Tag Archives: reflections

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.

The 'salt' in a modern-day Jericho

For five days, we listened as the women of the Congo shared with us the unspeakable horrors they had experienced -- personal stories of abduction, rape, and mayhem at the hands of men who use violence against women as a weapon of war.

But harder still for me to hear were their accounts of a second round of abuse at the hands of those from whom they should have expected comfort and compassion -- parents who rejected their own daughters after they had been impregnated in violent attacks by local militias; in-laws who laid claim to land and possessions from widows forced to watch as their husbands were killed in front of them. More than a decade of fear and devastation has ripped apart the very fabric of life for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Being a humanitarian -- from the desk or the field

Editor's note: In an effort to raise public awareness of humanitarian assistance worldwide and the people who risk their lives to provide it, the UN General Assembly has designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day. This year's theme is "People helping people," celebrating everyday humanitarians helping people around the world. From wherever you are today -- at home, at a desk, or in the field -- be inspired by the spirit of aid work in those around you and in yourself.

In my new job at World Vision, I was recently sent to assist our response to the drought, food crisis, and famine across the Horn of Africa. I had spent several weeks learning the systems of World Vision from my desk in Washington, D.C., and was anxious to get back out to the field, where a real disaster was unfolding.

Before World Vision, I had spent more than four years overseas, working in relief settings. I love this line of work for its fast-moving nature and its tie to the headlines of what we see in the news. This is a chance to do something that matters.

Interns with a [world] vision

As we get ready to send off our amazing summer interns -- some back to school, some onto start their careers, but all to wherever God leads them -- we want to say THANK YOU for the help you've given us this summer, and the impact you've had on the lives of children around the world. As our president Rich Stearns has said so many times this summer, "You are world-changers and we only wish we could hire every one of you."

Special thanks to Chris Clouzet, World Vision intern with the web content team, who compiled and edited this edition of "what working at World Vision means to me"... but with a twist -- what interning at World Vision means to me from four summer interns.


I wanted to be a blacksmith’s apprentice this summer, but it just seemed so "Middle Ages." Fortunately, a friend introduced me to World Vision’s internship program, and I was accepted. So, while I don’t get to make swords, I get to help with tasks like updating statistics and editing stories for the website -- and know I’m a part of helping children in need. For me, that means a lot.

[Bolivia bloggers] A dozen unforgettable moments

I saw this tweet from Rachel Held Evans yesterday morning: “Been back from Bolivia for a week now, and I'm just now unpacking. Anyone else out there an unpacker-slacker?" I'm the worst kind of unpacker... I let the task of unpacking intimidate me in a really silly way.

I also think there's something sort of nostalgic about an unpacked suitcase -- it brings back memories of where you've just returned from. In this case, it brings back bittersweet memories of the seven days I spent in Bolivia with some of the most insightful and endearing people I'll ever know -- Elizabeth, Andrea, Joy, Nish, Matthew, Carla, Rachel, Amy, Michael, Jana and Deb -- and all of the moments we experienced together. Moments that have changed our hearts forever.

Now, each time I look at the photos, read the blog posts, or trip over my unpacked suitcase in the morning, every moment and every child’s face floods back into my memory and fills my heart with more love and joy than I sometimes know how to process. Those are the moments I never, ever want to forget.

Home for one week and still unpacking our bags, these are our unforgettable moments from our time in Bolivia. We hope pieces of our experiences bless you as they've blessed us.


Elizabeth Esther, ElizabethEsther.com

Meeting the special needs kids in Colomi ADP touched my heart in such a deep way. The parents’ unflagging dedication in spite of insurmountable odds truly inspired me to be a better parent myself. It was amazing to see the value World Vision places on each individual child—especially those with special needs. It was a great honor to join this trip. Thank you, World Vision.

Andrea Rodriguez, trip host, communications officer at the World Vision Bolivia National Office

The moment Arturo, a child at the Colomi special needs center, got his hearing device, his eyes became like the Sora Sora lake with the sunset – bright and beautiful – a moment I’ll never forget.

A letter to the mothers and fathers of Bolivia

To the incredible mothers and fathers of Bolivia,

This journey has been an opportunity to give a voice for the voiceless. To put a spotlight on the unseen. To shed light on what life is like through the eyes of Bolivians. I hope that I have shared and will continue to share your stories with the accuracy and thoughtfulness that they deserve.

To the mothers who pray daily for the health and future of their children -- you are the fortitude of your families. To the mothers who battle cultural discrimination because their children are born with disabilities -- you are women of strength. To the mothers who took in children who were not their own because no one else would -- you are brave. To Celestina whose son Wilfram was born with a heart condition and down syndrome – I count you full of courage for never giving up hope in his life or in God.

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 4: A world apart but the same at heart

The following was written last night, on day 4 of the Bolivia bloggers trip in Cochabamba.


Tonight I got an email from a colleague with a note from Charles Owubah, World Vision’s regional leader in East Africa. All I could thinks was this: my mind has been consumed with the people we’ve met here in Bolivia. Now I’m reminded of the 11.5 million people there affected by the drought.

Charles tells the story of one of them: Atabo.

“Yesterday I was in Lokori, Turkana East, in North Eastern Kenya where I met Atabo Ekaale.  Atabo is one-year-old but looks like six months old because he has almost nothing to eat. His mother, Lorenyi, is desperate because she wants her son to live and go to school. I saw many mothers like Lorenyi,” writes Charles.

I have a 15-month-old son. He’s loud and delightful and eats more than my three-year-old girl. I can’t imagine not being able to answer his cries for food.

'We may be poor, but we’re not stupid' -- the reality of life in Africa

Stories are powerful. They can bring hope, or despair. Laughter, or sorrow. And, as we who work for World Vision and other humanitarian agencies know very, very well, stories can educate and enlighten people. They can help achieve a lot of good.

One woman whose story last week received a lot of accolades and criticism is Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo. Her book, “Hitting Budapest,” has won what many consider to be Africa’s top award for literature, the Caine Prize.

“The language of ‘Hitting Budapest’ crackles," the prize’s leading judge commented to CNN. "Here we encounter…a gang reminiscent of ‘Clockwork Orange.’ But these are children, poor and violated and hungry. This is a story with moral power and weight [that] has the artistry to refrain from moral commentary."

However, not everyone has praised Ms. Bulawayo’s story. One blogger, Aaron Bady, who writes under the name “zunguzungu,” contends that the book “traffics in the familiar genre of Africa-poverty-pornography.”

The sound that changes everything [video]

“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” The words from this 80s pop song by Whitney Houston have been looping through my mind for the past five days. I’ve spent the past week looking through the viewfinder of my camera and seeing the faces of teenagers staring back at me -- their eyes shining with hope and their mouths speaking words that will ignite change in their communities.

World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) concluded their fifth annual summit last Friday in Washington, D.C. As the summit's videographer, I witnessed teens from all over the country speak of their diverse struggles, unique cultural challenges, and the problems they face in bringing transformation to their neighborhoods. Over and over, as I shot their stories and experiences, I saw youth voices come together with a message so great that everyone is compelled to listen.

Following Coach Richt to Honduras -- a trip that changes lives

Special thanks to Steve Hummer, Sunday sports feature writer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for guest-blogging this post for us. Following the UGA sports blog's May 25 post and our May 31 post, Steve joined University of Georgia football coach Mark Richt and his wife, Katharyn, in Honduras to witness World Vision's work there.


World Vision? What’s that? An optician with delusions of grandeur? A new psychic helpline? A few months ago, I had no idea.

Then there came a curious off-season story from the most watched sports beat here at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: University of Georgia football. Bulldogs fans were all atwitter over a report that head coach Mark Richt had put his vacation lake home up for sale. That prompted wide speculation that after two disappointing seasons he was selling off as a hedge against the possibility of being fired this year.

A new hope through independence

It’s a long journey from the backyard barbecues and fireworks of our own Fourth of July festivities to the Republic of South Sudan, a new country that will be born in just days from today on July 9. I’m willing to bet, though, that our traditional summer celebration will seem downright routine compared to the life-changing nature of South Sudan’s first birthday.

At first glance, it may seem as though future citizens of South Sudan don't have much to be grateful for or much to celebrate. They will be receiving the poorest corner of one of the poorest countries on earth -- a place beset by hunger, disease, and war. According to a 2007 government study (pdf), mothers in Southern Sudan are more likely to die in childbirth than anywhere else on earth. Another report indicated that more than half of the population lives below the poverty line.

So why do the Sudanese celebrate? Maybe they’re celebrating a fresh start. Maybe it’s that most South Sudanese long to write a new, unbloodied page in their history, to cultivate a renewed community and land for themselves and their children. Maybe it's the hope that, on this day, all the problems facing South Sudan will be put aside so that everyone can celebrate this moment to start a new future together. Frankly, that kind of hope leaves most of our Fourth of July celebrations in the shade.

Fullness of life: A new father's story

Editor's note: In honor of Father's Day, Pato Isquierdo, a communications officer in Ecuador (pictured above with his wife, Karly, and son, Matias), shares with us how becoming a new father has changed his perspective and lent new meaning to his work with World Vision.

The bus was already entering Quito, Ecuador, at 9 p.m. I was fully loaded with cameras, a laptop, and back pain.

But it was OK -- I was finally arriving home. It was my first trip to a World Vision development community since I became a father. I just needed to get home and rest for the next day.

But while riding the bus home, I found a whole new level of understanding of the depth of a part of World Vision's mission statement: “life in all its fullness.”

Yes, I know that this is our goal with everything we do at work. But what about "fullness of life" for my own son? Then, it all made sense! Everything I've learned during my time with World Vision had a new angle.

Here's to the first 100 -- and to the next

I'm the type of person who likes to celebrate everything -- not just birthdays and major holidays. Other causes for celebration may include a work achievement (like a promotion or completing a project), a randomly special day of the week, or monthly anniversaries of a first date or first time trying a new food.

You could say that I'm a believer that any reason to celebrate is a good reason to celebrate.

And I've got a good reason to celebrate today: This marks the 100th post on the World Vision Blog! That's 100 articles written by 44 different authors from all walks of life and faith -- from Washington state to Washington, D.C., to Zambia to Japan. Our posts have ranged from lighthearted to sobering, newsy to reflective, inspiring to thought-provoking.

Through our lens: 5 videos worth watching

Two weeks before Christmas, I was sitting on a small wooden bench, filming an interview with a brother and sister. They had been left to take care of their family after their parents died. World Vision had sent staff members to their home to check on them regularly and to care for the family's needs.

After sharing their story, the sister looked at us and said, “If someone loses a parent, they are still human beings. We should help them with their needs.”

Our small team of three tried to hold back our tears as the brother and sister broke down in front of the camera.

The hope beyond what I saw in Sudan

Editor's note: Three weeks ago, we asked Collins, a World Vision communicator in Zambia, to write about his recent experience in Sudan, supporting World Vision's office there. His reply: "My experience in Sudan makes me feel as though I should write a book, because it is something I have never experienced in my life before. You have really asked for the blog at the right time." As South Sudan prepares to celebrate its independence as Africa's newest country on July 9, we continue to to offer assistance to this conflict-weary region.

Indelible memories of the suffering I saw in Darfur have followed me since the day I left Sudan for Zambia. My mind and heart are still attached to the people of Sudan, especially the children. I have seen suffering and poverty in Zambia and other places in Africa -- but not of the magnitude I saw when I visited Darfur’s camps for internally displaced people (IDPs).

All I used to hear were stories. I never used to think it was that bad -- until I saw the reality at Otash camp, near Nyala, the capital city of South Darfur, Sudan, where displaced families have migrated for safety.

Now, the work begins

Editor's note: The World Vision family is comprised of thousands of staff members from various personal, professional, and spiritual backgrounds -- each of whom has a unique story of being led to our ministry. To highlight this diversity, we're starting a monthly series in which a different World Vision staff person will share "what working at World Vision means to me."

Growing up as one of the only Asian Americans in my predominately white neighborhood, I was often on the receiving end of racial slurs.

This left me angry and confused. I often felt misplaced.

In college, I began to ask questions about my family’s past. I hoped to find something that would explain all the childhood teasing and bullying.

In this search I discovered Malcolm X, a civil rights activist who found himself in being a voice for the voiceless. I believed that I, too, could express my family’s American experience and be heard.

Representing the marginalized and the oppressed became my call; writing and photography became my tools.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had a wide variety of seemingly random editorial jobs. I always wondered how it would come together in a focused way.

When my wife and I decided to move to Seattle to be closer to family, I applied to work at World Vision on a whim earlier this year, as other options were not working out.

You are remembered

Editor's note: This Memorial Day, we honor the sacrifices made by men and women in the military -- as well as others whose service and sacrifice is equally worthy of recognition, even if it wasn't done in military uniform.

There’s a movement in some quarters to expand the roster of those honored on Memorial Day beyond the veterans of formally declared wars. My uncle returned from World War II a decorated bomber pilot for 24 completed missions, and my father, his younger brother, came back shell-shocked and on the brink of ruin.

But for me, it takes nothing away from their sacrifices to honor others this day who suffered and/or died to make a better world, even if they didn’t do it in uniform. Who would begrudge the victims in the Twin Towers a place among those being remembered today because they were civilians, or the Port Authority police officers and the firefighters because their uniforms weren’t military?

Observations from Missouri's tornado zone

Editor's note: Joplin, Missouri, is a small town in the U.S. Heartland. Its official population is 50,150. But now, it is tragically smaller in every sense, after the May 22 tornado that left 122 dead, 750 injured, and more than a quarter of the town destroyed. Phyllis Freeman, our domestic emergency response director, is on the ground in Joplin.

I went looking for a school and found Irving Elementary School. It was mangled, the bricks blown apart.

You can only think about the children who lived through this, seeing the skies turn black, hearing the roar of 200-mph winds, and watching the tornado chew things up, literally.

Then they emerged to find their home gone, not knowing what’s happened to their friends, maybe their parents.

'We refuse to be enemies'

It was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. The location was a hilltop west of Bethlehem about a month ago, and my fellow dinner guests were 30 pastors and church leaders from the United States. That night, our bus parked at a cement-and-barbed-wire barricade, and we hiked about half a mile over two such barricades to have dinner at the top of the hill -- in a cave!

The prominent sign at the end of our hike proclaimed the slogan: “We refuse to be enemies.”

The parcel of land west of Bethlehem is only about 100 acres. It is owned by the Nassar family, a Palestinian Christian family who have lived on and farmed the land since 1916. It is squarely in the West Bank, and according to international law, belongs to the Nassar family and is not part of Israel. But today, it is surrounded by 50,000 Israeli settlers, living on similar land confiscated from other Palestinian families.