One of the programs we visited was World Vision's music school and the Sounds of Hope youth orchestra, a program that is truly bringing new life to these rural communities and helping to make children's dreams come true.
As today marks the two-year anniversary of the historic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, residents are making progress toward rebuilding their lives and communities. World Vision has helped almost 300,000 people in three of the worst-affected areas – Miyagi, Iwate, and Niigata prefectures.
You voted to have Kirsten milk Chooti the cow... and so today, she did! And it went a little something like this....
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“Our journey began…”
This is how the DD Karunaratne, the father, described the impact of Chooti the cow on his family. When they received the cow, their journey began.
For the first time, they did not worry about their future. They had money to focus on health and education, and they had nutritious milk for their children. As he and his wife, Irangani, spoke with me, it was almost like the cow brought with her an entirely new life for the family.
DD Karunaratne is frequently ill. Before World Vision assisted them, they could not afford visits to the doctor, and so Irangani had to work because her husband couldn’t. The work available in their region is intense day labor, for which women are not first chosen.
Not only was it hard for a woman to find a job, but it was hard work and long hours. Despite her work, money was scarce.
I want to introduce you to Lizeth. She latched onto my Flip camera at the Special Needs Center where she is a student.
[caption id="attachment_7055" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The confetti in my hair is a blessing from the mothers of the Special Needs Center. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision"][/caption]
Lizeth is just like my kids — figured out the camera’s buttons in about half a second. For the next half hour, she ran around recording everyone she could find, her bubbly laugh echoing around the center.
Ever wondered whether or not the child in the photo you received in your sponsorship welcome packet is really a real child? No need to be curious anymore, we've got proof!
Yesterday was one of the sweetest days I've ever experienced. Our first day in a World Vision area development program (ADP), we knew we would be exposed to so much of the work World Vision is doing there. And at the top of that list? Meeting sponsored children.
More posts from Elizabeth, Matthew, Deb, Nish, and I on "meeting our sponsored children" soon... And don't miss our vlog from Erika and Andrea at the bottom of this post!
[caption id="attachment_6948" align="aligncenter" width="375" caption="Elizabeth Esther meets her sponsored child Jhoel for the first time. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision""][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_6949" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Elizabeth with her sponsored children Jhoel and Adalid. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision""][/caption]
My morning started at 3:50 am, that's the time my first alarm went off. Three alarms later, I rushed to get up, panicking, thinking I was already late for my first flight. I quickly showered, finished throwing in last minute items into the suitcase, grabbed a bottle of water, then I was out the door.
By 6:30 am, I was through the long, dreaded security line, took my trek to the gate, and boarded my first of two flights for the day -- this one at Sea-Tac airport, the next in about four more hours at Dallas Fort Worth international airport.
Dallas welcomed me with 92 degree heat. I was certainly not in Seattle anymore. And Miami must have known I was coming, too, because it's still 90 degrees outside here, even at 7:45 in the evening. Now I'm just waiting for Ms. Elizabeth Esther and Ms. Nish Weiseth to arrive in the next hour or two. We lucky west coasters are staying the night here before everyone else arrives in the morning.
“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” The words from this 80s pop song by Whitney Houston have been looping through my mind for the past five days. I’ve spent the past week looking through the viewfinder of my camera and seeing the faces of teenagers staring back at me -- their eyes shining with hope and their mouths speaking words that will ignite change in their communities.
World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) concluded their fifth annual summit last Friday in Washington, D.C. As the summit's videographer, I witnessed teens from all over the country speak of their diverse struggles, unique cultural challenges, and the problems they face in bringing transformation to their neighborhoods. Over and over, as I shot their stories and experiences, I saw youth voices come together with a message so great that everyone is compelled to listen.
The number of people affected by devastating drought and hunger in East Africa, also known as the Horn of Africa, has catapulted from 7 million in March to nearly 13 million now. Vulnerable children and families are subject to extreme and potentially deadly malnutrition as livestock perish, vital crops are destroyed, and diseases increase.
Informed by these disturbing statistics -- as well as reports from our field offices, international media, partner agencies, and the World Vision international partnership emergency response team -- we've compiled the following information, which answers the who, what, when, where, and why of the drought and food crisis in East Africa. Expect more posts to come concerning this crisis.
WHO is affected?
An estimated 13 million people in East Africa -- 2.7 million of whom live in World Vision's areas of operation.
You can almost feel the excitement in Juba from half a world way here in our office in the United States. As I talk to our staff from South Sudan's capital city nearly every day, I hear it in their voice and the stories they tell me. The city is on edge, eager for tomorrow's independence ceremony, colorful banners hang in the streets and people wear t-shirts emblazoned with the new country's flag. As the world watches and waits, I'll be watching and waiting too, praying for a safe transition and peace for the children of South Sudan.
South Sudan will become the world's newest country tomorrow, July 9. As the South Sudanese prepare for their grand celebration, children are voicing their hopes for the future -- that problems of the past can be put behind them.
“I would like to see a good education system in South Sudan after the independence to enable me and other children on the streets to continue with education,” said James, a young boy who lives on the streets in Warrap.
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.
Two weeks before Christmas, I was sitting on a small wooden bench, filming an interview with a brother and sister. They had been left to take care of their family after their parents died. World Vision had sent staff members to their home to check on them regularly and to care for the family's needs.
After sharing their story, the sister looked at us and said, “If someone loses a parent, they are still human beings. We should help them with their needs.”
Our small team of three tried to hold back our tears as the brother and sister broke down in front of the camera.
Editor's note: June is National Hunger Awareness Month. This weekend, more than 8,000 students across the country will participate in World Vision's 30 Hour Famine. They'll experience hunger firsthand, while raising funds to care for children who face this stark reality every day -- going to bed hungry.
In the past half-decade, global food prices have reached historic highs. The grocery store -- and restaurants, when we can afford them -- account for greater portions of our paychecks. Eating in or eating out costs more now than it did even seven or eight years ago.
But where increasing food prices are merely a source of frustration for Americans, they can be devastating to people who live in poverty in other parts of the world.
In places like sub-Saharan Africa, where staple foods like grains account for nearly half of all calories consumed, rising food prices can cripple families and communities. The price of maize increased by 80 percent in just two years. Wheat prices shot up 70 percent, while the cost of rice increased by 25 percent.
Editor's note: Here are a few of the latest photos from World Vision communicator Laura Reinhardt, in the American Southeast following the deadly tornadoes on April 27 that left survivors across the region without homes.
[caption id="attachment_4884" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Six-year-old Isaiah Walker jumps from board to board. He can still be a child despite the trauma of the tornado, which destroyed his home. ©2011 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_4882" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Isaiah's mother, Veronica May, worries about the emotional effects of the tornado on all three of her children. "This is something that may be embedded in their heads for a long time, if not the rest of their lives." ©2011 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision"][/caption]
Editor's note: In lieu of World Malaria Day (Monday, April 25th), the following post was written for us by our friends at RELEVANT Magazine.
Recently, the RELEVANT staff became aware of a problem.
If you watch the news (who does that anymore?), or follow the news feed on Facebook or check in online with the media outlet of your choice, you know the world is in trouble. Our world’s issues have created issues that have created more issues that could lead one to believe the world, in its current state, is not right. How does one respond when the world seems to be on fire?
Apathy is our worldview
Some have chosen to bury their heads in the sand and pretend this “world on fire” doesn’t affect their everyday life. They’ve embraced apathy as a worldview—it informs the way they spend their time, money and conversation. Others have chosen to respond by passionately standing up for a cause they feel called to. But how do you go about choosing what evil to war against when there is so much evil in the world?
The problem that caught our attention was the very problem we thought had gone away. Several decades ago our U.S. government decided to wage a war against the threat of malaria. Along with relocating people away from river beds and dangerous bodies of water that hosted deadly mosquitoes, we launched an all-out chemical assault on malaria with DDT. We attacked the disease at its origin. Since the threat has now been all but eliminated in the U.S., most of us have seen malaria as that virus you might get on a mission trip that, at its worst, is similar to a common cold and a few trips to the bathroom.
Truth be told, malaria isn’t on our radar anymore because it’s no longer a deadly threat to our culture. We’ve moved on to “bigger” problems—economic development, child mortality, education, health care, ending poverty, fighting global AIDS, etc. But the fact is, if you care about any of these issues, you have to solve the problem of malaria first
The numbers don’t lie
Nearly 1 million people die every year due to diseases that were caused by malaria—85 percent of them are children under the age of 5. If you care about solving other issues in the world, you have to pay attention to the fact that 30 percent of all school absenteeism on the entire continent of Africa is the result of malaria. It slows the economic and educational development of countries around the world by perpetuating the cycle of poverty and becomes exponentially more deadly when accompanied by AIDS and malnutrition.
How have we lived on this planet without knowing? Ignorance is killing more people right now than all the great wars described in our history books.
Editor's note: Lorraine Pierce, widow of World Vision founder Dr. Bob Pierce, died on April 4, 2011, after a brief illness. Mrs. Pierce was 94. It was by the vision and calling of Lorraine's late husband that World Vision was founded in 1950. Today, Dr. and Mrs. Pierce's vision and dream to help those around the world lives on.
It is a time of mourning and also of celebration as the World Vision family honors the life of Lorraine Pierce, the spiritual 'birth mother' of World Vision, as many would say. I echo the words of our president, Rich Stearns, “The choruses in heaven must be especially sweet as this great saint is welcomed home.”
As I spent time this morning remembering the life of Lorraine Pierce, I recalled her gift to serve, her elegance, her wisdom and her godliness. These quotes, taken from interviews with Mrs. Pierce from 2000-2006, will forever remind me of her legacy of faithfulness.
On adjusting to a life of ministry with Bob Pierce:
“I never thought I would marry an evangelist. I don’t think that my husband expected to be an evangelist. We were going to have a church, and that seemed all right to me. But it didn’t turn out that way. When I realized that it was going to be evangelism, that we were going to have to be on the road, and it was a life that was absolutely opposed to what I expected for myself, then there had to be a change in me. It was not going to be in my husband. It had to be in me. And I knew it was worthwhile, and I knew it was necessary, but I was very, very fearful that I was in no way ready to do this job and this work along with him. So I knew well enough that it was necessary to die to self.”
On the early years of World Vision:
“God has given us through the years a daring that was there in the beginning. I think he gave to my husband a great portion of daring to trust God when there seemed to be no way, knowing that if he stepped out upon an empty void, he would certainly find a rock beneath his feet—and he did.”
It’s been a tough two weeks for the World Vision family. Our 40,000 staff work in nearly 100 countries, so when there is a devastating event in Japan, with its 75 World Vision staff members, it affects our entire family.
The stress level around here has been so high that today I decided....