Monthly Archives: May 2011

'The Hole In Our Gospel' inspires football coach to sell his home

My email inbox is notorious for housing second-hand articles from my colleagues about new technology, philanthropy, trends in new media, or nonprofit stories -- my typical work-related interests. But last week, several work friends sent me the UGA Sports Blog article, "Mark Richt sells Lake Hartwell property."

When I first started reading it, I was thinking that my colleagues who sent me this must think I'm an avid Georgia sports fan, even though I went to college in California, and have never even visited Georgia (nor do I keep up with college football). My short attention span had just about given up on the article when I read this paragraph about half way down:

“Within the last year, I read this book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” written by Richard Stearns. He’s the president of World Vision U.S. I think people understand who World Vision is but, basically, they help the poor. Through their organization, you can help children, you can help build wells, you can buy them donkeys, whatever people need. World Vision helps people across the world. Well, anyway, there was a lot of statistical data in there about the amount of people that live on a dollar a day around this world. Billions of people. So I’m reading this book and it really affected me. It helped me realize that what we have is way more than we need and that our ability to give is hindered by this property. I guess that’s the best way to tell you. We just wanted to be in a better position to give and bless people that don’t have anything. We felt like this was one way to be able to do that.”

You are remembered

Editor's note: This Memorial Day, we honor the sacrifices made by men and women in the military -- as well as others whose service and sacrifice is equally worthy of recognition, even if it wasn't done in military uniform.

There’s a movement in some quarters to expand the roster of those honored on Memorial Day beyond the veterans of formally declared wars. My uncle returned from World War II a decorated bomber pilot for 24 completed missions, and my father, his younger brother, came back shell-shocked and on the brink of ruin.

But for me, it takes nothing away from their sacrifices to honor others this day who suffered and/or died to make a better world, even if they didn’t do it in uniform. Who would begrudge the victims in the Twin Towers a place among those being remembered today because they were civilians, or the Port Authority police officers and the firefighters because their uniforms weren’t military?

6 reasons to tune into Comrades

Fifty-six viciously long miles of uphill and downhill, racing a 12-hour ticking clock that could result in either one of the most rewarding or disappointing experiences of your life. Complete the track in time and cross the finish line -- but one second too late, and your name won’t even be recorded.

That’s the challenge seven Team World Vision runners are up against this weekend at the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. After running the race last year, we’re returning to take up the ultimate cause once again -- 56 miles for 56 sponsored children; one sponsored child for every mile of the race.

That may be the only reason we need to be at Comrades this year. But here’s six more reasons for you to tune into this weekend’s race:

It’s the world's largest and oldest ultramarathon. The race is approximately 90 kilometers (56 miles) between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg (that is pronounced Peter-merits-berg) in South Africa. About 18,000 people are registered from all over the world.

To see who will cross the finish line. Comrades is a race against time -- with a 12-hour cut-off time for completion. About 80 percent of the race-finishers will cross the line in the final hour of the race. Last year, all 18 Team World Vision runners finished before the cut-off. We are hoping for 100 percent to race the clock again this year.

Why care about the G8 Summit?

Every year since 1976, the heads of state of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia (which joined the group in 1997) have been meeting to discuss the global economy, security, and, increasingly, development issues. These leaders, known as the G8 (or Group of Eight), will hold their annual summit in Deauville, France, today and tomorrow.

It can be difficult to understand why citizens of these countries should care about high-level policy meetings like this one. But these meetings set the course for critical priority decisions that affect what programs and issues are addressed, and which ones are set aside. These meetings result in financial commitments made by individual countries.

Observations from Missouri's tornado zone

Editor's note: Joplin, Missouri, is a small town in the U.S. Heartland. Its official population is 50,150. But now, it is tragically smaller in every sense, after the May 22 tornado that left 122 dead, 750 injured, and more than a quarter of the town destroyed. Phyllis Freeman, our domestic emergency response director, is on the ground in Joplin.

I went looking for a school and found Irving Elementary School. It was mangled, the bricks blown apart.

You can only think about the children who lived through this, seeing the skies turn black, hearing the roar of 200-mph winds, and watching the tornado chew things up, literally.

Then they emerged to find their home gone, not knowing what’s happened to their friends, maybe their parents.

World Vision responds to tornadoes in central U.S.

Editor's note: At World Vision's office in New York, Mindy Mizell is coordinating media efforts concerning our response to recent tornadoes across the central United States.

Update, May 25, 3:44 pm: World Vision is also continuing its tornado response in Joplin, Missouri where our national domestic disaster director just completed an initial assessment of the neighborhoods impacted in Sunday’s deadly tornado.

“The damage in Joplin is every bit as devastating as what we’ve been responding to in Tuscaloosa,” said Phyllis Freeman, also a veteran of the agency's Hurricane Katrina response. “The damage is just as widespread but it’s a smaller community which means there are fewer resources for survivors to rely on.”

In the Twin Cities, World Vision staff are working with local churches, schools, and community partners throughout the area to provide clothing and emergency resources to the most vulnerable neighborhoods and communities impacted by Sunday's tornado that ripped through North Minneapolis.

“Our World Vision staff knows these neighborhoods well and we know someone has to focus on the kids,” said Chris Brooks, World Vision’s Twin Cities Field Site Director. “People are living without much of anything right now but we’re especially concerned about children in these communities falling through the cracks.”

World Vision will be relying on our Dallas warehouse to provide prepositioned supplies to Missouri. Our response for both tornadoes will be similar -- relief teams will be providing resources like personal care kits and cleaning supplies. Over the long-term, we anticipate sending bulk shipments of building supplies to help survivors in the tornado rebuilding efforts.

Update, May 24, 11:02 pm: "I arrived in Joplin earlier this evening. It's been raining heavily the entire time. Currently there are severe T-storm, flash flooding, and damaging wind warnings for several counties. All of the businesses in this particular section of the city are completely destroyed. Tomorrow morning I'll travel through neighborhoods that are opened for through traffic." -Phyllis Freeman, World Vision's domestic emergency response director in Joplin, Missouri.

South Sudan: Can independence bring a brighter future?

Editor's note: South Sudan, a region left devastated by decades of civil war, held a referendum last January in which voters decided to split from the northern part of the country and become an independent state.

Preparations are in full swing for festivities to mark the upcoming independence of South Sudan. The mood is upbeat. On July 9, some 30 heads of state will travel to Juba, the acting capital city, to witness the birth of this new country.

The history behind this event

The region's path to independence was preceded by 21 years of conflict between rebels in the South and the government based out of Khartoum, Sudan's capital city in the North. This created a massive humanitarian crisis, with large populations displaced and left without access to essentials.

'We refuse to be enemies'

It was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. The location was a hilltop west of Bethlehem about a month ago, and my fellow dinner guests were 30 pastors and church leaders from the United States. That night, our bus parked at a cement-and-barbed-wire barricade, and we hiked about half a mile over two such barricades to have dinner at the top of the hill -- in a cave!

The prominent sign at the end of our hike proclaimed the slogan: “We refuse to be enemies.”

The parcel of land west of Bethlehem is only about 100 acres. It is owned by the Nassar family, a Palestinian Christian family who have lived on and farmed the land since 1916. It is squarely in the West Bank, and according to international law, belongs to the Nassar family and is not part of Israel. But today, it is surrounded by 50,000 Israeli settlers, living on similar land confiscated from other Palestinian families.

Bad news... good news

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the first-ever issue of Reject Apathy.

Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Nuclear disasters. Crazed dictators. War. Sex trafficking. Blood diamonds. Rape. Poverty. Racism. Disease.

The stark reality of all the “bad news” in the world can leave you reeling. Like a high school physics equation with a minute amount of force working against a massive, immovable object, at times it can feel impossible to make a significant impact.

But consider one more piece of bad news: According to World Vision, 24,000 children die each day around the world from preventable causes. Preventable causes.

We may not be able to stop a tsunami, but we can prevent malaria deaths by providing inexpensive mosquito nets. We may not be able to halt a tank, but we can end the fatal transmission of parasites by equipping impoverished communities with sanitary water for drinking and cooking. We may not be able to cure AIDS (yet), but we can supply medicines that prevent transmission of HIV from a pregnant mother to her unborn child and that extend the lives of AIDS patients so their children aren’t left orphaned.

There are many things we cannot do—but there are countless things we can. And there’s a new opportunity to directly provide medicine and clean water to impoverished children around the world that may surprise you...

Photo stories from tornado survivors

Editor's note: Here are a few of the latest photos from World Vision communicator Laura Reinhardt, in the American Southeast following the deadly tornadoes on April 27 that left survivors across the region without homes.

[caption id="attachment_4884" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Six-year-old Isaiah Walker jumps from board to board. He can still be a child despite the trauma of the tornado, which destroyed his home. ©2011 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4882" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Isaiah's mother, Veronica May, worries about the emotional effects of the tornado on all three of her children. "This is something that may be embedded in their heads for a long time, if not the rest of their lives." ©2011 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision"][/caption]

Disaster disadvantage [infographic]

Last year’s catastrophic earthquake in Haiti was all-consuming for a time, dominating the news and mobilizing compassion from all corners of the world. During those first few months, it was hard to imagine that Haiti’s suffering could fall off the radar.

But shortly after Haiti’s one-year anniversary came fresh disasters—New Zealand’s earthquake and Japan’s quake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. Scenes of destruction in formerly functional cities, tragic stories, and the threat of radiation riveted media attention and provoked fears that something this bad could happen to us. (And then it did, with last month's killer storms and tornadoes in the U.S. South.)

One cup at a time

I first met Christian Kar, CEO of the One Cup Project, back in November at a local church conference. I was there with the World Vision Micro team, and Christian was there with his team. One Cup was a new World Vision corporate partner choosing to use its business to fuel hope in other countries -- by making donations from every coffee sale to support our work in Zambia. Together, we were representing the power that donations and personal purchases have on social and economic change in other countries.

I've met with Christian and his team many times since then. Our work together makes us "business partners," but our common goal to help others make us friends. I can vouch that he and his team embody every bit of brilliance and kindness you feel from their emails. They represent the spirit of an entrepreneur with the compassion of a humanitarian. They make One Cup's mission -- to tell a different story about business -- personal, believable, and contagious. It makes you want to join their team in their pursuit to change people's purchasing choices, one cup at a time.

Lindsey (L): Where does your coffee story begin?

[caption id="attachment_4778" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Christian at his coffee roaster. Photo courtesy of the One Cup Project."]One cup at a time | World Vision Blog[/caption]

Christian (C): I've been intensely focused on building a coffee enterprise since I was 19. You could say I didn’t choose coffee -- it chose me. I was sort of at the right place at the right time, and while I didn’t set out to be in coffee, I loved the people side of the business and grew to love coffee as well. The coffee business brought me out of my shell. I started with retail, then began roasting, and the business grew steadily year over year. Success seemed to come easy.

L: At the height of your coffee enterprise success, what was "game-changer" in dreaming up the One Cup Project?

C: My wife and I both surrendered our lives to Christ shortly after the 9/11 attacks. We both knew in our souls that all was not right in the world. As my faith began to mature over the next few years, I asked myself, "Is this it? Am I just going to be the coffee guy for 20 more years?" Then God planted the “seed” for the One Cup Project. In 2007, I went on a short-term missions trip to Kenya. God had laid Africa on my heart for reasons I can’t understand. I went, and my eyes were opened.

Lessons from 'Three Cups of Tea' controversy

For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men. --2 Corinthians 8:21 (NIV)

Most of you reading this blog may have seen or heard about the April 17 60 Minutes story concerning Greg Mortenson, author of the bestselling book Three Cups of Tea, and allegations that he received substantial financial benefit from the non-profit organization he founded, the Central Asia Institute (CAI). Those allegations include:

  • Only 41 percent of the funds donated to CAI in fiscal year 2009 went to schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan;
  • Mr. Mortenson personally received all honoraria from his speeches; and
  • CAI spent more than $1.7 million in fiscal year 2009 to promote Mr. Mortenson’s books and his speaking engagements, for which he reportedly was paid $30,000 each.

Since the story was broadcast, many of the charity’s supporters have expressed shock and dismay at the allegations. The Montana state Attorney General has launched an investigation into the organization, and Mr. Mortenson is currently under the care of a physician due to a heart condition.

None of this is good news for Mr. Mortenson, or the Central Asia Institute. I only have the CBS News story, so it is not my intent to pass any further judgment on them. But a caution must be raised to all charities: Once a reputation is damaged, it may take years to restore it, if that happens at all. One of Ben Franklin’s most familiar comments comes to mind: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

A gazillion steps away

Editor's note: The following is a guest post written by World Vision mommy blogger Alise Wright.

Though my children are getting old for picture books, I can still talk them into snuggling with me on the couch every now and again to read with me. And if I’m really lucky, the kids will ask me to read them a bedtime story. When I got African Heartbeat from World Vision by Barb Christing, I made sure that I gathered up the kids and sat down for a read.

African Heartbeat is a beautiful story about young Katie in America and little Neema in Africa. Katie has a desire to go to Africa to meet her sponsored sister, Neema, and she knows that even though their worlds are “a gazillion steps away,” the world gets smaller as her heart grows larger. Through sponsorship, Katie finds her heart growing larger each day.

I love that African Heartbeat doesn’t shy away from difficult topics like AIDS and the reality of extreme poverty. It’s easy to assume that children are unable to process issues of this magnitude, but Christing’s story makes them accessible even to young children.

[caption id="attachment_4685" align="alignright" width="240" caption=""African Heartbeat" By Barb Christing. ©2011 World Vision"][/caption]

This story shows a wonderful progression in the life of both the sponsoring family and the sponsored child. The reader, no matter how young or old, is able to see how sponsorship allows Neema to have a better life through education, training, and friendship.

The final pages in the book give some additional information to parents so that they are able to expand on the sponsorship story. It includes a map showing the location of Malawi in Africa, where Neema lives, a translation of the various Swahili names in the book, and some items to look for in the pictures, highlighting the differences in the community before and after sponsorship.

Sponsorship 101 -- from a child sponsor

World Vision’s child sponsorship program has been part of my life for nearly two decades. My dad started working at World Vision when I was 9 years old. I’ve worked here for nearly five years now, and my husband and I sponsor three children of our own.

We love getting letters, drawings, photos, and progress reports from the children in our global family. And we love sending them cards, pictures, small packages, and the occasional extra gift.

But even as a staff person and a longtime child sponsor, I’ve still asked myself: What does sponsorship actually do? How does it actually work?

In putting this blog post together, I’ve learned that, in a nutshell, sponsorship connects you with a child in need and empowers the child’s community to become healthy, safe, and self-reliant, breaking the cycle of poverty.

It’s not a handout. It’s more like a hand up. By helping to provide access to life essentials, we, as sponsors, don’t just “give away” our money and cross our fingers. We actually help World Vision in giving the entire community of our sponsored child a “boost” up and out of poverty.

In order for children to experience life in all its fullness, they must have reliable access to all of the essentials for life: clean water, a secure source of food, healthcare, education, etc. That’s why World Vision takes an integrated approach to helping our sponsored children’s communities become whole, because each piece of this puzzle intertwines with the others.

[caption id="attachment_4665" align="alignright" width="162" caption="In Senegal, a World Vision water pump in Mballo's village gives her community clean water. ©2010 David duChemin/World Vision"][/caption]

Clean water: This is often where our work starts. Simply providing access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene can cut a community’s child death rate by more than half.

Food security: We help farming families learn better crop cultivation and food storage techniques, provide essentials like seeds and tools, and distribute food aid to help make sure that children get the nutrition they need.

Health care: We help to make basic health care accessible by stocking health clinic shelves with medicine, training parents and health workers to treat illness, and coordinating HIV-prevention education and care for those affected by HIV and AIDS.

What I love about my mom

I always wanted to be just like my mom. When I was a little girl, I used to write her letters, telling her of the admiration I had for her beauty and grace, and that she would be my best friend forever.

Just a few months ago, my mom reminded me of those letters. She told me just how much she adored those scribbled, misspelled notes from the 5- and 6-year-old me. Her favorite was one that I had so appropriately titled on the outside of the envelope, “What I love about my mom,” proceeding on the inside to name 20 of the things I loved most about her.

Even as an adult, that list continues to grow. I add to it daily things like her unconditional support and her wise advice for making marriage last. She truly is the mother who has taught me how to love and how to grow in myself, and is still my best friend.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom -- and happy Mother's Day to every mom like you who cares for her children, strives to give them what’s best, and loves them unconditionally.


Here are few more “What I love about my mom” thoughts from a sponsored children in Armenia and the World Vision Facebook family.

[caption id="attachment_4620" align="alignright" width="198" caption="Sponsored child Sahak. ©2011 Armenuhi Sahakyan/World Vision"][/caption]

My mother

By: Sahak, sponsored child in Armenia

Mother so much tender
Kind and sincere
Forgiving and helpful
Courteous and dear

Mother, my darling
I love and adore you
Dearest to my heart
Let you be always so bright.

----

A "mom" to walk beside me

At 24, I moved across the country by myself for a new job.

At the time, my parents, as empty-nesters, moved to London, making the distance between us much, much farther -- six time zones away.

Having recently graduated from college, with a big move and new job before me, I was asking myself the typical “20-something” questions: What did my faith mean? What was God’s plan for me? Would I ever get married?!

As a beginning step to discovering those answers for my life, I started volunteering with my new church’s youth group. One of the girls’ parents, Kay and Sandy, invited me over for dinner.

Through Kay and Sandy, I was given what seemed like the two greatest gifts at the time -- free dinners and unlimited listening.

Of course, I was homesick and missed my parents, particularly my mother, very much.

Then, when the man I thought I was going to marry broke up with me, Kay put on the full eight hours of the "Anne of Green Gables" movies and cried with me.

News that matters: Tornadoes, conflict minerals, maternal health

Editor's Note: This is the second post in a new, periodic series called "News that matters," meant to highlight coverage in news articles and blog posts about important, current issues that affect those living in poverty around the world.

Recent breaking-news headlines might lead you to believe that some of the less prominent stories lack significance and aren't worthy of our attention. The truth is, there are many equally critical issues that directly affect the lives of the world’s poor and dispossessed – and so many of them don’t see the kind of coverage they really deserve. I’ll let you follow the breaking news on your own, and I’ll highlight some other stories that you may not see otherwise.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these issues and others that you find interesting!

Tornadoes in the U.S. South

Late last week, the media heavily covered the damage and loss of life caused by a series of tornadoes that touched down in Alabama and other states in the American South. Although the headlines have moved on to other issues, the damage there remains. World Vision and other organizations are now part of a rebuilding effort that could take years.

Storms Ravage Alabama; Death Toll Rising Fast
Crosswalk.com, 28 April 2011
World Vision plans to begin moving in emergency supplies -- including personal hygiene items, paper supplies and even mattresses -- within 24 hours. The organization also plans to aid with rebuilding efforts, focusing on families who do not have any insurance or enough insurance to cover the damage costs.

After the storm: How you can help the South rebuild
USA Today, 28 April 2011
World Vision's domestic relief team is preparing to deploy this Saturday morning from the Dallas area to Alabama and nearby states hardest-hit by last night's storms. They plan to work with local churches and other organizations to identify families with limited means, families left destitute, or people who may have difficulty accessing other assistance.

Conflict minerals

When I started at World Vision about 10 years ago, we were part of a multi-agency campaign trying to end the trade of diamonds that were mined in several West African countries. At the time, the trade of those diamonds was used to fund related civil wars going on in Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as conflicts in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"We’re all still alive"

Editor's note: Last night, I received the following email from Laura Reinhardt, who is in Alabama:

The man sitting next me on the plane looked out the window as we approached Birmingham, Alabama. He pointed out the path of destruction left by the April 27 tornadoes.

“That’s the spookiest thing I ever saw,” he said. “It’s like someone took a giant vacuum cleaner to the earth.”

[caption id="attachment_4477" align="aligncenter" width="456" caption="An aerial view of Tuscaloosa showing just how wide-spread the tornado damage is. © 2011 Laura Reinhardt/WV"][/caption]

Seeing it from the air and being kind of awed by nature’s power is one thing, but getting on the ground and seeing tin roofs curled up like ribbon, walls ripped away to reveal the inside of someone’s life, and then meeting people like 10-year-old Morgan Adams makes it all much more personal.

Morgan came to the house while I was interviewing his neighbor Connie McDonald. He told me about neighbors down the street who were worse off than they were. He’d been helping them to clean up the debris.

[caption id="attachment_4474" align="aligncenter" width="456" caption="A fallen tree on the family's old Volkswagon Beetle, the car Morgan hoped to have one day. © 2011 Laura Reinhardt/WV"][/caption]

We walked outside to look at the tree the tornado had knocked over through the roof of his family’s kitchen. He said to me: “You coming down here doesn’t bother me, but people who just drive by and almost get in a wreck staring at us, that bothers me."