Tag Archives: reflections

What you've taught us in the first year

One year ago this week, the World Vision Blog was officially launched -- and with it came a new way to share stories and reflections of our global work, while creating a forum for conversations with you, the supporters who make it all possible.

Haiti will never be a lost cause

Last time I flew into Haiti, I was reading Ernest Hemingway’s "The Old Man and the Sea." I finished it just as the plane hit the tarmac of the broken-down Port-au-Prince airport. As I closed the book, I looked up and realized why it had resonated. The protagonist and his struggles at sea reminded me of this fascinating and broken place I’d come to call home -- a country where work happens, struggles continue, and yet "success" or any kind of respite seem so often out of reach.

It’s now been two years since the largest earthquake to hit the country in 200 years shook the life out of Port-au-Prince, causing chaos, destruction, death, and leaving more people homeless than the wrecked city could cope with. Journalists have come and gone, and the visiting groups of beaming, t-shirted volunteers have become less and less frequent. The work of aid agencies, the private sector, and the government has continued, with varying levels of success amid swathes of challenges, for 24 long months, and will continue for as long as there is the will, funding, and available resources.

A different kind of day

I found myself in a hot, dusty camp on the border with Ethiopia, where Somalis who had fled their homes because of violence and the worst drought in 60 years were living. It’s there that I met Habiba.

Habiba is a 47-year-old mother of 10. She and her family used to grow bananas and mangoes and raise animals. But the drought destroyed their crops and killed all of their animals: 100 cattle, 200 goats, and 500 chickens, all gone.

It is better to give than receive

When USA Today asked me about my favorite Christmas gifts given and received, I couldn’t help but reflect on the gifts I have received through World Vision. As a donor to World Vision U.S. for 25 years -- and as its president for 13 years -- I've found that the best gifts I’ve received come as a result of generous giving.

A little child shall lead them

Although I wrote this last year, I feel it deserves a repeat-performance. I visited this family again recently and brought their daughter Lilly an actual malaria net, like those World Vision uses in Africa because I know the compassion she feels for those affected by malaria, an experience from a previous visit with her folks. She's a busy 7-year-old now and couldn't remember the entire incident, so I promised to find what I'd written last year and send it to her. Re-reading it blessed me and I hope it blesses you, too.

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This year, we all agreed to forgo the typical presents for our adult extended family members and instead choose gifts from the World Vision Gift Catalog. We'd given some similar "gifts" previously, but this year there was a special abandon to it -- a desire to really make these "thoughtful" gifts for each receiver, a criteria very close to my wife Janet's heart.

'If he survives' -- memories from Papua New Guinea

Tune in to your local ABC station on the evening of December 16 for a special edition of “20/20” with Diane Sawyer and ABC's Million Moms campaign as they examine modern-day health issues for children and mothers. For more from the ABC Million Moms Challenge, "like" their page on Facebook.

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As a photojournalist with World Vision through much of the 1980s and 1990s, I long ago lost count of the number of rural health clinics I have visited. The vacant looks on the faces of the mothers, too tired and stressed to focus; the babies in their arms, some crying softly, some shrieking in fear and discomfort; others -- too many -- lethargic and still, seemingly lifeless dolls on their parent’s laps or on filthy blankets on the floor of a decaying health facility.

It was hard to look into those tiny faces, some of which I knew wouldn’t survive much longer unless they received urgent medical care, which usually wasn’t available at the time.

The beginning of the end of AIDS

Last week, the world commemorated the 23rd annual World AIDS Day -- a day in which we remembered the 30 million lives that have been tragically lost, showed solidarity with 34 million people around the world living with HIV, and, most importantly, rededicated ourselves to the cause of ending the epidemic.

I had the privilege to attend a forum sponsored by ONE and (RED) at George Washington University entitled “The Beginning of the End of AIDS” that was simulcast live by YouTube. Among the participants were President Barack Obama, former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Kay Warren, and Bono.

What I don't want for Christmas | Blog 3 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

In today's world, Twitter, Skype, and email have become the most common means of communication. So an old-fashioned handwritten note is particularly endearing. When I received Joy's submission for our 12 blogs of Christmas project, I was pleasantly surprised that it was crafted on a yellow note pad, in neat cursive, purposefully handwritten. And, as I would expect from Joy, straight from her heart. -Lindsey Talerico-Hedren, managing editor for the WV blog

Wars, floods and the gift of chickens (2011 True Spirit of Christmas)

Yesterday, November 28, marked the start of World Vision's 2011 True Spirit of Christmas trip -- a three-week quest to discover the true meaning of the season and to witness just how Gift Catalog donations impact children and families around the world.  This post was written by Kirsten Stearns, host for this year's trip, on day 1 from the community of Horowpothana in Sri Lanka. Stay up to date with our team on the World Vision Facebook page and website.


Although my time in Sri Lanka has been brief so far, I have learned a lot and am excited to spend more time with the community in the coming days.

Our Sri Lanka trip is based in the community of Horowpothana in the northern part of the country. This community is just coming out of 30 years of war, which ended in 2009 but was followed by one of the worst floods in the area on record. Despite all of this hardship, World Vision staff are working to help local community members lift themselves out of this terrible poverty cycle, fueled by years of war and natural disaster.

As the World Vision director in Horowpothana said, “Now people are looking forward and thinking about the future [not just about safety].”

A different kind of Cyber Monday

I dread holiday shopping.

It’s difficult enough to figure out just the perfect gift for each and every loved one on your holiday list. But if you add in the hassle of navigating crowded shopping malls, long lines, and busy parking lots, I know I’m destined for an instant stress headache before I even walk through the store’s doors.

No wonder so many of us have resorted to ditching traditional brick-and-mortar shopping and have opted for virtual shopping. And it’s no wonder this Cyber Monday could exceed $1 billion for the second year in a row.

I’ll admit -- I’ve given and received my fair share of Christmas sweaters. There is a stack in my closet, and I have no clue who gave them to me. Although they keep me warm, is it too idealistic to think I can actually give a gift that’s just a bit more impactful, or even potentially life-changing?

Feeling gratitude — from the heart (Blessings #1 and #2)

Counting your blessings this week for Thanksgiving? We are, too. Blessings #1 and #2: The people we serve and those who serve with us, and the many faithful donors and supporters of World Vision's work around the world. Thank you.

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I was in the Dominican Republic last year with World Vision.

On our last day there, the World Vision staff in Santo Domingo threw us a "goodbye" party. At some point during the festivities, I was asked to say a few words and then pray.

I don't remember what I said exactly, but I remember what happened after I finished. As I handed the microphone back to the sound guy, a woman grabbed my hand. And when my other hand was free, she grabbed it, too, and cupped them inside hers.

When she had my complete attention, the woman began talking. I couldn't understand what she was saying as she spoke in Spanish. I thought about stopping her so I could look around for somebody to translate her words, but so much was happening around us -- talking, laughing, shouting, music, and dancing -- that I felt compelled to keep my eyes on her, listen closely, and experience what she was saying.

Malaria in the Congo: The ever-present scourge (PHOTO BLOG)

Here in the United States, malaria is often merely thought of as an exotic, foreign disease that was eradicated from our nation in 1951.

But when asked to describe malaria in one word, a nurse at Karawa General Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had this to say:

"Killer."

The hospital administrator said that 80 percent of the local population carries the disease. My assignment last week was to document the needs of children in the region, because World Vision is considering working in the Karawa area.

Malaria dominated almost every situation I covered. Here is a glimpse of what it looks and feels like.

Covering Somalia: Are we doing enough?

Over the weekend, I read a memoir of the life of Ahmed Ali Haile, a great Somali whom I was blessed to meet earlier at Daystar University in Kenya, where I attended my undergraduate studies. Haile taught a course I took on understanding Islam -- a course that would positively influence my relations with the Somalis with whom I work.

In his memoir, Haile narrates his experience of famine in 1965, as a 12-year-old boy in central Somalia. His family and community had coping mechanisms that they practiced. But the continued conflict there has clearly cut off this pattern -- and the consequences are devastating.

Since I started working for World Vision three years ago, I have met many malnourished children in Somalia. On few occasions, our teams were not able to save these children.

But I have witnessed just as many success stories of children who literally came back to life after staring death in the eyes.

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.

On prayer... (LINK UP)

I thread the glass beads between my tired fingers in my left hand. My right hand holds the pen to paper.

I scratch out prayers in the quiet morning over coffee.

God and I meet best in the early hours, my mind needing awakening and my bones still heavy from sleep. I suppose He’d meet me anytime, but I’m most sincere in the morning.

I’ve never done well with prayer. It’s always been a hurdle to jump, my brick wall in the marathon of faith. Putting me in a group of people who speak whispered prayers makes me uneasy, and I clam up tight and choose to be quiet.

If I speak my prayers, my language changes. I don’t sound like me, I feel weird in my skin.

So, I take to paper. Journal upon journal upon journal…lines filled with etched-in ink, aching cries, soaring gratitude, questions and more questions. It’s a history of my hemming-in, Him drawing near, yet letting me run. The journals remind me of His own pen and ink, writing out the grand stories of life and lives.

Marriage, miracles, and Micro

The following blog post was written by Timothy Hall, Africa's regional field specialist for VisionFund International, the microfinance subsidiary of World Vision.

On my final day in Rwanda, I attended a wedding. Weddings in this part of the world are a blend of the traditional and the modern. The celebrations begin in the morning with negotiations between the two families’ representatives. There are dancers, drums, and traditional costumes throughout. This is followed by lunch, and then progresses to a church where the ceremony is much closer to a typical Western wedding -- complete with a white gown, attendants, candles, and a priest.

The bride was a young woman who worked for one of VisionFund’s microfinance banks, translating and posting information for World Vision Micro. I assumed the man representing her in the negotiations was her father, and I asked a friend if this was the case. “No,” he told me, “I don’t think she has any parents left.”

Tempering the joy at this occasion was the memory, etched in the mind of every Rwandan, of the ferocious killing of the 1994 genocide, during which as many as a million lives were ended. The bride and groom were pre-teens at the time, and it is statistically impossible that there was anyone (aside from myself) at the wedding who did not personally witness a murder or other act of extreme violence.

The mystery of suffering: A before-and-after photo story

I’m often asked how I’ve been able to photograph human suffering for so much of my career and still maintain my sanity and belief in the goodness of God.

Suffering is a mystery. I’ve met many good, righteous, faithful people who have lives full of misery. My dear sister-in-law, Karen, passed away last week after years of battling cancer. She volunteered with orphans in Haiti and gave to people in need in India. She made sure her home was always open to visitors, both family and strangers, even during her illness. She was generous to a fault, wonderfully kind, encouraging, and selfless. Her life of service was lived to the glory of God. Yet she died painfully and young. Suffering is a mystery.

One thing I do know: In the midst of the worst of the worst situations, God is still there.

A tale of two droughts

Two regions in the world are experiencing severe drought, and yet the outcomes in terms of human suffering are dramatically different. Do you know where these droughts are taking place? And can you tell what distinguishes one from the other?

Drought 1: It began in the fall of 2010, yet it persists one year later. Forecasters say there is a 50-percent chance that weather patterns will not change for the next 12 months. In the last century, this region of the world has experienced its driest 12 months ever recorded. Extreme and exceptional drought covers more than 90 percent of the land. Combined with record-high temperatures, the drought is having an unprecedented impact on the region’s economy and the livelihood of its residents. Economists estimate that $5 billion has been lost as crops and cattle are lost to the hot and arid conditions. To top it off, wildfires have destroyed another 3 million acres of land.

Drought 2: Another drought elsewhere in the world looks similar. For roughly two years, rainfall has been minimal. The rains that typically provide water for crops were just 30 percent of the average rainfall in recent years. Cattle and crop losses are roughly $300 million and have been devastating for the region’s families. Recognizing the conditions, farmers shifted away from their traditional cash crops and toward less profitable but quick-maturing food. But many are still unable to provide an income or even food for themselves or their families.

Both droughts are linked to variations in ocean temperature caused by La Niña. Both regions are agricultural, raising cattle and a variety of crops. Both groups of people have made rational choices in response to weather conditions completely out of their control.

Rethinking America's place in the world: How 9/11 changed me

Christianity Today asked me, as an evangelical leader, to reflect on how I've changed since 9/11. It was an appropriate question and one worth considering, as we approach the 10-year anniversary of that fateful day in which many lives were lost and many more were changed forever.

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The September 11 attacks jolted Americans into realizing that our nation was no longer, and never again would be, an "island" protected from the senseless brutality of terrorism. The world became smaller that day, and the person who could not find Afghanistan and Pakistan on a map suddenly wanted to learn more about those and other Muslim countries.

From the standpoint of international development, the attacks were a catalyst for renewed interest in and commitment to helping address the underlying problems that prompted 19 men to hijack and crash four jetliners, killing themselves and nearly 3,000 others.

Operation Seasweep: A 32-year story of God's provision

Thirty-two years ago, World Vision reported the rescue story of Operation Seasweep, the boat Mr. Vinh Chung was on, in the August 1979 issue of World Vision Magazine. Mr. Chung recently retold his story at our headquarters office. I spoke with him afterward for a fuller picture of his life after Seasweep and the miracle of God's provision for his family.


Two very different parts of Vinh Chung’s life meet when he walks on a beach.

In an instant, the smell of sea salt takes the 36-year-old skin cancer surgeon back to his 1979 exodus from Vietnam.

Just four years old at the time, Vinh recalls fleeing the southern city of Ca Mau by boat from the Mekong River Delta toward the South China Sea with his parents and seven siblings.

The Chung family -- ethnically Chinese -- escaped the communist government’s persecution of ethnic minorities.

Once they reached the open ocean, Thai pirates stole their valuables. Their boat eventually made it to a Malaysian beach, but instead of offering asylum, soldiers held them at gunpoint and brutally beat Vinh’s father and uncle. Then they were towed back out to sea on a smaller boat with no working motor or fuel. They were left to die.