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Making a Difference: Improving lives through promoting self-reliance

By Darrel Hammon - Special to the Daily Herald | May 11, 2024
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Eagle-Condor Humanitarian of Salt Lake City helps build schools, wells and other infrastructure in South American nations, helping people there achieve greater self-reliance.
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Eagle-Condor Humanitarian of Salt Lake City helps people in South American nations learn self-reliance, which helps them rise out of poverty.
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Eagle-Condor Humanitarian of Salt Lake City provides children’s programs in South American nations that encourage children to stay in their hometowns instead of traveling to larger cities where they are at risk of abuse.
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Darrel L. Hammon

Some 2,000 ago, South American holy men prophesied about a split and fortuitous reunion of the Eagle and Condor people. The Eagle People were highly scientific and intellectual, and the Condor People were highly attentive to nature and the intuitive realm. According to the prophecy, at the zenith of both their abilities, they will simultaneously be hungry and impoverished for the knowledge that enables them to be successful in the material world.

Birthed from this prophecy was Eagle-Condor Humanitarian. On this organization’s website, it states that “now is the era for the two groups to rejoin and share their knowledge and wisdom. The Eagle and the Condor will fly together in the same sky, wing to wing, and the world will come back into balance.”

Based in Salt Lake City, Eagle-Condor Humanitarian works to help people rise out of poverty through providing training, tools and partnerships that allow people to increase their capacity to achieve self-reliance. It has helped people in South American nations through the construction of schools, food kitchens, sewer systems, wells, playgrounds and greenhouses.

It also funds schools and children’s programs, provides tutoring and meals and brings in donated humanitarian items to hospitals, orphanages, small villages and schools. It also brings in doctors to provide medical exams, surgeries and vision exams.

Eagle-Condor Humanitarian is uniquely designed with a board of directors and executive team acting in unison as a synergic whole to accomplish their mission to “alleviate poverty through self-reliance training.”

Laura Chabries, Eagle-Condor Humanitarian’s director of operations, had taught school in the Bay Area for 20 years when she was prompted to quit her job. She did some soul-searching regarding what she needed to do, spent time doing humanitarian work in Fiji and Africa, then went on an humanitarian expedition to South America.

“After the trip, the organization asked me to be the president,” Chabries said. “Some years later, they chose a different direction, and I merged my efforts with Eagle-Condor in 2008 and discovered there are unique ways to help people change and help fulfill the Eagle-Condor prophecy.”

Melissa “Missy” Webster, Eagle-Condor Humanitarian expedition director, came to the organization via her father, who went on an expedition with medical doctors. “While he was gone, I bombarded him to tell me all about the trip — the food, the project, the people,” Webster said. “When he arrived home, he asked me to gather a group and we would do an infrastructure trip. I was hooked. The next four years, I volunteered as a leader. Then Laura asked if I would be the expedition coordinator. And that was 14 years ago!”

Eagle-Condor Humanitarian thinks differently about what a humanitarian group ought to be. “We wanted to work on alleviating poverty through self-reliance by teaching families how to make generational changes,” Chabries said, “so that communities could change. This became a different way of thinking. Consequently, the board invested money for trainers-teachers in creating self-reliance programs to change the lives of community members.”

Interweave, a nonprofit organization, approached Eagle-Condor Humanitarian about using their 7P self-reliance program. “Interweave had an amazing training program on how to train the trainers,” Webster said. “We held in-country interviews and hired two trainers who went through the training program and were certified.”

“Recruiting communities to participate was a challenge,” Webster said. “We knocked on lots of doors with the trainers we had chosen. Soon, states within the country asked for our training and our teachers after hearing about what we were doing.”

Eagle-Condor Humanitarian partners with local municipalities and businesses in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, with Mexico on the horizon. “We ask them what they can provide, and then we make contracts with them,” said Jorge Sosa, one of the Peruvian self-reliance trainers. “For example, communities and local credit unions provide seed money to help their community members start small businesses. We also look for businesses who can provide local resources and materials.”

Chabries and Webster said partnering with communities is key. The community and leaders choose the projects, community people drive the projects and provide the labor, and Eagle-Condor Humanitarian partners with them while utilizing its focus on self-reliance.

Follow-up on project completion is imperative. Sosa returns to the projects and assesses how they are doing. “We have ongoing follow-up because we want to make sure the projects continue to function successfully,” Sosa said.

One water expedition with 40 Utah County youth worked with a group of squatters in Sosa’s area that had lived for years without local potable water. The project was digging a ditch and laying pipe from a fresh water source located 5 kilometers away. This project required community engineers. Just as the workers were ready to turn the corner to enter the community, the engineers left to go home. The community members wanted to finish but were hesitant. One man jumped in the hole and said, “You are intelligent people and do not need engineers to tell you how to finish this. We will get it done.”

Webster and Sosa jumped into the hole while communities leaders began hooking the pipes and kept going. Upon finishing, they turned on the water, and it came out clear and clean. A huge cheer erupted! They realized they knew what to do. They just needed the confidence. They then ran the water to each house.

The miracles are some of the wonderful consequences of the projects. “One time, we did an eye project,” Chabries said, “and one of the women jokingly and lovingly said as she put on the glasses for the first time and looked at her husband, ‘You aren’t as handsome as I thought you were.'”

One miracle was more poignant. “Our patient was a little boy who had scoliosis and a hump on his back,” Webster said. “He always carried his backpack on his shoulder to hide it. After surgery, he said, ‘I don’t have a hump anymore.'”

Another miracle happened on a Peruvian expedition. At the very last minute, a woman joined and said she could come only for three days, although she didn’t know why she was coming. “On this trip, women came down from the mountains to seek medical help. One woman spoke Quechua, and one volunteer could speak it,” Chabries said. “The woman who didn’t know why she was there walks over, takes a look at a sick baby, and asks, ‘Do you know who I am? I am the world’s expert on this issue.’ She needed a particular piece of equipment, and someone from group happened to have one in their backpack. Soon the problem was solved. We are continuously amazed how things align.”

Eagle-Condor Humanitarian’s “Model for Alleviating Generational Poverty” is impressive. “It’s not a catch phrase,” Chabries said. “We focus on exactly what we want to do. We talk about alleviating generation poverty every single day and how we alleviate it.”

The alleviating generation poverty model is based on three “Guiding Principles”: effectiveness, efficiency and accountability. Consequently, they developed a report card to help them. In the 2022 annual report, Brent Bell, the board chair, stated: “We measure our success by the number of needy people whose lives were improved.”

Part of that measure comes from consistent reporting. “Missy lets us know about the classes and the projects,” Chabries said. “We check in twice monthly at our board meetings and meetings with the executive team.”

The three different children centers that educate and provide meals to the children are part of the report card. “Every Sunday evening, the tutors and the self-reliance coordinators report in about how many classes, what they taught, how many meals provided, what community assignments completed,” Webster said. “We review and then share the reports with the board, many who have been expedition coordinators.”

One unique aspect of Eagle-Condor Humanitarian is they work to protect children through helping stave off their leaving their communities and living in danger.

“We discovered that children were leaving the communities because they were hungry and going to big cities. Some were sucked into promises of prosperity but ended up being trafficked,” Chabries said. “We decided on a simple solution: developing self-reliance and creating children’s programs. Because of the children centers and their resources, the children do not leave the communities. They stay, go to school, obtain jobs and contribute to the community as leaders.”

Watching graduates from the self-reliance program is a highlight of accountability. “Often with nonprofits, you look to make a definitive difference,” Webster said. “We witness heart-warming graduations with proud families and even prouder graduates who hold their certificates to their chest because many have never graduated from anything in their lives.”

Empathy plays an integral role in all that Eagle-Condor Humanitarian does. “We cannot become Christlike until we put in the effort,” Chabries said. “Perhaps the biggest difference we make is giving people hope that they can do it and become successful. It just keeps us going.”

To connect with Eagle-Condor Humanitarian, call 801-787-8242 or send an email to laura@eagle-condor.org or info@eagle-condor.org. For more information, visit eaglecondor.org.


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