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Handwashing: The greatest medical invention of all time

Today, believe it or not, is Global Handwashing Day.

I appreciate there are a ton of these kinds of days, and it’s sometimes tough to get excited about them all. So far this month we’ve had World Habitat Day, International Day of Older Persons, International Day of Non-Violence, World Teachers Day, World Post Day, World Mental Health Day, International Day of the Girl Child, World Sight Day, International Day for Disaster Reduction, and International Day of Rural Women.

Phew! What a list -- and we're only halfway through the month. One would have to be a saint to get passionate about them all.

On the other hand, commemorative days can focus attention on what might easily be a vital yet neglected topic. Handwashing happens to be one such issue.

Q&A with an [almost] child bride

Shapla in Bangladesh was devastated when her parents arranged a marriage that would force her to drop out of school.

But thanks to World Vision, when Shapla told her friends about her situation, they knew what to do. Shapla's friends had completed a life-skills education course, and they were able to contact community leaders, who advocated for Shapla.

Read on to learn how Shapla escaped what she calls the "cave of death" -- and how her story represents World Vision's efforts to create futures of dignity and hope for girls and women.

A girl's journey from brick factory worker to outstanding student

Today has been declared by the United Nations as the International day of the Girl. To commemorate this day, we're asking you to advocate on behalf of girls like Keota in Cambodia.

A brick factory is no place for an 11-year-old girl. But each day, Keota would spend hours stacking heavy bricks in a dusty, dangerous workplace to supplement her parents' meager income.

Now, thanks to World Vision, Keota is back in school, earning good grades and helping her little sisters with their studies.

New wheels get Gracious back to the classroom

Thursday is the first-ever International Day of the Girl. To commemorate this event, we're spending several days highlighting issues faced by girls who live in poverty around the world, such as early marriage and vicious exploitation. We're also talking about how access to an education can equip girls to live full lives and reach their God-given potential.

The story of Gracious illustrates just that. This 14-year-old girl has a passion for learning that has stopped at nothing -- even when her life was turned upside-down by an unforeseen tragedy.

When girls pay a terrible price for living in poverty

The United Nations has declared October 11 as International Day of the Girl. As illustrated by the tragic story of Mao* in Cambodia, extreme poverty often prevents girls from getting an education and leaves them vulnerable to the worst kinds of exploitation.

World Vision works globally to help change this reality -- and to empower girls and women to reach their full, God-given potential.

The 2012 True Spirit of Christmas is coming!

Last year, hosts Kirsten Stearns and Alex Boylan traveled to Sri Lanka and Zambia with World Vision's True Spirit of Christmas team to show you how lives were being changed by items donated through the World Vision Gift Catalog.

This year, a brand-new adventure awaits. Where will the 2012 True Spirit of Christmas tour take us? Who will be our celebrity hosts? Stay tuned to find out!

Educate a girl, change the world

“What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well.”

—Hillary Rodham Clinton, September 1995, remarks for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women

Securing the future of Turkana

Having witnessed ghastly scenes of malnourished and hungry children and mothers in Turkana, Kenya, in 2011, I returned a year later and witnessed a total transformation.

World Vision is busy working on recovery and resilience-building programs that are rapidly changing the picture of this region of East Africa.

[Sri Lanka Bloggers] What you're not supposed to say after visiting the Third World

Laura Tremaine, who traveled to Sri Lanka with World Vision in late August, reflects on her visit there -- and how it differed from her expectations.

This post originally appeared on Laura's blog, Hollywood Housewife.

Lopez Lomong: Still running

U.S. Olympic long-distance runner Lopez Lomong trotted down the aisle at Grace Community Church in Auburn, Washington, high-fiving cheering World Vision employees as the Olympic theme blared over the speakers.

He bounded up the stage toward moderator Steve Haas, who was interviewing him for World Vision’s annual Day of Prayer.

The fight to end child trafficking continues

One year ago, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act -- the centerpiece of U.S. policies against modern-day slavery around the world -- expired because Congress failed to reauthorize it in time. Since then, concerned citizens and groups who work to protect children have advocated for the reauthorization bill to be passed.

Below is our latest update from Jesse Eaves, World Vision's child protection policy adviser.

Why did I pray?

World Vision's Kari Costanza traveled to Rwanda, where she met Solange, whose life was turned upside-down in a short period of time.

Fighting caused Solange and her family flee their home in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After arriving in Kiegeme refugee camp, Solange lost her 3-year-old daughter, Rebecca.

Kari met Solange in a hospital, where she was staying with her baby, Esther. Kari shares her thoughts on meeting Solange and Esther -- and the tragic news she received after returning to the United States.

PHOTOS: Witness to history

September 22 marks World Vision’s 62nd anniversary of serving children, families, and communities in need.

World Vision photographs document the most tragic crises of the past six decades. Today, many of these places have seen healing and recovery, thanks to the work of nongovernmental organizations.

[Sri Lanka Bloggers] When your mother immolates herself

Tony Jones traveled to Sri Lanka with the World Vision blogger team, where he met Simras, an 8-year-old sponsored child.

After the boy's family was torn apart by tragedy, his aunt Sapika and uncle Mohamed took him in as their own. Tony was able to hear some of their story -- and the hopes that Sapika and Mohamed have for Simras.

This post originally appeared on Tony’s blog, Theoblogy.

Morning tea with Kate Middleton

This week, Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, visited World Vision's programs in the Solomon Islands as part of their Diamond Jubilee tour.

Koisau Sade, gender issues coordinator for World Vision in the Solomon Islands, had tea with the Duchess and shared about how World Vision is working to put a stop to domestic abuse there.

Sharing my story with the royal couple

Today, Ellison was given the opportunity of a lifetime -- to share with the royal couple how his life has been changed through World Vision's work in the Solomon Islands. Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, are paying a visit to our programs there as part of their Diamond Jubilee tour to celebrate the Queen's 60 years on the throne.

Read on to hear Ellison's story in his own words.

[Sri Lanka Bloggers] Meeting my O!

September is "Connect With Your Sponsored Child" month. Allison Olfelt was given a unique opportunity to do just that when she traveled to Sri Lanka last month with the World Vision blogger team.

Read on to learn about Allison's experience meeting Odish and his mother -- and learn how you can visit your sponsored child.

This post originally appeared on Allison's blog, O My Family.

A visit from the royal couple

This week, World Vision will receive a visit from the royal couple, Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. The king-to-be and his wife will be learning about World Vision's work in the Solomon Islands, which is part of the South Asia and Pacific region, where a billion people live on less than $2 per day.