Causes

Dirty water for now -- but clean water is in the works

Water: It’s such a simple thing, but if you don’t have enough, it takes over your life.

That’s what 13-year-old Zinhle Dlamini told me. Getting water for her family in rural Swaziland is a two-hour-per-day chore. And the dirty water they get is not nearly enough for all the drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing for a household of 10 people.

Q&A with our clean water expert in Uganda

Leading up to World Water Day on March 22, we're going to do a series of posts about our work in the area of water and sanitation, giving you some ideas of how to get involved.

Back in November, I got to see some of our clean water programs in northern Uganda, a place that is still scarred by decades of brutal civil war with Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). I never knew how complex the solution to the problem of clean water could be -- but I got to learn from some experts and ask a lot of questions.

One of the most informative conversations I had was with John Steifel, World Vision's Uganda water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program coordinator. His explanations were so good, I thought I'd share them with you.

Churches join together to stop a deadly night predator

Jeff Farmer Sr., retired president of Open Bible Churches, shares a story of how the Lord challenged him with the reality of suffering caused by malaria, and how this sparked his passion to see the future changed. Read his story, and learn more about how you can be involved.

Change that happens when women come together

Dr. Leslie Parrott, author and family therapist, will speak at the 2012 Women of Vision national conference, March 4-6 in Washington, D.C. Here, she shares some of her personal experiences and why she believes in the collective power of women to create positive, lasting change in the world.

Top five Valentine’s Day gifts that give back

Need some last-minute Valentine’s Day gift ideas? Chocolate hearts are so cliché -- we can do better than that. Let’s show some love to the special people in our lives, and share God’s love with children and families in need around the world. That’s a win-win! Here are my top five ways to give -- and give back.

A new way to give from the heart this Valentine's Day

Last October, we introduced our readers to GIVEN, the new line of apparel inspired by World Vision whose sales help support our global work. Thirty percent of revenue from purchases of the clothing items and accessories is donated to support our programs that serve children, families, and communities around the world.

Today, Kevin Murray, CEO and founder of Jedidiah and Made For Good, writes another guest post in which he shares new opportunities through GIVEN for supporters to honor the women they love by helping women in need this Valentine's Day. We're excited to share this unique gift idea with you!

Whoever said fundraising had to be boring?

Here at World Vision, we deal with some heavy issues -- famine, AIDS, human trafficking, war, natural disasters, abject poverty -- the sort of topics that might easily have one reaching for anti-depressants.

But there are a lot of fun jobs, too. One of mine is writing about donors who have found wonderful ways to raise money to support World Vision and help cure some of the world’s greatest ills.

Here are some of my favorites of 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:

Getting to zero: A true commitment to fighting global AIDS

It's an odd thing to commemorate a day like World AIDS Day, during which time more than 1,000 babies will be born with HIV.

World Vision's 2011 World AIDS Day global theme is “Getting to Zero -- Zero New Infections; Zero Discrimination; and Zero AIDS-related Deaths.” It’s an ambitious goal. But we at World Vision see this as a hopeful rallying cry, motivating us to remain true to our commitment to fight the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

This year also marks 10 years since World Vision began its Hope Initiative, our groundbreaking effort to engage U.S. donors and churches around the tragic effects of the virus, especially in sub-Saharan Africa -- the area hit hardest. (This region, which has only 12 percent of the world's population, is home to 68 percent of all people living with HIV.) The Hope Initiative led World Vision to devise new child-focused programs that continue to help AIDS-affected communities deal with the loss of a generation of men and women in the prime of life.

Fortunately, the epidemic appears to have turned a corner. The 2011 report by UNAIDS (pdf) shows the number of newly infected children is down to 390,000 from its peak of 560,000 in 2002, and 22 African nations have seen their HIV incidence decline by more than 25 percent.

Travel notes from Kenya

World Vision's Rachael Boyer is in Kenya this week, visiting our water and sanitation projects in a part of Africa long affected by drought and lack of access to clean, safe water for families and communities. Today, she shares her experiences from her first day in the field. Look for more of Rachael's trip notes on the blog later this week.

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I flew with a group of World Vision U.S. staff members and donors from Uganda into Kenya via Eldoret. Then, we traveled to Marich Pass, located in Kenya's Rift Valley, to see a particularly successful clean water project.

Previously, poor access to clean water in the area contributed to early marriages and school dropouts among the female students. Women also spent a high percentage of their time fetching water, leaving little time for other tasks.

World population reaches 7 billion: 7 things you should know

For some time now, the UN has estimated that today, October 31, the world’s population is set to reach 7 billion. That's a big number, but what does this mean for all of us? How much do we really know about how the rest of the world lives? If you're asking yourself these questions, start here: 7 things you should know...

1. The highest rates of population growth are in less developed countries. Too many people are born in poverty and live out their days with little hope for better lives.

2. Good news! In developing regions, the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day dropped from 46 percent to 27 percent from 1990 to 2005. Even with the economic downturn, the world is on track to meet Millennium Development Goal #1 -- to halve extreme human poverty by 2015.

GIVEN: The new line of apparel inspired by World Vision

When I interviewed Kevin back in April, he spoke of Jedidiah's unique ability to connect fashion with social causes, his heart for the child trafficking issue, and how combined, these two things have fueled a partnership between Jedidiah and World Vision. At the tail end of our chat, he mentioned Jedidiah's newest venture -- creating a brand consortium that will leverage the Made For Good mission statement and embedded generosity model. Today, he guest blogs to let us know exactly what he's been up to the last six months.... -Lindsey, managing editor, WV Blog

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A lot has been happening since the last time I interviewed on this blog.

We recently wrapped up our spring/summer partnership with World Vision, where we raised money to build a trauma recovery center in Cambodia for children exploited by sex trafficking.

Anatomy of a 100-mile race

Fourteen hours before the start of yesterday's Chicago Marathon, four friends set off to run a total of 100 miles (74 miles to the start of the Chicago Marathon) in a bid to secure sponsors for 400 children. World Vision writer James Addis followed their progress on his own little adventure through part of the night and during the marathon itself — sometimes by taxi, sometimes by bicycle, and sometimes by train…

The assignment

What a mission! Our four runners will run 74 miles mostly along the Chicago lakefront all through the night, before reaching the Chicago Marathon starting line in time for the beginning of the official race.

The four runners are:

  • Paul Jansen Van Rensburg, 37, a pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois
  • Rusty Funk, 26, Team World Vision staffer, based in Chicago
  • Michael Chitwood, 36, National director of Team World Vision, based in Chicago
  • Hannah Covert, 24, a nurse from Arizona

They all have one thing in common: They have seen sponsorship at work in Africa and are passionate to see more children sponsored.

Saturday (October 8,2011): Let the 100 miles begin...

3:30 p.m. Team meeting in a tiny hotel room. The four runners plus several support staff. The mood is jovial. Steve Spear, a pastor at Willow Creek Church, prays for the team. He asks for protection, courage, and perseverance, should the runners feel like giving up, and also for the hundreds of children who will be sponsored and whose lives will be changed. Afterward, we wander down to the lakefront for the big send-off.

Train. Pray. Run. (6 questions with a 100-mile runner)

Superman can defy gravity. Captain America has superhuman speed and endurance. Spider-Man can scale walls. For practically every law of nature, there is a superhero who can break that natural law.

Michael Chitwood is one of those guys. Where no single person in their human physical condition should be able to do what he is about to do, Chitwood and three others are going to do just that. They're going to run 100 miles in 21 straight hours -- 74 miles through the night starting this afternoon, October 8, and then they will join 1,000 Team World Vision teammates for the final 26.2 miles of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

When Michael first told me he was running 100 miles, I, of course, didn't believe him. One hundred miles in and of itself sounds humanly impossible. And doing any sort of physical activity for 21 straight hours -- well, I don't think most of us could even sleep for that amount of time. So you can understand my fascination with understanding why this team is going to such great lengths (literally). I recently chatted with Michael to get the 411 on his longest race yet.

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Lindsey (L): Okay, I have to ask…are you crazy for running 100 miles?!!

Michael (M): You know, I've been getting asked that question a lot lately. Really, I've been asked that question a lot since I ran my first marathon in 2003. Some people thought I was crazy to run a marathon, because I had never run and was pretty overweight at the time -- 265 pounds. Then, when I did my first Ironman Triathlon, some of my friends thought I was crazy. Then, last year, I did my first ultramarathon, a 56-mile run in South Africa…my friends said I was crazy. But for the first time in eight years, and after running all of these events, I have to admit…this one, running 100 miles, it's maybe just a little crazy.

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: 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!!??!)

PUR genius

We've mentioned before our outstanding corporate partner, Procter and Gamble (P&G). And maybe you even heard about their big milestone a couple of months ago: providing their 3 billionth liter of clean drinking water to the developing world with PUR water packets in partnership with World Vision.

But what you might not have heard is the fascinating story of how P&G's PUR "clean water venture" got started.

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.