World Humanitarian Day – Walking in Her Shoes

“There are no roads where we work,” Irene Nyambura, World Concern’s One Village Transformed coordinator in South Sudan explains. Over the years, Irene has gotten used to going beyond the end of the road to reach the communities where she works.

Irene enjoys building relationships with members of the communities where she works in South Sudan.

Born and raised in Kenya, Irene has been working with extremely remote communities in South Sudan for a couple of years now. On a typical day, the One Village Transformed coordinator visits at least half a dozen remote villages and homes where she meets with community leaders and families and oversees training sessions in each village.

“Seeing leaders plan for their own communities and sharing this with us is very fulfilling,” she says. The mother of two especially enjoys seeing and hearing stories of progress among the people she works with. “For instance, the first time we visited Kuanya village, there was no road to get to the village. The community was happy to receive us and promised to make it easier for us to access them. Shortly after, they cleared off thickets for us, now our vehicle can drive in.”

In light of recent tensions within the young, volatile nation of South Sudan, however, Irene’s job can be even more challenging. In February, Wau town, where World Concern’s office is located, was under fire. “The gunfire was heavy. We could hear it very close to our office. I didn’t think we would make it,” she says.

Even as a humanitarian worker, Irene is not shielded from the day-to-day challenges facing ordinary citizens. “There are times when I cannot get food. Sometimes there is not enough water and I have to stay thirsty…There are few or no toilets in the village…” she says adding that long drives on rough terrain are back breaking.

Villagers in Magai Village, located in rural South Sudan, love working with Irene.

“Working in South Sudan has been a humbling experience. It has taught me to see things differently and stop taking some things for granted, especially God,” explains Irene. The people she meets daily tell her that they wouldn’t be alive had it not been for God’s grace. Seeing what they have to go through, she knows it’s true.

We’re proud to spotlight Irene on this #WorldHumanitarianDay

Today, on World Humanitarian Day, we recognize Irene Nyambura, a humble servant to God and to the communities she works with in South Sudan. Thank you, Irene for all that you do to help train, grow and equip communities with the tools that they need to thrive and succeed for generations to come.

 

 

Homeless – but not without hope – in South Sudan

One year ago, World Concern staff were evacuated from Wau, South Sudan, when armed conflict broke out in the area where we’re working. Although our team was able to resume work within a few weeks, for tens of thousands of people, life is far from returning to normal. More than 40,000 are still living in squalid camps around Wau.

A young man crouches over a piece of leather he’s fashioning into a shoe. Shoemaking was not ever in his plans, but for William George, one of 12,000 residents of the Cathedral camp near Wau, South Sudan, it’s how he spends his days.

“I am a graduate of Catholic University, faculty of agriculture and environmental science,” says George. “But because there is no job, it’s not good to beg, so that’s why I decided (to start shoemaking). I don’t want to be idle. That’s why.”

William George is one of 12,000 people living in the Cathedral camp near Wau, South Sudan. The university graduate is making shoes to survive.

One year after the conflict broke out near Wau, very little has changed, except that the population of the camps here has multiplied.

“It seems as though someone is in a jail. You are not free to move. I will just stay here till night and then I go inside and sleep. In the morning, I will just come like this. There is nothing new. You eat, sleep. There is no improvement or anything,” explains George.

At the Cathedral camp, where George is, World Concern is distributing shelter materials in partnership with IOM. While the materials provide a welcome shelter from the rain, camp life has been extremely difficult for families who fled here.

Food prices continue to skyrocket on a daily basis, and many people are surviving on wild leaves. But, recently, even wild leaves are being sold at the market.

Women in South Sudan collect wild leaves for food. Recently, even leaves are being sold in the markets as a means to survive.

Another 39,000 people are living in a camp outside the UN base near Wau. Things are equally difficult there.

“We are stranded here, no food to eat, people are getting sick, no shelter and no school,” said Regina Augustino, a mother of four whose husband was killed in the conflict.

“When the rain falls, this is the worst part of my life here,” she says, holding her youngest. “If I look down, the water is reaching my knees; what can the young children, like the one I am holding now do? If I don’t properly hold him, the water can carry him away.”

But there is no escaping the rain.

“All of my children were crying including the eldest who is about 14 years. When I asked them, ‘Why are you crying?’ they asked me, ‘Mother, don’t we have an alternative place to settle because in this place we are dying. If not at all, we better go back to our old home so that we can at least be rescued from this rain.’ Life was not easy. If we go back we will be killed, I told them.”

Regina and her children huddle inside a makeshift tent at a camp for families who fled violence in South Sudan.

Regina survives by collecting firewood and selling it. “I buy anything that the money can buy, and give it to my children. That is how we cope.”

For George, Regina, and thousands of other families living in South Sudan’s camps, their only hope is peace.

“I hope for a better life, a good future. At the end if there is peace and stability, there will be hope for a good future,” said George, who leans on his faith. “In certain situations, people may think that God is not there, but as a believer, I believe that God is there. If it were not for Him, I would not be surviving up to this moment.”

Regina, too, looks to God for help. “I pray for peace in our country … I have hope that if peace comes someday. We will be able to rebuild our lives.”

World Concern is providing emergency assistance to displaced families in South Sudan. You can help here. We’re also partnering with One Day’s Wages to transform the village of Ranguo as part of a long-term plan for sustainable development of this community. You can join us by donating here.

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Akol Akol (far right) talks with some of the kids he served. This picture captures his love and passion for seeing the lives of these precious young men transformed. Akol Akol passed away suddenly on July 6.

Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.”

Many of you have heard the sad news of the death of a World Concern staff member in South Sudan. Akol Akol was playing soccer and sustained an injury, was rushed to the local hospital where he died 30 minutes later. He was a much beloved staff member who knew the Lord, and worked as a peace maker in his community.

Peter Macharia, our Africa Area Director, wrote this word of tribute:

“I’ll miss Akol Akol. He started soccer teams in Magai and Mayen and the young team loved it a lot. Through soccer he would share the love of Christ and engage young men on how to better their lives and stay away from crime. When I last visited South Sudan he asked me for more soccer balls. He also brought me his new wife to say ‘hi.’ They were expecting a baby.

He was deeply loved by all those that met him. He was also deeply passionate about his work, loved World Concern, was always eager to learn, and full of laughter. When he joined World Concern in 2012, he couldn’t speak a word of English, but within a very short time, he would engage in an English conversation as if it was his mother tongue. He longed to see Magai and Mayen transformed. We will definitely miss him. We are praying for his dear wife.”

Our team in South Sudan thanks you for your prayers. They spent today with Akol Akol’s family. We are praying for God’s comfort and the peace that passes all understanding to stand guard over their hearts. Through it all, we trust in the goodness and mercy of our Lord, knowing that this is not the end. We take comfort in that blessed hope of life everlasting with our Lord.

We are so grateful for the opportunity to have known and served with such a kind and good heart. We pray now for his family and our precious team in South Sudan as they grieve this great loss.  

God bless you,

Jacinta Tegman, President
World Concern

 

The Untold Story of a Trafficking Victim

“First they lied to me; they told me it was a good workplace with a high salary…I believed them…”

When it comes to human trafficking, there’s no rules or road maps on how the $150 billion industry operates and there’s certainly no discrimination when it comes to victims of trafficking.

We often talk about girls and women who are sold into sex trafficking, but the truth is, this deceptive and heinous crime lures and threatens the lives of boys, girls, men and women alike. And those living in Southeast Asia are at an even greater risk.

It wasn’t until recently that Lao-native, Kanoa (not his real name), realized he had been the victim of human trafficking. Only 15 years old at the time, Kanoa found himself working as a modern day slave before risking his life and escaping the horrifying situation. After attending a few workshops at his village’s local youth trafficking awareness center, Kanoa finally worked up the courage to tell his story, for the very first time. Here’s what he said:

“My parents separated when I was young because of alcohol problems and domestic violence. My father drank a lot of alcohol and gambled. After they separated, my father disappeared in the war. Everyone assumes he died, but no one really knows.

My mother went to Thailand many years ago. She never came to visit. Later, she came back for 20 days, and then she died.

When my parent died, I was just five years old. I moved around to wherever I could find a job. Sometimes I would pick coffee beans…or work on a construction site. Other times I would fix motorbikes. Whatever would help me to survive.

One day a family asked me to stay with them. They were so kind to me, so I called them mother and father. I lived with them until I was 11 years old. Then I chose to go work in Thailand illegally. Again, I did everything, whatever an employer asked me to do – like shrimp farming, animal raising, cleaning and construction.

I worked with them about four or five years, and then they sold me to the fishing ship. First they lied to me; they told me it was a good workplace with a high salary. I believed them.

While I was on the fishing ship; people forced me to work without salary and they treated me and other co-workers like animals. They forced us to work very hard and they hurt us like non-living things.

Whenever people couldn’t work for them anymore, including people who tried to run away, they just killed them and threw them into the sea. When people tried to run away and hide, the ship owners would track them down and kill them. Sometimes people ran to the police for help. But the police just sold them back to the cargo ship, again.

I was on the fishing ship for one year. I couldn’t sleep well every single night. I was scared. I was worried. I planned to run away.

One day the fishing ship docked to pick up more workers; while the situation was messy as the crew focused on imprisoning the new workers, I took that opportunity to run away. I ran into the forest. They tried to find me and kill me, but they didn’t find me. I spent 3 days in the forest hiding from them without any food and water.

Finally, I decided to go to the police even though I feared that they would sell me back to the fishing ship. But I was lucky. The police helped me and sent me back to Laos.

It was horrible; the hardest time in my life ever. Sometime I was thought that if I couldn’t run away I would commit suicide by jumping into the water.

I never shared this story with anyone before. The first time I shared was with the youth and World Concern team at the Youth Center.

The reason why I never talk about this story is might be caused from no one asking me about my life in Thailand and I didn’t know who should I talk to. When I came to the youth center I felt that I had friends who would listen to me… I feel safe to share.

At first, it hurt me a lot and I just want to forget it all; I don’t want to talk about it again but I feel better after sharing this story with friends and people around me.

Kanoa’s story is only one of millions of others just like it, and sadly, most of them will remain untold. Kanoa was just 5 years old when he was left an orphan, alone and vulnerable to the countless threats around him. It’s children just like this who we are working to protect and keep safe. For just $48, YOU can protect a child just like Kanoa from becoming a victim of child trafficking.

What Every Parent Wants

Every parent knows what it’s like to care for a sick child—the uncertainty, the frustration, even the fear.

For me, what always gets me is the moment I realize I can’t comfort my son. Or when he complains about something that I can’t possibly solve on my own. It’s heartbreaking because I want to be his protector, his hero, and make everything right again.

Most parents would gladly trade places with a sick child. And this is Alexi’s lament right now.

“When my son gets sick, it’s like I am sick too,” he says as his little boy sits quietly on his knee.

John is Alexi’s youngest (and sickest) son. All his children have been sick at one time or another, and all with the same symptoms—severe diarrhea, constant nausea, horrible stomach pain. This father is very familiar with effects of intestinal worms, some of which come and go, but John’s problems are persistent. And the worms are refusing to move.

“He’s really suffering right now,” Alexi tells me. “If it’s not the pain in his tummy, it’s the fevers. It’s one or the other and I don’t know what to do.”

This father of six lives in Haiti, high up in the hills and far removed from anything we would describe as livable. There is no medical clinic in this village, not even running water. There are no faucets. No flushing toilets. No place to bathe.

This is why John is so sick. The dirty water and unsanitary conditions are the perfect breeding ground for parasites. These nasty worms are now multiplying in John’s belly, and sapping all the nutrients from his tiny body. The cure for this horrible condition?

A miracle pill that costs just 44 cents. 

But Alexi can’t afford it, and that was the reason I was visiting him. Thanks to the generosity of donors, World Concern is distributing these life-changing tablets to hundreds of sick Haitian kids.

The 44-Cent-Cure is the most cost-effective solution to poverty’s biggest problem, because within days of taking the pill, the worms are dead, John is cured, nutrients are being absorbed back into his body and he’s able to return to school and enjoy life as a happy, healthy child.

Alexi is a farmer, or at least was until Hurricane Matthew destroyed his crops.

Now, Alexi survives day-to-day, working odd jobs to scrape together enough money for the occasional meal and to send his kids to school. He’s planted some corn and some grain, but the plants are not even close to harvest yet.

So this single father does what he can and puts on a brave face. Yet he admits even this is getting harder and harder to do. Especially since John has been so sick.

“I am responsible for him and have no time to cry,” he whispers, not wanting his son to hear how difficult things are. “I must work.”

In just a few days, the pill that we gave John will have killed all the worms in his belly. His fevers will be gone. The nausea and diarrhea will be gone. And Alexi can return to work.

All because of a pill that costs less than 2 quarters.

Alexi and I have something in common. We are both dads and dearly love our kids. We love Jesus. We both  work. And we both want our families to be healthy.

After praying together, Alexi and I shook hands. And that’s when his story really hit home for me. Our hands could not have been more different.  His are strong; his palms calloused and his fingers tough and weathered. Mine are the exact opposite. We have lived vastly different lives.

The biggest difference though? I am in a position to help.

I had the opportunity to pray with Alexi last month. Will you join us in praying for the families in Haiti who need your help?

Oh my dear World Concern

With all that’s happening across our world, we wanted to take a moment and thank you for all that you’re doing. The work of World Concern happens because of you—your prayers and your faithful support. And it’s through you, that Christ is shared, and lives are changed. This poem, written by a young Bangladeshi girl that was saved from child marriage, illustrates your impact perfectly.

Oh my dear World Concern,

From far away you are praised,

Your wondering works will never fade away.

You lightened up so many lives,

You will stay always in our hearts

Wiped out the darkness from our lives

You gave us a fulfilled life

Oh my dear World Concern.

As you ponder this precious girl’s thoughtful words, we want to leave with a reminder from Jacinta Tegman, the World Concern president, who shared a few years ago the reason for the season, and why our journey with the poorest people can be so life-changing.

With this in mind, we encourage you to pray about how you can show the love of Christ to a family that’s waiting for hope, and healing this Christmas.

Merry Christmas from everyone at World Concern!

As we celebrate this special time of year, it is a wonderful time to remember that God himself came to earth. What is so extraordinary is that He chose to identify with the poor and marginalized. He gave up all of His splendor, was born in a stable, and laid in a manager.

In 2 Corinthians 8:9 we read, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor.”

The heart of God is close to those who are poor, forgotten, and alone. Of all the classes and peoples on earth, He chose to identify with them. He lived and walked among them. He knew their pain and struggles. He opened His arms to bless and heal them. I am keenly aware that God continues to walk with the poor. He does that through you and me. I see it every day.

This Christmas, amidst all the joy we will experience, let us pause and remember. Join me in prayer for the poor and marginalized—those close to God’s heart.

How a local business is helping drive away poverty, one goat at a time

Campbell Auto Group, a host of family-run car dealerships in the greater Seattle area, has had a unique way of supporting the work of World Concern for the past six years. And every Christmas, they do something incredible. In an effort to change lives around the world through their Drive Away Poverty: Buy a Car, Give a Goat campaign, Campbell Auto Group partners with us and the community by donating a goat for every car sold in November and December. The impact? Changing thousands of lives around the world each Christmas!  Over the years, they have given more than 3,000 goats to families in need around the world in places like Bangladesh and Haiti.

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“Sometimes it seems customers are more excited about their stuffed goats than their new cars which is saying a lot!” – Kurt Campbell

“Goats are a very tangible way for us to help people suffering from dire economic circumstances in some of the poorest countries in the world,”  explains owner Kurt Campbell. Kurt has had the opportunity to travel with World Concern to some of our projects in Sri Lanka and witness the incredible impact a goat can make in someone’s life.

“Many years ago I had the opportunity to see firsthand the power of a 4-legged bank account,” says Kurt, “The idea of giving a family a goat is so simple it’s brilliant…they are hearty animals that already live in some of the toughest regions in the world…this amazing animal can provide a healthy diet and income that will allow these families a brighter future.”

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Owner of Campbell Auto Group, Kurt Campbell, is a big fan of helping families in need around the world through the gift of a goat!

Kurt and his team look forward to this special season every year and even incorporate live goats into their TV commercials! Posters of children with their goats from around the world can be found decorating their showrooms along with stuffed animal goats.

“We make sure every customer who buys a car from us receives a stuffed goat as a reminder of the difference their purchase makes in the lives of others,” Kurt explains, “Sometimes it seems customers are more excited about their stuffed goats than their new cars which is saying a lot!”

We’re so grateful for businesses like Campbell Auto Group that choose to partner with us in such a profound way during the Christmas season, allowing the community to have an impact in changing lives around the world.

To learn more about the Drive Away Poverty: Buy a Car, Give a Goat campaign visit our website here!

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Can a goat really change a life?

Give a goat, change a life. If you’re anything like me, you may be asking yourself, How does that work? This time of year, we talk a lot about goats and the impact they can have on a person’s life; especially those living in extreme poverty in places like Haiti and Southeast Asia.

A single goat given to a child in places like Haiti can earn a stable income and provide opportunities for kids to go to school and save for the future.
A single goat given to a child in places like Haiti provides nutritious milk and a stable income.

Maybe you’ve seen our photos of cute kids from around the world with their goats playfully draped around their necks and maybe you’ve even given the gift of a goat to someone in need, but have you ever wondered if and how a goat can really change a life?

For me, it wasn’t until I heard Khuki’s story that I began to understand…

Khuki is among the poorest of the poor in her low caste community in Bangladesh. For her, every single day is a struggle. Growing up, she barely had enough food to eat or a shelter to sleep under, let alone the opportunity to go to school. Life after childhood only became more difficult for Khuki.

Like many young girls whose parents can’t afford to care for their children anymore, Khuki was married off by the time she just 15 years old. Five years and almost three children later, Khuki’s husband began abusing her and eventually left Khuki for another woman. Unfortunately, this situation is not uncommon for many women like Khuki, who end up alone, rejected and without any hope in a country that does not typically value women.

Pregnant with her third child and fearful that her two daughters would starve, Khuki had no other option but to go door-to-door begging her neighbors for help. Khuki had reached the end of her rope.

Soon after her son was born, she heard about World Concern’s micro-credit program for the poorest women in her community. She learned how something as simple as a goat given to women just like her —widows, the poor, the hungry and the uneducated—can help give them a second chance. This was the opportunity that Khuki needed to get her life back on track.

A single goat gave Khuki the start that she needed to support her family and gain a sense of dignity.
A single goat gave Khuki the start that she needed to support her family and gain a sense of dignity.

Before she knew it, Khuki finally had a stable source of income. She was now the proud mother of three children and one kid goat. Khuki began selling the goat’s milk, allowing her to earn a stable income, save money, and eventually purchase more goats. For the first time in her life, Khuki is able to provide for herself and her family. More than that, she now has a sense of worth and dignity that she has never known before.

Khuki has earned enough money to invest in more goats and even built a house for her and her three children.
A single goat multiplies and people like Khuki can earn even more income from the offspring of their goat gift.

“I understand the importance of education and sending my children to school,” Khuki explains, “…the support has opened new doors for me and my family.”

In fact, recently, Khuki has been able to build a small home for her and her children to live in, something she never before would have thought possible. And to think, it all started with a goat!

Now through midnight tonight, Tuesday, November 29th, your gift will multiply when you give a goat to someone just like Khuki, changing not one but two lives this Christmas season!

What’s Inside This Packet Will Save a Child’s Life

A small bag of flour.
A two-liter bottle of soda.
A pair of work boots.
Little Nala.

Each of these weigh 5 pounds.

A $32 gift will nourish a hungry child, and nurse her back to health.

It will be Nala’s first birthday soon and yes, she only weighs five pounds.

Nala’s weak and malnourished body is what extreme poverty looks like in Somalia. Her desperate mother brought her to a health clinic, pleading for help. The minute Nala’s stick-thin arm was measured, it was confirmed that Nala was severely malnourished.

Somalia is experiencing a long-lasting drought, leaving fields barren and livestock dead. The result is that children like Nala are starving and horribly undernourished.

Malnutrition can be devastating for a child living in these conditions, especially one as young as Nala. Her growing body needs good food, and when deprived of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients for any length of time, her vital organs begin to shut down. Her brain doesn’t develop properly. And if she doesn’t receive the help she needs, she is vulnerable to disease, stunted growth, and even death.

In Somalia, a child’s arm is measured for malnutrition. A $32 gift can nourish a starving child and restore her to full health.

We’ve all seen the photos of emaciated children, their tiny faces stretched thin with sad, and staring eyes. And the bloated bellies—a gruesome sign that a child is acutely malnourished.

But it’s not just a lack of food that’s causing the problems in Somalia. It’s poor nutrition. And the solution to this widespread problem is so simple.

It’s called a nutripacket, and every small, foil packet contains enough nutrients to restore a child like Nala to health. When taken daily over the course of three months, it can save a malnourished child’s life.

Packed with a life-saving, nutrient-rich paste, Nutripacket's will save a child's life.
Packed with a life-saving, nutrient-rich paste, this packet will save a child’s life.

 

So what’s in this miracle cure?

Inside each foil packet is a peanut-based paste that is packed with a concentrated dose of life-saving minerals and nutrients. Everything a malnourished child needs is there, including folic acid, calcium, potassium, iron, and more. So when eaten daily, it gives a starving child a nutrient boost that takes them from near death to survival almost immediately.

A 3-month supply of nutripackets is exactly what you can give a malnourished child like Nala. Because of special matching grants, a gift of $32 will multiply 4x to help restore 4 children to health, instead of one.

Two movie tickets.
Half a tank of gas.
Dinner for two at a chain restaurant.

Or saving the life of a child like Nala?

 

Students before brides – how scholarships are changing girls’ lives in Bangladesh

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

The country of Bangladesh—with more than one-quarter of it’s population living on less than $2/day—can be a difficult place to grow up. But 11-year-old Dina is a light to her destitute homeland.

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11-year-old Dina was on the path towards child marriage before getting a scholarship.

Dina was born into a very poor family in a rural community and until recently, her life was going down a seemingly dismal path. Like most young girls in her community who spend their days working for their families—cooking, cleaning, fetching water and taking care of younger siblings—Dina was soon to be married.

Married… at 11-years-old. 

Unable to afford to send Dina to school or support her at all, her father was prepared to make an agreement with another family and sell his daughter off to marry a much older man. By God’s grace, however, Dina’s story took a drastic turn. One day, a local teacher visited Dina’s neighborhood. When he first saw Dina, he felt bad for the thin young girl in tattered clothes that stood before him. “But as we talked,” the teacher explains about first interacting with Dina, “I was so impressed by her and her dreams.”

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Educating girls in places like Bangladesh drastically reduces the likelihood of them becoming child brides and teenage mothers.

After talking with Dina and later meeting with her parents and telling them about an opportunity for her to attend school on a paid scholarship through World Concern, the teacher was able to re-direct Dina’s path completely.

Today, Dina is the top student in her fourth grade class. “Without your assistance, it was not possible for us to send Dina to school and lead her on a track of development to a brighter future,” Dina’s parents explain.

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Ultra poor women like Faranza are becoming empowered through their involvement in micro-credit programs in Bangladesh.

Families around Bangladesh are learning about the importance of sending their children to school. In a male-dominated society that does not traditionally support education for girls, this is a vital step in the right direction. In the past month alone, 60 new households heard about the scholarship program for the first time and 92 sponsored students had their tuition and exam fees paid for. As a direct result, there has been an increase in overall school attendance as well as major improvements in the way that parents are prioritizing and taking better care of their daughters.

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As parents are seeing the impact of education on their children’s lives, they too are becoming motivated to learn and improve their own lives. For women like Dina’s mom, this means getting involved in a women’s micro-credit group. These groups allow women to work together and save money as well as invest in their own small businesses. Not only does this directly impact their economic stability, but it empowers them to stand up for their rights and learn new skills such as how to read and write. In one community this month, advocacy and counselling sessions helped prevent a divorce and two child marriages!

“World Concern showed me the light in my life,” Dina explains, “Otherwise I would grow up as an illiterate woman…in the future I want to be a teacher and teach the poor children in my community.”

To help more girls like Dina become lights in their communities, you can provide a scholarship for $50 and send a girl to school today!