Monthly Archives: December 2011

Why we start with water and sanitation

Recently I was invited on a trip with World Vision donors to visit our clean water programs in Uganda. I'm really proud that World Vision's water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programming is among the most advanced in the sector and helps thousands of children and families in communities affected by drought, natural disasters, and poor living conditions around the world.

While in Uganda, I talked with John Steifel, World Vision's Uganda WASH program coordinator.  I sat down with him for an informal interview so he could explain to me why we start with water in a community, and why clean water by itself isn't enough. He gave such a clear explanation of why sanitation and hygiene programs have to go hand in hand with bringing clean water. Here are the highlights:

Remembering families in the U.S. this New Year

Every year about this time, I list goals for the upcoming year -- new year resolutions, if you will. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but I love that feeling of starting fresh.

Then, I think about some of the families I’ve met in my work as a World Vision communicator in the United States, and I realize that they don’t have time to think about these kinds of goals.

For many U.S. families living in poverty, it's a struggle just to provide food and shelter for their loved ones.

One such family is the Cutrights from West Virginia.

5 tips for choosing your charity for your year-end giving

We've all heard the advice: Get your charitable donations in before the clock strikes midnight on December 31 -- or say goodbye to potential tax breaks. But how to make sure you're choosing the best charity in the first place? Here are 5 tips for making the most of your charitable dollars before we ring in the new year.

11 memorable photos from 2011

Thousands of photos are taken each year in nearly 100 countries worldwide where World Vision programs help reach the most vulnerable. These 11 photos reflect the stories, the struggles and the events that have changed people's lives forever this year -- from earthquakes to famine, from hardship to triumph, from despair to hope.

Goats, scones, and life-changing gifts

On day 11 of the 2011 True Spirit of Christmas Trip, our team introduced you to Joyce, who's life has been changed thanks to the gift of goats from the World Vision Gift Catalog. The goats provide Joyce with milk and a means for extra income that she sometimes uses to purchase ingredients to make scones from her own recipe.

We shared Joyce's special scone recipe straight from her kitchen with World Vision supporters on Facebook after our trip host, Kirsten Stearns, did some midday baking with Joyce calling her scones "among the best she has ever tasted." Back in the United States, a long way from Joyce's kitchen in Zambia, Kirsten's sister-in-law Sarah and her church group agree the scones are quite delicious.

Merry Christmas from around the world [PHOTO BLOG]

What do Christmas celebrations look like in other parts of the world? In some places, World Vision throws big Christmas parties where disadvantaged children can enjoy the festivities and even receive presents. In other places, children participate in traditional celebrations that might look quite different than our American Christmas.

It is better to give than receive

When USA Today asked me about my favorite Christmas gifts given and received, I couldn’t help but reflect on the gifts I have received through World Vision. As a donor to World Vision U.S. for 25 years -- and as its president for 13 years -- I've found that the best gifts I’ve received come as a result of generous giving.

Something miraculous at Christmas

The follow post was written by Narine Ohanyan, World Vision field communicator in Armenia.

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Do you believe in miracles?

For a mother in Armenia, something miraculous is happening at Christmas.

“I love the ornaments and the lights. I love to stare at them,” says 4-year-old Narek Qotanjyan.

Coming from a child in the United States, this statement wouldn’t be so surprising. However, Narek lives in Armenia with a disability.

A little child shall lead them

Although I wrote this last year, I feel it deserves a repeat-performance. I visited this family again recently and brought their daughter Lilly an actual malaria net, like those World Vision uses in Africa because I know the compassion she feels for those affected by malaria, an experience from a previous visit with her folks. She's a busy 7-year-old now and couldn't remember the entire incident, so I promised to find what I'd written last year and send it to her. Re-reading it blessed me and I hope it blesses you, too.

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This year, we all agreed to forgo the typical presents for our adult extended family members and instead choose gifts from the World Vision Gift Catalog. We'd given some similar "gifts" previously, but this year there was a special abandon to it -- a desire to really make these "thoughtful" gifts for each receiver, a criteria very close to my wife Janet's heart.

The gift we can't wait to explain

I'm often seeking beautiful stories of child sponsorship, because I know so many exist out there. When I find one, I eagerly await the author's permission to republish their words on our blog so it can be shared with so many more. Brynn's post -- which came highly recommended from a World Vision sponsor, who I'm blessed to call a friend -- eloquently captures the beauty of child sponsorship and why it's really a gift to every person it touches. Merry Christmas! —Lindsey Talerico-Hedren, managing editor, World Vision Blog

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This is my most favorite gift that we are giving this year.

Even more than the tablets we are giving the kids, but that might just be because I'm frustrated with trying to set them up and figure out why they won't connect to our wifi. Seriously, Apple has spoiled me because all of their stuff just works and works easily, but with a 10- and 12-year-old, there was no way that we were going to buy them iPads because they are 10 and 12, which means their gifts have to be indestructible or at least not cause their father to cry if they break them.

...And on that point, can I just say I miss the days when you got the kids presents that you spent four hours putting together instead of electronic gifts that require massive hours and Google to set up?

Happy birthday, Jesus | Blog 12 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

I love to give gifts.

Love. LOve. LOVe. LOVE to give gifts.

It started as a little girl when I would go shopping at the Dollar Store for my family for Christmas.

Then, when I got my first job, I began shopping year-round, seeking the best deals and the perfect gifts for everyone on my list.

15 years later, I still shop year-round. I usually finish shopping in early November and want to start wrapping right away.

I am THAT excited to give the gifts I have purchased.

Sharing joy...a little bit more | Blog 11 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

My favorite part of the classic holiday storybook "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" is near the very end when the Grinch is baffled by the Who's singing after he has stolen their presents and roast beast.

And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!"

Every year at Christmas I wrestle with a more mentality. As a naturally selfish human being I always want more.

'If he survives' -- memories from Papua New Guinea

Tune in to your local ABC station on the evening of December 16 for a special edition of “20/20” with Diane Sawyer and ABC's Million Moms campaign as they examine modern-day health issues for children and mothers. For more from the ABC Million Moms Challenge, "like" their page on Facebook.

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As a photojournalist with World Vision through much of the 1980s and 1990s, I long ago lost count of the number of rural health clinics I have visited. The vacant looks on the faces of the mothers, too tired and stressed to focus; the babies in their arms, some crying softly, some shrieking in fear and discomfort; others -- too many -- lethargic and still, seemingly lifeless dolls on their parent’s laps or on filthy blankets on the floor of a decaying health facility.

It was hard to look into those tiny faces, some of which I knew wouldn’t survive much longer unless they received urgent medical care, which usually wasn’t available at the time.

Extravagant gifts | Blog 10 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

I’m always a little bit hesitant to talk love languages, because I have the most selfish-sounding of them all. Because my primary love language is gifts. Which basically boils down to, “If you want to show me that you love me, give me stuff.” It’s kind of embarrassing.

Of course, it means that Christmas has a special place in my heart. Sure, there’s the peppermint mocha coffee goo that I put in my morning joe, the plates of Christmas cookies that are passed around at family gatherings, the unending stream of Christmas music in my car, the rehearsals for church services. These are all wonderful parts of the Christmas experience, and I look forward to them every year.

Combining our efforts to protect victims of human trafficking

It goes without saying that this year has been one of the craziest in the history of Congress. Despite all the ups and downs and swings of momentum in moving the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act forward, one thing has remained constant: our advocates’ dedication to stand up and make their voices heard.

It’s safe to say that neither the House nor the Senate versions of this legislation would be where they are without those voices.

Occupy Advent | Blog 9 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and the holiday season gift-buying is in full swing. Black Friday specials have the shoppers out in droves. Downtown Portland is a sea of moving people with packages, shopping lists, and agendas. Me, I’m armed with my Nikon camera, hoping to capture some artistic street photos.

I stand on a street corner for a half hour or so, just getting a feel for the people walking from store to store. I notice that some of the downtown citizens remain outside the retail giants’ doors. There is an older gentleman attempting to hand out copies of his religion’s periodical. There are street performers and musicians demonstrating their talents in hopes that the holiday revelers would donate a bill or two in the spirit of the season. The young man standing next to me has a stack of pirated CD’s and is trying to get a passerby to listen to his iPod long enough to decide to buy a track or two.

Then, there are the homeless. Like in every city, they have cardboard signs about their most immediate needs. When I spotted Cecil, I immediately liked his face. I semi-hid behind one of the large pillars in front of a department store so I could raise my camera without drawing too much attention. It didn’t work. Cecil looked directly at me as I released the shutter.

Jesus, the comic-book superhero

How often do you get the chance to read comic books at work? What about one that is centered around Jesus and the Christmas story -- or one that benefits the work of an international humanitarian organization?

Not often? Or never? That's why we've asked Billy Tucci, a new World Vision partner, writer, and award-winning comic book illustrator, to guest-post for us on his newest comic book, A Child is Born.

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“Dad, why do you want to do the birth of Jesus instead of a superhero book?”

My eldest son wasn’t the first person to ask why, in a genre dominated by capes and cowls, would anyone do a comic book on the Christmas story?

Less of more and more of Jesus | Blog 8 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

Back before the days of flip cameras and high-definition video cameras, my parents recorded some of our early Christmases on tape. Well, I don’t even know what they used to record it, but they made a cassette tape for me with the recorded memories. Yes. I am old.

Anyway, on one particular Christmas, my parents had gotten 2-year-old me what they assumed would be the hit of the year -- my very own play kitchen. The tape documents me coming down the stairs Christmas morning and discovering all the gifts Santa had left behind.

The real Christmas story | Blog 7 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

I grew up in a Christian family, where I understood the true meaning of Christmas from a very young age. I heard the Christmas story so many times, I became almost numb to it. The Wisemen, shepherds, angels, and stable animals were all supporting actors in a play that I had seen too many times, and, at times, felt I couldn't sit through again. After all, there were presents waiting to be unwrapped and hot cocoa waiting to be sipped.

I am thankful my parents didn't indulge my childish impatience, and that they consistently took time to explore the spirit behind Christmas with my siblings and me. It's more than just a season that happens every year and brings sweets and gifts. The first Christmas was an earth-altering, destiny-changing day. Those there to witness it must have been in awe of what was happening.

This year, my family is looking more closely at the Nativity story (found in Luke 2 and Matthew 2). We want to explore what it must have been like to be the various people inside that story. What did each of them think and feel? Did they know that they were witnessing the most important historical event that would ever take place?