2020 Accomplishments

Dear Friends,

This year, I am more grateful than ever for your support. Your ongoing generosity to The Denan Project during these difficult times has made all the difference to the communities we support — some of the world’s poorest and most isolated people who need continued aid now more than ever. Through improved medical care, education, agriculture, and water accessibility, as well as economic development via micro-loans, our projects made meaningful advances in 2020, even with the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are indebted to our incredible on-the-ground partners at each of our locations and the strong relationships we have in place. These partnerships have allowed us to continue to provide uninterrupted, high-quality services, even while our in-person site visits have been suspended due to travel restrictions. Read below to learn more about some of the incredible work and accomplishments that have taken place at each of our project sites in the past year.

We thank you for your past donations and humbly ask you to consider The Denan Project in your 2020 charitable-giving plans. As always, because of the generosity of several Members of our Board of Directors who cover our overhead costs, we promise that 100% of every dollar you donate goes directly to the people and communities we support. In a year when so many are in need, we are particularly grateful for your support now. Your gift will continue to bring real, positive change to some of the poorest people on our planet.

Dick Young,
President/Founder, The Denan Project

ETHIOPIA

In response to the spread of the global Covid-19 pandemic, we purchased Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our medical team at our hospital so that they would be prepared and protected. Currently there are about 90,000 cases in the country of Ethiopia, with a few but increasing number of cases in the Somali region. As a way of encouraging people to stay closer to home during the pandemic, we re-established our medical outreach program to distant villages, with a medical team and ambulance bringing medical care to people in remote villages. UNICEF has supplied all medicines for this program. The effort has decreased the number of people coming to our hospital each month, without impacting the total number of people we treat overall. In addition to Covid screenings, we are also seeing an increase of cases of malaria, pneumonia, and gastrointestinal diseases because of the current rainy period.

Ethiopia 2020

While impacting health to a degree, the strong rains of the fall season will have a positive impact on crops and the region’s agricultural development. The Elders micro-loan group is running the tractor program, and we are pleased that the community has taken over this important initiative.

The economic benefits of our micro-loan program also continues to bring important improvements to Denan. We have distributed 48 micro-loans to date to groups of 10 people or more, benefiting approximately 500 families, and we continue to have a perfect record for repayment in this community.

PERU

Peru

The Covid-19 virus has hit Peru quite harshly, and the country is second only to Brazil with more than 890,000 cases reported. No cases have been reported in the communities we support in Uratari and surrounding villages, likely due to the quarantine imposed by the government. The government has supplied protective equipment to our health center and medical staff, and we continue to see many patients each month. We feel fortunate to be able to provide critical health-care services to these communities at this time.

All schools are currently closed in Peru, but the students in our area are receiving lessons at home via radio from 4-7pm each school day. The Denan Project provided the funds to purchase radio time for this innovative project, and we are hoping to continue to do this through the end of this year.

SPECIAL THANK YOU

Our economic development programs continue to bring much-needed funding and entrepreneurship to the community. Most of our microloans are given to women’s groups and focus on the raising of cuyes, a delicacy and a vital source of protein in the region. In addition, we now have two programs focused on growing the grain quinoa. Both these initiatives allow the villagers to add new sources of protein to their diets, while simultaneously bringing in a source of income. A third recent program will focus on growing tarwi, a local legume, and a separate group is focusing on bee-keeping. All current micro-loans are scheduled to be repaid in full and on time.

MONGOLIA

In Mongolia, there have only been a few hundred cases of Covid so far, as international borders have been sealed. Luckily there have been no cases as of yet in the areas in which we work, and The Denan Project has provided complete PPE and sterilization supplies to the hospitals we support. We will keep close watch on any news of the virus, as it is unlikely the government would be able to adequately provide additional protective equipment if needed.

Our two hospitals in the remote towns of Tariat and Erdenemandal continue to serve their communities well. Because of the improvement of medical care and facilities we have been able to provide, we are seeing fewer overall cases per year, which is a positive development. The hospital is currently in need of various anesthesiology equipment, and we hope to be able to make these provisions in the near future.

MONGOLIA 2020

We also continue to provide essential advanced training in various specialties, as well as equipment to traveling doctors, including an ambulance. The mobile medical tools we supply allow members of local communities and distant herder settlements to receive earlier diagnoses and prevent disease by delivering treatment in their homes.

One of our areas of continued emphasis continues to be medical and dental education. The dentists and dental facilities at each hospital have greatly improved oral health for the communities and the remote herder encampments. The hospitals also work with schools to better educate students about dental health, and the high-school student health club we support provide important basic medical information to other students and their families. Happily, eight student health club members from the previous year have chosen professions in the medical sector and are now studying health sciences at universities. It is our hope that our investment in early education will pay great dividends for the community on their road to self-sufficiency.

Visit to Denan, February 2016

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By Jarret Schecter, Board Member & Volunteer

I’ve been to Denan many times since my first visit in April 2004, when we first talked about starting an organization to help people of the region. On this trip, like the ones before, I am once again jarred from my usual day-to-day automatic pilot. It’s a very beneficial experience on many levels. Automatic pilot, or automaticity, is not always a bad thing. It’s a way of putting order into life’s chaos. But in a negative sense, it reinforces inertia and detracts from mindfulness and gratitude. My trips to Denan remind me of this, each time.

Cognitively-speaking, when I am in Denan, I am more grateful for the gift of life that have I have been given. Moreover, I realize that there is reason (if acted upon) for much hope in the world, when you can see that so little can go so far. For example, for just a few dollars, a life can be saved with medicines, a rehydration tablet, emergency food supply or a doctor’s care. It is jarring to realize that my typical lunch back home of a slice of pizza and drink costs more then that.

Physiologically, life here also jars me in a very positive way from my usual unreflective habits. In the hundred plus degree-heat in desert conditions, I am hungry, thirsty, and without a shower for a couple of days, I feel tired and somewhat uncomfortable. However, the afternoon siestas with their beautiful rhythm put neuroses in their proper place, and watching the stars light up the night sky while sleeping on the ground in the open-air compound makes the trip all worthwhile. Later in the night, this lovely stillness is magnificently punctuated by animal sounds and a call to prayer that in its own contextual way, elegantly and thankfully ushers in a new day.

Awoken from automaticity my trips to Denan make me appreciate the real and the potential in life.

Blossoming of Bougainvillea…8 Years in the Making

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by Jean Shin, Volunteer

Traveling light is something I know a few things about—or so I thought. Repacking my backpack in Addis Ababa for my 2nd attempt to enter Denan, I had to pause and think what I really need on a daily basis. Sticking to my strict rule of whatever-doesn’t-fit-into-this-one-bag-comes-out, I was able to hop onto the plane with a light carry-on—and huge anticipation.

Looking down on the changing landscape, from lush high mountains to arid terrain, I could sense that we are getting closer to the lowland of Ogadan, the ethnic Somali region of Ethiopia. Seeing the excited face of Dick Young, the Founder of The Denan Project, as we flew over the Project’s horseshoe-shaped hospital compound that’s clearly visible from above , I knew there awaits something special, something that came to be…against all odds.

The ride to Denan after switching from plane to car in Gode kicked off with a roadblock. My heart sank when our two vehicles were stopped by the army, and we were asked to wait until the following day. Half-heartily refusing to accept that I’m the curse (as I wasn’t able to enter the area in 2009 due to rebel activities in the region), I felt so relived when we were able to zip through the gate the following morning. With Denan still 90 minutes away—and our ambulance convoy out of sight, Dick had asked Mukhtar Adem (Head of our local partner OWDA) to stop the car to get closer look at one of the refuge camps that weren’t there when he passed by 3 months ago. As the people (mostly all women except one man and children) gathered around us, I started to crisscross the camp not knowing where to fix my eyes at…hundreds of temporary huts (only about 4 ft high, not even big enough for me to stand up in) with no trace of food or water. As we learned that these are the people who lost everything, including their livestock, to the rain/flood that followed the disastrous, record-breaking drought of the last season, I couldn’t help but feeling the wicked hands of the mother nature.  As we are leaving them, following Mukthar’s advice not to send our water truck and Plumpy’Nut to them as our resources are committed to the people of Denan, and there seems to be a UNICEF medical vehicle visiting them on a weekly basis, I was beginning to feel the weight of the decisions we make…and the responsibilities of having the choices to make.

Being a day late (with no way to communicate the delay to the hospital), our arrival was met without the jovial excitement I often saw in previous reports, much to my relief. Then there was…a sight that even Dick had never seen before: bright colors of bougainvillea and green leaves hugging the dusty, brown walls of the compound! When we later learned that one of the Elders had donated the seeds (quite pricey in that part of the world) and planted the greens without even being asked, I could sense that things have turned the corner…and began to come to its fruition, quite dramatically.

The marathon of meetings that followed our lunch (yes, they killed a goat for us) was nothing short of eye-opening for me. On a personal level, my biggest concern up to that point was the possibility of not being able to communicate with them in the usual way I connect with people (trying to understand their intent, and the reasoning behind what they are saying). It took only a few minutes into our meeting with the disabled group (who paid back their micro loan ahead of schedule and saved their profits) for me to realize how silly I was to expect anything other than a real dialogue, a fully articulated exchange of thoughts and sentiments dotted with a sense of humor that’s universal in English and Somali! Detecting the same connection and warmth on all the faces I was greeted with, including the hospital staff of 40 men and women (who voluntarily put aside 2% of their salary to fund expenses for transporting patients they cannot treat in our hospital), I felt the close proximity to what surrounds us…the basic necessities of living with what surrounds us…and the desire and will to go beyond the limits of what surrounds us.

Being awake at 4AM listening to the ever-so-vocal donkeys, and counting the countless stars directly above me, I waited for the sun to come up to my right with sleep-deprived-yet-invigorated eyes. The same rhythm of the morning, but never a same day: accompanying the doctor during his morning rounds and seeing mothers with mal- nourished babies; surveying an abandoned health facility in nearby Burqayer for possible expansion; walking to the riverbed to catch up with the women and children of Denan who make the trip twice a day to fetch water; sitting with the Elders trying to work out a financial arrangement for the use of the tractor, and so on.

Among all those unique encounters, there is one thing that compelled me to raise my hand for an immediate action. Having canceled the water pipeline inspection schedule due to rebel sighting in the area, we went over to the school where the project has been providing supplemental financial help for hiring and training qualified teachers. Having seen pictures of empty classrooms with no desks and chairs, I was glad to see students sitting on their chairs and listening to the teacher. But as I was walking around the school, my heart was getting heavier. From the corner of my eye, I see military personnel with guns walking around, and the skinniest cows I’ve ever seen chewing paper on the ground having nothing else to eat. Clearly not the kind of educational environment I’ve known. And when I realized that there is only one textbook per class—and it belongs to the teacher, I just couldn’t contain myself. I didn’t know where else the kids can escape to in that environment if not to books! In my attempt to move the issue to a priority list, I’ve asked Mukhtar how his kids in the city get textbooks. His answer: I bought them for them. A failure of the state education bureaucracy, yes. But the kids need the books now, not later, right now…my murmuring continues as I’m still waiting for the cost of the textbooks to come from OWDA.

With my dusty backpack on my shoulder, and my dustier hair itching my skull, I hopped onto the plane to Addis. Only then I realized the contents of my backpack. 2/3 of what I thought was essential for my daily living were lifeless, needing batteries to be recharged. I almost forgot about them. I didn’t really need them after all. I was unplugged. And that was A-OK. I know the kids in Denan want them—they told me so in no uncertain terms. It’s their turn to play with being plugged in…Now they are ready like the bougainvillea that opened up against all odds.