In a small village in rural Bangladesh, a team of strong fishermen wade through the neck-deep water of the village pond they share as a fish farm. Underneath the water’s calm, murky surface, calloused hands work tediously to reel in the rope that holds an increasingly heavy fishing net. One of those hands, belonging to a fisherman named Muhammad, is crimped—his fingers fused in the shape of a claw. But he is all smiles as he uses this hand to skillfully hook the net, now filled with hundreds of fish jumping out of the water.
For Muhammad, who has endured many hardships, not least of which was being robbed, beaten, and left for dead while working as a tuk tuk driver some 15 years ago, he is grateful to have a business that earns him a sustainable income.
“I cannot do anything else,” Muhammad reflects as he reveals his hand that’s been disfigured since the attack that left him permanently maimed. “So I chose this profession … my hand is like a hook for pulling in the ropes,” he says confidently.
Muhammad has been receiving business loans, support, and training from World Concern since two years after the attack. Prior to that, he was unable to work and therefore unable to provide for his family.
Muhammad’s wife, who cannot help but smile each time her husband looks at her proudly, recalls that time with tears in her eyes. “I cannot express how sad I felt. We were helpless and I could not do much. Our brother helped support us.”
It wasn’t until World Concern came to Muhammad’s village that he began to see the possibility to make a fresh start for himself. Today, Muhammad is not only a successful fish farmer, but he also raises ducks in a large pond on his property.
“Before, I was so poor,” Muhammad says, “and then World Concern came and encouraged me and helped me get started again.”
Muhammad and his loving wife work together to support themselves as well as Muhammad’s brother’s children—generously repaying the family that supported them for so long.
What does fatherhood look like?
It looks like a loving, supportive uncle raising and caring for his brother’s children.
It looks like a husband who adores his wife and in a culture of arranged marriage that often results in lack of respect for spouses.
It looks like Muhammad, who works tirelessly to provide for and ensure a better future for his family.
The strange white car pulled up beside me as I walked to school.
I was only a few hundred yards from home and remember turning to see if my parents were still out the front of the house, waving me off. But they had long since gone inside.
My heart started to race … I was all alone.
The car pulled in front of me and the passenger door immediately opened. The smell of cigarette smoke filled my nostrils as a man I’d never seen before extended his hand and offered me a ride to school. He wore a thick black sweater with faded white graphics on the shoulder, and smiled politely through yellow and crooked teeth.
I was close enough to also see that another man sat in the back seat … watching … a large black garbage bag balled up on his lap. Almost 35 years later, I can still see this second man’s face—unshaven beneath a dirty baseball cap—his eyes fixed on me, waiting expectantly for me to join him.
I was nine-years-old when this happened.
A week or so later, I was playing safely in my bedroom when my parents told me that the police had arrested a local man fitting the description I had provided. I can’t imagine how different life would be had I stepped into that car.
I’ve thought a lot about that encounter recently, and realized that my experience is the terrifying daily reality for many of the world’s poorest children. And for these kids, the stories don’t always have a happy ending. They may not have parents to run home to, a safe place to hide, or any local police keeping an eye out for them. But most of all they lack the knowledge, and are easily tricked by evil men.
Throughout the month of May, World Concern is focusing its efforts on raising awareness of child trafficking, and giving you the opportunity to protect a vulnerable child from the threat of exploitation, abuse, and slavery.
It started with an event—the 8th Annual Free Them 5k—a family fun-run that attracted more than 1,400 participants and raised more than $200,000 to help stop trafficking. And this effort now continues with a special initiative that allows you to go one step further, and help cover a child in God’s love and protection.
These children live in poverty, so when something happens you won’t see their stories featured on the evening news, or an article written about their disappearance in a local newspaper. An Amber Alert won’t interrupt your television program, and you won’t see their faces on the community notice board at the local grocery store.
From an early age, I was taught about the dangers around me. I was educated and kept safe in a loving home and nurtured by a community of people that cared and looked out for my well being. But in villages across Southeast Asia, children don’t have this blessing, or the awareness that potentially saved me all those years ago.
So when I think about the men in the white car, and what could have happened that day—it makes protecting a child an easy decision.
What does it take to become the top fundraiser for the World Concern Free Them 5k for four consecutive years? Mark LeMaster recently described the method that has made him so successful. Mark is a pharmacist by profession and fundraising didn’t strike him immediately.
Five years ago, Mark heard a radio ad about the Free Them 5k a week before the race. He was looking to get back into shape and help support an organization he was familiar with, but little more. That first year, “I raised nothing,” he said. “I just signed up and didn’t raise any money whatsoever.” But connecting with World Concern and receiving a deeper knowledge of its works affected him. “They work alongside people, they’re investing in people. They’re not just dumping money and running.”
Human trafficking is a global problem but Mark realized he could have real impact by raising money to support World Concern’s programs that protect children. He believes in its people, philosophy and cause. Now, raising money for the Free Them 5k is a yearly mission, a goal he said is enriching in surprising ways. We wanted to know exactly how he does what he does and he kindly shared his secrets.
Make It Personal
How many Facebook posts do you glance over a day? Skipping over a general post is common. Now, how many of us would ignore a message from a friend? “The key is to ask people directly,” Mark said. “If you just post to Facebook that usually doesn’t work. Ask a person individually.” Mark sends emails, Facebook messages, texts, makes calls and has even mailed a letter to people he thought would be most receptive to it.
“You don’t have to make this huge dissertation.” He has been most successful with short, simple and direct appeals. Writing in a few sentences what he’s doing and why. In most cases he’ll ask for a monetary amount too, sometimes a donation of just $5.
Mark stressed that record keeping is one of the most important factors in fundraising. Knowing who he’s contacted and when, makes him much more effective. Which leads to…
“Organization and follow-up are very important.” If someone doesn’t respond, Mark will continue to contact them until they do. Asked if he was concerned about offending people he said, “In my four years, I can count on one hand people who said, ‘please don’t ask any longer’ and they were very nice about it. Nobody has been offended.” On the flip side, “lots of people, I follow up with them forever, and they want to donate but they’re busy and they forget. And they really appreciate me following up.”
When someone gives, Mark thanks them and he often recognizes them publicly with a Facebook post. Not only are you recognizing the donor but often times others will be inspired to donate too.
Four years into his fundraising efforts, Mark’s friends and family expect his campaign. Now, he starts raising money in January. It’s his way of giving back, yes, but there are perks for him too. Turns out it’s pretty enjoyable to see your fundraising page grow and to meet goals. And witnessing the generosity firsthand is profound, when the fundraising ends Mark is left with something more. “I feel really good for what my friends did. I feel really grateful how generous my friends and family are. I just asked and tried.”
This post was written by World Concern volunteer Katie Doptis. Katie is a television producer, formerly with KIRO TV in Seattle.
A little before noon on Saturday, April 25, a huge chunk of rock sitting miles below the busy Nepalese villages moved, and unleashed a 7.8 magnitude shock wave that tore through the Kathmandu Valley.
The quake was shallow. And so as the giant rock shifted, the rocky ground above splintered violently and threw tons of debris onto the lowland communities. Entire villages were destroyed in just minutes. Homes became rubble. Infrastructure toppled. Cropland ruined. Livelihoods lost. And life in Nepal was forever changed.
Over 8,000 people were killed that day. Another 21,000 severely injured. Everyone affected. Within hours, the nation of Nepal had collectively called for help. And with your help, World Concern answered.
In the days that followed this tragic event, you joined with thousands of others to reach out and lend support to World Concern’s emergency response in the region. It was your swift action that kept hope alive for countless desperate, and homeless families.
Your gifts were immediately used to provide emergency assistance to the hardest hit areas. These essentials literally meant the difference between life and death. The destroyed villages were difficult to reach, with winding mountain roads blocked by fallen rocks. But driven on by your prayers and the need in each village, rescue teams pushed on and rapidly distributed food, water, and shelter materials to hungry and frightened families.
As the months passed, and many organizations had long since left, World Concern remained committed to the Nepalese people, and the rebuilding process. But it was only thanks to you that this was possible. And on the anniversary of this disaster, your gifts have helped a staggering 24,276 people.
“I am so thankful for the people that joined us in supporting the recovery efforts,” says Chris Sheach, World Concern’s Deputy Director of Disaster Response. “Donations were made immediately, and our partnerships across the United States and Canada, and in Nepal, enabled a quick response.”
Today, those same donations are empowering each community to grow and work together with local churches to restore the physical, emotional and spiritual health of the families affected.
“It’s amazing to work with the local church in Nepal, and helping them be the hands and feet of Christ to their neighbors.” Chris says. One woman even started attending church for the first time after the church reached out to her.
Anita is a young mother that has benefited from this relationship. She watched as her home crumbled, then sheltered with her family under a thin piece of plastic until supported your gifts, the local church, provided her with materials to build a metal shelter. It was temporary, but it kept them safe, and protected from the rain and wind.
“We thank God, and the church for providing,” Anita exclaimed.
As we remember the day the earth shook in Nepal, we thank you for helping survivors like Anita write a new, and hopeful story. World Concern continues to serve in Nepal and remains committed to working with our Nepalese partners in building the resilience of their people.
For the past year I had an anticipation about turning 40, which happened in January. I attempted to crush the world’s voice in my head that often chants silly and pity-filled blues about turning 40. I on the other hand, was ready to enter my 40’s with jubilation and eagerness for what was to come in my next 40 years.
The topic of how to celebrate my birthday was a conversation with many friends and ideas were flowing in and out of my mind on a daily basis, but nothing seemed to stick. Then one early fall morning, I woke up at 4 a.m. and had a vision of what I was going to do. I pictured myself standing on a stage holding a big cardboard check made out to World Concern for $40,000. I went back to bed, in a bit of a fog, but when I woke up it was clear what I needed to do. I was going to use my 40th birthday as vehicle to gather everyone I know and raise $40,000 for World Concern and help save the lives of 1,000 children. That stuck. That grabbed my heart.
My family has been involved with World Concern for years now and I knew it was a perfect partnership for my fundraiser. World Concern is brilliant at their ability to love and serve the world, and they’re experts at protecting children in some of the poorest places. It did not take long to decide that I wanted to raise money specifically to help end child trafficking, because…
No child should be sold for sex.
Doing a fundraiser to help end human trafficking forced me to stop and think about the ugly sinful capability of mankind. It forced me to realize that as I sit in the comfort of my life with three precious kids of my own, there are horrific crimes occurring against young children. It forced me to ask questions and be curious about how this crime even happens and more importantly how it can be put to an end.
I sat in those thoughts, angered, indignant, and uncomfortable. It produced in me a call to action. I felt I had to do something. In that call to action, I had the chance to bring others into that thought life, a thought life about others around the world and this despicable crime and a way to make it end, because…
No child should be sold for sex.
So, I did it. I rallied my friends, family—everyone I knew—and together, WE did it. My family and friends gave generously because they also considered the ugly thoughts of what this fundraiser was about, they knew the impact their donation could make, and they responded to the call of action. That night, I stood on a stage holding a big cardboard check written out for $40,000. Because of that, 1,000 precious, innocent little ones will be safe from the hands of traffickers.
People responded to a call to action, because…
No child should be sold for sex.
Think about that: A child sold for sex. What would it be like for you to sit with the uncomfortable thoughts about this sick crime of child trafficking? I guarantee your heart will become restless, unsettled and want to act.
So today, I am calling on you to rally with me. We can work together as we participate World Concern’s Free Them 5k. Will you join me on Saturday, May 7, in Shoreline and take a stand to protect children and refuse to ignore this problem?
When you register for the Free Them 5k, you’ll have the opportunity to invite your friends to support you in this cause, knowing that they’ll be eager to act on this too, because…
No child should be sold for sex.
Mindy Lee Irvine is a mom of three and passionate supporter of World Concern. In January 2016, she celebrated her 40th birthday by raising $40,000 to protect children from human trafficking. She will be participating in the 8th Annual Free Them 5k to Stop Human Trafficking on Saturday, May 7, 2016 at World Concern’s headquarters.
You’ll hear this idiom more than anything else at my house. But I heard something this week that has convicted me of many things; most notably the way we speak.
But first let me assure you, I do feed my children … and they’re not starving.
I’m sure if they think hard enough, they’ll remember that they ate today. Many times. Their bellies are full, their eyes are bright and they’re able to move … not crippled over in pain from not having food in days … or weeks. They aren’t drinking fetid water from a hole in the ground that’s teeming with insects. Or pulling dry leaves from a nearby tree to stay alive.
No, they aren’t starving.
“You want to know how sick and hungry we are? Then let me show you the tombs of my two children.”
I quite literally gasped when I heard this.
My hand then covered my mouth … I felt sick … I couldn’t speak … tears filled my eyes.
The dad that uttered these horrifying words lives in a South Sudanese village. His name is Martin, and he has such a grieved stare in his eyes that I could barely stand to look at. His children were hungry. And he’d lost them because of it.
And when I think of these little ones … their tiny graves … and this father’s despair … I can’t help but feel completely distressed about it. And so I should.
I could have kept his children alive. But if only I knew …
If you’ve read this far I now have to tell you the rest of this story—his village is full of hungry children.
After wrestling with the guilt that I probably threw away enough food to have kept this man’s children alive, I realized something greater. That I owe him so much more than just my feelings.
I have to tell his story … and honor his children.
South Sudan is a mess right now. A young country that should still be bathing in the celebration of independence is instead caught in a web of raging violence … economic disaster … and dire food shortages. Poverty is tightening its grip and the poorest people can barely breathe.
There’s no denying that at this time of year, distractions are everywhere. And while ugly Christmas sweaters and foam reindeer antlers on car antennas might make you look twice, it’s the busyness of the season that can really get to you.
Whether you’re preparing to host Christmas dinner, trying to keep the kids entertained, or battling to find a parking space at the mall, we often get so distracted that we miss out on the little things.
And it’s the little things that matter most.
It’s Christmas here at World Concern, and our halls are decked with boughs of holly (actually, just tinsel and pretty lights) and in the midst of this frantic season, there’s always one thing that makes us stop and see the overwhelming joy in the little things—you.
It’s your generosity, and heartfelt desire to illuminate the lives of needy children and families that snaps us out of the busyness, and reminds us why we’re all doing this.
Take Marie for example. Like you, she is a special part of our family and shares your compassion for shining Christ’s light on those living in darkness. Every month for the past 13 years, Marie has wrapped two dollar bills in a napkin, and sent it into World Concern. I want you to understand this—two dollars, hidden in a napkin, every month, for 13 years—amazing.
Marie often includes a small note, thoughtfully written, telling us why she sent her gift. The story varies, but the purpose is always the same—she wants to bless others with what she has.
The little things.
The Bible says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin,” and at this time of year, we want you to know that when it’s made from the heart, it’s these small beginnings that make the biggest difference—it’s how the work begins, and then grows into something beautiful.
To encourage you in the midst of this Christmas season, we want to leave you with a poem written by a Bangladeshi girl, who you saved from the horror of child marriage by giving her a scholarship to stay in school with her friends. She writes:
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.
Yes, it’s absolutely the little things. Merry Christmas.
Pushing my shopping cart hurriedly through the supermarket aisles, I paused briefly to glance at my watch.
Four-thirty. Great, I still had time to get what I needed and make my doctor’s appointment.
Weaving past carts filled with food, expertly avoiding strollers,
and randomly placed boxes, I barely slowed down to grab each item off the shelf and toss it in my cart. I was on a roll; a can of peanuts, lightly salted of course … a bag of washed potatoes … risotto rice … a bunch of fresh celery … a dozen free-range eggs … and the list went on.
Within ten minutes I’d finished my shopping, proudly looking at the pile of groceries that now spilled over the side of my cart. I’d checked off every item on my list, and managed to find a checkout aisle with less than four people waiting. I am the greatest shopper in the world.
Out of breath, I now stood impatiently in the checkout line, waiting to now unload everything that I’d just put in. Well, at least they would repack it for me. It was around the time I was contemplating whether I wanted the 2 for 1 candy bar offer that I thought of April. Not the month, but a little one-year-old girl I’d been reading about earlier that afternoon.
Before my frantic trip to the grocery store, I’d spent a few hours with little April. She lives with her mom in a small village in Myanmar. I wasn’t physically sitting with her, but reading her story it sure felt like it. I read about how this precious one had been sick for over six months. That’s half her life.
Her mother shared April’s story with a colleague of mine, and told of how hungry they both were. She earned enough to buy the very basics; rice, and a few vegetables every now and then. But they were never fresh, and something always had to be sacrificed in order to afford them. It was clearly April’s health.
I unpacked my cart, haphazardly placing each item on the belt as the checker scanned, and dropped them in a paper bag. My thoughts were not on whether my eggs were cracked, but firmly focused on April, and the dire situation she was in.
April and her mom had been screened for malnutrition, and the results were not good. In villages across Myanmar (and elsewhere in Asia and Africa), World Concern staff visit children like April and test them for malnutrition and other illnesses. It’s a free service, and the results (while often shocking) can save a child’s life.
I read about how April’s mom carried her to the mobile clinic, sitting quietly on a chair and waiting for the volunteer to call them. April did nothing but cry; not a wail or an impatient tear, but a whimper, as if there was simply nothing left to cry about. Her mom did everything she could to comfort April—making faces, singing, and bouncing her on her knee—nothing worked. So she sat there, totally defeated, and waited for her daughter’s name to be called.
When it was April’s turn to be seen, the nurse first weighed April in a sling, kind of like a hammock, recording her weight before moving onto the next, and most
important test. The nurse delicately threaded a paper tape around April’s upper arm. This measures the mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) and diagnoses the level of malnourishment according to a color scale—green is considered healthy, yellow shows that the child is malnourished, and red indicates severe and acute malnutrition.
April’s arm was in the red. And by a long way.
The cheerful grocery checker had almost finished packing my groceries, but at this stage all I could think about was April, and all I could hear was the beep … beep … beep … beep … of my food being scanned. Then I saw my total.
I quickly moved my eyes to my two bags of groceries. How is that $181.91?
Little April was starving, and here I am buying $181.91 worth of groceries. Her tiny immune system simply didn’t have the energy to keep on fighting, and so it was slowly giving up. She needed nutritious food, and quickly.
Thankfully, that’s exactly what World Concern is doing for hungry children in Myanmar and other communities like April’s. So after the clinic visit April’s mom was given an emergency food kit and told lovingly to come back when the basket was empty to receive more.
The basket they carried home that day was filled with locally-sourced, highly nutritious, fresh food—a bag of potatoes … nuts and beans … rice … fresh vegetables … free-range eggs—pretty much everything that I’d just bought.
And the cost of the emergency food kit? Only $22. I could feed 8 hungry children with what I just bought.
Collecting my receipt and trudging out to the car, I cringed at the abundance that was around me. Food was readily available. I had money to buy it. And I was about to visit my family doctor.
Later that evening I spoke with my son about April, and how we could give a hungry child basically everything I’d bought at the supermarket, for just $22.
My son is seven, and his response to me was exactly what ours should be:
The high-school scholarships are arriving in Bangladesh, and girls are grinning from ear to ear.
A small team of our staff recently visited a handful of Bangladeshi villages, and got to see first-hand how your gifts are not only making a difference, but bringing smiles to young faces.
We met some remarkable girls who, after bravely sharing their fears of becoming child brides, couldn’t stop thanking you for giving them a one-year scholarship to stay in school.
For many girls living here (some as young as 10), child marriage is a terrible reality, and one that won’t seem to go away. It’s a generational problem that’s fueled by warped cultural beliefs and choking poverty; the effects of which see desperate parents marry their daughters off to alleviate the financial burden of care. So when 16-year-old Happy learned that her father had plans to marry her off, she threw herself at his feet and begged him to change his mind. It’s heartbreaking to know that girls like Happy are losing their childhoods and being placed in danger, largely because their parents see no way out.
The solution is education, and girls like Happy rely on the generosity of people like you to help make it happen. The more time we spent with Happy, the more we realized what a scholarship gift really meant. She (like every other girl we met) cried tears of joy and relief knowing that she could now attend school and avoid child marriage.
“Without this scholarship, I would already be married,” shares 15-year-old Dipa, who wants to become a doctor when she’s older. Dipa has such a heart for learning that it’s hard to imagine her not in a classroom, let alone bound to a complete stranger. But like Happy, getting married was a fear that Dipa lived with daily until her sister did something unthinkable.
When Dipa was just 13, her sister volunteered herself to live as a stranger’s wife to save Dipa and give her the chance to stay in school. “I was sad and I felt lonely when my sister got married and left,” explains Dipa. “She didn’t want to get married, but she knew if she did it would take the pressure off me,”
But as Dipa grew older, the risk of her being married off returned, as did her fears. So when your one-year scholarship arrived, Dipa couldn’t stop smiling!
She feels safe for the first time in years and now has the confidence to finish school and chase her dreams—maybe even one day marry the man that God has intended.
In the rural villages of Bangladesh, girls like Dipa and Happy are smiling once again thanks to you.
For the past few months, heavy monsoonal rains have caused flash flooding and landslides across Myanmar. Huge swathes of the country have been affected, with homes, crops and lives all being lost. Thousands of people are still displaced.
But the flooding has also brought another, longer lasting, and more sinister threat to survivors: malaria. Right now, pools of warm, stagnant water lay on the ground and mosquito breeding will skyrocket. Malaria deaths will almost certainly rise.
In one of the many villages affected by the flooding sleeps 2-year-old Ahdee. It’s humid, and so Ahdee’s mother has put him in the open air, hoping that the slight breeze will help her son sleep.
What she doesn’t know is that just one bite from the thousands of mosquitoes that are buzzing around her home has the potential to kill Ahdee.
This threatening picture is the same in villages right across Myanmar; parents just don’t know the risks. And so the need to protect children like Ahdee is urgent.
World Concern is on the ground in Myanmar, working with these isolated rural communities to fight malaria and keep children like Ahdee safe. With your help, we can continue to attack malaria from four very important angles:
Immediate blood testing is made available to even the poorest families so that if a child becomes sick (high fever, and seizures), a blood test can be taken for health-workers to make an accurate diagnosis. This is the crucial first stage.
If the mosquitoes poison is in the child’s bloodstream, malaria can kill in a matter of hours, so medicine is quickly needed. Life-saving medicine is given to the child and works by battling malaria head on, and keeping the dangerous fevers away. But most importantly, the medicine keeps a child like Ahdee alive.
But there’s still work to be done to protect children at risk. Families are given insecticide treated bed nets to hang over sleeping little ones. These nets are large, specially coated in mosquito repellent and can often cover a number of children. But they’re also portable, meaning that family members can take them out of the home if they are outside at night. The thin blue netting keeps the mosquitoes away and puts a hedge of protection around those under it.
Last year, parent’s in Ahdee’s village sadly buried many young boys and girls, all killed by malaria. “We didn’t know why all the children kept dying.” said Ahdee’s mother.
So World Concern goes one step further and provides training for parents to be made aware of malaria’s deadly warning signs and what to do if their children get sick.
Children like Ahdee are sleeping unprotected and with all the extra water from the floods, the need is urgent. A gift of just $59 will cure and protect children like Ahdee before it’s too late. You will be giving them access to rapid blood tests, life-saving medicine and bed nets, and also be training parents on how to keep their kids safe.
And with the malaria threat so high in Myanmar, your gift today will be tripled! You can cure and protect 3x as many children as Ahdee, thanks to a special matching grant.