The success of the world’s greatest to-do list

Every morning, I begin my day by writing a to-do list in my diary. I can’t remember when I started this habit, but I’m certain my productivity has increased exponentially as a result.

I write down irksome duties that nevertheless must get done; I break down complex tasks into several simpler ones -- and, whoa, what looked like an impossible mountain to climb suddenly appears as a series of manageable mole hills. Every time I complete a task, I put a check next to that item on the list.

I’d be lying if I said I manage to get everything done every day. If I did, I’d probably be running for president by now. All the same, at the end of the day, I have a record of achievements, plus an itemized account of what needs more work -- something that will inform the to-do list for the following day.

Perhaps the greatest to-do list of all time is the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that all United Nations member states agreed to work toward in September 2000. The object of this to-do list is nothing less than the radical reduction of the most extreme forms of poverty by 2015.

I've met the face of AIDS

My name is Ange, and this is my story.

The first time I stepped into Africa was in 2004. It was in Kitale, Kenya, on a mission trip. I met a young boy named Andrew. He captured my heart and my soul, and I still think about him often.

The first time I “Stepped into Africa” was in 2007. It was at my church in Southern California. I met a boy named Kombo. He captured my heart and my soul, and I think about him often.

I know both of these kids’ stories. I've seen where they live. I've seen their families. I've learned their stories. And I feel a strong connection and compassion for both of them.

But what's the difference between these two children? Andrew has seen my face. Kombo has not.

Being a humanitarian -- from the desk or the field

Editor's note: In an effort to raise public awareness of humanitarian assistance worldwide and the people who risk their lives to provide it, the UN General Assembly has designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day. This year's theme is "People helping people," celebrating everyday humanitarians helping people around the world. From wherever you are today -- at home, at a desk, or in the field -- be inspired by the spirit of aid work in those around you and in yourself.

In my new job at World Vision, I was recently sent to assist our response to the drought, food crisis, and famine across the Horn of Africa. I had spent several weeks learning the systems of World Vision from my desk in Washington, D.C., and was anxious to get back out to the field, where a real disaster was unfolding.

Before World Vision, I had spent more than four years overseas, working in relief settings. I love this line of work for its fast-moving nature and its tie to the headlines of what we see in the news. This is a chance to do something that matters.

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:

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!!??!)

Why I run...

Maybe running's not your thing. So marathons wouldn't really be your thing. Five kilometers or 42.195 kilometers -- definitely not your thing.

Maybe your thing is music, or sporting events, or enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest. Now that sounds a lot more like the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

That's because this marathon isn't really your average running venture. Local bands play live music, and cheer squads line the roads every mile. Lake Washington neighbors come out of their homes to join the "crowd" en route from Tukwila, Washington, to downtown Seattle. It's a "running [and I would add, outdoor entertainment] nirvana," as the marathon Facebook page says.

World Refugee Day: Highlighting a global crisis

Earlier this month, Collins Kaumba, a World Vision communicator in Zambia, shared his experience visiting a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan. His words were jarring: "Indelible memories of the suffering I saw in Darfur have followed me since the day I left Sudan...I have seen suffering and poverty in Zambia and other places in Africa -- but not of the magnitude I saw when I visited Darfur’s camps..."

A reader in Israel commented on the post and made note of the thousands of Sudanese refugees there who are watching the situation in their homeland as the South prepares for its independence in just a few weeks.

Years of conflict in this African country have caused millions to flee for their safety -- not just to other places within Sudan, but internationally as well. This is one global hotspot recognized as an origin of refugees. But the problem is much larger.

What would you do...if you knew?

One of the greatest blessings I've ever experienced was the opportunity to travel to Southern Africa with my daughter, Amanda, who was 20 at the time. I had worked with World Vision for almost 15 years in various capacities, mostly related to web and social media communications, and had traveled abroad several times. But this would be my first opportunity to meet our sponsored child, Gracia, in person.

The day Amanda and I spent with Gracia -- who lives in the southern part of the Congo and was 8 at the time -- is forever burned into our memories. Gracia is sweet, funny, and very smart. She lives in the poorest of circumstances, but has great potential to break the cycle of poverty, thanks to the way the Lord is working in her life through World Vision and others.

I'll never forget how Amanda burst into tears at the end of a day in which she and Gracia basically became big sister/little sister.

All in a day's work for caregiver volunteers

Editor's note: This month is the five-year anniversary of the World Vision U.S. Caregiver Kits program -- an initiative that equips volunteers with kits containing simple items that assist in caring for those affected by HIV and AIDS.

To honor the outstanding difference this program has made in the lives of caregivers and their clients, we asked Miyon to describe how World Vision volunteer caregivers are an asset to their communities.

[caption id="attachment_4239" align="alignright" width="267" caption="Miyon visits an orphaned child and her caregiver. © World Vision/Miyon Kautz"][/caption]

The thing I love most about Zambia is the people. Sure, the landscape is beautiful -- big open land dotted with crops and thatched roof huts, blue skies with fluffy clouds. The wildlife is fantastic -- lions, giraffes, leopards, hippos. But it’s the spirit of the people who call this poverty-ridden country home that has truly captured my heart.

This spirit is especially evident in the volunteer community caregivers whom I have the privilege of working with every day as part of a World Vision program. These men and women are living out Christ’s command to love their neighbor in very tangible ways. And they do it willingly and with joy.

They visit those who are HIV-positive and those dying of AIDS, using Caregiver Kits to clean sores. They care for orphaned children by providing parental counseling. They gather firewood and water, and they clean homes. They support grandmothers -- praying with them, helping with house chores and being a listening ear to women who are struggling to care for their grandchildren.

Modern times, ancient stories

Editor's note: Abby Stalsbroten will be in Kenya with World Vision March 25-April 8.

John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. Right now I’m reading his classic, The Grapes of Wrath, about the migration of farmers in the 1930s from the Midwest to California and the downward spiral of poverty they endured along the way. A central theme of the novel is hunger. It focuses around one family and their search for work and food in increasingly desperate conditions.

[caption id="attachment_3133" align="alignright" width="210"] In the Horn of Africa, this family has had to survive on only one meal a day. (Lucy Murunga/WV/2011)[/caption]

He writes, “How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him — he has known a fear beyond every other.”

Over and over again as I read this book, I want to feel safe in the assumption that this happened in the wake of the Great Depression and be glad that all that is behind us now -- that the “fear beyond every other” is a distant and conquered one.

Made possible by water

It’s been a tough two weeks for the World Vision family. Our 40,000 staff work in nearly 100 countries, so when there is a devastating event in Japan, with its 75 World Vision staff members, it affects our entire family.

The stress level around here has been so high that today I decided....

A time to dance: Children experience love of God and their neighbors

A few weeks ago I was standing in the rural village of Drobonso, Ghana. It was Sunday morning and I was there as part of a World Vision team reporting on the delivery of new bibles for children – one of the many transformational gifts that World Vision provides to children and adults hungry for God's word, or to support youth Bible clubs in African...