Rwanda 20 years: Why I was afraid

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Seven years ago, staff writer Kari Costanza visited Rwanda for the first time. She was able to replace her fear about the trip because of stories like Zaphran’s.

World Vision’s early work in Rwanda immediately following the genocide focused on peace-building, livelihood training, water and sanitation, agriculture, education, and health issues like malaria and maternal and child health.

Read how these programs helped reconstruct a new orphan’s world … and her sense of family.

***

Going to Rwanda for the first time made me nervous. Really nervous. I’d read a lot of books about the genocide. I’d watched Hotel Rwanda and nearly come undone. I dreamed of machetes.

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    The children of Syria speak as year four begins

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    As we mark the three-year anniversary of the Syrian refugee crisis today, the children of Syria speak out together, making an urgent plea to the world to listen. To help. Stand with World Vision in helping to prevent a lost generation of Syrian children.

    Read more about this report written by children to the world.

    ***

    Imagine that you’re taking an extended camping trip — you know that day when you suddenly feel like going back home? Taking a real shower again? Baking something in the oven or going out for dinner?

    Now imagine that you’ve felt like that for three years.

    Today, the conflict in Syria and corresponding refugee crisis in neighboring countries officially enters its fourth year.

    Each year gets worse. Much worse.

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      A hope to sustain us

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      “Where there is breath, there is hope,” Meg Sattler writes today from Jordan about the children of Syria and their stories and voices crying out to be heard.

      Will you listen?

      ***

      “And the course of the Syrian conflict is currently demonstrating the utility of mass atrocities and the relative indifference of the rest of the world.” – Michael Gerson, Washington Post.

      I started working on the Syrian conflict response last August. I flew from Melbourne, Australia, and landed amid a crisis that I didn’t think could get any worse. My previous work in Pakistan had exposed me to conflict, but it wasn’t like this.

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        Two different crises, three years later

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        Three years ago today, the strongest earthquake ever to hit Japan and the subsequent tsunami devastated its northeastern coastal communities, killing more than 15,000 people.

        Coincidentally, this weekend will mark three years since the start of the Syrian crisis that continues to impact millions of lives in the Middle East and beyond.

        These notable anniversaries — both devastating — depict a marked difference between what the humanitarian world refers to as “slow-” versus “sudden-” onset emergencies.

        ***

        Sudden-onset emergencies are catastrophic events like tropical storms, earthquakes, and tsunamis. They happen in minutes or hours and require well-coordinated humanitarian responses to help meet the needs of people quickly.

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          What should I do for Lent?

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          This Lenten season will see the Syrian refugee crisis enter its fourth year.

          Today for Ash Wednesday, Nathaniel Hurd, a World Vision policy adviser in Washington, D.C., writes about how the traditional Lenten sacrifices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving can help the people of Syria.

          ***

          “What should I do for Lent?” For 25 of my 37 years, I never asked this question.

          Until age 22, I said there was no God. But conversations with friends opened me to the possibility of faith. I still wondered and questioned for the next two and a half years. Finally, on a wintery run, I recognized the risen Christ.

          Then I asked what I should do for Lent — the 40 days of penance leading to Easter — and I saw the real value of the answer.

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            My encounter with a child of Syria

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            For three years, too many innocent people in Syria have suffered — above all, the #childrenofSyria. They have seen homes, schools, and hospitals destroyed. They have borne the brunt of indiscriminate violence and witnessed unspeakable abuse. Millions have been forced to flee, while millions more are trapped inside Syria in horrific conditions.

            Join World Vision, Save the Children, Mercy Corps, UNICEF, and UNHCR in preventing a lost generation of Syrian children. Sign our petition here.

            Today, Meg Sattler, World Vision's communications manager for the Syria crisis response, describes meeting one of these children of Syria — a girl whose laughter would give way to tears without warning.

            ***

            Today, a 15-year-old girl showed me a film of her bombed and ransacked house. She held her phone out in front of me, hands quivering slightly, and room by room I was taken on a shaky, somewhat pixilated tour of her family home. Heaps of clothes, papers, and trinkets covered dusty carpets amid overturned furniture. Here and there, a wall was blown out, sunshine streaming in where it didn’t before.

            “That is my mum and dad’s room,” she told me. The camera zoomed into an open drawer, where family photos were strewn about. A lifetime of memories, rearranged.

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              Bath time brings tears

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              Lauren Fisher, World Vision emergency communications officer, writes about meeting Ghaziyye and her twin girls, age 4, who are living as refugees in Lebanon.

              What brought this mother to tears wasn't the violence or fear or having lost everything; it was that her girls were always dirty. Read how a simple provision from World Vision has wiped away those tears.

              ***

              It wasn’t the war, the lack of food, or even her new home — a tent of sheet plastic — that brought the tears. It was the thought of not being able to give her children a bath that made Ghaziyye turn away, quickly wiping her eyes, embarrassed.

              “I used to bathe them twice every day,” she said, gently running her hand over the ruffled and dirty hair of her twin girls, age 4. “Everything is different. Everything, everything.”

              It’s hard to explain how drastic a change it is. You don’t quite know where to start.

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                Everything

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                Today, we hear the voices of Syrian refugee children:

                An 8-year-old Syrian boy named Hamze, who is living as a refugee in Lebanon, answers the question, "What do you miss about home?"

                And a video: children answer the question, "What does peace mean?"

                ***

                What do you miss about home?

                “Everything.”

                What’s different about your home in Syria, and your home here [in Lebanon]?

                “Curtains. We had curtains in our house in Syria. Here, it is a tent.”

                Hamze, 8, has fond memories of playing football with his friends at home in Syria. He also has loving memories of his father, whom they have lost contact with. His mother fears the worst, telling us that this is out of character for him.

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                  Why should Christians care about Syria?

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                  In today’s blog, we ask a variety of Christian thought leaders why we as Christians should care about the conflict in Syria, a crisis that day to day often feels very far from us. Or someone else’s problem.

                  Hear what seven writers have to say about this question, including bloggers Ron Edmondson and Matthew Paul Turner, and our very own president, Rich Stearns.

                  ***

                  Rich Stearns, World Vision U.S. president

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                    South Sudan conflict: Left in danger

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                    Medina and Margret are just two among hundreds of thousands in South Sudan who have been driven from their homes by the fighting that escalated last month. Left with little in a disrupted economy, they want to take their families away from the conflict but can’t afford to, leaving them to seek sanctuary wherever they can. Read the story of these two families, and learn what World Vision is doing to help.

                    ***

                    Medina Hilary, 18, has spent four days in the Catholic Church compound after being uprooted by fear and insecurity from her home in Lologo, a suburb of Juba, South Sudan. Seated with her 1-year-old son on a mat, Medina has been running into the church because of fighting between the army of South Sudan and opposition forces within Juba town.

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