Introducing Bernard: Husband, Father, Humanitarian

Today is World Humanitarian Day—a day to remember those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and celebrate the spirit of humanitarian work around the world.  We’re honored to introduce you today to some of the remarkable people who work for World Concern.  Head to our Facebook page and check out our World Humanitarian Day album to meet a few of these people.  Continue reading here to meet Bernard, one of our #HumanitarianHeroes in Haiti.

Bernard Rozier is a husband and father of two who lives in the city of Les Cayes in southern Haiti.  Since 2004 he has worked with World Concern as the Hope to Kids (HTK) Program Manager.  This program began in 1998 and provides students with a goat and husbandry training which allows them to earn an income and pay for school.

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Bernard (left), with Pierre Duclona, the World Concern Regional Coordinator for southern Haiti.

Bernard is a soft spoken person but is well respected and loved by the children he serves.  He would be the first person to tell you that he is not superhuman but simply a man who loves God and wants to do his work well each day.  Grab a cup of coffee and sit down with us as we ask Bernard a bit more about his life and work:

Why did you choose to work in this field?

“First of all, as there is a lack of jobs in Haiti people do not always have a choice in choosing which field to work in, but I chose to work in this field as I always have a passion to work with kids and a passion for animals.  There is a custom in Haiti where people are afraid of animals like frogs, snakes, and spiders.   So animals create fear in the Haitian people and sometimes they kill them.   So as I work with the kids I teach them not to kill those animals because they all eat insects and therefore they help us to fight insects without using insecticides, which can be harmful if used on our vegetables.  I also teach them the importance of the goat milk as it is a good source a protein for kids.  So this field enables me to help educate the kids and I hope this will have a positive result in the future.”

What impact does the Hope to Kids project have on children in Haiti?

“The program teaches the children how to make a living with their work.  The care the children provide the goat will allow them to one day sell the offspring and make some income to meet their daily expenses and contribute with their parents to school expenses like buying books, uniform, pens, and other materials.  The goat we provide the students with is dependent upon them so the children will act as parents toward the goat, feeding them, leading them to water, and sheltering them.”

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What motivates you to come to work each day?

“What motivates me to come to work each day is the hope that I bring for the kids by the goat I provide them and the joy I bring to them by playing with them.  When I visit the kids to give the goats shots and the goat cries, all the children are laughing so even the goat clinic brings joy to the kids too.”

Watching games

Do you have a hobby or activity you like doing outside of work?

“The activity I like to do outside of work is playing with kids and making them happy even for awhile. When some kids see me, they laugh so some of them call me ‘toy.’  I also sometimes act as a mentor for kids.”

What do you hope for the country of Haiti?

“What I hope for the country of Haiti is that all people, including the peasants, would have a source of revenue to respond to their daily needs.”4 - Goats, deworm, Les Cayes_065

Photo Essay: Disaster Simulation Prepares Communities for the Worst

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin

Imagine a hurricane has just swept across your rural village, toppling trees, blowing roofs off houses, and flooding streets.  As you rush to check on family and friends you discover a number of people who are trapped under fallen trees or stuck in a muddy ravine.  There are no emergency services and your village does not have a health clinic to treat even basic injuries.  What would you do?

This is a hypothetical situation, but it happens all the time in places where World Concern works.  We believe in helping vulnerable communities, like the one described above, become better prepared for future crises and disasters with the goal of saving lives.  We aim to replace feelings of fear and helplessness, with feelings of empowerment and confidence.

During the last week of July, World Concern coordinated a three day training on first aid, and search and rescue techniques for 24 community volunteers, or ‘brigadiers,’ in southern Haiti.  These volunteers are ordinary people who want to better serve their families and communities.  Here’s a look at this important training and some of the people we met.

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Volunteers learn how to tie a variety of different knots that can be used to rescue a person or move an obstacle.

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Ready…one, two, three!

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Making their “victim” comfortable, yet secure. They are practicing maneuvering the victim out of a ravine.

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Teamwork!  Working in coordination, two rescuers pull the stretcher and victim, while four others guide it.

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“I chose to be a brigadier because there were a lot of people in my community that were affected by catastrophes,” shared Rosemarie (above) who is a mother and has been a volunteer in her community since 2010.  “There are many difficulties for the victims to recover after a catastrophe so I felt the responsibility and decided to be a volunteer to help my community.”

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Even basic first aid knowledge can save lives.  Many of these volunteers’ communities do not have a clinic or hospital so they are the first responders before help arrives or a medical facility can be reached.

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Volunteers learned how important it is to protect the head when transporting victims. Practice makes perfect!

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And their off!

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“I was interested in becoming a brigadier because if someone has a need in my area, I want to help,” said Paul Joseph (orange shirt), a 34-year-old father of two.  “Everyone in my community knows who the brigadiers are and how we can help.”

“I think with the training we’ve done, when accidents happen now we can give first aid to people so they can live,” he continued.

preparing for simulation1In the final day of training, the volunteers participated in a emergency simulation, putting to the test everything they learned throughout the week.  In the simulation, some volunteers played the role of a “victim” and their injury or condition was written on a piece of paper which was placed on their body.  The rescuers had to find the victims, determine what condition they were in, and decide the best way to ensure their safety.  Here, volunteers are prepped and given tools for the simulation.

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After carefully removing the brush from on top of the victim, volunteers evaluate this man who hurt his leg.

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After deciding that the victim could be transported, the team placed on a brace on his leg and helped him to the “medical station.”

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Rosemarie was another victim in the simulation.  Here a volunteer tries to revive her and another gives instructions.  Hang in there Rosemarie!

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Thanks to some great CPR and delicate care, it appears Rosemarie will make it and is on her way to the medical station.

rosemarie portrait1“It is important for more people to know (about first aid and search and rescue) because when more people know, we will have less victims too,” said Rosemarie.  “If more people know, we will have less people die.  Less victims.”

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The victims were all found, treated and carried to the medical station.  Great job everyone!

Now these volunteers have the skills and knowledge needed to be active participants in their community when a crisis or disaster comes.  These are important and significant investments in communities and will help reduce vulnerability and save lives.  For more information on our disaster risk reduction work, click here.

For The Love of The Game

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Dust flies as the boys’ feet shuffle across the dirt, their laughter piercing through the quiet late afternoon. The lush green bushes sway with the slight breeze, the sun beating down on their backs as they pass a worn soccer ball to each other. There’s nothing unusual about this playful pick up game - soccer has been played all over the world for centuries. But there’s one small detail that makes this scene extraordinary. The boys are from the Dinka and Nuer tribes – two tribes that have been at conflict with each other for generations.

In South Sudan, the main tribal groups include the Dinka and the Nuer. These nomadic tribes highly value strong warrior ethics. In fact, young men primarily achieve social status by raiding each other’s cattle herds. Young men in these communities, raised to make up a bulk of South Sudan’s guerrilla armies, grew up in a generation of brutal war and tribal tension. This tension is especially prevalent between young people that were educated in the North and those that grew up in the rural villages of the South. Many young people in the South resent those that had the opportunity to attend school in the North, away from the harsh realities of the war.

But among the thorns there are always wildflowers of hope peeking through. In Kuajok, South Sudan, one young man’s passion for loving others – and soccer – is sparking incredible ethnic reconciliation.

After receiving an education in the North, Akol Akol returned to his home village of Kuajok to work as a World Concern staff member. Rather than becoming discouraged by the fighting and disunity he saw in his community, Akol saw an opportunity to use his experiences to pour into the lives of others - and decided to take action.

Inspired by his passion for soccer, Akol organized two neighborhood soccer teams and began meeting with the community’s youth every afternoon for practice, as well as organize tournaments on the weekends. The tension between the Dinka and Nuer youth eased as relationships were built, and soon the constant fighting greatly declined.

There’s something truly beautiful about the way the mutual love of a sport unifies people of all different upbringings together – age gaps and cultural differences fade to the background as the love for the game takes center stage.

The older kids, inspired by Akol’s gentle spirit, began to recognize their responsibility to look after the younger children. The cycle of hate and prejudice began to break down, being replaced with one of acceptance and teamwork.

“He felt that soccer could be a form of reconciliation because they don’t need to be able to talk a lot, they just need to be able to understand the rules of the game and play together as a team,” explains Jane Gunningham, a World Concern staff member that worked closely with Akol. “He just had a heart for peace. He saw something specific he could do, something he knew how to do, and he just did it.”

Changing the world isn’t as hard as you may think. It doesn’t require daunting, expensive, over-the-top plans. It only requires a willingness to practice sincere kindness and invest in others at an individual level.

But sometimes, in a world with so much suffering and brokenness, it can be hard to know which action to take. That’s where World Concern comes in. Through World Concern’s numerous programs, hope isn’t just a distant idea; it’s a tangible reality. Through campaigns such as One Village Transformed, World Concern is committed to pursuing reconciliation and empowering the poor, so that they may in turn share with others.

Consider your passions. What’s that one topic you can’t stop talking about? What social issues make your heart ache? How can you imagine a way to respond to global poverty? For Akol, it’s reconciling community through soccer. For me, it’s protecting children through education. For you, it could be a number of things, from providing clean water to teaching job skills to empowering entrepreneurs.

One of my favorite quotes is by a 20th century cultural anthropologist named Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” How true and encouraging that is.

Just like the way a single skipped stone creates dozens of ripples, it only takes a one act of kindness to set off a tidal wave of reconciliation throughout a hurting world. Whatever cause it may be that tugs at your heartstrings, I encourage you to consider taking a step of faith and seeing where your passions take you - it’ll be worth the risk, I promise.

The Photo That Changed My Heart

Bangladesh boy

It’s not a particularly artistic or perfectly composed photo. It’s even a little hard to tell what’s happening in this photo, which is probably why I paused for a moment while browsing through photos of Bangladesh’s slums.

It was my first week at World Concern, four years ago, and I had looked at thousands of photos of the places World Concern works as part of my orientation. There were many stunning photos of beautiful people, faces, families, and extreme poverty. But this is the one I’ll never forget, because it’s the one I was looking at when it “clicked” for me.

I stared at the image of a little boy, not more than 8 or 9 years old, wearing pants that are cinched at the waist so they won’t fall down, standing in the midst of a sea of garbage. He is smelling what appears to be a piece of rotten fruit. He was doing this, I’m sure, to try to determine if it was edible.

My stomach turned.

Several thoughts slammed into my mind as I stared at the boy in the slum:

  1. He is a real person.
  2. He is hungry enough to consider eating from that pile of garbage.
  3. I must do something.

When I came to work at World Concern, I considered myself a compassionate, caring Christian. I gave regularly to my church, donated to our food bank, and supported a few charities, including humanitarian organizations.

But at that moment, my heart broke for the hungry, the poor, the forgotten ones in the world. I felt compelled to help. I believe God used that photo to break my heart for what breaks His.

I wiped my tears away, glancing around my new office to see if anyone was looking. Then I whispered a prayer: “Lord, help this little boy. Please reach down into that horrible slum and rescue him.”

I felt like God responded, “I will. And you will.”

I knew that didn’t mean I would hop on a plane to Bangladesh and find that one little boy out of the 162 million people in Bangladesh. It meant I would pour myself wholeheartedly into the mission and work of World Concern so that the experts in ending extreme poverty and rescuing children like this boy from its clutches can do their jobs.

Our 234 Bangladeshi staff members, along with our Kenyan staff, our Haitian staff, and all the others in the poorest countries in the world are pouring themselves wholeheartedly into this work. With our support, they provide real, tangible, lasting ways out of poverty. And my job is to spread the word about this cause, this mission, so people like you and I can do something too.

Photo Essay: One-of-a-kind Latrines

Our day began with a little mystery.  We were driving along a rural bumpy road in the Northwest of Haiti and were stopped by a man waving us in the direction of a house just up the road.  We stopped by the house and when we got out, we saw these cement cylinders. What are those?!

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Come to find out, they are toilet seats!  We were spending a couple of days visiting two communities that World Concern partnered with to build latrines.  That was when I realized I did not know very much about latrines and I was going to learn a lot today–Latrine 101: outside the classroom.

Desroulins, Latrines Nursery_006Meet Pastor Marc.  He’s the guy who built those two toilet seats.  Aside from being a pastor, he is a mason and was the local supervisor for all the latrines built in the community of Desroulins.  He explained that each family that received a latrine gave wood, water, rocks, and gravel for it.  The rest of the supplies and the labor was provided by World Concern.

UNICEF estimates that only 17% of people who live in rural Haiti use improved sanitation facilities.  Latrines are one kind of an improved sanitation facility.  Without proper facilities the only other option for people is to defecate outside.  This practice spreads water borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, and diarrhea.

“It’s a big problem in this area,” said Pastor Marc, when asked about open defecation in Desroulins.

We saw several latrines, but I wanted to take you along to see two of them that stood out as unique and different than any I had seen before.

Beauchamps, Latrines Nursery_015We approached this gate in a nearby community named Beauchamps.  The gate sat open as an unspoken welcome for us to walk up the hill and I could see the shiny latrine behind the tree in the distance.

Beauchamps, Latrines Nursery_003Meet Mr. Thomas.  He came out to greet us with a firm handshake and was pleased to show us his new latrine.  He has ten children, five of whom still live here with him.
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These may well be the shiniest latrines you will ever see.  But they are more than shiny.  They are healthy.  The general point is to keep people’s waste confined in the pit so it is not getting into their garden, water source, or anywhere else human waste should not be. These latrines are designed specifically to do just that:

  •  The cement pit keeps all the waste in one place and prevents leakage into soil.
  • Each pit is slightly raised so that rainwater will not collect in it.
  • The white PVC pipe provides ventilation to keep out those unpleasant smells as well as flies who can carry disease.
  • The tin walls go all the way to the floor and the doors completely close to keep rats and other animals out too.

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But one thing about this latrine was unique.  Most are placed behind the houses but this one was out in front, sitting on the hill for all to see.  “Now that’s a throne with a view,” I thought, but that was not what they had in mind.

When we asked Mr. Thomas about it he said, “It’s marketing.”  When people see the beautiful latrine, they will ask who built it and the mason who did the work (who is a resident of that community) might get some more business in the future.  It made sense.  I just hadn’t thought of it like that before.  This was a latrine and a rural billboard.  Jobs in this part of Haiti are hard to come by.  This was a clever way to attract customers so the local mason could continue to earn a living.

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The second latrine I wanted to take you to see is behind the house of Mr. and Mrs. Roland and their five children.  Walking over, it looked just like all the others, but once we opened the door, we saw its innovative design feature.

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It had an adult-sized seat and a child-sized seat!  Perfect for all her children.

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Mrs. Roland pointed out an old pit across their small corn field that used to be their latrine.  They had built one by digging a hole and putting boards across it but without the proper design or resources, it had collapsed into the ground.  Their new two seated latrine is durable, not to mention more sanitary against the spread of disease.

“I used to take care of my needs outside in the garden but now I don’t have to,” said Mrs. Roland.

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The problem of poor sanitation still exists in rural Haiti but whether it be with a latrine on a hill or one with a child-sized seat, we’re working to change that one family at a time.

The Power of a Single Story – How the 44-Cent Cure Can Change a Life

Sarah Kaczka is a social media intern at World Concern and will be posting on the blog this summer. As a sophomore at Wheaton College, she is interested in journalism and humanitarian aid, and hopes to use her love for storytelling to spread Christ’s love and encourage others. 

As an avid reader and aspiring writer, I am fascinated with the art of storytelling. There’s something about a good story that pulls directly at my heart strings, and they often stick around in my mind for days after I hear them. Besides a riveting plot, intriguing setting, and a memorable cast of characters, a good story ultimately requires purpose and development, challenging the reader to consider a new idea or way of thinking. I especially love ones that have a redemptive ending.

Kahinur’s journey is definitely one of those stories.

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Kahinur and her son at their home in an urban slum in Bangladesh.

As a mother living in a crowded urban slum in Bangladesh, Kahinur feels helpless to care for her infant son who has been sick for months. Her little boy likely has intestinal worms caused by the filthy environment and lack of sanitation in the slum where they live. These parasites suck the nutrients from her baby’s food and keep him awake all night, crying in pain.

This sweet little guy rests his head on Kahinur’s shoulder as she talks. His eyes are half closed, and his thin body is limp in her arms.

“I took him to several places for treatment, but nothing is working,” she pleads. Beads of perspiration cover her worried brow. The stifling afternoon heat causes a nauseating stench to rise from the garbage piles in the slum.

“I don’t know what will happen next with my son, and I am scared,” cries Kahinur. “If I fail to provide, then I fear my son could die.”

Parasites, like the ones attacking her baby’s body, can lead to malnourishment, diarrhea, and even blindness. And they stunt the development of a young child, causing permanent deficiencies if left untreated.

I can’t even imagine the fear Kahinur must have been facing in that moment, or her desperate frustration at not being able to provide relief for her son. Here in my suburban home, I am blessed to have doctors and hospitals nearby, never once having to worry about not having access to medicine.

Thankfully, Kahinur’s story continues. After receiving the 44-Cent Cure (deworming medicine), Kahinur’s son was fully restored back to health. Now Kahinur’s overwhelming worry is replaced by joy, and her tears are replaced by peace of mind and gratitude.

As much as I wish the story could end here, the truth is that there are thousands of families still suffering from parasite infections in Bangladesh. And their cries for help are not fictional – they are heartbreakingly real.

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The 44-Cent Cure provides lasting relief, evoking beautiful smiles on the faces of cured children.

But the good news is, it isn’t hard to help. For a small handful of pocket change, we can provide medicine that changes lives. Isn’t that exciting? When I first heard about the 44-Cent Cure, I couldn’t believe that providing immediate relief for sick children could be that simple – but it is. Learn how to get involved and partner with World Concern today.

In Christ, our stories are beautiful ones of redemption and hope. Our stories are important – they shape our identities and are the means by which we connect with one other. It’s so exciting to think that through organizations like World Concern, the story of an American college student, like me, can intertwine with that of a woman in Bangladesh like Kahinur.

How does your story empower you to take action and make a difference in the lives of others?

 

A 7-Year-Old’s Heart for One Village in Chad

Nina Tomlinson asked for donations to help the families in Maramara, Chad, for her 7th birthday.

Nina Tomlinson asked for donations to help the families in Maramara, Chad, for her 7th birthday.

When 7-year-old Nina Tomlinson heard that fire had destroyed most of the homes and crops in the remote village of Maramara, Chad, she was heartbroken for the families who lost everything. Nina’s church partners with the village of Maramara through World Concern’s One Village Transformed project. Nina had also just learned about habitats in school, so she understood how bad this disaster was.

“I know that you need food, water, and shelter to survive and Maramara lost two of those things,” the concerned first-grader told her mom. “I want to help!”

Nina's friends and family gave nearly $1,500 to help provide food and shelter to families in Maramara.

Nina’s friends and family gave nearly $1,500 to help provide food and shelter to families in Maramara.

Nina’s birthday was coming up and she decided to ask friends and family to donate to help the people of Maramara instead of giving her gifts. Her mom, Brie, created a Facebook event to tell others about Nina’s cause, and the donations started pouring in.

“It was awesome to show her other peoples’ generous hearts,” said Brie.

At her birthday party, an excited Nina revealed the total her friends had given. After it was all over, “She ended up raising just about $1,500,” said Brie.

Nina said she feels pretty awesome about being able to help other children and families facing devastating circumstances. Her birthday donation, along with additional support from her church, will enable people in Maramara to rebuild their homes, have enough food to eat until their crops can be restored, and most importantly, have hope for the future, knowing people like Nina care enough to help.

Women in the remote village of Maramara, Chad, stand amidst the ashes after a fire destroyed homes and crops.

Women in the remote village of Maramara, Chad, stand amidst the ashes after a fire destroyed homes and crops.

With help from Nina and her church, families in Maramara are rebuilding their homes and replanting crops.

With help from Nina and her church, families in Maramara are rebuilding their homes and replanting crops.

Children in Maramara received emergency food after the fire, thanks to support from Nina's church.

Children in Maramara received emergency food after the fire, thanks to support from Nina’s church.

 

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In Somalia, one in three people have access to clean water; now, Canab is one of them

Canab pours water from a rehabilitated berkad.

Canab pours water from a rehabilitated berkad.

“I am 40-years-old and above,” shares a poised Canab (pronounced Ah-nahb), “and I have lived in Balanbal my entire life.”

Snuggling up next to her without-a-doubt adorable daughter who is wrapped in a pink burka and wearing a coy smile, Canab tells me, “My children are healthy and they go to school. Some people think the school here is not good, but this is where all of my children have gone.”

We’re sitting on the dirt floor of Canab’s thatch hut – located on the main, and only, road in the very rural village of Balanbal, Somaliland. After meeting each other at one of the village’s recently rehabilitated berkads (a local water catchment system), Canab has invited me into her home to impart on me a bit more of her story.

“This land is difficult. We have suffered many droughts and famines,” Canab says, peering out of her doorway. “In the past, there have been times when we have gone seven days without water.”

Seven days.

I ask her how this makes her feel. The only question my dumbfounded mind is able to conjure up in response.

“My children are my heart, so when there is now water, I worry about them,” she pragmatically answers.

Canab's beautiful daughter, Namacima.

Canab’s beautiful daughter, Namacima.

Due to its semi-arid climate, Canab’s village is afflicted by persistent floods and droughts.

“The water is not always enough because we all are sharing, and currently we are experiencing a drought,” says Khadar, a 45-year-old father and lifetime resident of Balanbal.

Due to the area’s extreme weather, water devices such as berkads are necessary in order to catch and hygienically store rainwater – sustaining communities through the seemingly endless dry seasons.

Unfortunately, when a berkad has not been well maintained, it serves as more of a community monument – either inefficiently or un-hygienically storing the water.

“Our berkads used to be dry so we had to get our water from Burao, a faraway town,” explains Canab, reflecting on the past. “We would have to buy the water, but often times we had no money to do so.”

Canab continues, “Additionally, when we suffer, our animals also suffer. For a period of time I only had three goats.”

Muna peers out of her small shop in Balanbal.

Muna peers out of her small shop in Balanbal.

“The berkads containing water are far away. The nearer berkads have dirty water or are empty,” says Muna, an 18-year-old mother and community member.

Recently, World Concern rehabilitated berkads in Balanbal, also offering hygiene and sanitation community trainings, contributing to a more holistic transformation.

According to Khadar, “Previously, the berkad’s water would only last for ten days. Now the water is enough for three months.”

“The World Concern trainings have taught us how to manage, distribute, and clean the water,” expresses a joyful Canab. “We are also learning about caring for the environment, including planting trees!”

Women stand next to a recently rehabilitated berkad.

Women stand next to a recently rehabilitated berkad.

World Concern is partnering with communities across Somaliland to improve their current water situations as well as prevent future disasters from occurring.

“Our eyes have been very opened by the trainings. We are healthier and so are our animals. We have learned many tangible things. As a community, we are helping each other and giving to those in need.”

Clearly, Balanbal’s berkads are now more than rusted tin meeting points – they are tangible symbols of health, income, disaster risk reduction, and community cooperation.

A Viewpoint From the Ground: Seeing Villages Transformed Takes Patience, Partnership, and Hard Work

The following is written by Michael Batakao, a World Concern program officer based in Goz Beida, Chad. He helps oversee the implementation of our One Village Transformed projects in Eastern Chad. In this blog post he shares some first-hand experiences from his work with World Concern, and how he sees lives being changed because of it.

I can honestly say that I never thought that I would one day land in Goz Beida, Chad. And I never imagined that I would be actively involved in the lives of rural communities.

Born and raised in Chad, I’ve always been an advocate for sustainable community development, particularly considering the country’s current socio-economic status. Chad ranks among the 10 poorest countries in the world. Because of this, it has been very exciting to be an integral part of World Concern’s One Village Transformed (OVT) program. I joined the team as an OVT program officer, which has allowed me to be involved in all stages of the project development and management cycles (assessment, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, etc.) as well as some media work for World Concern headquarters.

My life and work with World Concern is far from boring.

My average day involves traveling with a team to visit one of World Concern’s partner villages – in other words, journeying between 1 and 2 hours by SUV or motorbikes over rocky/muddy/dusty and really bumpy roads with temperatures ranging from 80 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the rainy season (read: floods), when our vehicles get stuck in the mud, it can take between 3 and 7 hours to get out (which sometimes leads to spending the night in a village).

Normally, upon arriving in a village, we are warmly welcomed with hot tea, peanuts and other snacks.

For example, in Amkereribe village, Souleyman Ibrahim, the village Chief, normally greets us. He knows every World Concern team member by name and asks about those who are not present during our trips. He is great at expressing the views of the village and knows how to mediate when there are minor disagreements.

After spending the day holding meetings; training in harvesting techniques and water pump maintenance; delivering materials and supervising school construction; discussing with elders about strategies for accomplishing an activity; and accomplishing a variety of other tasks, we head out on our journey home – racing the sun and camels the entire way. Back at the office, we compile the day’s data, reports and prepare for the following day.

When working in the field, there’s not much notion of overtime – the work must get done. At times, my body will ache from the strenuous journey, or from a commonly acquired bacterial infection (many of the communities we work in are still learning about proper hygiene practices).

Living in Goz Beida has proved to be a significant change of lifestyle from the environment that I grew up and lived in (for example, it is nearly opposite from State College, Pennsylvania, where I attended college). It is difficult living miles away from my wife and family, many times taking me completely out of my comfort zone.

Women journey to gather water.

Women journey to gather water.

Yet, despite all the mentioned challenges, I don’t ever question that my job with World Concern is without a doubt worth it.

Working with the most vulnerable villages, many of which include conflict-related returnees, OVT has my full attention.

One of OVT’s main criteria is that the community be willing to participate in improving their life quality. Since the program operates by pairing donors with a village, there is a special trust established between a church, for example, and the selected community. This greatly benefits the way in which the project activities are carried out.

At the very beginning of the process, we hold a general meeting with all of the village members (men, women, youth, etc.). Here people are able to express and discuss all of their thoughts and needs. I love this event because everyone in the village is given an opportunity to freely share what is on their hearts and minds. This is a time of great learning and relationship-building.

Meeting with community members.

Meeting with community members.

It is amazing to see individuals (men and women) come together for the sake of positive transformation in their village.

After agreements are made between the community and World Concern, the practical work comes in to play. For example, if a community decides they would like a local school to be built, the men must make, bake, and transport their own bricks to the building site.

I’ve been very impressed by the courage and determination of the village men. I’ve witnessed the building of 25,000 bricks in only a couple of months! Their passionate labor has challenged me – it is a reminder that I have no excuse for slacking in many areas of my life.

Bricks!

Bricks!

To watch the fruition of World Concern and community partnerships develop has been a huge encouragement –25,000 bricks stacking to become a school that is now operating and teaching children to count and carry on basic conversations in their new learning language (French).

The product of OVT warms my heart. It is what fuels my drive to continue to live and work in Goz Beida.

I have also been inspired by World Concern’s donors who occasionally travel all the way to Chad to visit the villages. It is wonderful to see them appreciating the transformations (such as clean water pump installations, school establishments, improved farming practices and more…) that are continually taking place.

World Concern staff, donors, and Michael (far right) in Chad.

World Concern staff, donors, and Michael (far right) in Chad.

When I hear and witness the joy of our donors, it makes me look forward to doing more activities in the field.  Their interactions with the community shows how close at heart they are despite the long distance that separates them. The fact that the donors and communities can call each other by name, laugh together, and share food is evidence that their relationship is real.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that development takes time and requires patience. Working in the field sometimes calls for extra-human energy, strong will, and great sacrifice.

Yet, at the end of the day, it is all about building relationships – and here lies the value. It’s through the community relationships that World Concern is able to move forward, hand-in-hand, with our beneficiaries.

I am proud to be part of the World Concern family. It has allowed me to participate in making a difference in someone’s life. It’s a truly humbling experience in one of the most challenging living environments.

For more photos, taken by Michael and World Concern staff, of our work in Chad, see below:

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Rosario

Six Months After Haiyan, Lives are Being Rebuilt

Rosario waves from inside the frame of her new home. Her former home was destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Medair.

Rosario waves from inside the frame of her new home. Her former home was destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Medair.

“We are now safe…” Rosario was overcome with emotion as she uttered those four simple words. The 62-year-old grandmother is raising a young grandson. Their home was destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan struck on November 8, 2013.

It was six months ago today that Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines—leaving more than 3 million people homeless and taking the lives of 7,300. In the months since this tragedy, World Concern and our Integral Alliance partners have been helping people like Rosario rebuild their lives. There is much work left to do, but seeing the hope on faces like Rosario’s and her grandson’s is encouraging.

With help from donors who gave selflessly after the typhoon, Rosario and her 8-year-old grandson have a home of their very own once again. “I can continue on now… and be safe in a strong shelter,” she says.

World Concern and our partners Medair and Food for the Hungry have been able to make a great impact in the Philippines. Immediately after the tragedy, our donors helped provide food, water, emergency supplies, and psychosocial support for traumatized children.

More recently, we’re focusing on providing shelter and housing—like Rosario’s home, which  was being built in March when these photos were taken. Rosario says her grandson is “very proud and happy” to have such a strong shelter to live in. “He feels special and noticed,” she tells us.

A family in the Philippines outside their newly constructed home. Photo by Miguel Samper, courtesy of Medair.

A family in the Philippines outside their newly constructed home. Photo by Miguel Samper, courtesy of Medair.

Rosario and others in her community also received disaster risk reduction training, so that when the next storm hits, they’ll be prepared and know how to stay safe. It may take years to rebuild in the Philippines, but organizations, churches, and communities are committed to building back better.

“It is hard to express in words, but I am very thankful,” Rosario says. “We now have new hope and the courage to move on.”