Recent Posts By James Addis

Crisis in Syria, part 3: Video and FAQs

The civil war in Syria has entered its third year, and the number of refugees fleeing the country has doubled in the past three months.

Today's post -- the third in our series about the crisis -- offers a list of the most frequently asked questions to offer our readers some background to the growing humanitarian needs.

Girl Rising: Screenwriter finds talent living on the street

Celebrated screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala wrote the script for the Indian segment of Girl Rising -- a new film about girls in the developing world who are struggling to get an education.

Her previous work includes the screenplay for the Oscar-nominated film Salaam Bombay. In Girl Rising, Sooni tells the story of 11-year-old Ruksana -- a girl who lives on the streets of Calcutta. She spoke with World Vision about her experience.

Girl Rising: Producer meets girl revolutionaries

When director Richard Robbins got the idea for Girl Rising -- a film about girls struggling to get an education -- he was determined that it should be part of a social action campaign to improve the lot of girls around the world.

Critically-acclaimed producer Martha Adams helped make the film and subsequently became the creative director for the campaign. She spoke to World Vision about both roles.

Girl Rising: Writer seeks understanding, shuns condemnation

When Academy-Award nominated director Richard Robbins set out to make “Girl Rising” — a film about girls in the developing world struggling to get an education — he enlisted prominent women writers from each of the countries featured to tell the girls’ stories.

Film Director Ditches Convention to tell Girls’ Stories

The director of a soon-to-be-released film charting the lives of girls struggling to get an education in some of the world’s toughest places deliberately abandoned the techniques of conventional documentary filmmaking.

The film Girl Rising, whose narrators include Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, and Selena Gomez, is due for theatrical release in March.

Handwashing: The greatest medical invention of all time

Today, believe it or not, is Global Handwashing Day.

I appreciate there are a ton of these kinds of days, and it’s sometimes tough to get excited about them all. So far this month we’ve had World Habitat Day, International Day of Older Persons, International Day of Non-Violence, World Teachers Day, World Post Day, World Mental Health Day, International Day of the Girl Child, World Sight Day, International Day for Disaster Reduction, and International Day of Rural Women.

Phew! What a list -- and we're only halfway through the month. One would have to be a saint to get passionate about them all.

On the other hand, commemorative days can focus attention on what might easily be a vital yet neglected topic. Handwashing happens to be one such issue.

Shining example: The shoeshine stand that delivers clean water

Leon McLaughlin’s story might make a script for a feel-good kids’ movie.

The plot goes like this: A humble shoeshine man operates from a stand in an important city building. As he shines the shoes of top city officials and business people, he shares his passion for bringing clean water to children around the world.

In South Sudan, a connection between conflict and hunger

With more food on the planet than ever before, it's difficult to believe that people still go hungry every day. You might assume that natural disasters, drought, or a lack of access to necessary farming equipment are to blame for a lack of food. What may surprise you, though, is that conflict is a leading cause of hunger.

Currently, conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is causing food shortages affecting millions, leaving children most vulnerable. While it is easy to see the role that a natural disaster or drought plays in hunger, the connection between conflict and hunger can be complicated. To make this complex issue easier to understand, World Vision's James Addis outlines some key questions below.

David’s bright idea

Do you give money to beggars? I can think of plenty of reasons why such giving is not a good idea. Then, I’ll see some destitute woman shivering in the cold, and I’ll feel compelled to press a few dollars in her hand.

The malaria scare

[caption id="attachment_12514" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Nicole Suka gives her 3-year-old son, Yangana, a sip of water as he receives a blood transfusion for his severe case of malaria."]The malaria scare | World Vision Blog[/caption]

People like me, who thought the world was winning the war against malaria, might have gotten a rude awakening earlier this month following the release of a report by researchers at the University of Washington.

Whoever said fundraising had to be boring?

Here at World Vision, we deal with some heavy issues -- famine, AIDS, human trafficking, war, natural disasters, abject poverty -- the sort of topics that might easily have one reaching for anti-depressants.

But there are a lot of fun jobs, too. One of mine is writing about donors who have found wonderful ways to raise money to support World Vision and help cure some of the world’s greatest ills.

Here are some of my favorites of 2011.

Blessing #3: Compassionate kids

We're counting our blessings each day this week in celebration of Thanksgiving. Blessing #3: The many compassionate and beautiful children who remind us every day what it means to have a child-like faith in a God who loves us.

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The fun and sometimes frustrating thing about being a writer is that you never quite know what kind of story you are going to get. Sometimes, great leads turn out to be disappointing. Other times, what looks like a humdrum story turns out to have a twist that blows your socks off.

So it was with a sense of nervous anticipation that I called Teresa and Carl Camera of Austin, Texas. I’d been asked to write a feature story about them for World Vision Magazine. Teresa had written to the magazine, saying how blessed her family was by the publication and how it was helping their boys -- Kevin, 10, and Christopher, 11 -- develop a more compassionate outlook.

It was very kind of Teresa to say so, of course, but perhaps a stretch to write on for 1,000 words.

But once I got on the phone with the Cameras, I discovered they had a whole range of strategies for helping their boys become more caring people. These conversations became the basis of the “Raising Kids Who Care” feature in the current issue of the magazine.

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.

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.

Your chance to fight human trafficking [Livestream]

It’s easy to get disillusioned with political debate. Frequently, it degenerates into petty point-scoring and partisan bickering. Constructive dialogue, it seems, often disappears out the window.

So it’s nice when an issue comes along on which nearly everybody can agree. One such issue is the problem of human trafficking -- the use of fraud, force, or coercion to exploit a child or adult for profit. It’s estimated that there are more than 12 million trafficked people in the world today -- a $32 billion industry. Every day, children are forced to perform sexual acts or work long hours in filthy, dangerous conditions for the financial benefit of someone else.

Sometimes, I imagine my own children forced into this position, and my mind almost blanks out at the horror of it.

In 2000, Congress unanimously passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act -- widely regarded as the most comprehensive piece of human-rights legislation in U.S. history. The act has done much to protect the vulnerable and support trafficking survivors. At the same time, it has given law-enforcement agencies the tools to prosecute traffickers -- both for crimes committed in the United States and abroad.

The success of the world’s greatest to-do list

Every morning, I begin my day by writing a to-do list in my diary. I can’t remember when I started this habit, but I’m certain my productivity has increased exponentially as a result.

I write down irksome duties that nevertheless must get done; I break down complex tasks into several simpler ones -- and, whoa, what looked like an impossible mountain to climb suddenly appears as a series of manageable mole hills. Every time I complete a task, I put a check next to that item on the list.

I’d be lying if I said I manage to get everything done every day. If I did, I’d probably be running for president by now. All the same, at the end of the day, I have a record of achievements, plus an itemized account of what needs more work -- something that will inform the to-do list for the following day.

Perhaps the greatest to-do list of all time is the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that all United Nations member states agreed to work toward in September 2000. The object of this to-do list is nothing less than the radical reduction of the most extreme forms of poverty by 2015.

What does famine teach us?

The thing that has moved me the most about the current famine in the Horn of Africa is learning of the women and children who have been robbed and assaulted as they have fled Somalia.

Their plight reminds me of a boy called Maror Bol. He was about 13 years old when I met him in Sudan. Maror was in similar dire straits and was also robbed. He also taught me one of the most important lessons of my life.

In 1998, bad weather and factional fighting had provoked a famine in Southern Sudan. Maror had walked about 50 miles to reach a World Vision feeding center for malnourished children -- located at a rough camp in the middle of nowhere. I spoke to Maror as he joined a line to register for assistance. He explained that his brother had kicked him out, saying there was not enough food to go around. So he took a long walk across Sudan’s parched landscape to see if he could get assistance.

When I saw him, he had not eaten for days and was naked. He is the only person I have ever met who had absolutely nothing.