Monthly Archives: August 2011

Photo journal: The images that haunt me

Jon Warren recently spent nearly a month in Africa, documenting the ongoing food crisis and highlighting our work in the region. Upon returning home, he put this post together of some of his most memorable images that convey the tragic stories of people left at risk of starvation from an unrelenting drought and food crisis in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

Victory in the war on hunger? Achievable.

Anybody who recalls the terrible images of starving children that were shown on television during the famine that struck Ethiopia in the mid-1980s might be forgiven for feeling despair at the current stream of bad news flowing out of the Horn of Africa.

That feeling will probably only be heightened by the realization that the current drought in the region is more severe and more widespread than the one that appalled us in the ’80s. Indeed, it’s the worst drought in the area in 60 years and more than 12.4 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

Given this sort of challenge, it’s easy to throw up one’s hands in horror and give up. After all, what have all the billions of dollars worth of aid poured into Africa in recent decades realistically achieved? Aren’t things as bad as ever?

Ask an aid worker about the Horn of Africa

Ask an aid worker | World Vision blogUpdate: read the follow-up post: An aid worker’s answers about the Horn of Africa

Want to know more about managing household finance? Talk to Suze Ormann. Health advice? Watch Dr. Oz. General wisdom? Google, of course.

But what about those disasters all over the news? It looks like a lot is going on.... or not? Who should you ask to find out about the issues in a big disaster response, like the current drought and famine in the Horn of Africa?

You ask an aid worker. Why? Because they're out in the disaster zone talking to survivors and assessing needs, determining the scale and involvement of response, identifying funding sources for assistance plans, writing proposals communicating with donors about needs and planned projects, and getting the projects started.

In an effort for all of us to better understand the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, we're gleaning from the inspiration of Rachel Held Evans interview series, "Ask a ____" and starting our own "ask" series. In this post, I'd like to introduce you to Betsy Baldwin -- disaster response expert.

Bringing death in Africa to life in America [LINK UP]

“Can I have a snack?”

“I’m so hungry mom. Is it dinnertime yet?”

“I’m starving – what can I eat? No, I don’t want that. Do you have ____?”

So much of my day revolves around my children ruled by their bellies. They eat three meals and a snack. The youngest, with his medical condition that requires additional calories, eats two snacks and, if given the chance, would graze all day long.

They fill the air with misery if I dare suggest not eating right that instant. And the days I’m caught empty-handed when they decide they’re hungry? The wailing and gnashing of teeth makes me want to rip my hair out, don sackcloth and ashes, and carry a banner touting “Meanest mom alive.”

When I returned from visiting Bolivia, I could no longer smile indulgently at our obsession with food. After seeing true poverty, and meeting people so poor they could only eat two meals a day (no snacks!), I realized that none of us have any idea what being hungry really means.

Dreaming with Martin Luther King Jr.

It was 48 years ago this week that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of his most famous speeches on the Mall in Washington D.C. His declaration, “I have a dream” remains one of the most stirring addresses in American history as well as a prophetic discourse opposing injustice and the continued oppression of grandchildren and great grandchildren of slaves.

If Dr. King were to deliver his address again this year, I’m sure he would continue to see the need to speak out against the injustices that continue to oppress many black and other minority communities in the U.S. But I believe that Dr. King might also speak out against the injustices, oppression, and poverty that cause suffering in communities around the world, including the suffering caused by the drought and famine now occurring in East Africa.

In The Hole in Our Gospel, I pieced together a letter that God might write to the church today. In remembrance of Dr. King’s magnificent speech, I’ve taken the liberty to imagine how Dr. King might dream again today and challenge the church to “preach good news to the poor.”

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.

#FamineNoMore toolbox

Join World Vision's global campaign to raise awareness about the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa -- where hunger is stalking 12.4 million people -- and tolerate "Famine No More." (If you receive this post in an email reader, please click over to the World Vision blog to view all images/videos)


Horn of Africa crisis: 14 strategies to make an impact

(Editor's note: In an international campaign to raise awareness about the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, World Vision offices around the world are coming together to tolerate #faminenomore. Will you join us?)

Why help? Why raise awareness? What could I possibly do to make an impact for the 12.4 million affected by drought and famine in the Horn of Africa?

[From the photo above] When the maize crop failed yet again this year, Hadija Hassan Abdi, 28, took her children and hitched rides for 8 days and nights until she reached the safety of Burtinle camp in Somalia. Along the way she begged for food for her children from strangers. She has been in the camp only 4 days, just long enough to construct a tiny stick hut covered in cloth scraps. There is nothing on the floor and no cooking utensils. She and eldest daughter, Nurto, 10 (on right, wearing orange scarf) are able to earn a little by hauling garbage away for families in nearby Burtinle city. But mostly she still survives primarily by begging. I wonder how we'd react if she came to us for help?

This story from Jon Warren, World Vision photographer in Somalia, really struck me. If Hadija and Nurto were begging right outside my door, what would I do? I live in Seattle, where I see people begging a lot -- sometimes I respond by giving and sometimes I don't. Hadija and Nurto aren't outside my door, but I can't ignore their story, their need. They are as real as the people needing help right in front of me.

12.4 million people are affected by hunger, fighting for their lives -- that's a big problem to wrap our minds around. But I know this... together, we can make an impact. So what could you possibly do to help those in crisis in the Horn of Africa? Start here.


LIVE THE LIFE OF A FAMINE-VICTIM FOR 30 HOURS. The millions suffering in the Horn of Africa are part of the some 900 million hungry people worldwide. The 30 Hour Famine gives your group a chance to do something about it. Read about the Famine team's recent experience in Dadaab, Kenya, one of the world's largest refugee camps.

TEXT. Get those texting thumbs ready... Text "FAMINE" to "20222" to text in your $10 donation to fight hunger and famine in the Horn of Africa

Bolivia in 100 words

Before you read this, let me just say that 100 words does not do this post justice. Just 100 words will barely begin to describe the beauty of Bolivia and the warmth of its people. Just 100 words isn't enough.

But please, please take these 100 words to heart. Understand they represent a fraction of a deeper story we're desperate to tell -- a story about survival and faith, sacrifice and family, difference and commonality. I hope these 100 words paint for you a picture as vivid as the memories in our minds, and as resilient as the love in our hearts.

This list was created out of the words from and expressions of the families and individuals we met, those who translated for us all week, and our own feelings. It is a combination of words that describe Bolivia -- the country, the people, the experience, the food, the faces, and the moments we'll never forget.

Love,

The Bolivia bloggers team


100. Breath-taking

99. Colorful

98. Rich (in love and family). I asked one of our translators before we left if Bolivians considered their country poor or in poverty. She said to me, "Well, that depends on what you mean by the word poverty. Bolivia is rich in culture, love and family. By those measures, we are not poor at all." Amen.

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.

Being a humanitarian -- from the desk or the field

Editor's note: In an effort to raise public awareness of humanitarian assistance worldwide and the people who risk their lives to provide it, the UN General Assembly has designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day. This year's theme is "People helping people," celebrating everyday humanitarians helping people around the world. From wherever you are today -- at home, at a desk, or in the field -- be inspired by the spirit of aid work in those around you and in yourself.

In my new job at World Vision, I was recently sent to assist our response to the drought, food crisis, and famine across the Horn of Africa. I had spent several weeks learning the systems of World Vision from my desk in Washington, D.C., and was anxious to get back out to the field, where a real disaster was unfolding.

Before World Vision, I had spent more than four years overseas, working in relief settings. I love this line of work for its fast-moving nature and its tie to the headlines of what we see in the news. This is a chance to do something that matters.

Interns with a [world] vision

As we get ready to send off our amazing summer interns -- some back to school, some onto start their careers, but all to wherever God leads them -- we want to say THANK YOU for the help you've given us this summer, and the impact you've had on the lives of children around the world. As our president Rich Stearns has said so many times this summer, "You are world-changers and we only wish we could hire every one of you."

Special thanks to Chris Clouzet, World Vision intern with the web content team, who compiled and edited this edition of "what working at World Vision means to me"... but with a twist -- what interning at World Vision means to me from four summer interns.


I wanted to be a blacksmith’s apprentice this summer, but it just seemed so "Middle Ages." Fortunately, a friend introduced me to World Vision’s internship program, and I was accepted. So, while I don’t get to make swords, I get to help with tasks like updating statistics and editing stories for the website -- and know I’m a part of helping children in need. For me, that means a lot.

GLOBAL GLIMPSE -- Disaster response in 5 hotspots around the globe

Providing you with a quick snapshot of what's happening in five hotspots around the globe -- where your generous support is literally helping people cope with and recover from disasters and crisis situations. Thank you and please continue to stand by us as we respond to multiple disasters around the world.

Drought and famine in the Horn of Africa (current)

[caption id="attachment_7560" align="alignright" width="297" caption="Children at Melkadida refugee camp in Ethiopia, where some 76,000 of the refugees fled into the border town of Dolo Ado due to the current drought in Somalia. ©2011 Gebregziabher Hadera/World Vision"][/caption]

The first UN-declared famine of the 21st century, caused by a convergence of political strife, drought, and increasing global food prices, is affecting more than 12 million people in four countries in the Horn of Africa: Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. More than 30,000 children from Somalia alone have perished of acute malnutrition and other related illnesses during the past three months, and hundreds of thousands have fled into refugee camps scattered throughout the region. Forecasters expect the drought to continue until December, so millions more are at risk.

To add to the misery of Somalis suffering in the drought, an epidemic of cholera has begun ravaging survivors in the Mogadishu area.

Photo journal: 24 hours in Somalia

August 15, 2011 -- Jon Warren, World Vision U.S. photo director, writes from Somalia during his 24-hour stay:

It would be easy to write about the flight from Nairobi to Somalia -- the hulk of 17,057' Mt Kenya looming beside the airplane, the transition from cool rain to blasting desert heat, the pleasure of meeting World Vision's dedicated Somali and Kenyan staff, and the seriousness of a security briefing that I listened very closely to. But a quick visit to nearby camps for drought and conflict refugees reminded why it's so important that I do this blog post. Those numbers we keep hearing about -- took on faces.

As we drove 8 hours today over bumpy, dusty roads, Somalia seems like it belongs in the American southwest. That didn't allow a lot of time to capture the reality of life in Somalia right now, especially when we had to honor security rules and be back by 5:30. But I didn't want to give up the chance to talk with families and see some of our staff at work, even if just for a short time.

[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.

International Youth Day: 6 youth changing our world

Change our world -- that's this year's International Youth Day theme. It seems more than appropriate in a year of ongoing economic struggle, debt ceilings, radiation leaks and famines. And there are issues of injustice that fail to make headlines but distress so many people -- child abuse, abduction and trafficking, school drop-outs because of forced labor or need for income, neglect of children and youth, and an apparent lack of youth voice.

But there are youth out there advocating against such injustices, making real differences in their communities, and changing our world for good. This post is a reminder, on International Youth Day, that youth are to believed in because through them, great things are possible.

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. -1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)

Scenes from a Kenyan refugee camp

A new World Vision report indicates that nearly half of the children surveyed in drought-devastated northern Kenya had eaten no food for a full day. Those separated from their parents have fared even worse. Children are now begging by the roadside as they fight for survival, putting themselves at risk of violence and sexual abuse. Students are failing to attend class as they work on construction sites or walk with livestock to find pasture. Young girls are being married off to raise money.

Jon Warren, World Vision's award-winning photo director, is traveling in East Africa to document the emergency hunger situation and highlight World Vision’s work in the region. The photos below are from Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world, situated outside of Nairobi, Kenya. More than 400,000 Somalis -- roughly the population of Miami, Florida -- are amassed in Dabaab, escaping decades of conflict and a drought that has taken their crops and their livestock.

[caption id="attachment_7370" align="aligncenter" width="625" caption="Drought refugees continue to flood into Dadaab camp in Kenya. Circumstances remain difficult, even when they reach the relative safety of the camp. Blowing sand adds to the misery at Dadaab."][/caption]

[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] A picture is worth a thousand words. A smile is worth a million.

If a picture is worth a thousand words... then a smile like this is worth a million. We met this sweet little girl in Viloma ADP at the grand opening of a new school built by World Vision. It is smiles like this from the children we have laughed with and cried with this week that are permanently printed on our hearts forever. Read more posts from the Bolivia bloggers team.