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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
Seventeen-year-old Leh bounded into the office of the village leader in her rural Laotian community with a handful of money, beaming with pride.
“I sold all of my sticky stick snacks in just an hour!” exclaimed the ecstatic teen. She held up her earnings, which she planned to share with her friends who helped her sell the snacks.
Leh’s village is just a few miles from the border of Thailand. Young girls often disappear after crossing the border into Thailand to look for work. Many are trafficked into Thailand’s insidious sex tourism industry. Others are forced to work for no pay, or other forms of exploitation. Three of Leh’s older siblings have gone to Thailand in search of work. When her father passed away three years ago, she considered doing the same thing so she could help support her disabled mother.
We’re offering alternatives—helping provide job skills and awareness training for girls like Leh in this region to earn income close to home and stay safe. Leh recently participated in cooking classes at World Concern’s youth center. That’s where she learned how easy it was to prepare sticky sticks. She knew immediately she could start a small business selling the tasty treats.
Leh was determined and started her business with $2 she saved to purchase a sack of flour, sugar, and oil. She sold her first batch of sticky sticks at the school during the students’ break time for 10 cents each. In just one hour, she had earned $5—a profit of $3 for an hour of selling.
“Doing this makes me happy,” she said, after several weeks of operating her snack business. “I wake up at 5:00 a.m., do my chores, and start cooking at 8:00 a.m.” She’s home by 11 a.m. with the day’s profits in hand.
“Thank you not only for changing my life but also my family’s life,” said Leh. “I am very grateful to the project for guiding me in choosing the right path and for securing my future and making me safe.”
Leh is sharing what she learned with her friends, and is now an active member of the youth campaign in her village that helps raise awareness about human trafficking.
Have you seen the 2014 Global Gift Guide yet? One of the more popular items are goats and for good reason. Read about a young girl in Haiti named Fania to find out why the gift of a goat means she’ll get to stay in school.
In the rural community of Mersan in southern Haiti there is a primary school called Ecole Mixte Bon Berger. Since 2012 World Concern has partnered with this school by providing goats and husbandry training to students. With a goat students are able to earn an income by selling the goat’s offspring and using the money to pay for school tuition and other supplies.
One of these students in Mersan is named Fania Bien-Aime, a shy 14-year-old girl who has a smile that is hard to forget. She lives a 15 minute walk from the school with her parents and six siblings. “I always walk to school. In the beginning it was difficult but now it is easy.”
Fania recently received a goat from World Concern and participated in the training where she learned how to take care of her goat and how to maintain its health.
“I know how to take care of the goat because I learned some things in the training,” she said. “When it’s raining I have to shelter the goat but usually during the day it sits in the shade because the sun is too hot.”
Now her goat is in heat and Fania expects it to become pregnant shortly. When working with communities, the ‘long view’ must be taken into consideration. There may be solutions that would provide temporary assistance to Fania, however this lacks sustainability and requires a handout to be given repeatedly. World Concern is interested instead in long term solutions.
A goat is a treasured asset in rural Haiti because it represents a steady income. “Each year a goat can give between six and nine kids, and she may produce kids for up to 10 years,” explains Pierre Duclona, World Concern’s regional coordinator for southern Haiti.
While a goat and relevant training may not produce immediate results, it will provide students like Fania with a way to earn an income for years to come and give her new skills which she can carry into adulthood.
Fania will soon begin the 6th grade and is looking forward to returning to class after the summer break.
“The sciences and mathematics are the ones I like. I like to study,” she shared. “Education is important so I can help my parents and also for myself to feel good and help in society.”
“I would like to be a tailor but I can’t sew right now. For now this is the profession that is in my head,” explained Fania. “You can get money from this skill because when school begins, parents need to send their children’s uniforms to get sewed.”
With a goat and specific training, Fania is well-positioned to earn an income and therefore continue with her education which will give her opportunities to provide for herself and her family. It is because of your generosity and partnership that we’re able to help keep girls like Fania in school! Give the gift of a goat today.
Today, on the International Day for Disaster Reduction, the international community is coming together to recognize the critical role older people play in building more resilient communities by sharing their experience and knowledge.
At World Concern, we’re joining in this call to include older people in planning and preparedness activities while recognizing the value they bring to their families and communities.
Improving sanitationthrough the construction of latrines to prevent the spread of water borne disease.
Teaching communities about soil retention and reforestation to protect the land.
Developing early warning systems and evacuation plans that include people of all ages.
Strengthening infrastructure like flood water canals to keep water away from homes and people safe.
“The older person is often invisible in our communities until they show up in the mortality figures after a disaster event,” said head of the United Nations Disaster Reduction Office, Margareta Wahlström.
By working together towards the common goal of focusing on inclusiveness of people of all ages in disaster preparedness, we can ensure that no one is invisible and that everyone becomes resilient for life!
Greetings from Sri Lanka! I’ve spent the past week and a half seeing our projects, meeting our dairy farmers, and spending lots of time with our Children’s Clubs – a safe haven for children at risk of trafficking.
I have two stories that really stand out to me that I want to share with you in the hopes that they will touch your hearts and encourage you today. You make this possible and are just as relevant in these stories as our staff on the ground.
We met with a family from the “untouchable” caste. The four children were abandoned by mother. Their father was killed in the war. The grandparents are caring for the children as best as they can. The grandmother is blind and the grandfather crippled, making supporting this family nearly impossible. Both of them received their injuries from the war.
One of these four children is a precious little girl who is being abused by local fishermen. Some days they don’t have food to eat. The day we visited was such a day. The little baby was cared for by the older sister (8 years old). He just cried and cried.
World Concern is intervening in this small community of 15 families. We have plans for small gardens, goats, Children’s Clubs, and other life-giving, life-saving interventions. Before we left, we prayed for this sweet forgotten family. Forgotten by most, but not by God, and not by World Concern.
Tonight we stopped at the hut of a young mother. She has five children. They have absolutely nothing. The clothing on their backs is all they have and when it is washed they have nothing to wear until it dries. The father too was killed in the war. This mom has no hope and tragically tried to take her own life and the life of her baby. The little one died. She survived. She is completely broken in every possible way.
Our compassionate staff is working with her and her situation. I wish you could have seen the tender way they met with her, cared for her, and prayed with her—it would have brought tears to your eyes as it did mine. They will look after her needs and the needs of her family, walking with her for the long journey.
World Concern is the hands, feet, and face of Jesus here. This is why we do what we do. And we couldn’t do any of this without you. Thank you for partnering with us.
I have never been more humbled and committed to our mission. Pray with me that the Lord will bless this work. It is a light in many dark places.
Dust flies as the boys’ feet shuffle across the dirt, their laughter piercing through the quiet late afternoon. The lush green bushes sway with the slight breeze, the sun beating down on their backs as they pass a worn soccer ball to each other. There’s nothing unusual about this playful pick up game – soccer has been played all over the world for centuries. But there’s one small detail that makes this scene extraordinary. The boys are from the Dinka and Nuer tribes – two tribes that have been at conflict with each other for generations.
In South Sudan, the main tribal groups include the Dinka and the Nuer. These nomadic tribes highly value strong warrior ethics. In fact, young men primarily achieve social status by raiding each other’s cattle herds. Young men in these communities, raised to make up a bulk of South Sudan’s guerrilla armies, grew up in a generation of brutal war and tribal tension. This tension is especially prevalent between young people that were educated in the North and those that grew up in the rural villages of the South. Many young people in the South resent those that had the opportunity to attend school in the North, away from the harsh realities of the war.
But among the thorns there are always wildflowers of hope peeking through. In Kuajok, South Sudan, one young man’s passion for loving others – and soccer – is sparking incredible ethnic reconciliation.
After receiving an education in the North, Akol Akol returned to his home village of Kuajok to work as a World Concern staff member. Rather than becoming discouraged by the fighting and disunity he saw in his community, Akol saw an opportunity to use his experiences to pour into the lives of others – and decided to take action.
Inspired by his passion for soccer, Akol organized two neighborhood soccer teams and began meeting with the community’s youth every afternoon for practice, as well as organize tournaments on the weekends. The tension between the Dinka and Nuer youth eased as relationships were built, and soon the constant fighting greatly declined.
The older kids, inspired by Akol’s gentle spirit, began to recognize their responsibility to look after the younger children. The cycle of hate and prejudice began to break down, being replaced with one of acceptance and teamwork.
“He felt that soccer could be a form of reconciliation because they don’t need to be able to talk a lot, they just need to be able to understand the rules of the game and play together as a team,” explains Jane Gunningham, a World Concern staff member that worked closely with Akol. “He just had a heart for peace. He saw something specific he could do, something he knew how to do, and he just did it.”
Changing the world isn’t as hard as you may think. It doesn’t require daunting, expensive, over-the-top plans. It only requires a willingness to practice sincere kindness and invest in others at an individual level.
But sometimes, in a world with so much suffering and brokenness, it can be hard to know which action to take. That’s where World Concern comes in. Through World Concern’s numerous programs, hope isn’t just a distant idea; it’s a tangible reality. Through campaigns such as One Village Transformed, World Concern is committed to pursuing reconciliation and empowering the poor, so that they may in turn share with others.
One of my favorite quotes is by a 20th century cultural anthropologist named Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” How true and encouraging that is.
Just like the way a single skipped stone creates dozens of ripples, it only takes a one act of kindness to set off a tidal wave of reconciliation throughout a hurting world. Whatever cause it may be that tugs at your heartstrings, I encourage you to consider taking a step of faith and seeing where your passions take you – it’ll be worth the risk, I promise.
Our day began with a little mystery. We were driving along a rural bumpy road in the Northwest of Haiti and were stopped by a man waving us in the direction of a house just up the road. We stopped by the house and when we got out, we saw these cement cylinders. What are those?!
Come to find out, they are toilet seats! We were spending a couple of days visiting two communities that World Concern partnered with to build latrines. That was when I realized I did not know very much about latrines and I was going to learn a lot today–Latrine 101: outside the classroom.
Meet Pastor Marc. He’s the guy who built those two toilet seats. Aside from being a pastor, he is a mason and was the local supervisor for all the latrines built in the community of Desroulins. He explained that each family that received a latrine gave wood, water, rocks, and gravel for it. The rest of the supplies and the labor was provided by World Concern.
“It’s a big problem in this area,” said Pastor Marc, when asked about open defecation in Desroulins.
We saw several latrines, but I wanted to take you along to see two of them that stood out as unique and different than any I had seen before.
We approached this gate in a nearby community named Beauchamps. The gate sat open as an unspoken welcome for us to walk up the hill and I could see the shiny latrine behind the tree in the distance.
Meet Mr. Thomas. He came out to greet us with a firm handshake and was pleased to show us his new latrine. He has ten children, five of whom still live here with him.
These may well be the shiniest latrines you will ever see. But they are more than shiny. They are healthy. The general point is to keep people’s waste confined in the pit so it is not getting into their garden, water source, or anywhere else human waste should not be. These latrines are designed specifically to do just that:
The cement pit keeps all the waste in one place and prevents leakage into soil.
Each pit is slightly raised so that rainwater will not collect in it.
The white PVC pipe provides ventilation to keep out those unpleasant smells as well as flies who can carry disease.
The tin walls go all the way to the floor and the doors completely close to keep rats and other animals out too.
But one thing about this latrine was unique. Most are placed behind the houses but this one was out in front, sitting on the hill for all to see. “Now that’s a throne with a view,” I thought, but that was not what they had in mind.
When we asked Mr. Thomas about it he said, “It’s marketing.” When people see the beautiful latrine, they will ask who built it and the mason who did the work (who is a resident of that community) might get some more business in the future. It made sense. I just hadn’t thought of it like that before. This was a latrine and a rural billboard. Jobs in this part of Haiti are hard to come by. This was a clever way to attract customers so the local mason could continue to earn a living.
The second latrine I wanted to take you to see is behind the house of Mr. and Mrs. Roland and their five children. Walking over, it looked just like all the others, but once we opened the door, we saw its innovative design feature.
It had an adult-sized seat and a child-sized seat! Perfect for all her children.
Mrs. Roland pointed out an old pit across their small corn field that used to be their latrine. They had built one by digging a hole and putting boards across it but without the proper design or resources, it had collapsed into the ground. Their new two seated latrine is durable, not to mention more sanitary against the spread of disease.
“I used to take care of my needs outside in the garden but now I don’t have to,” said Mrs. Roland.
The problem of poor sanitation still exists in rural Haiti but whether it be with a latrine on a hill or one with a child-sized seat, we’re working to change that one family at a time.
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 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.