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Here's to the first 100 -- and to the next

I'm the type of person who likes to celebrate everything -- not just birthdays and major holidays. Other causes for celebration may include a work achievement (like a promotion or completing a project), a randomly special day of the week, or monthly anniversaries of a first date or first time trying a new food.

You could say that I'm a believer that any reason to celebrate is a good reason to celebrate.

And I've got a good reason to celebrate today: This marks the 100th post on the World Vision Blog! That's 100 articles written by 44 different authors from all walks of life and faith -- from Washington state to Washington, D.C., to Zambia to Japan. Our posts have ranged from lighthearted to sobering, newsy to reflective, inspiring to thought-provoking.

News that matters: HIV and AIDS, South Sudan, and maternal health

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated our periodic series, “News that matters,” but I’m heading out on maternity leave here in a few weeks and wanted to post about news coverage on some of today's most relevant humanitarian issues.

In this post: HIV and AIDS, South Sudan, and child and maternal health. I hope the coverage below can offer some insight into these issues and provide some good food for thought.

Back in October!
Amy

HIV and AIDS

On June 5, 1981, doctors reported the first cases of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Over the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS have changed the way that many people -- both in the United States and around the world -- live their lives and speak out for the lives of others. Because this month marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of AIDS into our national health discussion, I wanted to include some of this month’s coverage about the disease -- and efforts to stop its spread.

Factbox: HIV/AIDS numbers from around the world
Reuters, 2 June 2011
An estimated 33.3 million people worldwide had the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS in 2009, according to the latest figures issued by UNAIDS. There were 26.2 million in 1999.

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.”

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.

News that matters

This is the first post in an ongoing, monthly series called “News that matters.” The purpose is to highlight coverage in news articles and blog posts about important, current issues that affect those living in poverty around the world.

You'll find that I've selected three issues I think are worth paying attention to, and some recent news coverage that addresses those issues. While these selections are based on my personal judgment calls, I’m hopeful that these stories inspire you to learn more, challenge you to think about your own views of the world, and encourage you to join the conversations going on this blog and among your own circle of friends.

I'm curious to know what you think about this post and these issues. Please share your comments, questions and ideas in the comments section. I’m eager to hear what you all think!

Foreign aid and the U.S. federal budget

There is much heated debate about how the U.S. government should prioritize its spending, given the increasing federal deficit.  World Vision has taken the position that the Federal government does have a role to play in funding poverty-reduction programs and that Congress should improve U.S. fiscal responsibility by cutting programs that don’t heavily affect the poor here or internationally. Agree? Disagree? What do YOU think and why?

Tai Anderson responds to comments on ONE’s budget petition
ONE.org (blog), Tai Anderson, 31 March 2011
“It’s not the government’s job to help the poor. It’s the Church’s.” There is a lot of truth in that statement, and it also comes as a terrible indictment to the Christian church. If we were doing our job as people of faith, there would be little need for our government to have to do anything. I agree. But, we’re not doing our job.... how many of our churches even take one sermon a year to focus on these issues? Again, just as my pastor challenged me about my family budget being a moral document, I would challenge American Evangelical churches the same way.

Why We’re Fasting
New York Times, Opinionator (blog), Mark Bittman, 29 March 2011
I stopped eating on Monday and joined around 4,000 other people in a fast to call attention to Congressional budget proposals that would make huge cuts in programs for the poor and hungry. By doing so, I surprised myself; after all, I eat for a living. But the decision was easy after I spoke last week with David Beckmann, a reverend who is this year’s World Food Prize laureate. Our conversation turned, as so many about food do these days, to the poor.

Doing aid right

As World Vision’s staff – and staff at other aid agencies will tell you – relief and development work is incredibly complex. World Vision is constantly working to improve the quality of the work we do. We’ve learned over decades of activity that there are ways to do aid and development well and there are ways to do it poorly. We’ve learned that when aid is done poorly, it can be very damaging for those who are most in need. The coverage below addresses some of the issues being discussed within the aid community about how to do humanitarian aid work better.

A Tragedy of the Commons in Selling Tragedy
Center for Global Development, Views from the Center (blog), Charles Kenny, 23 March 2011
If it is much easier to communicate tragedy than success, it clearly makes sense for each individual agency or NGO to get their message out by trumpeting catastrophe.  But there are real negatives to that approach. Rothmyer mentions that it skews policymaking towards disaster management, deters investment and is dispiriting to people in Africa working for change.

GIK financial standards

In our ongoing series on Gifts-in-kind (GIK), today’s post covers financial topics - what influence overhead calculations have on organizational decisions and what standards of accounting we comply with in valuing donated resources.

The influence of overhead rate calculations on organizational decisions

All donated resources, including GIK, cash contributions, and government grants impact overhead rates. World Vision’s primary reason for acquiring GIK is to meet programmatic needs. Our earlier post about how GIK is a resource aligned within a larger community development program illustrates this. However, as an organization, we must prepare organizational plans to meet all of our obligations and provide balance in our financial portfolio....

GIK and development programming

In our ongoing series on Gifts-in-kind (GIK), today’s post covers how GIK resource fits into the broader work of community development programming. Specifically we’ll look at:

* Uses of GIK, including as match for grants
* Standards for managing GIK
* Evaluations of projects with direct provision of goods

Uses of GIK

World Vision operates in nearly 100 countries with 1,600 development programs and 1,200 sector projects that integrate education, health, economic development, advocacy, microfinance, agriculture, and water and sanitation. Our programs go through intensive assessments and planning, beginning with a country macro-assessment and strategy and continuing with local area assessments, a comprehensive design document, baseline survey, and regular audits and evaluations. These steps follow World Vision’s design, monitoring, and evaluation (DME) methodology and tools, which are all available online.

Program assessments and designs lead to planning processes....

The financial costs and benefits of sending a shirt overseas

In our ongoing series on the topic of Gifts-in-Kind and how that resource fits into the broader work of community development, we recently posted responses to Response to GIK discussion and 100,000 reasons to love the Super Bowl. Continuing that conversation, today’s post covers the questions raised by a number of people, including Saundra Schimmelpfennig and William Easterly, on the financial costs and benefits of shipping shirts and the utility of those shirts to recipients. Specifically we are addressing the following topics:

* The cost of getting a shirt to a recipient
* The value of a similar shirt in the recipient’s local clothing market compared with the costs for shipping a donated shirt
* Whether the beneficiaries World Vision serves would rather receive the shirt or the cash equivalent to the cost of sending that shirt to them

Calculating the cost of getting a shirt to a recipient....

Basic overview of World Vision’s strategy and structure and our U.S. GIK operations

This post was written in response to Response to GIK discussion, and 100,000 reasons to love the Super Bowl

The intent of this post is to provide a basic overview of World Vision’s strategy and structure and our U.S. GIK operations. Over the following week we will address the following key issues:

* The financial costs and benefits of sending GIK overseas.
* The use of GIK in development programming.
* Evaluations of projects with direct provision of goods, including GIK.
* Standards for GIK implementation and accounting, including fair market value calculations
* The influence of overhead rate calculations on organizational decisions.
* The use of GIK as grant match.

World Vision’s strategy and structure

In 2006 World Vision went through a process of refining our strategy.....

Response to GIK discussion

This post was written in response to 100,000 reasons to love the Super Bowl

Dear Readers:

Well, after spending the past three days talking with World Vision staff in international programs, corporate engagement and gifts-in-kind operations, I can tell you that your criticisms and comments have sparked some good internal discussion within the organization.

I would like to provide some additional specifics.....