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Black Friday: Gifts that give back

Forever long shopping lines. Sleep starved customers arguing over the last item in stock. People losing their lives in pursuit of the perfect flat screen tv.

Black Friday is a day that seems to bring out the worst in people. The terrible irony is that our ruthless desire to acquire comes after a day spent giving thanks. We are grateful, and then shop survival of the fittest style (hunger games anyone?).

Make this year's Black Friday different- put some giving back into gift shopping. Instead of fighting crowds for Black Friday sales, check out this list of gifts ideas. You'll be able to find something for everyone on your list, while helping others.

Happy Thanksgiving from Rich Stearns

Dear Friends,

My hope for you this week is that you’ll experience the blessing of sitting at the Thanksgiving table with friends and family. I plan to enjoy Thanksgiving with my wife Reneé, several of my kids, and our grandson. One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is to go around the table and each share something that we are thankful for.

Aid worker's diary: A cry for Goma

Congolese walk to a refugee camp in Gisenye, Rwanda. (2012 Reuters/James Akena, courtesy the Thomson Reuters Foundation – AlertNet).

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Rebel forces overtook Goma, the largest city in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on November 20, forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee for safety.

Much of the country and its borders are now under the control of this rebel group, known as the M23 rebels,  and the situation remains tense.

World Vision evacuated its staff to Gisenyi, Rwanda. Aimee Manimani, a World Vision aid worker in the DRC, shares her thoughts and feelings on leaving the city of Goma.

Superstorm Sandy: A Thanksgiving for gratitude and remembrance

IMAGE: Carmen Rodriguez and her daughter, Zulma Torruella, 17, acquired relief supplies, including a Family Food Kit, at the Hunts Point Alliance for Children, World Vision's local partner. (Photo: Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

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Last month, World Vision's Laura Reinhardt reported on the devastation of Superstorm Sandy as it made landfall along highly populated areas of the U.S. East Coast, including New York City.

As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, Laura remembers the families she met during that heartrending time -- and gives thanks for the World Vision supporters whose generosity enabled the assistance we've been able to provide.

Small acts of greatness

Three DJs at K-LOVE, the nation’s largest Christian radio network, are moms who not only love their own kids, but are passionate about loving other children, too.

For Amanda, Amy, and Kelli, helping kids means helping moms -- and serving Jesus.

Get to know Kris Allen

Last Friday, we revealed that this year's True Spirit of Christmas tour would be hosted by American Idol winner Kris Allen.

As Kris and the World Vision team get ready for the journey to Kenya, we had a chance to ask Kris some questions. Read on to learn more about Kris -- and be sure to follow the tour, starting November 25, to hear stories of how the lives of children, families, and communities in need are being transformed by gifts donated through the World Vision Gift Catalog!

True Spirit of Christmas Tour

The True Spirit of Christmas tour is right around the corner. We are excited to announce this year's celebrity host-- American Idol Winner Kris Allen!

Kris will be traveling to Kenya with a team from World Vision to see how the gifts you give like goats, chickens, and ducks are changing lives for the better. You will get a first hand look into how these gifts bring help and hope to families in need.

Faster, higher, stronger

LEFT: Lopez Lomong shares with students at Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma, Washington. (Photo: Lindsey Minerva/World Vision)

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Steve Haas speaks on behalf of World Vision about the important issues that affect communities and churches, offering ways for his audiences to make a difference in the global arena.

This past summer, Steve had the unique opportunity to work closely with Olympic runner and World Vision partner Lopez Lomong. Today, Steve reflects on how his relationship with the Olympic athlete helped him to see God at work.

Survive to thrive

Each day, thousands of children are robbed of the chance to live a healthy, productive life -- all because of preventable, treatable diseases.

World Vision is partnering with national radio network K-LOVE -- which includes more than 400 contemporary Christian radio stations across the country -- to help children around the world Survive to 5.

A doll named Alma

Today's guest post comes from Alexis Dionne, a World Vision sponsor who shares what she does to let her sponsored children know they're loved and cared for during the holiday season.

If you're a World Vision sponsor as well, you can log in to My World Vision for ideas on how to connect with your sponsored child as the holidays approach.

A bicycle, and the change it brought

Pushpa is a shy 15-year-old sponsored girl in the tenth grade. In her small village in India, she's known for great achievements.

Looking back on the uncertainty she's experienced recently, Pushpa is glad to be back in school -- with a bicycle to take her there.

Sandy survivor: "At night, we are so cold"

As parts of the East Coast continue recovery efforts in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a nor'easter threatens to add to the misery of hard-hit areas.

World Vision's Laura Reinhardt shares the story of a family whose apartment flooded, leaving them to face bone-chilling nights without power or heat ever since.

The net effect of deadly malaria

Marita Adelino is not your average 10-year-old.

In a world where children typically want so much, she wants only two things -- a best friend and a mosquito net. Yearning for a friend is sketched across her face, a portrait of loneliness.

And the desire for a mosquito net? Marita is terrified of the tiny, sinister creatures that spread malaria, the disease that killed her best friend, Marta João, last year.

JD the DJ reaches out

World Vision is partnering with national radio network K-LOVE -- which includes more than 400 contemporary Christian radio stations -- to help children around the world Survive to 5.

Today, Andrea Peer profiles JD Chandler, a DJ at K-LOVE who will host a radiothon on November 20 to help find sponsors for children in need.

A place to learn and call home

It’s been nearly three years since the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and many people there are still living in squalid conditions in camps. Families who had the means to leave the camps have now gone, and those remaining are among Port-au-Prince’s most vulnerable.

Knowing that even one child living in an unsafe and unsanitary camp is too many, World Vision is working on a project to help families move out of camps and into more durable accommodations. With World Vision helping to shoulder the burden of housing, families are able to invest their resources into their children's educations -- and most importantly, their futures.

The world through the eyes of a child

Violence. Hunger. Lack of education. Abuse.

Children are the most vulnerable to the consequences of global poverty -- but often, they don't have a platform by which to voice how these issues affect them.

When children do speak out, they often aren't taken seriously. Sometimes, they're dismissed by the adults who are charged with caring for them.

To address this problem, World Vision created a child journalist summit in India to give children the opportunity to have their voices heard.