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Compassionate Eye – What to do when rabbits don’t breed?

March 15, 2012

Robert Kent, photographer and founder of Compassionate Eye, was smitten by the spirit and beauty of the Guatemalan people. But it was the terrible poverty in the country that launched him into action and caused him to create CEF (75% of Guatemalans live below the poverty line and, in the San Marcos area, the child mortality rate is 48%).

CEF’s first school was constructed in 2007 in Bella Vista, Guatemala with the help of a partner organization Alianza Two teachers now teach over 60 students in grades 1-6. CEF, working with Alianza and other partner organizations and non-governmental organizations, has helped fund a pre-school in Bella Vista as well as a food program. CEF introduced a scholarship program and provided books and materials and has introduced pre and post-natal programs, educated women about health, education and social justice, and supported grandmothers living on their own. It has helped build another school in Loma Linda and helped another community to access clean water. The issues in Guatemalan communities are many: malnutrition, poverty, poor health, lack of education and potable water. One problem, the seriousness of which is not yet recognized by the communities or the government, is the smoke from indoor cooking that is negatively impacting the health of young and old.

To promote sustainability, CEF and its partners have worked with the communities to establish reforestation and fruit tree businesses, animal husbandry, and a women’s artisan group. One of CEF’s partner groups, As Green As It Gets, also tried breeding rabbits. For the first time ever, the rabbits weren’t interested! Unlike the rabbits, As Green as It Gets didn’t give up. As Green as It Gets assists ‘entrepreneurial men and women from disadvantaged communities to establish independent, sustainable businesses so that they can improve their living conditions and stimulate their local economies’. Its projects include hog raising, artisanal crafts, coffee-growing, reforestation and the development of all-natural products

After Guatemala, CEF expanded to Africa where it has partnered with a number of other organizations including Cause Kids, Friends for Zambia and Free the Children. In South Africa, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Zambia, CEF’s funds have helped deliver schools, libraries and furniture; promoted sustainability through better access to water and by teaching diversified agriculture and responsible animal husbandry; and brought dance and photography courses to school children. An innovative program uses higher grade students to teach phonics to younger students; in return the older students receive money for their education. As in other areas of the world in which CEF operates, access of girls to education is strongly emphasized. In areas ravaged by HIV/AIDs, malnutrition and abject poverty, CEF with its partners are helping young children, often orphaned, find a new future.

An interesting CEF project in Cambodia involves a Nanaimo, BC organization, Kids International Development Society (K.I.D.S.). Many Cambodian communities are based along rivers and lakes and have minimal access to health services. Using small boats and with CEF and K.I.D.S. support, a Cambodian medical group (called The Lake Clinic (TLC)), has been delivering health care along the Tonle Sap Lake and Stung Sen River to over 100 people per day.

The monsoons, however, make travel very difficult and to address this, in October 2011, CEF agreed to fund a “mobile marine mini-clinic” that will be stable enough to travel in the monsoon season. The mobile clinic uses solar panels on its roof and was built in Cambodia which created badly needed jobs and generated new expertise. With the new clinic, the medical personnel will have a more stable, larger and cleaner facility in which to examine patients, conduct minor surgeries and teach and lodge volunteers. The medical team serves approximately 3000 people and aims to have the capacity to serve up to 30,000.

In India, CEF has teamed up again with Free the Children in its Adopt a Village program. The goals of this program is to build schools, help communities create income streams, plant gardens and access water.

Compassionate Eye has projects in four continents and has an impressive record for such a young organization. It does all this with minimal expenditures on administration, a criticism that many other charities face. With more support, CEF could do more. If you are an established stock photographer, a creative producer or a professional model interested in using ‘what you do best’ to help others, or if you would like to support CEF in other ways, Compassionate Eye would like to hear from you.

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