Thanksgiving, And How Not To Shop For Groceries

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,

Little April has been sick for 6 months, her body wasting away from a lack of good food.
Little April has been sick for 6 months, her body wasting away from a lack of good food.

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

Baby April is gently weighed before a final test showed how quickly help was needed.
Baby April is gently weighed before a final test showed how quickly help was needed.

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.

An emergency food kit gives a hungry child locally-sourced food, for just $22.
An emergency food kit gives a hungry child locally-sourced food, for just $22.

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:

“How many hungry kids will you feed?”

Smiling All The Way To School

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.

For Happy, a scholarship means she can stay in school and avoid child marriage.
For Happy, a $50 high-school scholarship means she can stay in school and avoid child marriage.

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!

Dipa's mother was a child bride, and her sister, but this scholarship has broken the chains and given her hope.
Dipa’s mother was a child bride, and her sister, but this scholarship has broken the chains and given her (and others like her) a reason to smile.

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.

4 Ways You Can Stop Malaria

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.

Malaria kills over 1 million people each year, most are children like Ahdee.
Malaria kills over 1 million people each year, most are children like Ahdee.

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.

A rapid blood test can quickly diagnose malaria.
A rapid blood test can quickly diagnose malaria.

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.

A bed net will help keep the mosquitoes away from sleeping children.
A bed net will help keep the mosquitoes away from sleeping children.

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.

An Educated Way To Stop Child Marriage

When Karima was just 8 years-old, her father left. And she took it hard.

She had not lived a day without him by her side.  This man had protected her, and worked to keep her in school.  So when he abandoned her mother and two sisters, Karima’s world came crashing down. Nobody came to console her. Nobody was there to wipe away her tears.

Karima (right) stands with her mom outside their home.
Karima (right) stands with her mom outside their home.

And sadly things would only get worse.

Karima’s village is in Bangladesh, and while she was too young to know it, it’s a country where many young girls are married off as child brides.  Bangladesh has the fourth highest rate of child marriage in the world, where 1 in every 5 girls is married before they turn 15.

Mired in poverty after her husband left, Karima’s mother managed to survive in a small dilapidated shack, no bigger than your average kitchen.  She fiercely protected Karima, and fought to keep her in school, knowing that an education was the only thing that would help her escape this life.

So she did what any mother would—she worked to find a way.

But with no money, and never having worked before, it was close to impossible.  She finally found a day laboring job but the wage was small, barely enough to pay for food.  There were days when the family would go without just so Karima could stay in school. It was an overwhelming sacrifice and money was quickly running out.

In Bangladesh, stories like this are far too common. In this article, a 15-year-old child bride sadly reflects on her situation saying, “We were very poor. Sometimes we would eat every two or three days,” she says. “Even though they [parents] really wanted all three of their daughter to study, it wasn’t possible –so they got me married.” Her older sisters married at 11 and 12.

Ratna (Karima) studying
With her scholarship, Karima hopes to finish school and become a teacher.

So for Karima’s mother, it was no surprise when a friend suggested her daughter be married off as a child bride.  This is the shocking reality for girls like Karima. They have no say, no choice.  Their only hope of avoiding this terrifying prospect is to stay in school.

At World Concern, we consider every child precious.  And for that reason we’re focusing our efforts on preventing girls like Karima from becoming child brides, by doing all we can to keep them in school.

We do this by providing scholarships for girls like Karima.  The scholarship gives them an education and keeps them from being married off too young.

And a scholarship only costs $50… for an entire year!

Please pray for girls like Karima, and for their brighter futures.