Monthly Archives: July 2011

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 2: I'll fly away

We’re just a few minutes away from boarding our plane to Bolivia. I’ve taken my high-altitude medication and am feeling slightly jittery. I also have to pee like every 15 minutes–which should be fun on the plane, yes?

The funny thing about traveling is that, well, unexpected things happen. My carry-on was too full and I had to re-shuffle my suitcases at the last minute while standing next to the ticketing counter (oh, my poor little tidy Clothing Bundles!!).

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 1: 3 airports down, 2 to go...

My morning started at 3:50 am, that's the time my first alarm went off. Three alarms later, I rushed to get up, panicking, thinking I was already late for my first flight. I quickly showered, finished throwing in last minute items into the suitcase, grabbed a bottle of water, then I was out the door.

By 6:30 am, I was through the long, dreaded security line, took my trek to the gate, and boarded my first of two flights for the day -- this one at Sea-Tac airport, the next in about four more hours at Dallas Fort Worth international airport.

Dallas welcomed me with 92 degree heat. I was certainly not in Seattle anymore. And Miami must have known I was coming, too, because it's still 90 degrees outside here, even at 7:45 in the evening. Now I'm just waiting for Ms. Elizabeth Esther and Ms. Nish Weiseth to arrive in the next hour or two. We lucky west coasters are staying the night here before everyone else arrives in the morning.

Debt ceiling debate: Why foreign aid is an issue of 'right-wrong,' not 'right-left'

Consider what you've heard in the news over the past several weeks regarding the ongoing impasse over the nation's debt ceiling.

You've probably heard a great deal about spending cuts, versus tax increases, versus any combination thereof. You've likely heard about the August 2 deadline for raising the limit, lest the United States default on its debts and risk an economic meltdown. In the midst of this, you've almost certainly observed a soap opera of political posturing and bickering among members of both parties.

But what you probably haven't heard much about in the context of this debate is the group that stands to lose the most: the world's poorest, who literally depend on U.S. foreign aid for their survival. Their direct involvement in this issue may not be recognized as part of the dialogue, but that does not mean that they should be forgotten.

The next 9 days... headed to Bolivia

I'll soon be en route to Bolivia -- along with a few of my favorite colleagues and seven new friends -- so keeping multiple copies of my travel itinerary is absolutely necessary. I figure that this will help ensure that nobody accidentally boards the wrong plane(s).

Of course, that's the least of anyone's worries at this point. I need to finish packing. (Elizabeth Esther and Nish Weiseth beat me with the packing competition days ago.) And for many of my teammates, leaving home and their children is something really worth fearing. To hopefully lighten the anxiety a bit, I'm posting a bird's-eye view of our itinerary and agenda while we're in Bolivia.

Ask a humanitarian... Tough questions answered!

At the end of last week, Rachel Held Evans, one of the fabulous bloggers headed with us to Bolivia, asked her readers what tough questions they had about child sponsorship, humanitarian work, and World Vision. I dug for answers to the questions they asked with the help of colleagues across our organization.

Perhaps you or others you know have wondered what the answers are to these questions. And if you have any other questions for us, just ask!

Writing next time from Bolivia,

Carla


Here's a couple of my fave questions on Rachel's blog... (The follow is an excerpt from Rachel Held Evans' interview "Ask a humanitarian... (Carla responds)")

Question from Elizabeth: How does child sponsorship help the community at large and not just the individual children? Do the sponsored children end up using their education to just leave their poor communities behind? I have always worried about this.

World Vision’s work is always in the context of families and communities because children thrive when their families and communities are healthy. Our interventions depend on what the community needs.   Children who have access to good nutrition, clean water, basic healthcare, and educational opportunities are better prepared to build a future for themselves and their families and communities.

5 days out: Background on Bolivia

Less than one week to go before our team of 11 is in Bolivia, we're printing our travel itineraries and making dinner and to-do lists to leave at home while we're gone.

In a team phone call last week, I shared a trip brief (thanks to the assistance of many of my esteemed colleagues) with our team that provides cultural and political context to the areas we'll be visiting, photo and video guidelines, and key contact information. The portion below -- with facts and info about World Vision's work in Bolivia -- we're sharing with you as extended team members joining us (via our blogs and Twitter) in Bolivia, July 30-August 7. More to come later this week...

BOLIVIA, officially the Plurinational State of Bolivia

  • Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon BOLIVAR, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and countercoups
  • Nicknamed “El Corazón de Sudamérica” (The Heart of South America) because of its location in the middle of the continent
  • Bolivia shares control of Lago Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake (elevation 3,805 m [almost 12,500 ft.), with Peru
  • There are three official languages spoken in Bolivia (lucky we'll have a translator with us): Spanish- 60.7%, Quechua- 21.2%, Aymara- 14.6%
  • We'll be celebrating the Bolivian independence day while we're there on August 6 (1825; from Spain) in the capital city of La Paz
  • Currency is called Bolivianos
  • (Source: World Factbook)

What would you paddle 6,000 miles for?

About a week ago I got this great email from a colleague telling me all about this recent college graduate who is embarking on a 15-month adventure around the Great Loop. (I confess I didn't know what the Great Loop is so I looked it up: The Great Loop is a continuous waterway around the eastern United States and Canada... The route ranges from 5,000 to 7,500 miles, passing through many states and several climate zones. Source: http://www.paddleforwells.com)

So, needless, to say... the Great Loop is basically an extraordinary waterway that would be no easy or quick trip for anyone. And what's more? Josh Tart is going to paddle the whole thing in his kayak. (This is where you and I have the same reaction -- WHAT!!??!)

Tipping points: First famine of the 21st century in Somalia, East Africa

Editor's note: Following yesterday's UN declaration of famine in two regions of southern Somalia, Tristan Clements, country program manager with World Vision's humanitarian emergency affairs team in Australia, comments on the complexities of drought and hunger, and their impact on vulnerable communities in East Africa.

We hear the word "famine" a lot, particularly in reference to Africa and food-related problems. In fact, the word is often overused.

Famine is a very specific event -- a really, really terrible one -- in which we see lots of people of all ages dying as a result of food shortages. For the United Nations, the word has a technical definition of two or more people out of 10,000 dying each day, and acute malnutrition among a third of young children.

In reality, famines don’t happen much anymore. There were a handful in the late 20th century, most notably in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan, but it’s been quite a long time since we’ve seen a real famine.

So it is with great significance that the United Nations is now using the word "famine" to describe the situation in parts of East Africa.

'We may be poor, but we’re not stupid' -- the reality of life in Africa

Stories are powerful. They can bring hope, or despair. Laughter, or sorrow. And, as we who work for World Vision and other humanitarian agencies know very, very well, stories can educate and enlighten people. They can help achieve a lot of good.

One woman whose story last week received a lot of accolades and criticism is Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo. Her book, “Hitting Budapest,” has won what many consider to be Africa’s top award for literature, the Caine Prize.

“The language of ‘Hitting Budapest’ crackles," the prize’s leading judge commented to CNN. "Here we encounter…a gang reminiscent of ‘Clockwork Orange.’ But these are children, poor and violated and hungry. This is a story with moral power and weight [that] has the artistry to refrain from moral commentary."

However, not everyone has praised Ms. Bulawayo’s story. One blogger, Aaron Bady, who writes under the name “zunguzungu,” contends that the book “traffics in the familiar genre of Africa-poverty-pornography.”

Top 5 FAQs about child sponsorship

If you've ever called or emailed World Vision with a question about your sponsored child, your online account, the mail we just sent you, what jobs and volunteer opportunities are available, or how World Vision is responding to the latest natural disaster you saw on the news, you've talked to us. We're the team of donor contact representatives who answer your calls and respond to your emails.

And its each one of those calls and emails that connects us with you and has showed us just how much you support World Vision and how much you love your sponsored child. Its an honor for us to be able to help make your sponsorship experience a rewarding one. In an effort to provide you with the best information about child sponsorship, here are the top five most frequently asked questions to the donor contact services team, and their answers.

1. Can I write to my sponsored child, and what am I able to share with him/her?

Yes, please write to your sponsored children. The children love learning about their sponsors, so a few details you can share include:

The sound that changes everything [video]

“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” The words from this 80s pop song by Whitney Houston have been looping through my mind for the past five days. I’ve spent the past week looking through the viewfinder of my camera and seeing the faces of teenagers staring back at me -- their eyes shining with hope and their mouths speaking words that will ignite change in their communities.

World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) concluded their fifth annual summit last Friday in Washington, D.C. As the summit's videographer, I witnessed teens from all over the country speak of their diverse struggles, unique cultural challenges, and the problems they face in bringing transformation to their neighborhoods. Over and over, as I shot their stories and experiences, I saw youth voices come together with a message so great that everyone is compelled to listen.

The 5 W's on drought and hunger in East Africa

The number of people affected by devastating drought and hunger in East Africa, also known as the Horn of Africa, has catapulted from 7 million in March to nearly 13 million now. Vulnerable children and families are subject to extreme and potentially deadly malnutrition as livestock perish, vital crops are destroyed, and diseases increase.

Informed by these disturbing statistics -- as well as reports from our field offices, international media, partner agencies, and the World Vision international partnership emergency response team -- we've compiled the following information, which answers the who, what, when, where, and why of the drought and food crisis in East Africa. Expect more posts to come concerning this crisis.

WHO is affected?
An estimated 13 million people in East Africa -- 2.7 million of whom live in World Vision's areas of operation.

What makes an advocate?

What does it mean to be an advocate?

Dictionary.com defines advocate as "a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc." For me, that definition feels impersonal. The 120 young people in Washington, D.C., this week for World Vision’s Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) summit bring personalization and breathe life into advocacy.

Friday was Capitol Hill day for the fifth annual YEP Summit. Teenagers came from urban centers or rural hamlets across the United States. Many live in poverty or in areas plagued by violence and drug or alcohol abuse. Despite their troubles, they refuse to give up. They refuse to be beaten down. They stand up for their communities. They advocate.

Four days old: Many hopes, many challenges in new South Sudan

Chants of “Republic of South Sudan Oyee” will forever be etched in the minds of many South Sudanese as they reminisce over their independence -- today, only four days old.

An overflowing crowd of people, both young and old, showed up at the John Garang Memorial to mark the historic event on July 9. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese endured the blistering sun, all along energized, as they erupted into song and dance when the country became the world’s 193rd country and Africa’s 54th.

I saw men and women faint as the declaration was made. Others openly broke into tears as the new flag was hoisted.

Always enough love for one more

This note was simply too sweet not to share.

A little background: I first started talking to Debbie on our Facebook page, where she leaves us daily comments of encouragement. On Facebook, we've shared in Debbie's passion and deep love for all seven of her sponsored children. When she receives a letter from one of her "littles" from Thailand, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Brazil, Zambia, or Mexico, it makes our day, too. So when she heard about our bloggers trip to Bolivia, you can guess what she did next...


Your role in changing our world

Imagine for a moment that you woke up tomorrow and discovered you were on a different planet in a different part of the universe without any idea of how you got there. Imagine what you would feel and the questions that would rush into your mind.

Well, I have news for you – that exact thing has happened to every one of us. Sometime in the past 100 years, we were all born on the third planet from the sun in a solar system within the Milky Way galaxy, in a universe that is incomprehensibly vast. We had no idea how we got here, all we know is that we were born into the middle of a story that started long before we arrived and will continue long after we are gone.

It’s our own mystery story -- one that began millions of years ago and one that will continue into the future.

Rich Stearns on Independence, God, and South Sudan

God wasn't the first thing on my mind on Monday, the Fourth of July. Truthfully, the only credit I can give myself is that I was thanking God for the three-day weekend.

It's not far-fetched to say that most Americans likely think of Independence Day as more of an outdoor show than an obvious reason to thank and honor God.

That's why articles like Rich Stearns' in the Huffington Post are kind of a divine challenge for me -- a reminder that peace and freedom are reasons to thank God, and that with Independence there is struggle, but also hope.

May South Sudan's first Independence Day be that of the latter. And may Rich's article challenge you as it has me.


The following is an excerpt from Rich Stearns' "Celebrating Independence and Honoring God -- Half a World Away" in the Huffington Post:

Last Monday, July 4, I was holding David, my 5-month-old grandson, and savoring his facial expressions as we watched his father grilling hamburgers, celebrating his first Independence Day.

In a few years, he will begin learning about courageous individuals who fought an oppressive government whose armies incited unspeakable violence for more than a decade. But the death and destruction that resulted could not suppress the freedom fighters' undying faith in democracy over tyranny, freedom over injustice. Their perseverance and faith demonstrated why ballots are stronger than bullets.

South Sudan: Countdown to independence [video]

You can almost feel the excitement in Juba from half a world way here in our office in the United States.  As I talk to our staff from South Sudan's capital city nearly every day, I hear it in their voice and the stories they tell me.  The city is on edge, eager for tomorrow's independence ceremony, colorful banners hang in the streets and people wear t-shirts emblazoned with the new country's flag. As the world watches and waits, I'll be watching and waiting too, praying for a safe transition and peace for the children of South Sudan.


South Sudan will become the world's newest country tomorrow, July 9. As the South Sudanese prepare for their grand celebration, children are voicing their hopes for the future -- that problems of the past can be put behind them.

“I would like to see a good education system in South Sudan after the independence to enable me and other children on the streets to continue with education,” said James, a young boy who lives on the streets in Warrap.

Following Coach Richt to Honduras -- a trip that changes lives

Special thanks to Steve Hummer, Sunday sports feature writer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for guest-blogging this post for us. Following the UGA sports blog's May 25 post and our May 31 post, Steve joined University of Georgia football coach Mark Richt and his wife, Katharyn, in Honduras to witness World Vision's work there.


World Vision? What’s that? An optician with delusions of grandeur? A new psychic helpline? A few months ago, I had no idea.

Then there came a curious off-season story from the most watched sports beat here at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: University of Georgia football. Bulldogs fans were all atwitter over a report that head coach Mark Richt had put his vacation lake home up for sale. That prompted wide speculation that after two disappointing seasons he was selling off as a hedge against the possibility of being fired this year.