Remembering Nepal

It’s been a year since the earth shook in Nepal.

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.

Homes were in ruins, leaving families homeless and exposed.
Homes were in ruins, leaving families homeless and exposed.

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.

Excited families rush to World Concern distribution points, grateful for your help when they needed it the most.
Excited families rush to World Concern distribution points, grateful for your help when they needed it the most.

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.

Nirmala and her husband were so blessed by your support that they started going to church!

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.

Anita was given shelter materials to rebuild after the earthquake.
Anita was given shelter materials to rebuild after the earthquake.

“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.

 

Beyond the End of the Road in Nepal

It’s 7:30 a.m. when our little team of four load up our Jeep and head to Sri Nathkot.

This mountaintop village is just a three-hour drive from our hotel here in Pokhara, a popular tourist town in Nepal. The earthquake that rattled much of this region seemed to have mercy on this town with most of the buildings surprisingly still intact. But we’ve learned that just a few hours away, the village of Sri Nathkot was not so lucky. This community, home to around 150 people, has suffered major damage.

This Jeep took us to the end of the road...and beyond.
This Jeep took us to the end of the road…and beyond.

As we begin our journey, the clouds lift just enough to offer us a glimpse of Fish Tail, a majestic peak, not much lower than the famous Mt. Everest. Nepali driver barely took much notice. Living in the foothills of the Annapurna Mountain range, these sights have become commonplace to them.

We drive for a few hours and abruptly come to the end of the road. To this point, the earthquake had been quite selective, leaving most of the villages we passed through untouched. But ironically, as we leave the pavement behind and drive onward down dirt roads, the damage shows the magnitude of this earthquake. Homes are destroyed, some flattened, others partially collapsed. But almost all are uninhabitable. It was suddenly very easy to see how in just 90 seconds people’s lives were torn apart.

While some homes still stood, others lay flat. But all were unlivable.
While some homes still stood, others lay flat. But all were unlivable.

We press on towards Sri Nathkot, to visit with one of World Concern’s partners who has been working to help the survivors of this disaster. As we approach the foothills surrounding the village, the road narrows and the terrain changes dramatically. We carefully negotiate switchbacks etched into steep hillsides, mindful of the 100 foot drop-offs just a few feet from our tires.

As we make our way up another switchback, we see ahead that the road is completely impassible – for hundreds of yards, rocks had been placed in pile after pile by a local group of Nepali trying to improve passage up the mountain. We decide to turn around, go back to the fork in the road and try the other way. Our driver has not been this way before, but believes it to circle around and eventually provide access to Sri Nathkot.

The three hour mark has long passed, yet we press on and climb again for what seems to be an endless zigzag of switchbacks, each one taking us higher up the mountain. Then we reach a village. We stop and ask if this is the way to Sri Nathkot. and to our relief it is, but it’s still a couple of hours of driving on this ‘road’.

Walking the road ahead to see if our Jeep would even make it through.
The view from the Jeep window, shows just one of the dozens of switchbacks we’d encounter.

We arrive at a second village, and we’re told the same thing; a few more hours. With each turn, I’m convinced the road is becoming more and more impassible yet amazingly, we manage to climb higher. At this point, the driver tells us that he has never driven a road like this before (would have been nice to know before departing), but he’d brought us this far, so we push on.

By now, the sun is setting below the mountain tops and we are led only by the dim headlights on our Jeep (and a lot of faith!). We joke that it may be better we don’t see where we’re headed as the view in daylight, while breathtaking, was at times quite terrifying.

The sun quickly set and the moonlight was obscured by clouds, making it so dark that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. But around (what felt like) one more switchback, we saw the glow of light coming from a small village….Sri Nathkot. We had arrived!

And as I reflect on this marathon journey that ended over 12 hours after it began, the reality of World Concern’s commitment to serving the most remote communities hit me. They truly go where no one else goes. There is simply no valley too deep or mountain too tall.

While we rested in Sri Nathkot that evening, my thoughts moved towards the people already here and the tragedy they’d just survived. I looked forward to meeting them, hearing their stories, and seeing how World Concern is bringing hope back to this isolated community.

In Sri Nathkot and beyond, World Concern is quite literally working at the end of the road to transform lives.

68. Why This Number Breaks My Heart

37. That’s the first number I heard when I woke up before dawn this morning to the news that another earthquake had struck Nepal and killed 37 people while I slept. A sense of dread rolled through me.

“Lord, after all they’ve been through, now another one?”

A young girl walks near her tent amidst the rubble in Khalte, Nepal.
A young girl walks near her tent amidst the rubble in Khalte, Nepal.

As the morning turned to afternoon here on the West Coast of the U.S., that number increased slowly to 39, then 42, and now I’m seeing 68 people have died.

68. Why does this number break my heart as much as, if not more so, than the 8,000+ lives taken by the April 25 earthquake? I guess it seems more personal. It’s easier for me to imagine a face and a name with each number when it’s smaller. Each one represents a daughter, a son, a mother, a father, a friend.

Whether it’s 8,000 or 68, each one represents a precious human life.

It also makes me sad to think of people in Nepal being so scared. I can’t imagine the terror little children and parents must have felt when the earth shook, yet again, today. That same terrifying sway of the building, as bricks fall and buildings threaten to collapse. Running into the streets, vowing this time for good not to go back inside.

“People are standing outside and they are scared,” described one of my coworkers by phone this morning from outside his hotel in Kathmandu. “I saw one woman who had been here for the first earthquake run out of the building crying. She fell to the ground and was nauseous.”

The trauma of this experience will no doubt haunt people for years.

So I pray. I pray for the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, to comfort the hearts and minds of the people in Nepal. And I pray for their hearts and minds to heal from this tragedy.

Him Kumari (left) was injured when her house collapsed on her during the earthquake. The cow behind her was dying when this photo was taken last week.
Him Kumari (left) was injured when her house collapsed on her during the earthquake. The cow behind her was dying when this photo was taken last week.

I’m encouraged by the stories of survival we’re hearing. Our staff on the ground are sharing photos and stories from people they’ve talked with in hard-hit communities.

Him Kumari was eating lunch with her 12-year-old son, the oldest of four, on April 25 when her house began to shake. She made her son run out of the house, but was not able to escape herself before it collapsed on her. Trapped beneath the rubble and boards, she went in and out of consciousness.

“When I came to, I was in the hospital,” she said. “I thought I would die as I was buried for four hours.”

Twenty-two of her neighbors did not survive. Nearly every home in her village was damaged or destroyed.

Him’s family is now living under a tarp they’ve made into a tent. She is grateful to be alive, but doesn’t know what the future holds.

This is all that's left of Lok's home.
This is all that’s left of Lok’s home.

Lok Shrestra is another mom whose future is uncertain. She was outside feeding her animals when the earthquake struck. Her daughter was inside their house on the second floor. Somehow, her daughter knew to stand in the doorway of her room, and as the roof collapsed and walls fell around her, she stood safely beneath the door frame.

While Lok and others will likely stay and try to rebuild in this village, many others wonder if they should start over in another place. “This looks like a different place now,” said a leader in the village. “This is not our community.”

With the help of World Concern donors, Mark Estes, Asia Director, helps distribute emergency food and supplies to victims of the earthquake.
With the help of World Concern donors, Mark Estes, Asia Director, helps distribute emergency food and supplies to victims of the earthquake.

Amidst the destruction, there is encouragement. Mark Estes, World Concern Asia Director, helped distribute supplies and aid to these moms and others in this area last week. “Walking around that community was heart wrenching – to see the loss, to see every home was just a heap of stones and sticks,” he said. “Nestled up in the foothills of the Himalayas, I can imagine what a beautiful place this would have been. I think that beauty now is surrounded by the opportunity that God gives us to serve these people.”

If you’d like to help reach families affected by the earthquakes in Nepal, providing practical help and hope to those who have lost everything, you can donate here.

Nepali church volunteers joyfully put together earthquake survival kits for families affected by the earthquake.
Nepali church volunteers joyfully put together earthquake survival kits for families affected by the earthquake.

IMG_9866

IMG_9897

Emergency supplies being unloaded into Lok's village in the middle of the night.
Emergency supplies being unloaded into Lok’s village in the middle of the night.

IMG_9559

Beautiful Lok and her daughter.
Beautiful Lok and her daughter.

Aid Reaches Nepal Earthquake Victims

The outpouring of support from donors is enabling World Concern staff to reach families in Nepal with emergency supplies and compassionate help within days of the devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck on April 25.

Although our disaster response team is enduring nerve-rattling aftershocks, sleeping on floors, and hiking for miles to reach remote villages, they are buoyed by prayers and support and excited to reach survivors with critical supplies.

A family stands in front of their crumbled home in Bhotechaur village.
A family stands in front of their crumbled home in Bhotechaur village.

“The worst hit villages are east and east southeast where we hiked in at 4:00 this morning. All homes are gone there,” wrote World Concern Asia Area Director Mark Estes in a brief update from 3,500 feet up in the Himalayan foothills. “On the move. Distribution complete for this morning.”

“One of the aftershocks sounded like a truck hitting a wall,” said Chris Sheach, deputy director of disaster response, who is coordinating World Concern’s relief efforts from Kathmandu.

A woman receives emergency supplies from World Concern in Bhotechaur.
A woman receives emergency supplies from World Concern in Bhotechaur.

Because of the quick response of donors, emergency supplies have already reached families in the village of Bhotechaur in the Sindhupalchok district, where about 1,200 families live.

Villagers described the terrifying moments after the earthquake. Tears flowed as they recalled people screaming and running from buildings as they crumbled. Rubble and the sound of Injured people were crying out for help filled the streets.

Fourteen-year-old Lesout said the scariest moment was when the shaking happened. He ran home to look for his parents. His parents were safe. But when he saw the pile of rocks and dust where his home once stood, he felt like he was in a nightmare.

World Concern Program Manager Ye Win Tun helps 14-year-old Lesout carry a tarp and water jug home from the distribution.
World Concern Program Manager Ye Win Tun helps 14-year-old Lesout carry a tarp and water jug home from the distribution.

“All of their belongings were covered in stones and sand,” said World Concern Program Manager Ye Win Tun. “Lesout ran to check on the homes of his friends and they were all like this.”

People are still afraid to sleep inside. One young girl pointed to a small tent where 22 people are living.

An 11-year-old girl named Pya said her parents were worried about not having food, shelter, or water. There is a stream nearby, but no water bucket to carry it with. “We drink wherever we can get water,” she said.

These women are living together in a tent after their house crumbled in the earthquake.
These women are living together in a tent after their house crumbled in the earthquake.

Working in partnership our with our Integral Alliance partners Mission East, we were able to supply families in Bhotechaur with tarps, jerrycans (water jugs), water purification tablets, cups, soap, and solar lanterns.

We’re also helping in a remote village called Khalte in Dhading district, where no other aid had arrived yet. More than 1,400 families received tarps and blankets, as well as food – rice, lentils, oil, and salt. We’ll share stories and photos from this community in the coming days.

None of this would be possible without the quick, generous response of donors who have been giving since the earthquake.

The Joy of Clean Water, In Their Own Words

IMG_1052Updated December 12, 2017

In 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.

clean water arrives in Somalia

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:

Asha receives clean water in her Somali village

 

“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

 

Sahra's family now has clean water to drink “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.

 

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.

IMG_9267b

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.

__

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

A 7-Year-Old’s Heart for One Village in Chad

Nina Tomlinson asked for donations to help the families in Maramara, Chad, for her 7th birthday.
Nina Tomlinson asked for donations to help the families in Maramara, Chad, for her 7th birthday.

When 7-year-old Nina Tomlinson heard that fire had destroyed most of the homes and crops in the remote village of Maramara, Chad, she was heartbroken for the families who lost everything. Nina’s church partners with the village of Maramara through World Concern’s One Village Transformed project. Nina had also just learned about habitats in school, so she understood how bad this disaster was.

“I know that you need food, water, and shelter to survive and Maramara lost two of those things,” the concerned first-grader told her mom. “I want to help!”

Nina's friends and family gave nearly $1,500 to help provide food and shelter to families in Maramara.
Nina’s friends and family gave nearly $1,500 to help provide food and shelter to families in Maramara.

Nina’s birthday was coming up and she decided to ask friends and family to donate to help the people of Maramara instead of giving her gifts. Her mom, Brie, created a Facebook event to tell others about Nina’s cause, and the donations started pouring in.

“It was awesome to show her other peoples’ generous hearts,” said Brie.

At her birthday party, an excited Nina revealed the total her friends had given. After it was all over, “She ended up raising just about $1,500,” said Brie.

Nina said she feels pretty awesome about being able to help other children and families facing devastating circumstances. Her birthday donation, along with additional support from her church, will enable people in Maramara to rebuild their homes, have enough food to eat until their crops can be restored, and most importantly, have hope for the future, knowing people like Nina care enough to help.

Women in the remote village of Maramara, Chad, stand amidst the ashes after a fire destroyed homes and crops.
Women in the remote village of Maramara, Chad, stand amidst the ashes after a fire destroyed homes and crops.
With help from Nina and her church, families in Maramara are rebuilding their homes and replanting crops.
With help from Nina and her church, families in Maramara are rebuilding their homes and replanting crops.
Children in Maramara received emergency food after the fire, thanks to support from Nina's church.
Children in Maramara received emergency food after the fire, thanks to support from Nina’s church.