How Little Meo Survived Her First Year

When Meo was born, she was tiny and frail. And it wasn’t long before the newborn started getting sick with fevers and colds. Her mom, Lak, was terrified her baby would not survive her first year. She had watched so many children in her village die from sickness and malnourishment.

In this part of rural Laos, where Lak lives, one child in three is underweight and stunted. And many children do not survive until their fifth birthday. For generations, her family and others have struggled—not having enough food, no clean water, no doctor nearby if a child gets sick.

Just look at those plump little fingers and toes! You can help little ones like Meo survive their first year and beyond.

Just look at those plump little fingers and toes! You can help little ones like Meo survive their first year and beyond.

But when little Meo was 7 months old, hope and practical help came to her village. Her mom, Lak, joined a program where moms of babies and toddlers learn to keep their children healthy by practicing good hygiene and preparing nutritious, locally-accessible food. No delivery truck of food—just moms working together and sharing knowledge about how to care for and nurture their children. The change is dramatic.

Lak put everything she learned into practice, and within 12 days, she saw a dramatic improvement in Meo’s health. She started gaining weight right away, and has not been sick since. This chubby little one is well on her way to surviving her first year, and staying healthy throughout her childhood.

Here’s how the program works: In almost every village where we work there is at least one mom whose kids are healthy. Knowing that moms learn best from each other, this mom becomes the village trainer, teaching others what she’s done to help her children thrive.

Through this vital training, Lak and other moms learn practical tools, like incorporating nutritious vegetables into their child’s diet, and using every drop of the vitamin-rich water their rice is prepared in. They learn the importance of good hygiene and how to keep their children clean in order to prevent the spread of disease and sickness.

Lak was relieved and excited to learn how to improve her daughter’s health. “I’m thankful for this knowledge … simple steps we didn’t know before,” said a proud and happy Lak.

Your gift to help hungry families provides much more than food for today—you help ensure moms like Lak have the tools and resources so their children develop properly and grow healthy. That’s lasting change!

With your help, moms in rural Laos and elsewhere are able to feed their children plenty of nutritious, healthy food.

With your help, moms in rural Laos and elsewhere are able to feed their children plenty of nutritious, healthy food.

A Goat is a Treasured Asset for Fania

Have you seen the 2014 Global Gift Guide yet?  One of the more popular items are goats and for good reason.  Read about a young girl in Haiti named Fania to find out why the gift of a goat means she’ll get to stay in school.

In the rural community of Mersan in southern Haiti there is a primary school called Ecole Mixte Bon Berger.  Since 2012 World Concern has partnered with this school by providing goats and husbandry training to students.  With a goat students are able to earn an income by selling the goat’s offspring and using the money to pay for school tuition and other supplies.

One of these students in Mersan is named Fania Bien-Aime, a shy 14-year-old girl who has a smile that is hard to forget.  She lives a 15 minute walk from the school with her parents and six siblings.  “I always walk to school.  In the beginning it was difficult but now it is easy.”

Fania with her goat

Fania recently received a goat from World Concern and participated in the training where she learned how to take care of her goat and how to maintain its health.

“I know how to take care of the goat because I learned some things in the training,” she said.  “When it’s raining I have to shelter the goat but usually during the day it sits in the shade because the sun is too hot.”

Now her goat is in heat and Fania expects it to become pregnant shortly.  When working with communities, the ‘long view’ must be taken into consideration.  There may be solutions that would provide temporary assistance to Fania, however this lacks sustainability and requires a handout to be given repeatedly.  World Concern is interested instead in long term solutions.

A goat is a treasured asset in rural Haiti because it represents a steady income.  “Each year a goat can give between six and nine kids, and she may produce kids for up to 10 years,” explains Pierre Duclona, World Concern’s regional coordinator for southern Haiti.

While a goat and relevant training may not produce immediate results, it will provide students like Fania with a way to earn an income for years to come and give her new skills which she can carry into adulthood.

Fania will soon begin the 6th grade and is looking forward to returning to class after the summer break.

Fania and her friend

“The sciences and mathematics are the ones I like.  I like to study,” she shared.  “Education is important so I can help my parents and also for myself to feel good and help in society.”

“I would like to be a tailor but I can’t sew right now.  For now this is the profession that is in my head,” explained Fania.  “You can get money from this skill because when school begins, parents need to send their children’s uniforms to get sewed.”

Fania’s goat receives vaccines

With a goat and specific training, Fania is well-positioned to earn an income and therefore continue with her education which will give her opportunities to provide for herself and her family.  It is because of your generosity and partnership that we’re able to help keep girls like Fania in school!  Give the gift of a goat today.

 

Sheep, and bees, and water filters—oh my! What’s new in this year’s Global Gift Guide

Brand new gifts in this year’s Global Gift Guide are creating quite a “buzz” of excitement! Maybe because Bees for Honey are among the new gifts! Here’s the list of all five new gifts:

  1. This year, for the first time, you can give the gift of a beehive a struggling family and beekeeping training to produce plentiful, sweet honey—and a sustainable livelihood. Now that’s a sweet opportunity! Price: $100

    Bee-Hives

  2. Introducing… Sheep! Superior sheep, to be exact. What makes these sheep superior? They’re Dorper sheep—a bigger, better breed that are superior in size and milk production, which means your gift will provide higher incomes for families in need. Plus, they’re pretty cute, aren’t they?! Price: $120

    Superior Sheep

  3. Also new this year— the gift of a water filter—a low-cost way to provide clean water to a family in Laos. These highly effective internal ceramic filters reduces bacteria in drinking water by up to 99%, plus remove germs and parasites that make people sick. And how cool is this? The filters are made in a village near our projects, so your gift supports the local economy, too! Price: $49

    Water Filter
  4. Want to do something really amazing this year? You can change the future of hundreds of children by giving them a place to learn with a new classroom. For years to come, thousands of children will benefit from this incredible gift. Can’t swing it alone? Pool resources with a group of friends, coworkers, or family members and make this Christmas one they’ll never forget. Price: $8,600

    Village Classrom
  5. Christmas is all about kids, right? This year, you can show an orphan that she is loved by supporting her for 3 months or more. It’s heartbreaking to think about, but many children have lost one or both parents to war, disease, or other circumstances, and are being cared for by a neighbor or friend. Your gift will be a lifeline to a precious orphan. Price: $245

    Protect an Orphan

Check out the entire Global Gift Guide online to see these and more than 40 other gifts that change lives!

Resilience For Life: Ages 0-100+

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in the United States in 2005, three-quarters of the people it killed were over 60.  This is unfortunately not an isolated incident.  Often, older people are the ones most affected by a disaster event.

Today, on the International Day for Disaster Reduction, the international community is coming together to recognize the critical role older people play in building more resilient communities by sharing their experience and knowledge.

At World Concern, we’re joining in this call to include older people in planning and preparedness activities while recognizing the value they bring to their families and communities.

We’re currently working with older people and their communities in eight countries to help reduce risk and save lives.  What does this look like?

Building more secure homes to protect families.

Shelter beneficiary Rozario

Photo credit: Medair

women with house

Photo credit: Medair

Improving sanitation through the construction of latrines to prevent the spread of water borne disease.

man with latrine1

Teaching communities about soil retention and reforestation to protect the land.

man in field1

Developing early warning systems and evacuation plans that include people of all ages.

wc sign in bangladesh

women in bangladesh

Strengthening infrastructure like flood water canals to keep water away from homes and people safe.

 

canal1

mother and daughter1

“The older person is often invisible in our communities until they show up in the mortality figures after a disaster event,” said head of the United Nations Disaster Reduction Office, Margareta Wahlström.

By working together towards the common goal of focusing on inclusiveness of people of all ages in disaster preparedness, we can ensure that no one is invisible and that everyone becomes resilient for life!

 

Mitu washing dishes

Mitu is now free to learn

Some stories are more dramatic than others. Some stories deserve to be heard. Mitu’s story is one of those stories.

Thankfully, Mitu’s story caught the attention of a perceptive staff member in Bangladesh who knew something must be done to free the little girl who was living in slavery in a neighbor’s home. Our Asia communication liaison, Taylor, first brought us this story on her blog.

On this International Day of the Girl Child, we wanted Mitu’s story to be heard again.

At 5 years old, most little girls are going to school for the first time, making new friends, and learning to ride a bike. But this was not the case for young Mitu. Instead, by age 5, Mitu was scrubbing floors, cooking, washing clothes, and suffering from physical abuse with even the slightest misstep in her duties.

Mitu washing dishes

Instead of going to school and experiencing childhood, Mitu was cooking for and cleaning up after another family from the time she was 5 years old.

Scared, alone, and separated from her family, Mitu was forced to grow up overnight in order to care for another family’s children and housework when her own family was unable to care for her.

The nightmare began for Mitu when her parents divorced several years ago. Mitu’s mother sought work in the bleak conditions of Bangladesh’s garment factories, while her father struggled to get by. With neither parent able to support their young daughter, Mitu was left in the care of her elderly grandmother. Out of sheer desperation, Mitu’s helpless grandmother decided to send Mitu to work as a maidservant at a neighbor’s house. There, Mitu endured three years of bondage as a child laborer, receiving nothing but food to survive and suffering frequent physical abuse by her masters.

Mitu (right) is now in school, where she belongs, and spending time with her friends.

Mitu is now in school, where she belongs, and spending time with her friends.

Thankfully, during a visit to Mitu’s hometown, a wise and perceptive World Concern staff member caught wind of Mitu’s horrible situation. Heartbroken and determined to rescue the little girl, she took the right steps to save young Mitu from her life of slavery, alerting a senior staff member who contacted Mitu’s father.

Mitu, now 8 years old, in front of her school.

Mitu, now 8 years old, in front of her school.

Today, Mitu is back under the care and support of her father, who, with World Concern’s counsel and support, now recognizes the importance of allowing his precious daughter to go to school and experience childhood to the fullest.

Mitu is now in school, making friends, and learning. Most importantly, she’s free.

Forgotten by most, but not by God

Some of the precious children I met in Sri Lanka.

Some of the precious children I met in Sri Lanka.

Greetings from Sri Lanka! I’ve spent the past week and a half seeing our projects, meeting our dairy farmers, and spending lots of time with our Children’s Clubs – a safe haven for children at risk of trafficking.

I have two stories that really stand out to me that I want to share with you in the hopes that they will touch your hearts and encourage you today. You make this possible and are just as relevant in these stories as our staff on the ground.

We met with a family from the “untouchable” caste. The four children were abandoned by mother. Their father was killed in the war. The grandparents are caring for the children as best as they can. The grandmother is blind and the grandfather crippled, making supporting this family nearly impossible. Both of them received their injuries from the war.

This is the little girl I met.

This is the little girl I met.

One of these four children is a precious little girl who is being abused by local fishermen. Some days they don’t have food to eat. The day we visited was such a day. The little baby was cared for by the older sister (8 years old). He just cried and cried.

World Concern is intervening in this small community of 15 families. We have plans for small gardens, goats, Children’s Clubs, and other life-giving, life-saving interventions. Before we left, we prayed for this sweet forgotten family. Forgotten by most, but not by God, and not by World Concern.

Tonight we stopped at the hut of a young mother. She has five children. They have absolutely nothing. The clothing on their backs is all they have and when it is washed they have nothing to wear until it dries. The father too was killed in the war. This mom has no hope and tragically tried to take her own life and the life of her baby. The little one died. She survived. She is completely broken in every possible way.

Our compassionate staff is working with her and her situation. I wish you could have seen the tender way they met with her, cared for her, and prayed with her—it would have brought tears to your eyes as it did mine. They will look after her needs and the needs of her family, walking with her for the long journey.

FaithWorld Concern is the hands, feet, and face of Jesus here. This is why we do what we do. And we couldn’t do any of this without you. Thank you for partnering with us.

I have never been more humbled and committed to our mission. Pray with me that the Lord will bless this work. It is a light in many dark places.

For Girls, School Can Mean Escaping Child Marriage, Poverty, and Abuse

“I want to be the first girl from this village to go to high school.”

As 12-year-old Jackline spoke these words, she glanced up nervously to see if anyone listening to her believed it was possible.

Jackline outside primary school.

You can help a girl like Jackline be the first in her village to attend high school.

Jackline is a soft-spoken girl from rural Kenya. And she knows that in this part of the world if she doesn’t go to high school, she’ll likely be married off soon—to a man not of her choosing—just like her four sisters were.

But Jackline has a dream of a different kind of life. She dreams of the kind of life you or I would want for our children.

“My father is a sheep trader. He sells animals for money,” explained Jackline. In order for her to attend high school, her father would have to sacrifice too much of his flock, and risk losing the family’s livelihood completely if there was a drought.

“I’m the first girl in my family to go to primary school,” shared Jackline shyly.

In her village, girls Jackline’s age and younger who are not able to attend primary school are living a bleak and sometimes brutal reality.

Girls in Jackline's primary class.

Girls in Jackline’s primary class.

“They are caring for sheep. They don’t get to play, and they don’t go to school,” she explained. “Sometimes they are beaten by their parents if they make a mistake.”

In her Maasai culture, polygamy is still practiced, which means each of her sisters probably became co-wives of older men who have established flocks of sheep and income to support another young wife. Like most girls in this culture, her sisters will probably have several children by the time they reach 20 years old.

It gets worse… many young girls are subjected to female circumcision—a horrific practice that leaves them permanently marred. “If I were not in school, the process would have started to marry me off,” explained a sweet 10-year-old girl in Jackline’s village. “First, I would be circumcised, then married.”

A high school education for a girl can mean escaping child marriage, extreme poverty, and even abuse.

Listed on this chalk board in Jackline's classroom are some of the struggles girls in rural Kenya face.

Listed on this chalk board in Jackline’s classroom are some of the struggles girls in rural Kenya face.

But something has happened in a nearby village… something Jackline can hardly imagine. One of the girls who received a high school scholarship from World Concern has been accepted to a Kenyan university. Not only was she among the few girls in this region to attend high school, now she’s headed to college.

Jackline and her teacher, who inspires her to become a teacher one day herself and ensure other girls have the opportunity to go to school.

Jackline and her teacher, who inspires her to become a teacher one day herself and ensure other girls have the opportunity to go to school.

“I just want to go to the farthest possible level and complete school,” said Jackline. And if she gets this chance, she wants to make sure other girls have the same opportunity. “I want to become a teacher when I finish school so I can teach in this school.”

Happy girls in schoolI know that when girls are educated, amazing things can happen. I’ve seen it, and it’s life-changing. When you donate to the School4Girls campaign, $50 can provide an entire year of education for a girl like Jackline.

Turn her dream into reality by helping a girl like Jackline be the first in her village to attend high school. You’ll change her future and the future of her entire community.

Donate today: www.worldconcern.org/school4girls

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.

Bernard HTK Program Supervisor (L) & Duclona(R)_Gilgeau Haiti_6-13

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.”

Goats Deworm Belts - Les Cayes_247

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.

Rope Tie for Blog Aug2014

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

girls moving girl1

Ready…one, two, three!

girl on stretcher smiles1

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

team with stretcher1

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

rosemarie with rope1

“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.”

Baby CPR Fb Aug2014

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.

girl on stretcher1

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

carrying girl on stretcher1

And their off!

man in orange shirt1

“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.

man with hurt leg1

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

helping victim walk1

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

simulation with rosemarie1

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

carrying girl on stretcher2

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.”

man with vest 2

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

4 - Returnee Biz Kuajok -Sudan_092small

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.