Monthly Archives: June 2011

Where kids’ books meet the real story: Building a healthy village

In the afternoon of our first day with World Vision in Sinazongwe, Zambia, Emily Syabubila, a widow and mother of three, gives us a tour of her compound. It consists of a one-room house with two beds for her and her daughters; another one-room home for her son; three raised chicken coops; an outdoor cook hut; and a raised drying rack for her corn.

In my last post, I shared how microloans (similar to those described in my book "One Hen") had enabled her to restore her family to economic and food security after malaria claimed the life of her husband. She now invites us to share in rituals of harvest and shuck dried maize with her. Hard. Then she throws the kernals in the air to winnow the chaff, catching the good grain expertly in a metal bowl. We don’t even dare. But we do take turns pounding the grain in her mortar, and manage to spill enough to attract her hens for the good eats. Where Emily sings as she pounds, we grunt!

Participating in protection

Editor's note: The following is a message that was shared with our staff around the world from Kevin Jenkins, president of World Vision International. As we share it here, we hope you find it as intriguing and worthwhile as we do.

What helps children to prepare for -- and cope successfully with -- disasters?

Why not ask them?

With that simple question in mind, five organizations who regularly deal with crisis situations -- including World Vision -- asked 600 children in 21 disaster-vulnerable countries around the world what they thought.

The answers were so powerful and informative that we turned them into a Children’s Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction, and presented them on May 12 to the third session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.

BOLIVIA BLOGGERS: Exploring sponsorship

You've probably read stories -- on this blog or elsewhere -- of how extreme poverty can create a vicious cycle of hardship and despair for families and communities. And maybe you've even heard of how World Vision child sponsorship helps break that cycle -- by providing essentials that empower families, like nutritious food, clean water, healthcare, education, training, and more.

But where does sponsorship become more than just a simple explanation? Here at World Vision, we're constantly asking ourselves: How do we make sponsorship a personal experience, where poverty and its remedies are embodied in the stories of real people and real places? And how can we connect our supporters with that?

Why I run...

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.

Where kids’ books meet the real story: From malaria to microloans

I had the privilege last month of traveling with World Vision to the district of Sinazongwe, Zambia, where rolling hills covered in acacia, cacti, and fruit trees look remarkably like parts of Southern California. But tucked among them are mud brick huts with thatched roofs, small vegetable gardens by muddy pools, and high racks where cobs of maize dry beyond the reach of animals. We pass a small roadside market, where women sell tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and stalks of sugar cane beside a banana grove.

The statistics of this region belie the bucolic scene. Malaria plagues a quarter of children under 5, often fatally, and affects 9 percent of the overall population, according to Rose Zambezi, World Vision's technical adviser for health. HIV and AIDS persist, too, affecting 14 percent of Zambians. As a children’s book author, I’m especially interested in these statistics as I’m working on a story about an African family that strives to create a “healthy village.”

Food is an answer, but what's the solution?

What if there was one nutrient that would take away feelings of constant fatigue, keep hearts beating regularly, and help kids to get better grades in school and reach their potential? What if this “magical” nutrient would prevent dizziness, provide strength and energy, protect against other diseases, keep mothers from dying during delivery, and keep babies alive past their fifth birthday?

If you had access to that food, would you buy it for yourself? If you had it, would you give it away -- even to someone halfway across the globe?

In the world of global nutrition, that nutrient does exist. It is called iron. Iron is all over the place in America -- beef, pork, chicken, seafood, beans, breads, cereal, and dark leafy greens. With all of these food sources, it seems like it would be so simple to get enough iron.

World Refugee Day: Highlighting a global crisis

Earlier this month, Collins Kaumba, a World Vision communicator in Zambia, shared his experience visiting a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan. His words were jarring: "Indelible memories of the suffering I saw in Darfur have followed me since the day I left Sudan...I have seen suffering and poverty in Zambia and other places in Africa -- but not of the magnitude I saw when I visited Darfur’s camps..."

A reader in Israel commented on the post and made note of the thousands of Sudanese refugees there who are watching the situation in their homeland as the South prepares for its independence in just a few weeks.

Years of conflict in this African country have caused millions to flee for their safety -- not just to other places within Sudan, but internationally as well. This is one global hotspot recognized as an origin of refugees. But the problem is much larger.

Fullness of life: A new father's story

Editor's note: In honor of Father's Day, Pato Isquierdo, a communications officer in Ecuador (pictured above with his wife, Karly, and son, Matias), shares with us how becoming a new father has changed his perspective and lent new meaning to his work with World Vision.

The bus was already entering Quito, Ecuador, at 9 p.m. I was fully loaded with cameras, a laptop, and back pain.

But it was OK -- I was finally arriving home. It was my first trip to a World Vision development community since I became a father. I just needed to get home and rest for the next day.

But while riding the bus home, I found a whole new level of understanding of the depth of a part of World Vision's mission statement: “life in all its fullness.”

Yes, I know that this is our goal with everything we do at work. But what about "fullness of life" for my own son? Then, it all made sense! Everything I've learned during my time with World Vision had a new angle.

But I do not despair

Close your eyes and imagine this...

Imagine if our culture was taken to the -nth degree, to its logical end.

Maybe Lady Gaga is president. Maybe digital devices hang in front of our faces, precluding any unmediated communication. Maybe our nations war over water. Maybe norms about intimacy and privacy have melted. And maybe our speech has deteriorated into grunts, slang, and chuckles.

If North American culture keeps it up, we could be in big trouble.

Our culture is infatuated with stars like Justin Bieber, and our top TV show is even called "American Idol." We revel in Charlie Sheen “winning.” Our king is LeBron. Chatroulette and PostSecret spotlight our basest tendencies and hidden shames. College grades are inflated. Polar ice caps are melting. Our states are broke, and our nation is $14,421,378,214,947 in the red.

As consumers, we spend more than we make. Kids kill other kids. Yesterday, I heard the phrase “economic collapse” on the radio a few times. A friend of mine jokes that she’ll put her tent in our yard when it really hits the fan.

Here's to the first 100 -- and to the next

I'm the type of person who likes to celebrate everything -- not just birthdays and major holidays. Other causes for celebration may include a work achievement (like a promotion or completing a project), a randomly special day of the week, or monthly anniversaries of a first date or first time trying a new food.

You could say that I'm a believer that any reason to celebrate is a good reason to celebrate.

And I've got a good reason to celebrate today: This marks the 100th post on the World Vision Blog! That's 100 articles written by 44 different authors from all walks of life and faith -- from Washington state to Washington, D.C., to Zambia to Japan. Our posts have ranged from lighthearted to sobering, newsy to reflective, inspiring to thought-provoking.

News that matters: HIV and AIDS, South Sudan, and maternal health

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated our periodic series, “News that matters,” but I’m heading out on maternity leave here in a few weeks and wanted to post about news coverage on some of today's most relevant humanitarian issues.

In this post: HIV and AIDS, South Sudan, and child and maternal health. I hope the coverage below can offer some insight into these issues and provide some good food for thought.

Back in October!
Amy

HIV and AIDS

On June 5, 1981, doctors reported the first cases of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Over the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS have changed the way that many people -- both in the United States and around the world -- live their lives and speak out for the lives of others. Because this month marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of AIDS into our national health discussion, I wanted to include some of this month’s coverage about the disease -- and efforts to stop its spread.

Factbox: HIV/AIDS numbers from around the world
Reuters, 2 June 2011
An estimated 33.3 million people worldwide had the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS in 2009, according to the latest figures issued by UNAIDS. There were 26.2 million in 1999.

What would you do...if you knew?

One of the greatest blessings I've ever experienced was the opportunity to travel to Southern Africa with my daughter, Amanda, who was 20 at the time. I had worked with World Vision for almost 15 years in various capacities, mostly related to web and social media communications, and had traveled abroad several times. But this would be my first opportunity to meet our sponsored child, Gracia, in person.

The day Amanda and I spent with Gracia -- who lives in the southern part of the Congo and was 8 at the time -- is forever burned into our memories. Gracia is sweet, funny, and very smart. She lives in the poorest of circumstances, but has great potential to break the cycle of poverty, thanks to the way the Lord is working in her life through World Vision and others.

I'll never forget how Amanda burst into tears at the end of a day in which she and Gracia basically became big sister/little sister.

Hard facts about labor trafficking

When I was 15 years old, I got my first job as a lifeguard. Before I started, I had to obtain a work permit with my parents' consent and the consultation of my school. There were strict rules governing the hours between which I was allowed to work, as well as how many hours I was allowed to work per week while school was in session. All of these regulations were in place because I was a minor.

I resented them at the time. As an adolescent who longed to be treated as an adult -- and who wanted to earn my own money -- I thought the state had no business telling me when, where, or for how long I could work. It seemed deeply patronizing.

I didn't realize that labor laws in the United States are enforced to prevent workers, especially children, from being exploited. And I certainly didn't understand that in other parts of the world, where such laws either don't exist or are inadequately enforced, the effects of labor trafficking are devastating. I was a middle-class suburban kid. The notion of children, my age or younger, toiling in dirty, dangerous conditions, unable to go to school while earning little or no compensation, was foreign to me.

But it happens -- to hundreds of millions of children and adults around the world. It can tear apart families and ruin children's futures. That's why World Vision is committed to fighting it.

In recognition of World Day Against Child Labor, June 12, World Vision has released a new report, "10 Things You Need to Know About Labor Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region." Though focused particularly on Southeast Asia, the report highlights truths about exploitative labor that are relevant worldwide. How much do you know about it? Read these facts. Then, take action.


1. Men are trafficked onto fishing boats and held as prisoners. Though trafficking has historically been associated with women and children, men are equally vulnerable in Southeast Asia's fishing industry. Hard, dangerous conditions on the job create a labor shortage that leaves men at risk of being held captive at sea for months or years at a time.

Prayers for Japan from around the world

Three months ago on Saturday, a deadly earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan killed more than 14,700 people, leaving the country's northeastern coastline devastated. Our colleagues in Japan have spent the weeks and months following the disaster organizing and implementing a full response plan, supported by the World Vision global partnership.

As part of an international initiative to encourage quake survivors and those involved in relief efforts, children around the world who are supported by World Vision sponsors in Japan send their love and prayers. Children and sponsors in Japan's tsunami zone have since received drawings, cards, and origami art messages from sponsored children in El Salvador, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mongolia, Kenya, China, and Ethiopia.

This post is a collection of those messages, gathered with the help of World Vision field communicators in each of the above countries.

To our colleagues and those affected by the disaster in Japan -- we continue to pray that God's comfort and provision would be with those who need it most, and that survivors will continue to heal physically and emotionally as they rebuild from the rubble.

[caption id="attachment_5517" align="aligncenter" width="470" caption="Drawings and messages of hope from Kenya.  ©2011 World Vision"][/caption]

Through our lens: 5 videos worth watching

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.

The hope beyond what I saw in Sudan

Editor's note: Three weeks ago, we asked Collins, a World Vision communicator in Zambia, to write about his recent experience in Sudan, supporting World Vision's office there. His reply: "My experience in Sudan makes me feel as though I should write a book, because it is something I have never experienced in my life before. You have really asked for the blog at the right time." As South Sudan prepares to celebrate its independence as Africa's newest country on July 9, we continue to to offer assistance to this conflict-weary region.

Indelible memories of the suffering I saw in Darfur have followed me since the day I left Sudan for Zambia. My mind and heart are still attached to the people of Sudan, especially the children. I have seen suffering and poverty in Zambia and other places in Africa -- but not of the magnitude I saw when I visited Darfur’s camps for internally displaced people (IDPs).

All I used to hear were stories. I never used to think it was that bad -- until I saw the reality at Otash camp, near Nyala, the capital city of South Darfur, Sudan, where displaced families have migrated for safety.

A radio star's humble beginnings

Editor's note: You may remember reading about Lloyd Phiri, former sponsored child, in the summer 2011 issue of World Vision Magazine. Because June marks the anniversary of the official patenting of the radio back in 1896, we're again featuring this story of a sponsored-child-turned-radio-announcer.

Turn on the radio in the city of Blantyre -- the major commercial center of the southern African country of Malawi -- and you may hear the melodious voice of Lloyd Phiri reading the news.

Lloyd is the announcer and controller of news and current affairs for MIJ Radio. MIJ (Malawi Institute of Journalism) Radio is a non-governmental station that hones the skills of the country’s best up-and-coming journalists. Lloyd joined MIJ Radio after serving as head of news and current affairs at Capital FM -- one of Malawi’s top music stations.

Now, the work begins

Editor's note: The World Vision family is comprised of thousands of staff members from various personal, professional, and spiritual backgrounds -- each of whom has a unique story of being led to our ministry. To highlight this diversity, we're starting a monthly series in which a different World Vision staff person will share "what working at World Vision means to me."

Growing up as one of the only Asian Americans in my predominately white neighborhood, I was often on the receiving end of racial slurs.

This left me angry and confused. I often felt misplaced.

In college, I began to ask questions about my family’s past. I hoped to find something that would explain all the childhood teasing and bullying.

In this search I discovered Malcolm X, a civil rights activist who found himself in being a voice for the voiceless. I believed that I, too, could express my family’s American experience and be heard.

Representing the marginalized and the oppressed became my call; writing and photography became my tools.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had a wide variety of seemingly random editorial jobs. I always wondered how it would come together in a focused way.

When my wife and I decided to move to Seattle to be closer to family, I applied to work at World Vision on a whim earlier this year, as other options were not working out.

Fast facts: Hunger

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.

Birth registration: The first step in child protection

Editor's note: Birth registration -- documentation that ensures the government knows you exist -- is a growing issue worldwide, especially in fragile states where governments are either unable or unwilling to implement effective birth registration policies. For more on the importance of birth registration, read "Why registration matters: Children are cared for and protected."

When you think about congressional testimony, you think about big rooms, hot lights, and lawmakers peering over their spectacles to ask the hard-hitting questions about the most pressing issues of the day.

When discussing the importance of child protection, you might expect an array of complex and lofty rhetoric that hints at the largeness of the issue, but fails to tackle the concrete steps that a nation, community, or individual can take to ensure that children are protected from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence.

In a congressional hearing that deals with child protection, you can expect to hear lots of statements and suggestions. But do you really expect to hear about birth registration?