operations." Mr. Gami went on to describe the partnership between Counterpart International and CENI as “exemplary”; as part of the PEACE program, this partnership was formalized in an Agreement signed on September 23rd, 2010.
Students enter the "One-on-One Vibes Village," where they learn about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, as part of the Youth HIV Awareness Project in Jamaica.
By Maggie Farrand
Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day. It’s a time to pause and reflect on the 33.4 million people living with HIV worldwide. It’s also a time to become better educated on this global epidemic.
World AIDS Day began on December 1, 1998, in an effort to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education on HIV/AIDS. Each World AIDS Day has a theme – this year’s theme is “Universal Access and Human Rights.” The theme is a reflection of the commitment and pledge of many governments and world leaders to make access to HIV and AIDS treatment universal.
Although the threat of HIV is global, the majority of people living with HIV and AIDS live in lower- and middle- income countries.
In Senegal, Counterpart International works alongside Family Health International to facilitate access to care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in the Louga, Thies and Kaolack regions, while educating them and their families on prevention and management of the disease.
Counterpart has also made strides against the spread of HIV in Haiti and Jamaica, teaming with local partners to educate youth on how they can prevent HIV in their own communities. The children create songs and plays on safe sex, sexually transmitted diseases and the prevention of HIV. Children are also trained to become peer educators, who can then teach others in their community about HIV.
Counterpart recognizes the gravity of the HIV pandemic, and teams with local communities around the world to provide education materials on risks, facts and treatment options.
We stand by President Obama, who in his proclamation this morning, said, “We recommit to building on the great strides made in fighting HIV, to preventing the spread of the disease, to continuing our efforts to combat stigma and discrimination, and to finding a cure” (The White House).
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