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?”

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.

Living in fear of child marriage

I sat down on the steps of a small rural high school in Brahmanbaria, Bangladesh, expectantly waiting to talk with some of the girls who have received scholarships from World Concern. Dressed in her blue and white uniform, 16-year-old Rima sat down next to me. I started asking questions about school – what she enjoys studying and her future plans.

With her first words, tears spilled down her cheeks. Staring off into the distance and weeping, she told me that from the time she was 14, her father has been trying to marry her off.

Rima lives in constant fear of being married off to an older man.
Rima lives in constant fear of being married off to an older man.

“My father works as a guard at the hospital. He works all night, but only earns 4,000 taka ($52) per month,” Rima explained through her tears.

The oldest of four children, Rima carries an emotional burden for the constant struggle her family experiences living in such poverty.

“We don’t eat well,” she said.

“My father keeps telling my mom, ‘I am only earning so little, how can I afford to pay for education? I want to get Rima married,’ but my mom says, ‘No, no, no, she must go to school.’”

“My dad says, ‘There is no use of her studies because she is going to get married anyway and go to the house of her husband and she will end up washing dishes in the kitchen…’”

Rima’s mother was married to her father at just 13. She knows the reality of being a child bride and bearing children far too young. She wants Rima to have a better life than she’s had.

“My mom is preventing him from marrying me off,” Rima said. “I don’t want to get married, but my dad keeps telling me, ‘If you left, then I would be able to take care of my other children better.’”

In Bangladeshi culture—especially amongst the poorest people—it is common for girls as young as 10 or 12 years to be married off to men in their thirties or forties.

Rima is at such a tender age. She dreams of finishing high school, going to college, and becoming a teacher one day.

“I want to be a teacher and teach poor children in my area, free of cost,” she said.

Rima dreams of finishing school and becoming a teacher so she can teach children from poor families like hers.
Rima dreams of finishing school and becoming a teacher so she can teach children from poor families like hers.

But instead of dreaming about her future, she lives under the constant threat of being sent to live with a man she doesn’t even know. Some of her friends have already gotten married. And some already have babies.

“Please don’t cross my name off the [scholarship] list,” she pleaded. “If World Concern didn’t help us, I would have gotten married a long time ago, and my life would have been in the darkness.”

No adolescent girl should have to live in fear of being forced to get married. An educated girl is six times less likely to be married off during her teen years. You can provide a scholarship for a girl like Rima for an entire year for just $50 and change her future.

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.

Preventing Opium Use among Myanmar’s Youth

It’s a rainy Friday afternoon in Myanmar’s Shan State and some 50 concerned villagers, who represent six different villages in the region, have come together to help further devise a plan to put an end to drug use in their communities. One woman, a 45-year-old mother of three named Nadhaw, is more than eager to share her thoughts about the increasingly destructive problem that has plagued so many lives and families in her village, including her own.

Nadhaw is committed to preventing at-risk youth in her village from becoming drug users.
Nadhaw is committed to preventing at-risk youth in her village from becoming drug users.

“There are many drug-users in my village,” Nadhaw shares, “and now many people are migrating to China.”

The number of drug users in and around Shan State in northern Myanmar—part of the infamous Golden Triangle—has steadily increased over the past few years. According to the United Nations, poppy cultivation—the key ingredient to heroin—has tripled since 2006. And China reports that 90 percent of heroin seized in 2014 was produced in the Golden Triangle.

It’s not surprising that men—who have better access to the poppy fields that are nearby the rice and corn farms they work in everyday—are more likely to use drugs than women. Such men admit to using drugs because of peer pressure, its easy accessibility, and because they believe it will help them work longer so they can earn more money. In actuality, drug users become less productive, not surprisingly, and end up dragging their families deeper into emotional and financial stress. The result is women being left to fend for themselves after their husbands are no longer able to work or support their families. Desperately seeking a better life for themselves and their children, women and children often migrate across the border into China where they end up being trafficked into the sex or child labor trade.

This reality impacts many women like Nadhaw, whose husband—the village leader—is also a drug user.

Volunteers from several villages in Myanmar's Shan State share tips on how they are working to prevent drug use in their villages.
Volunteers from several villages in Myanmar’s Shan State share tips on how they are working to prevent drug use in their villages.

During the past year, World Concern has partnered with proactive community members like Nadhaw to create sustainable drug prevention programs in these villages. The main goal has been to prevent first-time drug use, especially among at-risk youth, as well as to raise awareness of the negative effects and long-term damage that drug use causes.

With a background in health, Nadhaw is one of the few people in her village who already had some knowledge about the harmful effects drugs like opium can cause to one’s health and mental state. But for many who are learning these things for the first time, this information is shocking.

As a mother of three adolescent children with a husband who is a drug user, as well as being a trained midwife and health volunteer, it is no wonder that Nadhaw is so concerned about putting an end to this issue.

Nadhaw talks with other moms who are working to curb drug use among youth in their villages.
Nadhaw talks with other moms who are working to curb drug use among youth in their villages.

“I want to stop drug use in my village immediately,” she said. Her concern for her own family as well as others and her background in health has enabled Nadhaw to facilitate health awareness trainings each week for at-risk youth in her village.

“More than 10 youths who have never used drugs come to the meetings every Sunday,” Nadhaw proudly shares. She teaches them about why using drugs is dangerous, how easily they can become addicted, and about the long-term effects of using drugs. “Since we have been giving trainings to the youth in our village, most people see that [the trainings are] a good thing,” she said.

Nadhaw’s 16-year-old son, who has already started drinking alcohol, has undoubtedly been exposed to the drug-use that is prevalent within his community.

“I worry a lot about my oldest son,” Nadhaw says, “I try to tell him why doing drugs is bad and hope he doesn’t ever use them.”

Last year, Nadhaw recalls there were 17 tuberculosis cases in her village. “I think there are probably many more hidden TB cases in our village that we don’t know about,” she said. Among the many health problems related to drug use, TB is spreading rapidly through these villages. Drug users, with their weakened immune systems, are more likely to contract the disease that is already common in rural, villages like these.

Despite the damaging effects of drug use on her community and so many others, Nadhaw’s inspiring commitment to raise awareness and put an end to this devastating problem is the first step in tackling such an overwhelming issue.

A simple cure for Dashna’s pain

In the back of her classroom in rural Haiti, 12-year-old Dashna often puts her head down on her desk and prays. The pain in her stomach gets to be too much and she can no longer concentrate on the lesson being taught. She winces with pain and silently cries out to God for help.

The worms in Dashna's belly cause her so much pain, she can't concentrate in school.
The worms in Dashna’s belly cause her so much pain, she can’t concentrate in school.

Worms are ravaging Dashna’s insides, sucking away vital nutrients she needs to grow like vitamin A, and causing her excruciating pain. Can you imagine try to learn in a classroom when you are in so much pain?

This is common in places like Haiti, where children walk barefoot, drink from filthy streams contaminated by raw sewage, and parasites are rampant. Worms enter the body through dirty water, or when a child eats or touches her mouth without washing her hands after going to the bathroom. They can even enter through the soles of her feet.

Once worms enter a child’s body, they multiply and begin their painful pursuit of eating away at what little food she consumes. Sometimes, this can cause her stomach to hurt all day long.

Even more, parasites spread easily between family members living in cramped quarters with no access to toilets or a way to wash their hands. Because of this, Dashna’s two younger siblings are also sick.

This pill will cure Dashna's pain and get rid of the worms in a matter of hours -- and it costs just 44 cents.
This pill will cure Dashna’s pain and get rid of the worms in a matter of hours — and it costs just 44 cents.

The good news is that deworming medicine is inexpensive and can begin to work within hours of taking the pill. When coupled with vitamin A, which is depleted by worms, and long-term solutions like clean water, sanitation, and hygiene training, the 44-Cent Cure can prevent reinfection.

We believe every child should have the opportunity to live a life free of treatable diseases and have the resources to be successful in school. Please pray for students like Dashna and help us provide the 44-Cent Cure to children who are suffering from parasites.

 

When Children are Hungry: How You Can Help

Barefoot and dressed in filthy clothes, tiny Xay refused to leave his mother’s arms to play with the other children being evaluated for the Child Survival program. At 18 months old, Xay should be running, squealing, and playing with the other children. Instead, he was pale, thin, and listless. More critically, Xay is underweight, weak, and suffered from chronic diarrhea.

We measured his arm with a special band to determine his level of malnutrition. Xay’s arm measured 11cm, indicating he is severely malnourished.

For Xay’s mother, nothing is more important than saving her son – but she doesn’t have very many solutions. She knows the food she scavenges for in the woods outside her village in rural Laos each day isn’t enough. She knows her son is hungry and sick. She knows that without enough food, her beloved son could die.

With your help, this little guy can soon be eating healthy, gaining weight, and on his way to better health – in just a few short days.

A gift of $34 will provide nourishing, healthy food for Xay and others, rescuing them from the pain and sickness that comes with not having enough to eat. In addition, Xay’s mom and others will be able to participate in a special program where they learn how to grow and prepare locally available vegetables and other easily accessible foods, providing highly nutritious meals for their children. With these simple changes, 100% of children gain weight and show measurable improvement within 12 days.

Moms also learn the importance of good hygiene, safe drinking water, and using toilets to keep their children free from sickness and disease.

The best part is, they learn from other moms who are already successfully feeding and caring for their little ones – so each mom has support from a mentor right in her own village. This helps ensure kids keep gaining weight and growing strong.

With these vital tools and training, moms like Xay’s will be equipped to keep their sons and daughters healthy, ensuring they grow strong throughout their childhood.

 “You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you…” (Joel 2:26)

Because of matching grants, your gift to feed a hungry child like Xay’s will TRIPLE, helping feed three children throughout their childhood.

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.

 

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.