Monthly Archives: October 2011

World population reaches 7 billion: 7 things you should know

For some time now, the UN has estimated that today, October 31, the world’s population is set to reach 7 billion. That's a big number, but what does this mean for all of us? How much do we really know about how the rest of the world lives? If you're asking yourself these questions, start here: 7 things you should know...

1. The highest rates of population growth are in less developed countries. Too many people are born in poverty and live out their days with little hope for better lives.

2. Good news! In developing regions, the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day dropped from 46 percent to 27 percent from 1990 to 2005. Even with the economic downturn, the world is on track to meet Millennium Development Goal #1 -- to halve extreme human poverty by 2015.

G20 outlook: Will food security agenda remain priority at Cannes summit?

The following is an excerpt from Adam Taylor's post on The Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Global Food for Thought Blog.

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This weekend, American families will be preparing their Halloween costumes and loading up on last minute candy purchases. On Monday night, most American children will be walking the dark streets in ghoulish costumes and returning home happy with bags full of sweets. For the next few weeks they will consume way more than the minimum calories (1,500 Kcal per day for a child) needed for their development while an estimated one billion people will go to bed hungry.

What our nation’s top leaders have to say – My notes from the FWD campaign live stream

Yesterday I tuned in to the official launch of the FWD (Famine. War. Drought.) campaign following the White House live streamed video web chat. As a representative of World Vision but also as a private citizen, I was interested in what some of our nation’s top officials had to say about the U.S. response to some of the greatest crises yet in the 21st century.

I captured some highlights from the discussion to share with you, and have noted the minute mark for many of the questions asked. This is not an exact transcription, but a paraphrased overview.

The state of play in the Horn of Africa: -- Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council

The people in the region are experiencing the worst drought in 60 years. That means that farmers have very little to fall back on. People are literally dying as we speak. Without assistance, they will in fact die.

The importance of acting now:, Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator

There are 13 million people who are in need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa. Already more than 30,000 children have lost their lives from starvation or the consequences of severe malnutrition and the disease that accompanies it. The UN estimates that number could grow to 750,000 over the course of the next six months.

Now is the time to act. This is also a moment to acknowledge that when we do these actions, it is an expression of American values. The more Americans that can engage in the response, the better off we will all be in saving lives today and putting in place the systems that can help prevent these tragedies in the future.

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.

Should U.S. give a free pass to countries that use child soldiers?

As a humanitarian worker, a child protection expert, and as a U.S. citizen, I have certain expectations -- some call them naive ideals -- that the U.S. government will work to reduce the vulnerability of children around the world and here in the United States.

Laws like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the PROTECT Act, and the Child Soldier Prevention Act have all set in place strict policies that made America the global leader in working to prevent and respond to vulnerability among children.

That’s why, on October 4, I was angry, and, to be honest, feeling slightly betrayed. On October 4, the Obama administration announced the latest round of guidelines outlining how, for the second year in a row, the federal government will provide military aid to countries whose armed forces recruit and use child soldiers.

[Photo blog] The other side of being a child -- through the lens of sponsored children

Photography is an art.

Photography is a skill.

Photography is a form of communication.

A single picture can tell a story that crosses cultural and linguistic boundaries. It can evoke emotion or engagement (think National Geographic, Afghan refugee), freeze a moment in history (think WWII), or even start a revolution (think Arab Spring).

French first baby already a winner in the geographic lottery

Maybe you're like me: You have a sudden feeling of joy every time you hear of a baby being born, or a newly announced pregnant mother-to-be. Two months ago, I sat in the hospital, awaiting the birth of my new nephew, ready to hear the sweet melody of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" that's played each time a baby is born.

It's the same feeling of joy I had earlier this week, hearing the announcement of the birth of the daughter of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. I recall when we heard the wonderful news in May that the Sarkozys were expecting -- around the same time G8 leaders gathered in France to discuss issues of economic and global development.

At the time, my colleague, Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz, was in France, representing World Vision at the G8 Summit. While there, she hand-delivered a baby gift basket intended for the French first lady. The basket included everyday items readily available to women in Western European or North American pharmacies and grocery stores -- such as hygiene supplies, safe birthing kits, and nutritious foods -- that are often inaccessible to pregnant women living in poverty in developing countries.

In a press release yesterday from my colleagues, World Vision congratulates the Sarkozys on the newest addition to their family.

Q & A with USAID's Raj Shah on the Horn of Africa and foreign assistance

On Tuesday, Dr. Raj Shah, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), visited World Vision's U.S. headquarters in Federal Way, Washington, to talk to our staff about faith and global development. After his speech -- which included a call for Americans and the American church community to continue supporting the United States as a leader in bringing relief to those suffering from poverty around the globe -- I had the great privilege of talking to Dr. Shah for a little more in-depth Q & A.

Here is the transcript of our conversation:

JAMES: Did Horn of Africa governments respond quickly enough to early warnings [of the food crisis and famine]?

DR. SHAH: It’s important to put this in context and recognize that the famine early warning system did generate knowledge of this crisis before it happened. The Ethiopian and Kenyan governments -- and the United States and a range of other partners, including the World Bank -- did work together in advance of this to put in place poverty safety-net programs that today are effectively protecting millions and millions of people. This is why we are not seeing large-scale child deaths in Kenya and Ethiopia, despite the fact that this drought is actually worse than previous ones. In Somalia, it’s a very different story, because access for humanitarian partners has been highly impeded by militias and al-Shabaab. The direct consequence of this is a famine that has taken tens of thousands of children who otherwise would not have died. The United States is doing everything it can, working with a broad range of international partners, both to save lives now and to put into place our Feed the Future programs so that future droughts don’t lead to these catastrophes. And we are already seeing some important policy reform measures that the Ethiopian and Kenyan governments are taking to liberalize their agricultural economies and allow for more agricultural development to achieve their own degree of food security.

GIVEN: The new line of apparel inspired by World Vision

When I interviewed Kevin back in April, he spoke of Jedidiah's unique ability to connect fashion with social causes, his heart for the child trafficking issue, and how combined, these two things have fueled a partnership between Jedidiah and World Vision. At the tail end of our chat, he mentioned Jedidiah's newest venture -- creating a brand consortium that will leverage the Made For Good mission statement and embedded generosity model. Today, he guest blogs to let us know exactly what he's been up to the last six months.... -Lindsey, managing editor, WV Blog

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A lot has been happening since the last time I interviewed on this blog.

We recently wrapped up our spring/summer partnership with World Vision, where we raised money to build a trauma recovery center in Cambodia for children exploited by sex trafficking.

Answers from a food aid expert (Part 2)

This is the second of a 2-part series of responses to questions you asked us about food aid -- its complexities, and its implications on economic development and child health -- in advance of World Food Day, which was Sunday. Paul Macek, World Vision's senior director of food security and livelihoods team, continues answering your questions below.

Read the post that started this: Ask an expert about food aid. Then, check out the first installment in this series: Answers from a food aid expert (Part 1).

[caption id="attachment_9090" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Paul Macek, World Vision"]Ask an expert about food aid | World Vision blog[/caption]

FROM KARIN: I was wondering what happens after a child is nourished with Plumpy'Nut™ and no longer needs it. What happens next to prevent that child from slipping back into severe malnutrition? 

As you’ve rightly guessed, Karin, the easy part is providing therapeutic food to a child to restore his or her health, in the form of Plumpy'Nut™. The real challenge lies in preventing the recurrence of malnutrition. World Vision uses a comprehensive approach for this. Children who do not require therapeutic food may be given normal foods to supplement their diet -- such as porridges made of rice flour, beans, eggs, vegetables, and other nutritious foods -- until they have a healthy weight. World Vision provides information to families on how much and how often to feed their child, as well as how to prepare foods. Families are also supported by health workers to keep their children healthy through routine immunizations and prompt treatment of illnesses. A comprehensive approach also means that families are supported by agriculture and microfinance workers with assistance to help them generate income.

World Food Day in a time of famine (Blog Action Day)

World Vision New Zealand's nutrition specialist Briony Stevens has just returned from East Africa. She blogs about her experience as part of today's Blog Action Day, dedicated this year to discussion on the topic of food given that today is also World Food Day.

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World Food Day seems such a bizarre concept when you’re standing in an over-crowded refugee camp in East Africa where there is a distinct lack of anything edible. When you’re measuring the circumference of a child’s upper arm as a means of determining how malnourished they are. When you watch a mother continue to clutch her baby to her, long after he or she has passed away.

Answers from a food aid expert (Part 1)

To mark World Food Day, October 16, we asked you earlier this week to share your questions about food aid -- its complexities, and its implications on economic development and child health. This is part 1 of a 2-part series of responses to those questions from Paul Macek, World Vision's senior director of integrated food and nutrition.

Paul leads a team of specialized program officers who focus on food security, livelihoods, economic development, nutrition, agriculture, and environment. Paul has degrees in history and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Master of Arts in international affairs with concentrations in international development and political economy from American University in Washington, D.C.

Part 2 will be posted on Monday, October 17. Read the post that started this: Ask an expert about food aid.

[caption id="attachment_9090" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Paul Macek is World Vision's senior director of integrated food and nutrition."]Ask an expert about food aid | World Vision blog[/caption]

FROM STEPHANIE: I would like to know your approach to the tension between feeding children with no strings attached (religious or political) but still making the most of the feeding connection to ensure children get the tools they need to grow up and break out of the poverty cycle.

World Vision provides assistance regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. We focus on changing the behavior of parents and guardians of children to ensure that they know how best to feed and nurture their children. Often with new mothers, we focus on basic messages of proper breastfeeding and weaning practices and balanced nutrition for the entire family. In our agricultural programs, we focus on providing farmers with the right information and strategies to improve their crop productivity.

What disaster? 4 global crises that deserve more attention...

Today is a day of observance mostly unknown to people outside of the international relief and development world -- the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

But with the American media largely preoccupied with the goings-on of our dysfunctional political environment, I’m taking the opportunity to commemorate this day you’ve likely never heard of by talking about four disasters you’ve probably not heard too much about.

These disasters impact vulnerable children and families, and they deserve more attention.

The story the photos will never tell

Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words -- but as I sit here looking through photos from my recent trip to the Horn of Africa, I don’t think that’s true.

This picture is of Falima, a 25-year-old Somalian who recently entered the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya. She is holding her son, Abdullah, while her 3-year-old daughter, Fauhuya, hides behind her.

Ask an expert about food aid

When I was a little kid, my sister (who never ate her vegetables) used to wish aloud at the dinner table that she could send her broccoli to Africa, where the kids really need it.

At the time, I liked to think of myself as not quite so naive -- I knew we couldn't literally send our vegetables to Africa. It would taste really bad by the time it got there.

Yes, shipping leftovers probably isn't a best practice in terms of humanitarian food aid. But what about food security? And malnutrition prevention and mitigation? And ready-to-use therapeutic food?

Asking questions like these is absolutely essential in better understanding the complexities of humanitarian work. It's also why we're continuing with our expert interview series -- in which you have the opportunity to ask your questions to aid professionals. Our first post on this topic was "Ask an aid worker about the Horn of Africa" with World Vision's Betsy Baldwin. In this second installment, I'd like to introduce you to Paul Macek.

Anatomy of a 100-mile race

Fourteen hours before the start of yesterday's Chicago Marathon, four friends set off to run a total of 100 miles (74 miles to the start of the Chicago Marathon) in a bid to secure sponsors for 400 children. World Vision writer James Addis followed their progress on his own little adventure through part of the night and during the marathon itself — sometimes by taxi, sometimes by bicycle, and sometimes by train…

The assignment

What a mission! Our four runners will run 74 miles mostly along the Chicago lakefront all through the night, before reaching the Chicago Marathon starting line in time for the beginning of the official race.

The four runners are:

  • Paul Jansen Van Rensburg, 37, a pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois
  • Rusty Funk, 26, Team World Vision staffer, based in Chicago
  • Michael Chitwood, 36, National director of Team World Vision, based in Chicago
  • Hannah Covert, 24, a nurse from Arizona

They all have one thing in common: They have seen sponsorship at work in Africa and are passionate to see more children sponsored.

Saturday (October 8,2011): Let the 100 miles begin...

3:30 p.m. Team meeting in a tiny hotel room. The four runners plus several support staff. The mood is jovial. Steve Spear, a pastor at Willow Creek Church, prays for the team. He asks for protection, courage, and perseverance, should the runners feel like giving up, and also for the hundreds of children who will be sponsored and whose lives will be changed. Afterward, we wander down to the lakefront for the big send-off.

Train. Pray. Run. (6 questions with a 100-mile runner)

Superman can defy gravity. Captain America has superhuman speed and endurance. Spider-Man can scale walls. For practically every law of nature, there is a superhero who can break that natural law.

Michael Chitwood is one of those guys. Where no single person in their human physical condition should be able to do what he is about to do, Chitwood and three others are going to do just that. They're going to run 100 miles in 21 straight hours -- 74 miles through the night starting this afternoon, October 8, and then they will join 1,000 Team World Vision teammates for the final 26.2 miles of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

When Michael first told me he was running 100 miles, I, of course, didn't believe him. One hundred miles in and of itself sounds humanly impossible. And doing any sort of physical activity for 21 straight hours -- well, I don't think most of us could even sleep for that amount of time. So you can understand my fascination with understanding why this team is going to such great lengths (literally). I recently chatted with Michael to get the 411 on his longest race yet.

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Lindsey (L): Okay, I have to ask…are you crazy for running 100 miles?!!

Michael (M): You know, I've been getting asked that question a lot lately. Really, I've been asked that question a lot since I ran my first marathon in 2003. Some people thought I was crazy to run a marathon, because I had never run and was pretty overweight at the time -- 265 pounds. Then, when I did my first Ironman Triathlon, some of my friends thought I was crazy. Then, last year, I did my first ultramarathon, a 56-mile run in South Africa…my friends said I was crazy. But for the first time in eight years, and after running all of these events, I have to admit…this one, running 100 miles, it's maybe just a little crazy.

Should we pray for our public leaders as much as we pray for ourselves?

Should we pray for our public leaders as much as we pray for ourselves? When praying for our elected officials, what should we be praying for?

These are the questions I ask myself every year around this time in October as the first of the month marked the start of a new fiscal year for our federal government. That means some reflection on the past fiscal year, including major accomplishments and major deficits regarding federal policies. In my position at World Vision, these are especially important.

October 1 is also the first day of a new fiscal year for World Vision offices. To appropriately honor the day, our staff members, volunteers, and World Vision supporters from all around the world commit the day to prayer for direction, encouragement, and renewal in the fiscal year ahead. It's an important tradition that World Vision looks forward to each year.

Although our federal government isn't tied to the same Christian mission as our organization, my role working in government relations calls me to reflect on the previous federal fiscal year, too. This includes the bills enacted with the support of World Vision's advocates and campaigns -- like the Child Soldier Prevention Act, the Sudan Peace Act, and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, to name a few.

Where are they from? A World Teachers' Day pop quiz

My grandmother was a teacher. My mom taught special education. My brother teaches middle school math. My sister is on the school board. Clearly, the importance of a good education was instilled in me from a young age.

Still, the teacher gene is not dominant in my DNA. I think it might have something to do with my patience -- or lack thereof.

Although teaching is not in my vocation, I understand and value the work of teachers across the United States and around the world. These dedicated servants are molding the future generations, often in difficult circumstances.

In my time working with World Vision, I have had the privilege of meeting and interacting with many teachers around the world. It is astounding to me that despite the geographic area, the culture, or the language, teachers around the world have so much in common -- the same dreams, the same motivations, and many of the same struggles.

The following are excerpts from interviews with teachers from three different continents. See if you can guess where they are from:

Mission above mammon: Charting a course for success

As the president of World Vision U.S. and the former CEO of two for-profit corporations, I have spent all of my professional life trying to manage organizations to achieve success. Every organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, must have a successful financial model to succeed, but long-term success doesn’t come from just managing numbers. The most successful organizations are mission-driven.

In Christian organizations, this truth may be even more compelling.

At its core, this is the question of the means versus the ends. In a secular corporation, the goal is to create profits for the owners or shareholders; the means to that end might be selling automobiles, or books, or delivering a service like air travel or lodging. At the end of the day, the bottom line is profit.

But in a Christian business or non-profit, the role is reversed. The activity, selling books or providing a service, is the end; it’s the missional impact. Profits are simply a means to that end. We are called to put “mission above mammon.”