For over 30 years, Vista Hermosa Foundation has partnered with many inspiring organizations around the world. Leaning into our mission to serve “children and the under-served,” we have reached into some of the hardest and most overlooked places – communities torn apart by conflict, violence, poverty, and dependence – to nurture healing and a new vision for collective and holistic wellbeing.
The year 2020 was a year like no other, as the COVID-19 pandemic intersected globally with hurricanes and droughts, locust infestations, mounting starvation, and political unrest. Our team found new ways to reach out and distribute $5.3 million in grants to 42 organizations working across 8 countries. These partners stepped out with faith and resilience to be a light and a hope to vulnerable communities in the midst of lockdowns and delayed services. Stories of love sprang forth from all corners of the earth as community leaders and residents committed to serving one another and to embracing the belief that they are not alone.
We drew many lessons from the year that will continue to inform our work moving forward. Below are some of those lessons along with links to just a few of the organizations that we have had the privilege of supporting and learning from.
COVID-19 relief. While VHF prioritizes long-term development over emergency relief, we pivoted early in the year to address the pandemic. We proactively communicated with our partners, relaxed grant agreements, and released nearly $865,000 in additional funding to support their efforts to deliver water and food, health information and hygiene kits, seeds and alternative means of income generation. Our flexibility and steadfastness were crucial during a time when funding became uncertain for so many organizations working on the ground. Many of our partners were also recognized and recruited by local governments as key leaders in the fight against COVID-19.
Border relief. As news along the US-Mexico border continued to unfold, we released $190,000 in new funding for organizations serving immigrants and refugees, thus enabling them to continue medical care, advocacy, collaboration and other support in overwhelmed camps and neighborhoods across the borderlands.
Partner Networks. Many of our grassroots partners are small and isolated. Over the years, we have invested time in bringing them together to build networks of support and learning. Our Mexico Partner Cohort met virtually three times in 2020 to explore such issues as mindful leadership, restoration, and climate change. They also continued to serve as an important advisory group for our investment in SASA! Together, a violence prevention program that we have supported in Haiti and is now being adapted to the Latin American context. This group will help pilot its implementation in Mexico in 2021!
Gender-based violence. Lockdowns contributed to a global spike in domestic and gender-based violence, often referred to as the Shadow Pandemic. This spike included a rise in FGM and early marriage for girls. As schools closed, Girl Power groups and other child protection and monitoring systems sought new ways to stay in contact with children, such as peer mentoring and supporting teachers to meet with students in their homes one-on-one.
Local leadership. Office closures prevented many staff and US-based leadership from visiting the field. Drawing on long term investments in local leadership, communities emerged prepared “for such a time as this.” Young people mobilized to identify the most vulnerable, and community members restructured plans to address more emergent needs with such activities as patio vegetable gardens, small animal husbandry, and potable water infrastructure.
Farmers and Entrepreneurs. Millions of economic migrants were forced to leave cities due to lost jobs and return to their villages to be farmers. In turn, our partners saw an increased demand for agricultural extension services. They developed radio-based and online tutorials on health, agriculture, and animal husbandry. They connected artisans to online markets, promoted conservation agriculture, and adapted financial services. Many organizations supported communities to re-tool small businesses to meet the demands of the health crisis, including making masks, hygiene kits, and soap for sale.
These are just some of the accomplishments that our partners reported in 2020, and important lessons that we have learned about our role in supporting them – the power of long-term partnerships, flexibility in funding, trust in local leadership, the strength in collaboration, and the increased need for investments in women and girls, farmers and entrepreneurs. As growing violence and starvation loom for many communities in these early days of 2021, our work is vast. We ask for your ongoing prayers and support as we continue to do this work together.