Tag Archives: U.S. Programs

You're gonna graduate in whatever you do

World Vision Photographer Abby Stalsbroten learned what it takes to change a life at the Children's Defense Fund Conference last week.  At the conference she met Anthony, a participant in World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program.  As a teenager, Anthony was headed down a destructive path. His father was in prison, and he joined a gang in middle school.  Now at 23, Anthony is an inspirational speaker, and an example to young men in his community. Read on to learn what altered Anthony's path.

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World Vision’s teacher resource center: like Christmas for teachers

I love it when I get to visit any of World Vision’s teacher resource centers in cities across the United States. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of that sense of excitement I felt when I started a new school year, with my brand-new book bag filled with untouched notebooks and unsharpened pencils.

Building backpacks: A tangible demonstration of God's love

One of the great joys in my job is getting to meet many of World Vision's great church partners. I met one of these church heroes at a Renton, Washington, church. His name is Alex.

He told his congregation that God had planted them right in the midst of people whom they wouldn’t reach if they didn’t get out of the church pews.

So, Alex walked across the street and introduced himself to members of the staff at Northwood Middle School. This began a partnership with the school in which people from the church mentor students, and the church also hosts a year-end celebration of the teachers.

You can help families in Alabama get back on their feet

Last year, a series of destructive tornadoes ripped through the American South, devastating families and communities. This year, World Vision is organizing a series of mission trips to come alongside survivors as they continue to recover and rebuild. Laura Reinhardt reports on one mother in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who has already seen the compassion and generosity of others firsthand.

Hunger at home: Five surprising facts on child hunger in America

Recently, a woman approached me and asked if I could spare change for a meal. Without thinking, I said, "I'm sorry, I don't have any money."

My cheeks automatically flushed with embarrassment, and my heart sank. I had meant to say I didn't have cash to give her. It was completely obvious that a lack of money wasn't something I was dealing with.

It was my birthday. I had spent the day exploring downtown Seattle and shopping with my friends. We were just leaving a restaurant, shopping bags in hand, when the woman approached.

Walking back to our car, I was ashamed at the thoughtlessness of my comment. But the uncomfortable pit in my stomach wasn't just that. I was faced with this woman's needs. It hurt to see her lacking something she needed. I felt guilty for what I had. The sadness of the moment lingered with me.

The truth is, hunger is all around us -- even right here in the United States -- and it affects more people than we would like to believe. This woman made her need obvious to me. But hunger is often invisible. When we don't want to see it, hunger's power to harm people only grows.

One of the saddest realities of hunger is that the people most vulnerable to its harmful effects are children. Growing and developing without proper nutrition can impact a child for life. Many people believe that American children are immune to hunger because of school feeding programs.

But the reality is a much bleaker picture. Here are five facts on children facing hunger in America.

Mission teams: An answer to tornado survivors’ prayers and dreams

In April 2011, I arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to a scene of utter devastation after a series of tornadoes wreaked havoc across the state and the American Southeast.

It was hard to imagine what the city looked like before the storm swept through. But it was not hard to imagine what the people were like -- because their strength and caring were evident in how they responded.

I got the opportunity to meet Tracy and his wife, Tiffaney. Tracy was built like a football linebacker, while his wife was a petite woman with a big heart.

They talked about the day of the storm. Tiffaney had laughed when Tracy started running their three children through tornado safety exercises. She stopped laughing when they saw the huge tornado heading right toward them.

One year later: Rebuilding normal in Tuscaloosa and Joplin

Last year at this time, I came home to find an urgent message on the phone from my manager. “Can you be on a plane at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning?”

I could, and I was -- heading to Joplin, Missouri, after a catastrophic tornado ripped through the town in the late afternoon of May 22, 2011.

During my first day on the ground there, a Joplin resident asked me whether I’d ever seen anything like it. Sadly, I had to answer yes. It was the second time in just over a month that I’d covered the aftermath of a deadly tornado.

When half a camel is enough

Today's guest contributor, bestselling author Debbie Macomber, shares her story of teaching her grandchildren a powerful lesson on charity and compassion. Her publisher, Random House, made a generous donation to support World Vision's work to improve education here in the United States.

PHOTOS: Tornadoes slam Dallas-Fort Worth area

On April 3, a series of destructive tornadoes touched down in Dallas and Tarrant counties in Texas, causing destruction to neighborhoods and leaving many families in need. Check out these photos of the aftermath -- and how World Vision is responding from our domestic disaster response hub in North Texas, which is strategically located to deploy quickly into disaster areas across the country. (Photos by Mindy Mizell.)

Restoring houses and hearts in Nashville and nationwide

Last July, Heidi Isaza covered this heartwarming story of Lisa McEleny, who traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to volunteer with World Vision's recovery efforts in the wake of destructive flooding that hit the city in 2010. During her week there, Lisa discovered that God had a much bigger purpose in mind for her than just rebuilding a damaged house.

This year, World Vision is organizing mission trips all across the United States. Check out the dates and locations -- you could be a part of something meaningful and life-changing.

Making Valentine's Day more than romance

Valentine’s Day is all about love and the heart. Normally, it’s focused on romantic love, but I’d like to extend that love to include compassion for our neighbors -- people in need in the United States.

While the recent economic news looks slightly more positive, there are still more than 12 million Americans without work or steady income. They’re forced to make tough choices, such as whether to pay the rent or feed their children. They’re running hard on a treadmill, but never making progress toward lasting improvement.

One of those Americans is a woman I recently met from New York City named Veronica Melendez.

The state of America's children

Have you ever asked yourself, “What am I doing to make my community, my country, and my world a better place?”

Perhaps you asked yourself something similar in your new year resolutions; or perhaps you ask it when you look at your own children. As a mother of three, I find myself doing this.

As I reflect on the words of President Obama's State of the Union address from last night, this is the question I hope we are all asking -- and doing something about it.

Remembering families in the U.S. this New Year

Every year about this time, I list goals for the upcoming year -- new year resolutions, if you will. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but I love that feeling of starting fresh.

Then, I think about some of the families I’ve met in my work as a World Vision communicator in the United States, and I realize that they don’t have time to think about these kinds of goals.

For many U.S. families living in poverty, it's a struggle just to provide food and shelter for their loved ones.

One such family is the Cutrights from West Virginia.

Rooftops, full bellies, and prayers (blessings 4-6)

We’re counting our blessings each day this week in celebration of Thanksgiving. Blessings #4, 5, and 6: for rooftops over our heads, food in our bellies, and prayers for provision for those who currently endure without these basics.

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The holiday season has officially begun. Weeks before Thanksgiving, Christmas ads appeared on TV and in newspapers. Last week, I was in New York City, where the window displays and Christmas lights are an art form, which delights native New Yorkers and the thousands of tourists who flock there to experience this special time of year. I confess that I feel like a kid again -- filled with wonder and awe -- when I get to visit New York at this time of year.

Sometimes the quieter holiday -- Thanksgiving -- gets lost in the Christmas excitement. But still, this week, people across the United States will come together with friends and family to eat their delicious Thanksgiving dinners.

At the end of the meal, we’ll say how we ate too much and will have to ramp up our workouts to get rid of those extra calories.

But that’s not the case for everyone in the United States.

Report: U.S. poverty rate at highest level since 1993

For some time now, the struggling U.S. economy has dominated headlines and shaped conversation among Americans. New data released Tuesday in a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States (pdf)," paints an even starker picture of the challenges our nation faces:

  • The U.S. poverty rate rose to 15.1 percent in 2010 -- up from 14.3 percent in 2009, and to its highest level since 1993.
  • About 46.2 million people are now considered in poverty -- 2.6 million more than last year. That's nearly 1 in 6 people.
  • More Americans were living in poverty in 2010 than at any time since at least the 1950s.
  • The situation has hit black populations the hardest, with their poverty rate rising from 25.8 percent to 27.4 percent.
  • Meanwhile, child poverty rose from 20.7 percent to 22 percent.

Still in the blessing business

When I first laid eyes on Holt -- a community just outside of Tuscaloosa, Ala. -- just a few days after the April 27 tornado struck, what had once been a vibrant neighborhood now looked like a huge open field. It was a field filled with splintered wood, crumpled metal, broken glass, and shattered dreams.

Families sorted through the ruins looking for anything they could salvage.

What makes an advocate?

What does it mean to be an advocate?

Dictionary.com defines advocate as "a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc." For me, that definition feels impersonal. The 120 young people in Washington, D.C., this week for World Vision’s Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) summit bring personalization and breathe life into advocacy.

Friday was Capitol Hill day for the fifth annual YEP Summit. Teenagers came from urban centers or rural hamlets across the United States. Many live in poverty or in areas plagued by violence and drug or alcohol abuse. Despite their troubles, they refuse to give up. They refuse to be beaten down. They stand up for their communities. They advocate.

Your role in changing our world

Imagine for a moment that you woke up tomorrow and discovered you were on a different planet in a different part of the universe without any idea of how you got there. Imagine what you would feel and the questions that would rush into your mind.

Well, I have news for you – that exact thing has happened to every one of us. Sometime in the past 100 years, we were all born on the third planet from the sun in a solar system within the Milky Way galaxy, in a universe that is incomprehensibly vast. We had no idea how we got here, all we know is that we were born into the middle of a story that started long before we arrived and will continue long after we are gone.

It’s our own mystery story -- one that began millions of years ago and one that will continue into the future.

"We’re all still alive"

Editor's note: Last night, I received the following email from Laura Reinhardt, who is in Alabama:

The man sitting next me on the plane looked out the window as we approached Birmingham, Alabama. He pointed out the path of destruction left by the April 27 tornadoes.

“That’s the spookiest thing I ever saw,” he said. “It’s like someone took a giant vacuum cleaner to the earth.”

[caption id="attachment_4477" align="aligncenter" width="456" caption="An aerial view of Tuscaloosa showing just how wide-spread the tornado damage is. © 2011 Laura Reinhardt/WV"][/caption]

Seeing it from the air and being kind of awed by nature’s power is one thing, but getting on the ground and seeing tin roofs curled up like ribbon, walls ripped away to reveal the inside of someone’s life, and then meeting people like 10-year-old Morgan Adams makes it all much more personal.

Morgan came to the house while I was interviewing his neighbor Connie McDonald. He told me about neighbors down the street who were worse off than they were. He’d been helping them to clean up the debris.

[caption id="attachment_4474" align="aligncenter" width="456" caption="A fallen tree on the family's old Volkswagon Beetle, the car Morgan hoped to have one day. © 2011 Laura Reinhardt/WV"][/caption]

We walked outside to look at the tree the tornado had knocked over through the roof of his family’s kitchen. He said to me: “You coming down here doesn’t bother me, but people who just drive by and almost get in a wreck staring at us, that bothers me."

When disaster strikes home

Editor's note: World Vision's Nathan Looney reports from his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, that while neighborhoods in his immediate area were spared, towns just 30 minutes north and south have been completely devastated. Nathan, who happened to be visiting his family for the Easter holiday, will connect with our incoming assessment team tomorrow as they jumpstart World Vision's response.

I’ve seen countless pictures of destruction and hundreds of video clips of unimaginable devastation. In my few years at World Vision, I’ve sat in meetings sifting through images and articles, looking for the ones that best tell the story.

At times, those pictures and stories ended up just being a tool to me, a means to educate our donors, a device to appeal for donations. Their utility masked the unique personal story that existed beyond the letters, pixels, and paragraphs.

[caption id="attachment_4416" align="alignright" width="238" caption="Residents inspect the aftermath of overnight tornadoes that left this suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, in ruins April 28, 2011. Photo: REUTERS/Marvin Gentry"][/caption]

Two days ago, my perspective changed. That’s what happens when the “before” in a stack of before-and-after photos isn’t just an image, but a place you’ve been, a place frequented by the people you love.

I had traveled home to Alabama to visit my family for Easter. On Wednesday morning, the sound of tornado sirens woke me. For the remainder of the day, the television stations pre-empted their regular programming to talk about the storm, and the even deadlier storms that could be coming that night.

It’s common in the South for the broadcast outlets to cut into programming during severe weather outbreaks, but this was the first time I had ever seen them interrupt their schedule to warn of an upcoming outbreak. The tone of the meteorologist was ominous, almost pleading.

As evening approached, so did the storms -- tornado after tornado, many of them caught by news tower cameras and traffic cameras. They were like cyclones you see barreling across a Kansas plain in a movie, except these were placed against the backdrop of a city skyline -- my city’s skyline.