Recent Posts By Laura Reinhardt

Remembering families in the U.S. this New Year

Every year about this time, I list goals for the upcoming year -- new year resolutions, if you will. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but I love that feeling of starting fresh.

Then, I think about some of the families I’ve met in my work as a World Vision communicator in the United States, and I realize that they don’t have time to think about these kinds of goals.

For many U.S. families living in poverty, it's a struggle just to provide food and shelter for their loved ones.

One such family is the Cutrights from West Virginia.

Rooftops, full bellies, and prayers (blessings 4-6)

We’re counting our blessings each day this week in celebration of Thanksgiving. Blessings #4, 5, and 6: for rooftops over our heads, food in our bellies, and prayers for provision for those who currently endure without these basics.

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The holiday season has officially begun. Weeks before Thanksgiving, Christmas ads appeared on TV and in newspapers. Last week, I was in New York City, where the window displays and Christmas lights are an art form, which delights native New Yorkers and the thousands of tourists who flock there to experience this special time of year. I confess that I feel like a kid again -- filled with wonder and awe -- when I get to visit New York at this time of year.

Sometimes the quieter holiday -- Thanksgiving -- gets lost in the Christmas excitement. But still, this week, people across the United States will come together with friends and family to eat their delicious Thanksgiving dinners.

At the end of the meal, we’ll say how we ate too much and will have to ramp up our workouts to get rid of those extra calories.

But that’s not the case for everyone in the United States.

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.

What makes an advocate?

What does it mean to be an advocate?

Dictionary.com defines advocate as "a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc." For me, that definition feels impersonal. The 120 young people in Washington, D.C., this week for World Vision’s Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) summit bring personalization and breathe life into advocacy.

Friday was Capitol Hill day for the fifth annual YEP Summit. Teenagers came from urban centers or rural hamlets across the United States. Many live in poverty or in areas plagued by violence and drug or alcohol abuse. Despite their troubles, they refuse to give up. They refuse to be beaten down. They stand up for their communities. They advocate.

Photo stories from tornado survivors

Editor's note: Here are a few of the latest photos from World Vision communicator Laura Reinhardt, in the American Southeast following the deadly tornadoes on April 27 that left survivors across the region without homes.

[caption id="attachment_4884" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Six-year-old Isaiah Walker jumps from board to board. He can still be a child despite the trauma of the tornado, which destroyed his home. ©2011 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4882" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Isaiah's mother, Veronica May, worries about the emotional effects of the tornado on all three of her children. "This is something that may be embedded in their heads for a long time, if not the rest of their lives." ©2011 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision"][/caption]

"We’re all still alive"

Editor's note: Last night, I received the following email from Laura Reinhardt, who is in Alabama:

The man sitting next me on the plane looked out the window as we approached Birmingham, Alabama. He pointed out the path of destruction left by the April 27 tornadoes.

“That’s the spookiest thing I ever saw,” he said. “It’s like someone took a giant vacuum cleaner to the earth.”

[caption id="attachment_4477" align="aligncenter" width="456" caption="An aerial view of Tuscaloosa showing just how wide-spread the tornado damage is. © 2011 Laura Reinhardt/WV"][/caption]

Seeing it from the air and being kind of awed by nature’s power is one thing, but getting on the ground and seeing tin roofs curled up like ribbon, walls ripped away to reveal the inside of someone’s life, and then meeting people like 10-year-old Morgan Adams makes it all much more personal.

Morgan came to the house while I was interviewing his neighbor Connie McDonald. He told me about neighbors down the street who were worse off than they were. He’d been helping them to clean up the debris.

[caption id="attachment_4474" align="aligncenter" width="456" caption="A fallen tree on the family's old Volkswagon Beetle, the car Morgan hoped to have one day. © 2011 Laura Reinhardt/WV"][/caption]

We walked outside to look at the tree the tornado had knocked over through the roof of his family’s kitchen. He said to me: “You coming down here doesn’t bother me, but people who just drive by and almost get in a wreck staring at us, that bothers me."