In 2015-16, $2.955 million was provided to 112 projects in South America, Latin America and the Caribbean through our diplomatic missions in Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Lima, Mexico City, Port of Spain and Santiago de Chile. These Direct Aid Program projects covered 29 countries.
The Australian Embassy in Brasilia funded 20 projects in Brazil totalling $340,000. The Direct Aid Program (DAP) supported projects which engaged marginalised groups in their broader community, helped disadvantaged groups to generate sustainable income through their own skills and abilities, and specifically used sport for development.
The Pão de Queijo factory (Brazilian cheese bread factory) project will generate income for the Maria Teixeira (EMT) School and the wider school community. The school is a pioneer in Brazilian special education and 30 per cent of its school population has special needs. DAP funds purchased kitchen equipment and utensils for the cheese bread factory.
The Social Circus Project is an initiative of Ser Educational Institute and UNINASSAU University in Recife which aims to educate, entertain and empower young people with down syndrome and intellectual disability through circus activities. The initiative has a demonstrable impact on participants' confidence, motor skills and community engagement. DAP funds covered circus equipment and uniforms.
The Cricket Project brought together teenagers from Brasilia's satellite suburbs and the rural town of Poços de Caldas in Minas Gerais. Many of the participants had never left their town before attending this DAP sponsored cricket tournament. The project aimed to build their confidence, assist with developing networks and bring attention to cricket and the role sports can play in development. DAP funds covered the costs of the tournament and cricket gear, which continues to be used by both groups as a legacy of the event.
The Australian Embassy in Buenos Aires funded 18 projects totalling $524,000 in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. In all three countries, Direct Aid Program (DAP) projects focused on youth and childhood development, gender equity and good governance. DAP funds in Paraguay and Uruguay also supported projects focused on education and the environment.
One project provided funding to the Fundacion Le Ralos, Argentina which works with children and young people with disability that severely limit their mobility and independent functioning. Through DAP funding the foundation equipped a multi-sensory room in their therapeutical education centre, to better engage and stimulate the children who attend the centre.
Two DAP projects supported Emergency Flood Relief in Buenos Aires Province and in the Litoral region (Corrientes and Entre Ríos Provinces, Argentina), helping communities to recover from this year's floods by running workshops to build residents' capacity to manage flooding in coming years.
The Australian Embassy in Lima funded nine projects totalling $199,000 in Peru to support vulnerable groups in the areas of economic empowerment through the promotion of tourism and gastronomy, education, and community development through sport and inclusion of vulnerable groups, especially women and people with disability.
DAP funded ASPHAD (Association for People with Different Abilities, run by an Australian priest) for the construction of three rooms on the flat roof ASPHAD Centre in El Planeta, Lima Cercado (Peru). One room is to be a cooking and baking workshop, another is for psychological therapy, and the third for teaching music and songs.
In line with Australia's commitment to addressing violence against women and girls, DAP's contribution also helped repair and procure items to improve the living conditions of the women and children hosted by the safe home Hoy por ti, Mujer run by volunteers with the support of TACIF (Centre for Training and Family Research). Household items and the repair of doors and cupboards were covered with DAP funds, as well as the repair of six sewing machines and the purchase of a food cart that will improve living conditions and help the women to become more independent.
The Australian Embassy in Mexico City funded 20 projects totalling $702,000 in Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. The projects selected for Direct Aid Program (DAP) funding placed emphasis on women's equality, rural and agricultural development, food security, strengthening civil society and human rights.
DAP funds supported a project in Mexico which is implementing new Australian technologies to extract honey. The funds enabled the importation of 16 flow hives in the south region of Mexico (Veracruz).
Migrants from Central America, including thousands of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence, poverty and in some cases persecution, are continuing to embark on perilous journeys north. DAP granted funds to Centro de Dignidad y Justicia to equip a centre that assists migrants when they transit through Mexico, and Instituto de Derechos Humanos to create publications and 3000 handbooks addressed for human rights defenders and migrants. The handbooks will be distributed in several shelters for migrants in Mexico.
Port of Spain
The Australian High Commission in Port of Spain funded 33 projects totalling $885,000 across 10 Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname). The Direct Aid Program (DAP) projects focused on areas including food security and agriculture, community health, coral reefs and fisheries, economic development and poverty alleviation.
In Jamaica DAP funds supported Stewards of Creation, a program designed to encourage public involvement in coral reef conservation. The Montego Bay Marine Park Trust has used DAP funding to increase young people's awareness of Jamaica's vital and vulnerable marine environment and encourage them to work together to adopt sustainable eco-friendly practices and support Jamaica's coral reefs. It is being replicated elsewhere in the Caribbean with DAP support.
A second DAP project in Guyana, the Quarrie Village Water Conservation Community Sanitation & Health Project, enabled the residents of the indigenous communities of Quarrie Village and Moco Moco Mountain Foot region to obtain a safe, healthy and reliable source of water. The Special Envoy for Human Rights Philip Ruddock visited the project in early July and was impressed by the facility. Not only did residents benefit from receiving a supply of potable water, they also were able to benefit from having the community pavilion supplied with electricity, using solar panels atop the pavilion.
The Australian Embassy in Santiago funded 13 projects totaling $300,000 in Chile, Colombia and Ecuador. The Direct Aid Program (DAP) supported projects focused on empowering vulnerable communities and assisting in their sustainable development.
In Colombia, through the Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros (National Coffee Farmers Federation) in Risaralda, DAP funds purchased coffee cherry de-pulping machines to families in a rural, low-income area of Colombia's world-famous coffee producing region. Prior to receiving the machines, the families were required to de-pulp the coffee cherries by hand, an arduous and time-consuming process. The machines provide the families with a more efficient method to conduct this process, dramatically improving their productivity and income growth capacity. The improved efficiency and sustainability of coffee producing activities will allow the farmers to achieve a better work-life balance, provide more time for education and recreation for family members and increase their physical recovery time, measurably improving their quality of life and opportunities for development.
Sustainable stoves making a difference to daily life
In the Oaxaca Sierra, the Mazatec live in remote communities high up in the mountains of southern Mexico. Here the task of collecting drinking water and wood for cooking and heating can take all day, and is often the responsibility of the Mazateca women.
Through the Australian Government's Direct Aid Program, The Hunger Project is providing fuel-efficient ecological stoves and rainwater tanks to improve the community's access to these basic necessities and it's making a big difference.
In the village of Piedra de La Luz, Australian Embassy staff met with local project teams which are comprised of mostly young women. These women have run the project from the start – from initial community consultations right up to organising the construction teams. Here each stove has been designed to fit each family's cooking implements, encouraging full take up of the new system.
Local families saw the benefits right away. Huts were no longer filled with smoke, as the stoves direct the fumes outside and the dramatic reduction in woodcutting is saving both time and the rainforest habitat that surrounds the village. Now that the community can store water there is more available for drinking and irrigation, reducing the threat of the hotter, dryer seasons that bring droughts to the area.
Alongside the practical benefits, the project has ignited a sense of achievement and community spirit.
As one woman told Embassy visitors 'when I started this the men used to say women couldn't build a stove. But now we know that we can, and together this community can achieve anything it wants'.