Chad becomes a haven for refugees in central Africa

Kids rest at a refugee camp in Chad.

Kids rest at a refugee camp in Chad.

Visiting refugee camps is never easy. No one wants to leave their home, their life, and everything they’ve ever known and run to another country where they have no status, few rights, and are forced to live in a tent. But refugees aren’t given a choice.

Over the past few weeks I visited three refugee camps in Chad, where families who have fled the terror of Boko Haram in Nigeria are taking shelter. As I journeyed from the southeast of Chad to the west, I heard very similar stories, over a thousand miles apart. Gunfire in the middle of the night. Running through the darkness, grabbing children—any children—on the way. Heading away from the guns, not knowing what lay ahead. Then the long walk… Days, weeks, months of traveling to a place where you hope the gunmen won’t find you, won’t steal your children, won’t kill you for not being radical enough. Stories of loss, missing spouses, missing children.

But I also heard stories of hope. Of families reunited. Of camps where strangers look out for each other like family. Of relatives sheltering cousins they’ve never met, sharing their meager corn harvest and a few fish.

Aisha and her family fled Boko Haram attacks in their home town. They are waiting to be reunited with their two boys.

Aisha and her family fled Boko Haram attacks in their home town. They are waiting to be reunited with their two boys.

I met Aisha and her husband Ali, who are staying with her uncle. When she fled Nigeria at 4 a.m. during a Boko Haram attack, she was only able to find her two little girls, leaving behind her two sons, 10 and 7, who were staying with friends. She spent weeks without sleep, worrying about them, regretting that she left them, wondering what if…

Aisha eventually heard from her mother-in-law the boys were safe, but they are still in Nigeria, and she has no way to be reunited with them. “I can’t go back there, it’s not safe. I hope we can bring my sons to Chad, but I don’t know how. We have no money, we are living on the charity of my relatives.”

Another man, the patriarch of his family, brought 28 of his relatives to Chad in his car. He sold the car to rent a small one-room house, with everything they own inside. His life work and savings are gone, but he has his grandchildren. One of his grandsons got married right before Boko Haram attacked.

Talking with families at a refugee camp, hearing their stories.

Talking with families at a refugee camp, hearing their stories.

“They stole your honeymoon, too!” we joked.

“Yes, but we kept our lives,” he smiled. He asked that we not publish any photos of the family, as there are other family members still in Nigeria that could be in danger.

I also talked to Aya, a shy but precocious teenager. She was one of 18 children that all escaped with her parents, before militants attacked their town. When we asked her what she missed most, it was school. In Nigeria, she studied in a Muslim school. Boko Haram says they want to ban western education, especially for girls. But for Aya, they have shut her out of even religious education. In Chad, the local school is in French, which she can’t speak. She wants to go back to Nigeria as soon as possible, but when that will happen is unknown.

For now, Aya, and so many others like her in Chad need help to access food, jobs, schools, and to contribute with dignity in the homes that have welcomed them, and to get ready for whatever their future may hold.

Chad Refugee Crisis

Chad now has refugees from four countries sheltering within its borders. Every bordering country to Chad has experienced internal violence against its citizens in the last five years: Libya, Cameroon, Nigeria, Central African Republic, and Niger. World Concern started working in Chad with refugees from Sudan in 2008, and people have been seeking refuge here ever since.

The Joy of Clean Water, In Their Own Words

IMG_1052In most of the impoverished places where World Concern works, meeting needs starts with water. Why? Because when a mom is trying to keep her child alive, nothing else matters.

Through your gifts to provide clean water, you are the hands and feet of Jesus to these moms, meeting this critical need and opening the way for lasting transformation to take place. As you read the stories below, I hope you know how much your gift matters!

One Mom’s Story of Survival

War War knows her children are alive today because of the water you provided. For the first few years of her babies’ lives, War War did what all the moms in her village did – she retrieved water by the bucketful from the mucky, still water that sat in the pond in their village.

3 - Dirty Ponds, Hunger - Yaw Won Lay, Chaung Tar Yar (306 of 391) - low resThe water made them sick. At the same time her younger son became ill with severe diarrhea, War War herself got sick. With the help of friends and family, they eventually made the four-hour boat ride to the nearest hospital where they were treated for water-borne diseases.

In and out of consciousness, alone and fearful for her son’s life, War War learned it was the dirty water she had been giving her son that caused his sickness. She was devastated.
Thankfully, both survived. Because of you, the village now has clean water, and families like War War’s have learned the importance of good hygiene and sanitation to stay healthy.

War War’s son is now happy and healthy!

Clean Water Changed Mohamad’s Life and Future

Clean water is changing the lives of students like 14-year-old Mohamad – helping him stay healthy and focused in school. Mohamad’s school in Somaliland (Northern Somalia) now has a tank that captures rainwater, providing plenty of fresh, clean drinking water for the students.

“Before, we didn’t have any water to drink while we were at school. We would feel thirsty, but we could not get anything to drink until we went home,” explained Mohamad.

The school now has a 6,600-gallon tank that captures rainwater through a gutter system on the roof, providing abundant clean water for students to drink and wash their hands with at school.
“Now it’s easier to learn because we have water,” said the grateful teen. “Now we are healthy.”

The Life-Changing Impact of Berkads

Many families in Somaliland now have clean water from berkads. Berkads are large concrete tanks that channel and store rainwater. With a berkad, one day of heavy rain can provide enough clean, fresh drinking water for an entire community for months. Here’s what a few people have to say about the impact of these berkads:

“Before the berkad was built, there was not enough water. We were going so far to gather water. Now that World Concern rehabilitated this berkad, it is good. When it rains, the berkad fills up and we save it for use when our water supply is low.” Asha, 48, mom of three

 

“Before the berkad was built, there was not enough water. We were going so far to gather water. Now that World Concern rehabilitated this berkad, it is good. When it rains, the berkad fills up and we save it for use when our water supply is low.”
– Asha, 48, mom of three

 

“In school we learned about hygiene—to wash our hands before we eat and to wear shoes when going to the toilets. It is good to do these things because if you don’t wash your hands and then you eat something, you will probably get a disease.” - Sahra, 12, student in grade 2

 

“In school we learned about hygiene—to wash our hands before we eat and to wear shoes when going to the toilets. It is good to do these things because if you don’t wash your hands and then you eat something, you will probably get a disease.”
– Sahra, 12, student in grade 2

 

“Before these berkads, we did not have enough water in our village. When the water ran out, we would have to travel three hours by foot to the mountains in order to gather water. These berkads provide us enough water. They also benefit us as we earn income to help build them. We very much appreciate the berkads because we now have enough water to cover our needs.”
– Sahra, 30, mom of three

The stories above show just how much your gifts matter. Clean water not only saves and transforms lives, but also brings immeasurable joy to families in need.

 

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Walking a mile in their shoes

I recently visited remote villages in South Sudan; a brief visit that has left me journeying through unexplored trails in my own heart.

One experience especially stands out.

It started during a village meeting, in which several ladies in Mayen offered to take me to their homes, to witness the impact of our projects – each terming her household as the “most transformed.” So I settled on visiting just three who stated that their houses were nearby.

Walking the last stretch to the homes I visited in Mayen.

Walking the last stretch to the homes I visited in Mayen.

Strapped for energy and time, my plan was to make a quick dash and back; but some plans don’t unwind as neatly – at least not in the field.

In an entourage of about 10, composed of residents and World Concern staff, we set off and immediately picked pace.

We walked and walked, trudging through snaky paths set on brownish grass amidst isolated huts and trees as the hot South Sudan sun stared down at us.

After a non-stop 45 minute walk, I let my protests be known.  “I will go no further,” I swore. “Let’s turn back now!”

“But we’re just near,” the translator said, a line he repeated whenever I aired my calls of surrender, which was several times more.

Angelina, in front of her home.

Angelina, in front of her home.

It would be an eternity before Angelina Mir’s house came over to meet us. By then I had protested a handful more times hesitatingly agreeing to keep going each time. What’s the use of walking all this way and returning without a story? I kept thinking.

We finally arrived, worn and dusty. My interior was that of an angry man.

Angry at myself for suggesting the trek, angry at myself for forgetting to carry a water bottle, angry at the residents for ‘lying’ about the distance, angry at our vehicle for being unable to snake through the slender paths, and thorny shrubs – places never before driven on. . .

Then it dawned on me.

This heavy trudge for me was a normal  walk for residents. My discomfort at having no drinking water for just a few hours, was a way of life for them (we only came across only two shallow wells, whose water we wouldn’t pour on our heads let alone drink). The hunger I felt was a lifestyle for them.

PondThe people we serve live with these inconveniences every day.

Yet under the seemingly hopeless situation, they are determined to make their lives beautiful.

Angelina for instance borrowed a loan of 200 SSP ($36) from a micro-finance group started through World Concern. That loan ended up saving her son’s life. Four-year-old Marco Anae urgently needed surgery. His stomach had swelled and become intolerably painful from an intestinal blockage. He vomited spurts of blood and lost consciousness as it swelled on.

Angelina Amir and son.

The hefty scar on Angelina’s son’s stomach shows the extent of his emergency surgery.

Although the normal reaction for community members is to sell livestock when in need of money, being a member of the  Buak kukopadh (Let us go after something good) micro-finance group saved her income, as well as her son’s life. “I didn’t sell a goat. It’s a long process which involves taking the goat to the town center where it may stay for up to two days before anyone purchases it,” she explained.

Within only a day of borrowing, she was on her way to hospital – a journey that entailed a two hour long trek carrying Marco before boarding a vehicle to the next town. The loan helped facilitate expenses to the hospital and Marco’s new nutritional demands as the surgery was offered at no charge.

Her group of 21 women has so far saved 2205 SSP ($400) from which they borrow loans to boost their business and repay with interest. Angelina owns a total of 13 goats, one cow and lots of chickens. Besides boosting individual finances, some of the members have their spiritual lives nourished at nearby Pascal Catholic church. Through afternoon adult literacy classes at the church, Angelina is now able to write all her group members’ names!

Some views along the way:

Vegetable garden

Small vegetable garden demonstrates the possibilities that abound in the area.

Church under tree

On our way we came across Pascal Catholic Church which Angelina attends. This Under-the-tree church with logs for seats accommodates up to 250 people on Sundays seeing congregants also take part in adult literacy during week day afternoons.

On our way back, my mind was heavy in thought contemplating how impatient I have been whenever residents show up an hour or two later than scheduled. I realized it takes them just as long to walk to our meeting areas – even longer when rain falls; and mostly they come with parched mouths, empty stomachs, having already handled hundreds of roles, that especially make a woman who she is in the areas we work.

Yet they smile.

Angelina Amir 1b

They have a strong will to keep going no matter how rough the trudge is.

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This experience has brought me face to face with myself.  Until now I thought I was patient, determined and perseverant among other countless virtues, but the people I met in South Sudan beat me at it. They roundly beat me at it.

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Through One Village Transformed, World Concern and several partner churches are supporting Mayen village through protection of clean water, food production, livelihoods and robust microfinance. The project is a journey we’re taking alongside the community.  You can be part of it. Here’s how.

Flex! Young boys in South Sudan show their resilience in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Helping South Sudan Move Forward

With the support of our donors, lives were saved, protected, and transformed in some of the world’s poorest places in 2014. Hungry families were fed, people in crisis were given shelter, and entire communities received abundant clean water.

Displaced before they could plant crops, many in South Sudan face imminent threats of famine and starvation.

Displaced before they could plant crops, many in South Sudan face imminent threats of famine and starvation.

One of the biggest challenges of 2014 was reaching families displaced by civil war in South Sudan. The problems affecting the world’s newest nation are extremely complex. Many families are still homeless, living in tents or under trees with no shelters. Prices have skyrocketed because of the war, leaving poor families unable to buy food or essential commodities. There is also a looming threat of famine – because they were displaced during the rainy season, many were not able to plant crops. As a result, the annual hunger gap, which is fast approaching in April, is expected to be worse than usual.

Achol was nine months pregnant when she fled with her children after fighting broke out in her village in South Sudan’s Unity State. “I ran when I heard gunfire and saw people running,” she said. “I left with nothing.” Achol gave birth outside – alone – after arriving in a makeshift camp. “I had no food and no blankets. I delivered my baby and spent two days outside. Then I made this shelter,” she said, looking up at the flimsy tent made of sticks and tarps that sheltered her children.

Families like Achol’s need help resettling and rebuilding their lives.

Donations in 2014 helped provide food, shelter, and emergency assistance for many families like Achol’s. Now, families like hers need to move beyond life-saving, emergency aid and rebuild their lives with plans for a better future. As we usher in the new year, we are leading communities in South Sudan to move beyond crisis and relying on short-term hand-outs towards lasting change. Our focus in 2015 includes long-term initiatives, such as:

  • Providing seeds, tools, and training in sustainable agriculture to farmers
  • Sharing peacebuilding skills and reconciliation in communities torn apart by violence
  • Educating children, turning their dreams of a better future into real opportunities

It’s clear that the situation is South Sudan is complex. People like Achol face immense challenges and have great needs. But at World Concern, we refuse to shy away from complex problems because things are too hard. Rather, we tackle these challenges head-on, walking alongside the families in South Sudan into recovery and helping them rebuild their lives.

Though these situations can seem hopeless and overwhelming, we put our full confidence in God – He alone can change lives and circumstances. He can bring peace to any situation, and nothing is too complex for Him. He has called us to be His hands and feet, and equips us with what we need to help the families in South Sudan and other challenging places. As we enter 2015, we rely on the ongoing support of our donors to help families and communities to move beyond crisis towards restoration, healing, and transformation.

Flex! Young boys in South Sudan show their resilience in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Flex! Young boys in South Sudan show their resilience in the midst of difficult circumstances.

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An Invitation to Prayer from our President

At World Concern we work hard to alleviate the suffering of the poor and provide the tools that will empower them to lead full and productive lives. I am so incredibly grateful for your partnership and support that makes this important work possible.

I’m writing today to share something that has been on my heart recently. I care deeply about the poor and vulnerable in the world, and I know you do too. I cry with the mother who cannot feed her child. I grieve with the father who has lost all means of providing for his family as war rips through his village. My heart breaks for precious children who will not grow to their full God-given potential because their little bodies are ravaged by preventable diseases.

I am moved by compassion to make a difference in all of these areas. At the same time I am keenly aware that so many of the obstacles that we face in reaching those beyond the end of the road cannot be overcome by hard work alone. We absolutely need the intervention of God. We need the Lord to move on our behalf providing, protecting, and enabling us to do this work.

With this in mind, I am committing myself this year more fully to prayer. At World Concern we are all about seeing lives transformed from poverty to the abundance of life. We also know that the work of transformation is a spiritual work and therefore must be approached by spiritual means. In Psalm 127:1 we read, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” This means that our hard work alone won’t accomplish all we hope to see. We need God’s help.

World Concern staff around the world begin each day with prayer. Will you join us this week as we ask God to help us fulfill His mission through us?

World Concern staff around the world begin each day with prayer. Will you join us this week as we ask God to help us fulfill His mission through us?

World Concern is joining all of CRISTA Ministries in dedicating this week to prayer and fasting, and today I invite you to join us. Please pray that God would bless the mission of World Concern as we labor to serve those who are precious to His heart.

Specifically, please pray:

  • that World Concern would extend its witness both with those we serve and those who partner with us in our work.
  • that World Concern would extend its reach into more communities where the vulnerable are at risk.
  • that God would miraculously provide qualified staff and ample resources to expand our reach and witness.

Drop me a note and let me know that you will add World Concern to your prayers this week.

The Freedom of Income

Leh showing her earnings for the day.

Seventeen-year-old Leh bounded into the office of the village leader in her rural Laotian community with a handful of money, beaming with pride.

“I sold all of my sticky stick snacks in just an hour!” exclaimed the ecstatic teen. She held up her earnings, which she planned to share with her friends who helped her sell the snacks.

Leh’s village is just a few miles from the border of Thailand. Young girls often disappear after crossing the border into Thailand to look for work. Many are trafficked into Thailand’s insidious sex tourism industry. Others are forced to work for no pay, or other forms of exploitation. Three of Leh’s older siblings have gone to Thailand in search of work. When her father passed away three years ago, she considered doing the same thing so she could help support her disabled mother.

We’re offering alternatives—helping provide job skills and awareness training for girls like Leh in this region to earn income close to home and stay safe. Leh recently participated in cooking classes at World Concern’s youth center. That’s where she learned how easy it was to prepare sticky sticks. She knew immediately she could start a small business selling the tasty treats.

Leh making her sticky stick snacks.

Leh making her sticky stick snacks.

Leh was determined and started her business with $2 she saved to purchase a sack of flour, sugar, and oil. She sold her first batch of sticky sticks at the school during the students’ break time for 10 cents each. In just one hour, she had earned $5—a profit of $3 for an hour of selling.

Ready for selling!

Ready for selling!

“Doing this makes me happy,” she said, after several weeks of operating her snack business. “I wake up at 5:00 a.m., do my chores, and start cooking at 8:00 a.m.” She’s home by 11 a.m. with the day’s profits in hand.

“Thank you not only for changing my life but also my family’s life,” said Leh. “I am very grateful to the project for guiding me in choosing the right path and for securing my future and making me safe.”

Leh is sharing what she learned with her friends, and is now an active member of the youth campaign in her village that helps raise awareness about human trafficking.

Leh teaching her friend how to make sticky sticks, so she can earn income too.

Leh teaching her friend how to make sticky sticks, so she can earn income too.

When you support World Concern’s child trafficking prevention programs, you help keep girls like Leh safe from harm. Whether by participating in the Free Them 5k, or by donating directly, you’re helping protect vulnerable girls and put an end to this horrific crime.

The Power of 44 Cents

So many of the issues we face combating poverty are incredibly complex. Thankfully, some are simpler to solve than others.

IMG_0994 - low resParasites cause children to suffer and families to struggle. Sickness, absenteeism from school, loss of work for parents, malnutrition—all of these things worsen poverty. But the ripple effect of deworming medicine makes it one of the most effective ways to fight poverty. It’s so simple, and it costs just 44 cents.

Luxmi’s children experienced immediate relief after receiving deworming medicine.

Luxmi, a mom of two living in the Rishipara slum of Bangladesh’s capital city, was overjoyed to learn that World Concern was distributing deworming medicine in her neighborhood. Her children were constantly suffering from stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, and the effects of malnutrition. At a time in their young lives when they should have been growing and thriving, parasites were feeding off their bodies, sucking the vital nutrients from their food, and causing intense pain.

As soon as her children took the medicine, they started to feel better. “After a few days, their health problems vanished,” Luxmi said.

They are healthier, happier, and full of energy. They’re even completing their chores enthusiastically—something any mom loves to see!

“This tablet saved my daughter’s life”

A girl stands by one of the slum's few latrines.

A girl stands by one of the slum’s few latrines.

Amidst the muddy, narrow streets and dilapidated shacks Kalyani and her neighbors call home, toilets are almost nonexistent. Diseases like diarrhea and parasites spread rapidly.

Kalyani’s daughters were sick and malnourished. Her infant daughter was extremely weak and suffered from constant stomach pains. Since Kalyani could not afford medicine, she had taken her little one to the local monk for help, but her daughter’s symptoms only worsened.

A few months ago, each member of Kalyani’s family received deworming medicine, and the results were dramatic. Her youngest daughter’s stomach pains completely stopped, and she started absorbing nutrients from her food. Today, she is a healthy, smiling little girl—full of life and bounding with energy.

Kalyani's youngest daughter was sick and malnourished from parasites. Today, she's a happy, healthy little girl.

Kalyani’s youngest daughter was sick and malnourished from parasites. Today, she’s a happy, healthy little girl.

“This tablet saved my daughter’s life,” exclaimed a grateful Kalyani.

With healthy kids, Kalyani can now focus on growing her small business and paying for her older daughters to attend school.

When children are free from parasites, it opens the way to addressing the larger problems of sanitation, hygiene, and access to clean water. That’s how a simple pill helps combat poverty.

Click here to cure a child from worms for just 44 cents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like any developing nation after disaster, Haiti has progressed “piti piti” (little by little)

After living in Haiti for two years where I worked with World Concern, I returned to the U.S. a couple weeks ago. Aside from getting used to much colder weather and way too many cereal options at the grocery store, I have been attempting to answer, as best as possible, all kinds of questions about Haiti.

Destruction after the earthquake shook Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010.

Destruction after the earthquake shook Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010.

One of the most common questions has been how the country is doing since the 2010 earthquake—Haiti’s strongest in two centuries, claiming more than 230,000 lives. This tells me that perhaps not everyone has forgotten about Haiti and that fateful day on January 12, 2010.

However it’s a challenge to answer that question. It’s a big question and I feel a burden to answer accurately and completely, but at the same time I realize most people are not asking for a lecture.

As someone who has lived in Haiti, I can tell you that it is a wonderful place full of color and life. Most of all, it is my friends there and the dozens of others I’ve met through my work with World Concern that I remember. These faces are what stand out in my mind when someone asks how Haiti is doing and each face is a beautiful creation of God with a distinct story. Everyone has a story and each is unique. And with the stories of healing and restoration have come ones of difficulty and loss.

World Concern has been serving small business owners, like Emilienne, by providing loans and training since 1998.

World Concern has been serving small business owners, like Emilienne, by providing loans and training since 1998.

The recovery process and transition to long-term development has been slow and difficult at times, but positive things have happened in the past five years. But there are major chronic issues that persist which keep people from living healthy and productive lives. This is the reality. Is Haiti progressing? The answer, in my opinion, is yes. Does Haiti face challenges? Also yes.

There are more people coming to Haiti as tourists and the country’s image is slowly improving, roads are being rebuilt with many paved for the first time, and the number of homeless people has fallen to less than 100,000 out of the 1.5 million initially without a home following the earthquake.

A road under construction in Haiti.

A road under construction in Haiti.

And what about the struggles? Cholera, which was first introduced in Haiti in October 2010, is on the rise again, and the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to defeat it is missing. Too many families are not able to get enough food with 2.6 million people food insecure as of July and a political crisis looms as long overdue elections in the country are yet to be held. And Haiti remains vulnerable to drought, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.

The earthquake highlighted the need to focus on helping communities become better prepared and less vulnerable. This is an area that the government and many organizations, including World Concern, have chosen to invest in since 2010 which is encouraging. A community that is more able to cope with a crisis on their own is one that will be more protected and have less loss of life.

Volunteers take part in a disaster simulation to learn how to be prepared and respond in an emergency.

Volunteers take part in a disaster simulation to learn how to be prepared and respond in an emergency.

At World Concern we have worked to train local first responders, build community shelters, establish early warning systems, and introduce drought resistant seeds to farmers. Our goal is to see communities empowered, resilient and able to stand on their own. We’re grateful for significant progress in this area.

Haitian Creole, the national language of Haiti, has lots of proverbs or sayings—one thing that makes the language so rich and beautiful. There is a common proverb that says “Piti piti wazo fè nich,” which means “Little by little a bird makes its nest.”

So how is Haiti now? How has the country moved forward? Well, things are better and there is a lot of hope, but piti piti wazo fè nich.

How One Day of Rain Can Change Everything

There are some places in this world that are difficult places to live. The desert of Northern Somalia (Somaliland) is one of those places. The only thing interrupting the endless view of sand, rocks, and tumbleweeds is an occasional range of low mountains along the horizon. In the middle of the desert, clusters of homes comprise tiny villages. Once a week, the women from these towns walk for an entire day to the hills to get water—the only source of clean water for miles.

“It is so far,” explained Shamse, a young mom who lives here in the desert. “I walk from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and still only return with a few jerry cans – whatever I can manage to carry.”

Moms in Somalia must walk long distances through the desert to collect water.

Moms in Somalia must walk long distances through the desert to collect water.

The water she manages to bring home last only a few days. When the jerry cans run out, Shamse and her children are forced to drink salty, contaminated water from a nearby hole in the ground. “It makes us sick,” she said.

Many children in this community have died from diarrhea and other water-borne diseases. “As a mother, I feel so sad,” she said. “But there is no doctor here when the children get sick.”

Shamse’s conflict depicts the life-or-death dilemma that many others in the community face every day. The nearest access to clean water is a long and arduous day’s journey away, but local water sources are contaminated and unsuitable for human consumption. It’s a threat that fills Shamse with dread and exhausts her even before she rises from her sleeping mat.

But there is a solution, and it starts with a gift from above — rainwater.

In this region, it rains as little as two or three days a year. But when it does, it rains hard—often causing flooding, as the dry desert ground cannot absorb so much water all at once. Check out this video clip of a flash flood in Somaliland.

We help communities build large underground water storage tanks called berkads. These berkads collect, channel, and filter torrents of rainwater, capturing it for use between rains. The result of just one day of rain: enough clean, fresh drinking water for an entire community for months. In fact, one berkad can hold up to 80,000 gallons of water – that’s enough water not just for drinking, but also for growing crops and keeping livestock healthy and alive.

Berkads like this one channel and filter rainwater, storing it for months of use.

Women draw water from a berkad.

Women draw water from a berkad.

With berkads, moms like Shamse have access to clean drinking water that is safe for their children and close to home. Some women are even able to earn income from selling the water if a berkad is built near their home.

Along with this life-saving source of  water, we provide hygiene training and improved sanitation (latrines and toilets), leading to better health for families in need.

You can help mothers provide clean water to their children.

You can help mothers provide clean water to their children.

We’ve seen this system work in other communities in the region, but there are many more families waiting for clean water. You can be a part of this and help needy communities build berkads and other sources of water — bringing help and hope to Shamse and others.

Providing clean water for families is the first step to move beyond barely surviving, and toward lasting change. Your gift saves lives and transforms communities long-term. In addition, your year-end gift by Dec. 31 will be matched, dollar for dollar, providing clean, life-saving water to twice as many children and families.

IDPs arrive at a camp in Warrap State, South Sudan, in February 2014.

One Year Later, South Sudan Remains in Turmoil

In December 2013, the world’s newest nation, only two years into a season without war, plunged back into crisis-mode. Though the explanation for this eruption of conflict is far from definitive, one thing is clear – South Sudan is still hurting.

As we approach the one year anniversary of this newest conflict in South Sudan – a land that has suffered almost continuous war for over two decades – we (the world) need to remember that this war persists and tensions are only growing. And, as we so strongly believe at World Concern, we remind ourselves that war is about so much more than politics and land and resources. It is about the thousands, if not millions, of people whose lives are torn apart.

According to the UNHCR, South Sudan now has more than 1.4 million internally displaced people who have been forced to flee their homes. Additionally, tens of thousands of people (at this point an exact number is difficult to track) have lost their lives.

Though there has always been community tension and a scarcity of resources, we have never ceased to see the country for its potential to transform. When South Sudan gained independence in 2011, we celebrated with them. Unfortunately, the celebration was short-lived. South Sudan has faced immense challenges over the past three years. The recent conflict is bringing the nation to the brink of famine and starvation continues to be a very real risk.

Since the country’s independence, World Concern has focused on empowering South Sudanese communities to move beyond a state of relief and toward long-term development. Eager to farm their own land, feed their own children, and be educated, people have been more than willing to take part in their community’s development. In fact, many of the communities we partner with now have their own gardens, banks, savings groups, job opportunities, and thriving markets.

But many others were displaced from their homes and land when violence came dangerously close to their communities. As a result, hundreds of thousands were unable to plant crops before South Sudan’s annual rainy season. Because of this, many will go hungry this year. And too many are still homeless, living in squalid camps, waiting for peace.

Mary (right) and her newborn son sit inside a vacated school they now call home.

Last February I traveled to South Sudan to visit Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps, sit with people, and listen to their stories. Among the many painful narratives shared, I will never forget Mary YarTur’s. Nine months pregnant when violence broke out in her village, Mary had no choice but to run.

“Both of my neighbors were killed when we were running,” she solemnly explained. “My uncle was also killed.”

After days on the run, Mary and others settled outside of a closed school building. Two days later, she went into labor.

Women sit outside of the school where Mary gave birth.

Women sit outside of the school where Mary gave birth.

“At the time I delivered I was feeling bad. My body was in pain and it was not well,” she shared. “During the time I came from my home in Unity State, I was running with little food. Then I delivered right away when I arrived here.”

In the three days I spent visiting camps, Mary was one of five women I met with newborn babies – a small representation of the thousands of children that have already been born without medical assistance beneath trees, outside of buildings, and underneath haphazard shelters.

A silhouetted pregnant woman rests at an IDP site.

A silhouetted pregnant woman rests at an IDP site.

“My child was delivered outside, now they have problems,” Mary told me. “I’m not feeling better now. The food we have to eat takes a very long time to cook – and when I eat it it gives me stomach pains. So, I don’t eat much – I feel weak and faint. I live in fear because I don’t know where my husband is and I sleep in the open, many days without food and no income.”

Sick, taking care of a newborn, husband-less, without food, homeless – it’s no wonder so many people feel hopeless.

A Bleak Future Without Development

Because of the recent crisis, funding for development projects has reduced. Life-saving disaster response efforts are vital, but without the ability to fund long-term projects, the country’s development comes to a halt.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced families have fled northern South Sudan to Warrap State, where we work. With no choice but to build makeshift shelters on land that was once someone else’s farms, their presence is a cause for tension and puts a strain on local resources.

The majority of the people we serve know at least one person who has been killed. Thus, a large portion of a family’s resources and time have been spent on hosting and traveling to burial services.

Additionally, the South Sudanese pound continues to lose value against the American dollar, skyrocketing import costs and consequently making many resources unbearably expensive.

“Foreign exchange is low. Prices of commodities are rising every day. Many markets are in short supply of essential commodities,” said a World Concern staff member in Warrap State. “The chamber of commerce has attributed this to lack of dollar in the market. Given that he country heavily relies on import of food, fuel, and almost all essential commodities, shortage of dollar in the market spells doom for ordinary citizens of the country.”

Much of South Sudan’s younger generation was born into war, thus all they know is war. When asked, many say they would love to live in a world without war, yet most of them have no idea what that would look like. Because of this, instilling the notion of hope and the possibility of change can be a very complex process.

We believe that we have been called to South Sudan for a reason. And we believe that reconciliation, peace, and healing are possible. We know that the One who created us all, can surely bring hope and peace to the seemingly hopeless circumstances in South Sudan. And despite the horrible things we, as humans, do, He is still holding out for us, waiting patiently and moving us toward a world renewed.

So today, this morning, this evening, whenever you read this, though you may feel bombarded by a world of painful things, we ask that you remember South Sudan and pray for peace.

And please continue to pray for South Sudan’s leaders – that they would lead with integrity. South Sudan was recently ranked the 5th most corrupt nation in the world. Also, pray for safety, healthy, and strength for our field staff – they are the hands and feet of world Concern.

Please consider giving a gift to bring hope and life to the people of South Sudan.

In the midst of pain, in the depths of suffering, under the tarps of IDP camps and tin roofs of refugee shelters, we know that there exists a surpassing peace and hope for a world transformed.