Recent Posts By Heidi Isaza

Birthday celebrations that mean more than just cake

I recently celebrated my birthday.

Although it wasn’t a milestone year, I still celebrated with cake and flowers with my family -- a far cry from the fanfare and festivities I enjoyed, even demanded, as a child, when our birthdays were all-day and sometimes all-week celebrations, with themed parties, favors, special food, and gifts.

I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family. Even so, as a kid, birthdays were a big deal -- celebrations were a common, expected occurrence. It never would have occurred to me at the time that there are millions of children in the world whose birthdays come and go just like any other day.

They don’t have a party. They don’t get gifts. They don’t eat special food. Most have never heard of or been to a birthday party, much less had one of their own.

A former sponsored child and decorated athlete turns heads, changes minds, and breaks stereotypes

Juan David, 22, is all smiles as he takes the podium to receive his second gold medal.

Winning isn’t new to Juan, a decorated athlete. He is the proud recipient of four Olympic medals: two gold, one silver, and one bronze.

Sure, he might not be the most decorated athlete of all time. His medal count doesn’t come close to that of Michael Phelps. And his 100-meter time doesn’t match that of Usain Bolt, the current Olympic record-holder from Jamaica.

But life isn’t just about the finish line.

To truly appreciate crossing the finish line, you must understand where the race started -- and what obstacles were faced along the way.

Restoring houses and hearts in Nashville and nationwide

Last July, Heidi Isaza covered this heartwarming story of Lisa McEleny, who traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to volunteer with World Vision's recovery efforts in the wake of destructive flooding that hit the city in 2010. During her week there, Lisa discovered that God had a much bigger purpose in mind for her than just rebuilding a damaged house.

This year, World Vision is organizing mission trips all across the United States. Check out the dates and locations -- you could be a part of something meaningful and life-changing.

PHOTO BLOG: Tell it to the world

The high school dropout rate in Romania is unacceptable. According to a Romanian Ministry of Education report from 2009, 25 percent of teens in rural Romania do not attend high school.

Recently, a group of nine youth, six of them sponsored, were invited to participate in a photography workshop. The children learned the basics of photography and then were loaned cameras to take pictures highlighting the problem of school dropout rates in their community.

Their photos were used to create a local photo exhibition to raise awareness about the importance of education in their community. The show was called "Tell it to the World!"  Here are some of their photos.

From heartbreak to hope in Haiti: Two years in photos

This week marks the two-year anniversary of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. It was the most powerful quake to hit the nation in more than 200 years. The impact was devastating, triggering an international relief and recovery response. Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere even before the 2010 quake.

*     *     *

An ode to the toilet (PHOTO BLOG)

How many times have you used the toilet today? Judging by the fact that you are awake enough to be reading this blog, I’m assuming the answer is at least once, and probably more. (Maybe you are even reading this while on the toilet, which means you probably have the luxury of using a loo that is clean, private, and relatively comfortable).

For all of you who are fortunate enough to have a toilet in your life, I would like to wish you a happy World Toilet Day.

No, I’m not kidding -- Saturday is World Toilet Day. You mean you didn’t get the memo?

Granted, for those of us who are lucky enough to have an abundance of bathrooms in which to “do our business,” it might seem a bit silly to celebrate the toilet. Aren’t there bigger development problems to tackle? Bigger accomplishments to celebrate?

But I want you to think back to the last time you didn’t have a decent toilet when you needed one (maybe your last camping trip, that port-a-potty at the stadium, or that long stretch of road between rest stops). Toilets, or lack thereof, are no laughing matter. Are they?

[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).

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:

Chile: Always in mi corazon (my heart)

At 30,000 feet in the air, my plane goes through a stretch of moderate turbulence. It's the closest resemblance to an actual earthquake that I have found. The shaking, rocking, and sometimes sudden movements transport me back to Chile, and the days, weeks, and months of aftershocks that followed...