Tag Archives: visits to the field

A cup of coffee? Or water for a village?

In 2010, World Vision magazine published a story about Kathy Williams, a manager at Family Christian store in Killeen, Texas. Through a bottle of dirty water, she struck up conversations with customers -- conversations that resulted in hundreds of child sponsorships.

Because of Kathy's voice of change in her community, she was invited to visit World Vision projects in Swaziland with Austin, Texas area pastors and community leaders. After witnessing World Vision's work in Swaziland, she wrote the following reflection.


Photo stories from Swaziland

World Vision photographer Abby Stalsbroten traveled last week to Swaziland with a group of pastors from Austin, Texas, to look at the impact of sponsorship on children in rural communities. The country has a 24-percent HIV infection rate, but World Vision is working to feed and care for thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children across the country. Here are some of Abby's favorite pictures from the past week in the field.

Meeting Doctor

Some of my new year resolutions are personal -- like finishing grad school and running another half marathon. But my resolution to keep sponsoring children through the organization I love gives me an outward focus.

[caption id="attachment_11493" align="alignright" width="158" caption="My first photo of Doctor when I became his sponsor in 2004."]Meeting Doctor | World Vision Blog[/caption]

Nearly eight years ago, before I started working here, I sponsored a child through World Vision. It didn't matter whether the child was a boy or a girl, or from any particular country. I just wanted to help a child who needed a sponsor.

DAY 4: How to milk a cow [VIDEO]

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.

Wars, floods and the gift of chickens (2011 True Spirit of Christmas)

Yesterday, November 28, marked the start of World Vision's 2011 True Spirit of Christmas trip -- a three-week quest to discover the true meaning of the season and to witness just how Gift Catalog donations impact children and families around the world.  This post was written by Kirsten Stearns, host for this year's trip, on day 1 from the community of Horowpothana in Sri Lanka. Stay up to date with our team on the World Vision Facebook page and website.


Although my time in Sri Lanka has been brief so far, I have learned a lot and am excited to spend more time with the community in the coming days.

Our Sri Lanka trip is based in the community of Horowpothana in the northern part of the country. This community is just coming out of 30 years of war, which ended in 2009 but was followed by one of the worst floods in the area on record. Despite all of this hardship, World Vision staff are working to help local community members lift themselves out of this terrible poverty cycle, fueled by years of war and natural disaster.

As the World Vision director in Horowpothana said, “Now people are looking forward and thinking about the future [not just about safety].”

A different kind of Cyber Monday

I dread holiday shopping.

It’s difficult enough to figure out just the perfect gift for each and every loved one on your holiday list. But if you add in the hassle of navigating crowded shopping malls, long lines, and busy parking lots, I know I’m destined for an instant stress headache before I even walk through the store’s doors.

No wonder so many of us have resorted to ditching traditional brick-and-mortar shopping and have opted for virtual shopping. And it’s no wonder this Cyber Monday could exceed $1 billion for the second year in a row.

I’ll admit -- I’ve given and received my fair share of Christmas sweaters. There is a stack in my closet, and I have no clue who gave them to me. Although they keep me warm, is it too idealistic to think I can actually give a gift that’s just a bit more impactful, or even potentially life-changing?

Dr. Lisa Masterson of "The Doctors" works in Malawi with World Vision

Dr. Lisa Masterson, a host of the Emmy Award-winning TV series "The Doctors," traveled to Malawi earlier this year to work with World Vision at a local clinic. Here, she shares about her memorable experience assisting with the delivery of a baby, whose health was made possible through effective prenatal care and education.

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When I arrived, she was eight centimeters dilated. For this laboring mother, there was no cozy birthing bed, no epidural, no family member present to hold her hand. Sera, the clinic midwife, greeted me with a demure smile that I would later realize belied tremendous strength and skill.

In June, I had the privilege of serving in the Chiwamba Health Center in Malawi. The trip was the culmination of a year-long partnership with the UN Foundation and the television show I host, “The Doctors.”

For nearly a decade, I’ve made it my mission to improve child and maternal health in developing nations. I founded a charity, Maternal Fetal Care International, established clinics in Kenya and Eritrea, and worked in India. I tell you this because I want you to know that my experience with World Vision in Malawi was not new or unfamiliar, and yet it was profound.

Travel notes from Kenya

World Vision's Rachael Boyer is in Kenya this week, visiting our water and sanitation projects in a part of Africa long affected by drought and lack of access to clean, safe water for families and communities. Today, she shares her experiences from her first day in the field. Look for more of Rachael's trip notes on the blog later this week.

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I flew with a group of World Vision U.S. staff members and donors from Uganda into Kenya via Eldoret. Then, we traveled to Marich Pass, located in Kenya's Rift Valley, to see a particularly successful clean water project.

Previously, poor access to clean water in the area contributed to early marriages and school dropouts among the female students. Women also spent a high percentage of their time fetching water, leaving little time for other tasks.

Malaria in the Congo: The ever-present scourge (PHOTO BLOG)

Here in the United States, malaria is often merely thought of as an exotic, foreign disease that was eradicated from our nation in 1951.

But when asked to describe malaria in one word, a nurse at Karawa General Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had this to say:

"Killer."

The hospital administrator said that 80 percent of the local population carries the disease. My assignment last week was to document the needs of children in the region, because World Vision is considering working in the Karawa area.

Malaria dominated almost every situation I covered. Here is a glimpse of what it looks and feels like.

God used microenterprise to change my life

In July, Deana Calhoun, a World Vision Child Ambassador, visited her sponsored child in the Dominican Republic, where she saw World Vision Micro at work. She blogged about her experiences, which we're sharing below.

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Today, we journey to the Palmera area development program (ADP). It is located in northern Santo Domingo. In order to get to the ADP office, we drive through what is called “the Misery Belt.” It is an area along the river and outskirts of town, where the poorest of the poor live.

We leave the main office and walk a few blocks away to the technical school. There is an art and music building nearby, which we’ll hopefully visit later, but for now, we will see the place where they teach woodworking, upholstery, sewing, hairstyling, baking, and jewelry-making.

Confessions of a sponsorship skeptic

I confess that, until recently, the first thing that came to my mind when someone mentioned child sponsorship was Sally Struthers kneeling next to an emaciated African child, mascara running down her face, telling the TV that “if you can just save one life, won’t it be worth it?”

As passionate as I was about social justice and alleviating poverty, child sponsorship struck me as an old-fashioned model for giving, in which a few select children essentially walked through a breadline to receive meals, school supplies, and medical attention from faraway white “saviors” whose first-world guilt was eased by letters ensuring that their contributions made a difference. I worried that child sponsorship created dependency and that families were forced to attend church in order to receive assistance for their little ones. While I could certainly see the value in saving “just one life,” I longed to invest in efforts devoted to solving the underlying problems that perpetuate poverty in certain communities, rather than simply easing the effects of that poverty among a few.

These concerns didn’t stop me from sponsoring children (especially after visiting India a few years ago), but they kept me from advocating on behalf of the sponsorship model. I think that a lot of Christians in my generation are wary of the suggestion that our responsibility to the world is limited to caring for “just one child.” We long for justice to roll down like streams of living water, not for charity to drip out like a leaky faucet. 

My 5 favorite things about Tanzania (a post for your kids)

On this blog, we've had a variety of guest bloggers in the past -- Mark Hall from Casting Crowns; Josh Loveless from Relevant Magazine; Reneé Stearns, wife of World Vision president Rich Stearns; and Adam Jeske from InterVarsity.

But we've never had a guest blogger quite like this one.

He's a newcomer to the blogging world, a well-respected teacher to many, and a lover of God's children and kingdom. He's known to be a bit of a health addict, a vegetarian, really big on going green. A believer in diversity of friendships, the company he enjoys comes in all shapes and sizes -- a bit beyond the garden-variety, if we can say so. Although he's become quite the movie star, he's managed stay humble and down-to-earth.

Sponsorship -- and a chance to visit Peru

Dear World Vision friends, family, and supporters,

“Sponsorship takes love. Passion. Dedication. And partnership. By working together, we -- World Vision, our sponsors, and the families we serve -- can build healthy, self-reliant communities where children grow and thrive. Our child sponsors are an integral part of this partnership, and we’re so excited to share our work with them firsthand.”
—Lana Reda, vice president of sponsorship & donor management

You know how we're always talking about sponsorship? And how it truly does help change a community from the inside out and the bottom up? And how we're always showing you photos and telling you stories of how sponsorship is changing lives? Those stories are about the thousands of beautiful children your support is helping each and every day, from countries and places around the world you may never have a chance to visit.

Or will you?

The 'salt' in a modern-day Jericho

For five days, we listened as the women of the Congo shared with us the unspeakable horrors they had experienced -- personal stories of abduction, rape, and mayhem at the hands of men who use violence against women as a weapon of war.

But harder still for me to hear were their accounts of a second round of abuse at the hands of those from whom they should have expected comfort and compassion -- parents who rejected their own daughters after they had been impregnated in violent attacks by local militias; in-laws who laid claim to land and possessions from widows forced to watch as their husbands were killed in front of them. More than a decade of fear and devastation has ripped apart the very fabric of life for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

[Bolivia bloggers] A dozen unforgettable moments

I saw this tweet from Rachel Held Evans yesterday morning: “Been back from Bolivia for a week now, and I'm just now unpacking. Anyone else out there an unpacker-slacker?" I'm the worst kind of unpacker... I let the task of unpacking intimidate me in a really silly way.

I also think there's something sort of nostalgic about an unpacked suitcase -- it brings back memories of where you've just returned from. In this case, it brings back bittersweet memories of the seven days I spent in Bolivia with some of the most insightful and endearing people I'll ever know -- Elizabeth, Andrea, Joy, Nish, Matthew, Carla, Rachel, Amy, Michael, Jana and Deb -- and all of the moments we experienced together. Moments that have changed our hearts forever.

Now, each time I look at the photos, read the blog posts, or trip over my unpacked suitcase in the morning, every moment and every child’s face floods back into my memory and fills my heart with more love and joy than I sometimes know how to process. Those are the moments I never, ever want to forget.

Home for one week and still unpacking our bags, these are our unforgettable moments from our time in Bolivia. We hope pieces of our experiences bless you as they've blessed us.


Elizabeth Esther, ElizabethEsther.com

Meeting the special needs kids in Colomi ADP touched my heart in such a deep way. The parents’ unflagging dedication in spite of insurmountable odds truly inspired me to be a better parent myself. It was amazing to see the value World Vision places on each individual child—especially those with special needs. It was a great honor to join this trip. Thank you, World Vision.

Andrea Rodriguez, trip host, communications officer at the World Vision Bolivia National Office

The moment Arturo, a child at the Colomi special needs center, got his hearing device, his eyes became like the Sora Sora lake with the sunset – bright and beautiful – a moment I’ll never forget.

[Bolivia bloggers] Back at home, but haunted by their faces

The following post was written on Day 1, back at home from Bolivia, from Elizabeth Esther.

I did 26 hours of travel on two hours of sleep. I don’t recommend this. My body and mind feel sundered–torn apart. This afternoon I started shaking. I’m so tired–physically, emotionally, mentally–that my body started freaking out on me without sending a warning note first. And Mariela’s face haunts my emotions:

[caption id="attachment_7329" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Mariela poured confetti on my head--the traditional Bolivian form of blessing and rejoicing"]Haunted by their faces | World Vision Blog[/caption]

I met Mariela at the special-needs center in Colomi. Her uncle, in the words of Mariela’s mother, “es muy malo.” Very bad–meaning, his special needs are severe, overwhelming for a family already entrenched in deep poverty. Mariela wouldn’t let go of me. She held my hand, asked me to draw pictures for her, kissed my cheek repeatedly. Mariela has no father. Her mother is a single parent, recently returned from Argentina where she tried to find work. Mariela was too skinny for her age. But she knew how to love. She caressed my hand and stared into my eyes.

A letter to the mothers and fathers of Bolivia

To the incredible mothers and fathers of Bolivia,

This journey has been an opportunity to give a voice for the voiceless. To put a spotlight on the unseen. To shed light on what life is like through the eyes of Bolivians. I hope that I have shared and will continue to share your stories with the accuracy and thoughtfulness that they deserve.

To the mothers who pray daily for the health and future of their children -- you are the fortitude of your families. To the mothers who battle cultural discrimination because their children are born with disabilities -- you are women of strength. To the mothers who took in children who were not their own because no one else would -- you are brave. To Celestina whose son Wilfram was born with a heart condition and down syndrome – I count you full of courage for never giving up hope in his life or in God.

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 7: Sex and poverty

Paulo has 8 children ranging in ages from 14 years to 6 months. Three of them walk 2 hours to school and 2 hours home. He told us that he used to live near the mines, but it wasn’t a safe place for children. He bought the land in the mountains where we visited him, and moved his family there. But he can’t grow enough in his fields to feed them all.

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 6: 10 things I've learned about child sponsorship

Today has been like a beath of fresh air, and not just because the weather has been ideal. We spent the day with the people of Viloma.

This ADP has been operating for thirteen  years. The Colomi ADP that I spoke of each of the last two days only began a year and a half ago. The programs that can change the lives of every member in a community in only thirteen years are inspirational.

Here are the top ten things I've learned this week about the ways child sponsorship benefits a whole community:

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 5: What it means to really grow your family

I saw her as soon as I walked into the room. Her bright yellow name tag held her name, but I didn’t need to read it to know it was her. I knew that shy smile from the picture I was given when I first chose to sponsor Maria.

We made eye contact. She blushed and smiled a wry smile, one corner of her mouth turned up. Just like I do. The half-smirk. I laughed. Did she know? Did she know that it was me?