Disaster Relief Journal – Visit to Church – Part 2

Ayamba, our Congolese logistics officer surprised me today.  He was the preacher of the day.  He said he preaches at the local church about once every month or so and this was his third time preaching there.

About 6 months ago there was a general assembly meeting and the attendees were broken into groups for a debate.  The topic was whether or not just giving the tithe is enough.  He spoke for his group and the church leaders were so impressed that they asked him to be a regular guest speaker.

Ayamba and I have worked together off and on in disaster relief for over 10 years, yet he still manages to surprise me with stuff like this.  He spoke very well, being funny without intending to.

Ayamba is a short, stocky fellow with very large, emphatic gestures.  Many people, when they first meet him completely underestimate him and a ken perception hiding behind a very simple, unsophisticated, humble demeanor.

He really engaged the congregation, held their attention, and pointed out to them a real problem they have with the way they treat adultery.

As most of the congregation is married, but with their spouses far away in safer places, it was an important topic.  Most sermons would have come across very heavy-handed, but he was able to get them to see how ridiculous they are being in pretending they aren’t doing what they are doing, as well as just considering it wrong on the woman’s part, not the man’s.

Today, I was pleased and proud that my friend should have given such a sermon as he did today, that this first time working outside of his own country, he should have landed so solidly on his feet.

Disaster Relief Journal – Visit to Church – Part 1

Attending church in other countries is always an experience.  You are an observer and an observed, but you are also an equal participant and become a part of the local life, if only for a couple of hours.

Goz Beida is in a Muslim region of Chad, but Chadians come here from Christian regions looking for work or with the government or army, often related to disaster relief.  A church has sprung up here to serve these workers.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve watched the congregation grow from a small handful to more than 200.  The original collapsing, melting mud and thatch building has been gradually replaced by a solid tin-roofed structure 3 times as big and with a cement floor.  It is all very clean and tidy now.

On Sunday we squeeze butt-to-butt on simple wooden benches.  Men on the left side of the room and women on the right.  The choir, in blue and white robes, sits up from with their drums and such.  Everyone has cleaned up and dressed up for the occasion, especially the women.  The women wear an assortment of bright dresses and some unbelievably complicated head-dresses.  All the women wear something on their heads while all the men go bare-headed.

We start off with about an hour of singing while the sanctuary gradually fills.  Some songs are in French, some in local languages.  The choir thumps away on gourds and drums.  Some people clap and dance.  A few women really get into it.  Finally, we all settle down onto the benches.  The sermon is in French and translated into local Arabic.  Most of the elementary-age children are elsewhere.  Little ones wander in and out at will.  Babies nurse unabated.  At a signal, a young man with a bucket of drinking water will bring you some water in the communal cup.  important in such a hot, dry place.

After the sermon is the collection – a big deal.  The treasurer places out two large bowls and lines them with a white cloth.  Ushers indicate rows of people in turn to come forward and place their offering in the bowls.  Singing accompanies the ceremony.  And then, sometimes for some reason, a second round.  More singing and dancing.

Finally, the announcements and introductions/travels.  A Congolese man who’d gone home for a visit had run into a man from this church and carries his greetings.  Another is in the military and has recently arrived.  Others may also be part of disaster relief. And so it goes…

With the final hymn, people file out very orderly through a side door, each stopping in a line to shake hands with those that follow.  So if you are half-way through the crowd going out, you shake the hands of those ahead of you in a sort of reception line, then take your place at the end of the lin to shake the hands of those who follow.  Everyone ends up shaking everyone else’s hand.

Some people scatter quickly, but a surprising number clump into groups, standing in theshad of a tree to chat, as if to stretch out the precious weekly ceremony.  Gradually, people wander off in colorful clumps, down hot sandy lanes in the glaring, baking sun as Muslim children stand and gawk, wondering what it is all about.

Women & World Poverty

Women in Poverty

On Thursday, January 29, 2009, President Obama signed his first bill – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act (CNN article).

For many years, Lilly Ledbetter worked received much less than her male counterparts who were doing exactly the same work but she did not discover the discrepancy until she reached retirement. She wanted some restitution for the years she had been underpaid but a narrow interpretation of the Statute of Limitations required that she file suit within 180 days of her first unfair paycheck. Since she did not discover the unfairness in the pay system until her retirement, the Supreme Court, on the basis of the present law, threw out the favorable judgment of the lower courts. This law changed the Statute of Limitations to 180 days after the most recent paycheck, providing more recourse to women who do not discover the inequity for many years.

I hope that Lilly Ledbetter will now be able to receive a fair judgment but, if we trace this news event backwards from today’s headlines, we discover that it is rooted in a core belief about equity and gender that is not a part of many of the cultures where I have worked during the years.

If Lilly had herself believed that it’s OK to pay women unequal pay for equal work because that’s just how things were, she would never have brought suit to begin with. That belief, in turn, is rooted in an even more basic belief that women are inherently worth less than men. And that is the core belief, shared by both women and men, in many of the countries of our work that we challenge and begin to change through our microfinance.

On a recent trip to Bangladesh, I asked Khushi (her name means “Happy”) what in her leadership of Women’s Small Business Assistance Center (WSBAC), World Concern’s micro-finance program for women in poverty, brought her the greatest satisfaction. She did not point first to increased family income or even the impact of that income on the women’s families—kids going to school, getting needed health care or enabling the further growth of the women’s businesses. Instead she said, “When we start the program the women look at the ground, many will not speak and, those who do speak share without confidence or spirit. Later in the program, they speak directly and with confidence. They talk of what they can do. They have a much greater influence in their family—their husbands respect them more. They know that they can do things.”

I’ve come to think of this experience as “seeing the lights go on in the eyes” because, quite literally, that is what happens as something that had been asleep in the women is stirred into life, shines through their eyes and is pantomimed in their confident body language—heads up, leaning forward, even interrupting one another to share with confidence and enthusiasm.

I saw it in the eyes of Anowa who was the head of a women’s microcredit group in the village of Kalipur.  This group helps women in poverty lift themselves up.  She sews together jute bags for cement and other items. Wholesalers now place orders with her and she has hired two additional women to help her. Another, after the death of her son caused her to lose her snack shop, began a rickshaw repair business and now owns two rickshaws. A third bought a good milk cow and now sells the five liters of milk it produces a day for Taka 50 (about $.70) a liter. Others make dresses, run market stalls, buy and sell. The eight women call named their community bank “Hashi” or “smile.”

Why is giving women loans, training and encouragement to run their own businesses so different from simply giving them money? This week I discovered a new (to me) insight that I had never seen in quite the same way before. I was again reading the first few chapters of Genesis, foundational to transforming development.

God spoke the animals into being, giving them their life. But Adam and Eve spoke their names into being, giving them their identities. There is great power in both actions. Only God can do the first, giving life to a baby girl in Bangladesh, but people, especially the child’s family, give the girl and the woman she becomes her identity.

Our staff and the WSBAC program speak three new identities into being for these women—community bank member, businesswoman and borrower.

  • Community bank member—As a community bank member, the women participate in making decisions that make a difference. The group must decide who will get the loans first and who will not. The women must become critical thinkers, evaluating the credit-worthiness and character of the applicant, and the likelihood of her success. Girls who transition quickly from the rote memorization of primary school—if they are able to attend—to the passive submission and obedience of a teen-aged wife and mother, may never have engaged in critical thought and decision-making. When the women in the group pay off their loans on time, as over 95% of the over 3,000 clients do, the group members come to be known as smart, insightful and savvy rather than slow, passive and dull women how must look to men for insight.
  • Borrower—As a borrower who must repay her loan with interest, a woman, whose identity was shaped by dependence upon others, is renamed as trusted, responsible and respected. For a woman whose identity is almost exclusively shaped by child-bearing and passive obedience to their husbands, becoming a debtor is a tribute to the confidence that others have in her competence. And when she pays off the first loan successfully and moves to larger second and third loans, respect for her grows within the village and with her husband and family.
  • Businesswoman—Businesswomen must plan, use simple accounting to make business decisions, and find suppliers and markets—even if their business is only a market stall. The women, many for the first time, must make investment decisions regarding money. They must decide what risks they are willing to take. For women whose time line for most decisions extend no later than the next day, extending their sense of control and influence permits hope to take root. If we feel that the decisions that we take today will have no influence over what happens in the future, our hope either dies or slips inexorably into numbing passivity.

Why, then, does the light shine in the eyes of these women? It is because we speak the same words of identity to them that God communicated to Eve—the good news of Genesis. “You are created in my image. Therefore you have value in and of yourself. Together with Adam you are to exercise dominion and stewardship over my creation—responsibly exercising your initiative, intelligence and creativity to make it productive.” Nobody has ever spoken this identity into being for millions of women in the world—an identity that is rooted in the character and action of God. The gifts and responsibility that God gave these women by virtue of their creation have not been awakened or developed. For many this awakening is the first step on a pathway that draws them nearer to the one whose image they bear.

World Poverty and Hope

Mid-second week in the Obama administration, hope continues. More than any president in my memory (beginning with Eisenhower), no president has ever entered office buoyed by the expectations and hopes not only of Americans and all the world.

I arrived in Kenya, Africa on my last trip on the same day that the election results were announced and walked into Obamania that probably had no parallel in the world. The recent saying in Kenya that the United States would have a Luo (Obama’s father’s tribe) president before Kenya had come true and all Kenya rejoiced together. My first work day in Africa was scrapped by a hastily called holiday across the entire country.  I too join in the hope that the only president in my memory who had actually worked among the poor will make poverty reduction a priority, not just as a policy but from a heart that better understands.

As I traveled throughout Kenya during the following week, however, I realized anew that the hope placed in Obama would not soon translate into hope that will reach the people I visited.

Later on in the American election week, I stooped down to enter the narrow and low doorway  of a traditional Maasai hut. Making my way through semidarkness I sat down in the small central room with the open fire in the center, glowing red and occasionally flaming up through the smoke that filled the essentially windowless room. For about ninety minutes I talked through a translator with the two Maasai women, one a grandmother and the other her daughter—kind of—she was actually her late husband’s brother’s daughter’s daughter–who together were rearing 13 children without a man in the household.  They talked about the complexity of their lives, of how they had to fight off men who would harass them, of the problems of dealing with sickness among the children and their few cows and goats, of the second woman’s own birth son and how her husband who had deserted her had come back to try and take the son in order to sell him off to others as a laborer. When I asked about their daily joys, they said it was to see the children grow and know that they were enabling them to do it.

As we prepared to leave, the older woman who had never gone to church before suddenly and without prompting not only announced that she would begin to attend but also that she would stop brewing pombee the local and illegal brew. We were all surprised because we had never specifically suggested that she begin to attend church, and did not even know that she was brewing local beer.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked.

She said it was because we (the World Concern project) were the only ones helping her with her physical needs who also sit, listen, inquire and give her a chance to share her story.  The others just plunk down whatever they are giving and go. And at this point we had given her nothing. We had only come into her house, drunk her tea and listened to her for an hour or so, following the example of the church volunteers, trained by our program, who also visit and listen and bring practical assistance.

President Obama will, I hope, continue the assistance to World Concern and other agencies that enable us to help combat poverty in Africa. But not all help is the same. As Christians we really believe that each man, woman and child is created by God in his image and worthy of respect and dignity. When this belief is transformed into practice—in showing a Maasai widow and an abandoned mother that they are people of value by receiving their hospitality and listening to them—respect animated by the love of Christ—we go beyond assistance, powerfully inviting lives to be transformed in hope.

So, yes, I share the hope of many in the nation that President Obama will bring positive change. But transforming change is truly brought about by men and women who follow Christ and become his hands and feet bringing assistance, see the poor through his eyes and speak his words of life.

Poverty in Sri Lanka

The BBC reported today (article)  that the Sri Lankan army had taken the last of the major cities held by the Tamil Tigers and would soon have them surrounded. As in all wars, no matter how conscientious the warring sides may be about civilian deaths and injuries, they suffer tremendously. This is especially true in a fight against a terrorist movement that is rooted among a minority population. In Sri Lanka this is made worse because the Tigers tend to prevent movement of their people into a safe area. The Sri Lankan army and much of the rest of the world call them hostages to the Tigers. The Tigers call them supporters. Hostages or collaborators, they suffer.

I first visited Sri Lanka in 1983 just as the first full wave of communal violence broke out between the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese. The shops belonging to Tamils were still smoldering in Columbo when I arrived from Bangladesh where I was living with my family. I had come to work with Sri Lankan Christians to set up a relief response. The riot in Columbo was precipitated by a Tamil Tiger ambush in northern Sri Lanka in which nine Sinhalese soldiers were killed.

I finally returned to Sri Lanka last September to visit our work in eastern Sri Lanka among Tamil civilians, many of whom had been displaced several times as they tried to flee the fighting. As I met our mostly young staff, I realized that most of them had lived most of their youth and adult lives between my two visits. Because our work eastern Sri Lanka is largely among Tamils, most of our local staff are also Tamil. They have grown up in the face of a national conflict that became a part of everyday life.

I gained just a glimpse of what life is like now as we passed through one checkpoint after another. As we passed through checkpoints I was shielded from close questioning and body and luggage searches by my nationality and race—clearly not of Tamil or Sinhalese descent—and the World Concern flag and highly visible World Concern name and logo on our hood. The Sinhalese police and military have come to respect our integrity, the quality of our programs and our heart of service to the people.

As I passed soldier after soldier stretched out over kilometers of road, each in sight (during the daytime) of the next one along the road,  I tried to imagine the feeling of the lone military sentry in the middle of the night, whose major role is that of the canary in the mine—unable to hold off an armed assault from infiltrating  Tamil Tigers but whose violent death would alert a forceful response.

As I passed through the checkpoints, I also tried to imagine the growing panic of a young Tamil innocent of any terrorist activity or leanings as he realizes during his questioning that he is for some reason he does not understand falling under suspicion, Or the Tamil child trying to avoid forced recruitment by the Tigers.

As I reflected on the lives of our staff, so different from my own, I realized that Jesus could better understand than I.

  • Jesus lived in a country under military occupation. I imagined Jesus moving off the road with the twelve young men in his group as Roman soldiers passed, trying to obscure their “groupness” by separating, casting their eyes downward and fading into the sides of the road.
  • Many tried to recruit Jesus into the Zealots who carried out a low level insurgency against Rome. They appealed to the prophets who had predicted the coming of a victorious ruler who would free them from the Romans, portions of scripture that Jesus had heard many times from his childhood. His disciples certainly saw the military potential of a general who could heal the sick, raise the dead, feed a regiment from five small loaves of bread and two fishes, and control the weather.
  • Jesus sometimes moved in secret, answered questions in such a way to share his message without giving any specific cause for his arrest, and lived daily with his life under threat.

Even up to the night of his arrest, Jesus struggled with the decision whether to use his power to thwart and defeat his enemies or to die at their hand. During his arrest, for the first and only recorded time in his life, Jesus healed a wound given in an act of violence—a wound inflicted by his follower on one who had come to arrest him. This was the last miracle he performed before his death.

Jesus carried out his mission, giving his life to save those who killed him. He was arrested immediately following that internal struggle in the garden.

As I share with our staff, I appealed to them to model Jesus’ life in occupied Palestne, in many ways paralleling their own.

  • Jesus knowingly washed the feet of the enemy’s informant along with his other followers, illustrating for Judas and all of his disciples that true power lies in loving service and not in conquest and that true leadership is found in humble submission and not in command.
  • He showed that Christian martyrs die with words of forgiveness of their enemies on their lips and not curses.
  • By his death and resurrection, he showed that victory comes through apparent weakness and life springs from death willing suffered for the salvation of others.

I had been meditating on this quotation from Cardinal Suhard, at one time the Bishop of Paris, “To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda or even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery; it means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.”   Trying to understand how to be a Follower of Christ in Sri Lanka, torn by 24 years of war, helped me understand in a deeper way how Jesus’ way is so utterly different from any other.

Humanitarians Act to Stop Child Trafficking

Humanitarian organization World Concern helps stop human trafficking at the border of Cambodia and Thailand.
Humanitarian organization World Concern helps stop human trafficking at the border of Cambodia and Thailand.

She’s 13 years old and badly disfigured. Her eye has been gouged from her face, ripped out with a metal shard by a woman holding her captive in a Cambodian sex trafficking operation. The story of Long Pross is a difficult one to stomach, but as described in a recent New York Times OpEd piece by Nicholas Kristof, it is the kind of story westerners must hear.

It doesn’t matter the gender, and sadly it doesn’t matter the age. Trafficking children for indentured servitude, prostitution or sex slavery is an enormous industry. More than 1 million children are trafficked every year, sometimes for as little as $20. World Concern and partner agency CHO see it all the time at the Poi Pet border crossing between Cambodia and Thailand. The photos that you see with this story are all from that crossing.

The classic scenario is that predators will approach a poor family in Cambodia, telling children, or even their parents, that they have work for them in Thailand. Once the children say goodbye, they often never return. If they are one of the lucky ones to escape with their lives, they are often dumped in a park just inside the Cambodian border, near the gate.

Humanitarian Organization World Concern works to educate children and families to prevent this from ever happening. We do this with our School on a Mat program. An instructor gathers children in a shady area to hear an urgent message: do not believe the lies of work and opportunity. They learn how the scam works – and how to say no. Separate from that, we offer children a chance to learn and find opportunities in legitimate business. Some children learn how to sew; other teen-agers may learn how to repair motorcycle engines. We offer real, sustainable solutions, far from the horrors of trafficking.

Young men learn how to repair motorcycles as part of the World Concern program to stop human trafficking.
Young men learn how to repair motorcycles as part of the World Concern program to stop human trafficking.

My background is as a reporter in broadcast news. I have covered dozens and dozens of murders. After a while, even the awful seems to run together with the basic statistics of the story; how many bullets were fired, the status of the investigation, the time of the crime.

But I recall a situation where a news director specifically wanted to reveal graphic details in the heartbreaking murder of a young woman killed in a nightclub. I will always remember this case. The teenage girl went into an all-ages show at a nightclub, but no one remembered her coming out. There was a massive search across the city. She was only found days later buried in debris inside a storage closet. The accused murderer had a history of aggression and sexual deviance. All of this and more came out in the police investigation, and a great deal of it actually made air.

The news director’s rationale for disclosing these details: to cause outrage. To let the community know that this crime is something out of the ordinary, something heinous, something to not forget. And as I followed the criminal case of the sex offending murderer, I believe he was held accountable because the community knew the gravity of the crime.

This is why child trafficking stories like that of Long Pross need to be told. Life really can be horrible for vulnerable people like her. Though these stories may be difficult to hear, those of us with resources can and should act to protect the innocent.

Learn more about how World Concern protects children.

Teach one child how to be safe from trafficking for $35.

Humanitarian organization World Concern teaches children about the dangers of child trafficking.
Humanitarian organization World Concern teaches children about the dangers of child trafficking.

Why a Poverty Blog?

Bangladesh--Where this story began.

In January 1977, just over 32 years ago, my wife, Kendra, my daughter, Heather, who had just celebrated her first birthday, and I arrived in Dhaka, Bangladesh to begin what we thought would be a two year assignment but stretched to seven.

Our shipment of supplies, dishes and things turned up about three months later just as we were moving into our field assignment in Kamalganj, a rural area in northeastern Bangladesh. As we carried boxes of paper diapers, kid’s toys, clothes and other things that we had shipped into a small house that had originally been built for leprosy patients we began to see our world and our place in quite differently.

I am the son of a Baptist pastor and grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia where he pastored a small church. Kendra, a missionary kid was born in Barbados when it was still a British colony and grew up there and in Grenada. Neither of our families were rich by American standards—probably on the basis of money alone, we would have been lower middle class. We grew up thinking of ourselves not as poor but certainly not as rich either.

As we moved in that day, all that we owned in the world fit on the floor of one of the four 100 square feet concrete rooms that comprised our new house—almost without stacking. As our possessions disappeared into the house, however, what seemed to us minimal in the US suddenly seemed excessive. With a start we realized at a gut level that we were rich. With that personal revelation, much around us began to change. Previously we were able to read biblical instruction concerning possessions without guilt, sometimes subtly seasoned with self-righteousness. With the new recognition that we were rich, the same passages became acutely uncomfortable. Beginning with that discomfort, a two year assignment also slowly transformed into a lifelong vocation, and for over thirty years we have led others in ministry to God among the poor.

We quickly came to realize that simply providing money and goods would not in itself change the culture of poverty. If the ship bringing our shipment to Bangladesh had sunk in the Indian Ocean, we would not then have been poor, only inconvenienced for a period. Neither life nor even wealth is actually measured by the accumulation of possessions alone.

In the years since, our family lived seven year in Kenya and I have traveled to dozens of impoverished countries. None of my travels have moved me to romanticize poverty—it is terrible, rooted in injustice and eats slowly away at all that a person is meant by God to be. But I have also been transformed by thousands of hours of conversations with the poor, especially those who are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and come to new understandings of God’s heart.

That is why I am writing this blog—not to give answers but to chronicle my journey especially during this leg of the trip with my colleagues at World Concern.

Meredith

Your End of Year Donation Matters

Humanitarian organization World Concern provides tuition for children in Kenya.
Humanitarian organization World Concern provides tuition for children in Kenya.

World Concern maintained a remarkable record of success in 2008, in a year with plenty of challenges. It is only by God’s grace and your support that we are able to reach families in need.

As you likely know, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 36% this year. Your finances are probably hurting.

It’s especially painful to hear about people facing retirement who realize it is just not possible. For me, it is only with great hesitation that I look at the status my family’s modest investments.

With that in mind, we prayerfully consider the choices made by our supporters as the end of 2008 quickly approaches. We rely on their generosity, especially at this time of year. We are thankful that many are able to supply the poor with a gift through humanitarian organization World Concern.

I spoke with Dave Eller, the President of World Concern, a moment ago, asking him what he would tell donors if they have any reservations about giving this year.

Dave said, “We are going to make the most out of their donation. We have been around, we are going to be around, and we are making a difference.”

He is right.

For more than 50 years, World Concern has responded to desperate needs in some of the most far-flung places on Earth. We have an outstanding track record, and 94% of donations (cash+gifts-in-kind) go directly to programs.

This was year of some significant achievements.

In 2008, we’ve helped cyclone victims in Myanmar rebuild their homes, mend their fishing nets and find work. We’ve walked with AIDS orphans in Kenya, showing them a better life through good health and education.  We’ve fed the starving in Haiti, as an out of control economy left families unable to provide for their children. And these are only a few mentions, from the 24 countries where we work.

Next year, we want to make more significant impacts in the lives of those we touch. We want to elevate people in Haiti and Myanmar to move beyond the crises – and receive job training and education. We plan to increase our investment in microfinance in Bangladesh, to allow women to provide for their families. We want to continue to play a role in freeing millions of people from parasitic worms.

Whenever possible, World Concern provides sustainable solutions to the problems of poverty, so that people can help themselves and teach others once we move on to the next project or respond to the next disaster.

John Beck, World Concern’s donor relations manager, enjoys this passage from Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible, The Message:

“Gently encourage the stragglers and reach out to the exhausted, pulling them to their feet.” – 1 Thessalonians 5.

That’s what World Concern does. We bring people to their feet, perhaps for the first time in their lives.

We pray that you will consider the poor this year, a year where you may even feel poor yourself. Know that your donation does matter. And on behalf of the 5.5 million people whose lives we touch, we sincerely appreciate your support.

Donate Now

Humanitarian organization World Concern provides seeds for farms and educates women about effective agricultural techniques.
Humanitarian organization World Concern provides seeds and teaches women how to farm.

Be a Christmas Humanitarian

Who can resist a pig? One sow can produce 20 offspring a year.
Who can resist a pig? One sow can produce 20 offspring a year.

People are so pleased to be helping the poor this Christmas. Maybe it’s the economy, but it seems like the Global Gift Guide really resonates with people this year. There seems to be more empathy. We have had a lot of positive feedback from donors. They realize that there are plenty of human beings out there who still need the basics: food, shelter, water – and hope for the future.

I was talking with a lady in Alaska about a week ago who lives alone, outside a small town that doesn’t get a lot of sunshine around Christmas. She may live in an isolated area, but she certainly has compassion beyond her own community – and supports humanitarian causes through World Concern. She was particularly interested in the gift to prevent child trafficking. The gift is $500, so she went in on it with a friend.

The money they donated will provide tools to educate at risk communities in Cambodia, Thailand and Nepal about the danger posed by child trafficking. Because of people like this donor, children will learn that the promises they hear about jobs in other cities are scams that usually lead to sexual abuse or indentured servitude. And these are kids, often just 10, 11 or 12 years old!

If you are an American or live in some other Western country, you probably don’t need stuff. Stuff like gadgets. Or accessories for the house. Or unnecessary clothes. So the Global Gift Guide is a good alternative – a way to be a humanitarian this Christmas.

I encourage you to check out the Global Gift Guide if you haven’t already – especially if you are still shopping for Christmas. Give a goat! Or a pig! These gifts will be special to your loved one – and certainly to the poor and vulnerable people who will receive your compassion.

Visit the Global Gift Guide at www.worldconcern.org/ggg

Be a humanitarian this Christmas - give a goat!
Be a humanitarian this Christmas - give a goat!

Disaster Relief Journal: Day 7

disaster relief office
Not your standard disaster relief office, huh?

Today in the world of disaster relief was mostly an office and meeting day.  Yes, even here.  My least favorite kind of day.

The office is about 100m up a sandy road from the house.  Not far, but far enough for several children to ask me for something.  A year ago, very few would be so bold.  Apparently, soft-hearted but soft-headed disaster relief workers have been giving things to children who haven’t asked for anything but friendship.  Now the children no longer value us as people, certainly not adults who their culture would demand them to be respectful of.  It is a shame because it has made it much more difficult to get to know the kids.  It wasn’t like that just one year ago, and I miss the easy, joyful interaction with them.

First thing, most of the staff were called together for a disaster relief staff meeting.

We have been encouraging them to get bank accounts at the bank in Abeche (a full day’s drive away) for reasons of security, with only a portion of it given in cash here.  So they were given an account application form and an explanation.  Then we moved on to programmatic issues and the start-up of our third phase of the program.  They are quite anxious to get into the activities.

After the disaster relief meeting we moved into other meetings with the Country Director, Adrian, and the Livelihoods Coordinator, Derrek where we talked about more strategic stuff as well as details of several grants.  Right now they are the only expats here.  Ayamba was supposed to arrive back today from vacation, but the plane that he was supposed to take was taken by an entourage which included John McCain’s wife.  Random, eh?!

Disaster relief workers in chad
Disaster relief workers in Chad, Africa

Through most of the afternoon, I worked on training materials and boring stuff.  Late in the afternoon the field staff returned and the office became lively again.  They get back at about 3:30, then do their reports and stuff for the day.  The guys in the picture are sorting out requests for seeds from some of the people we will be helping to cultivate later this month.

Now, we are sitting in the Landcruiser outside the wall of the wall of UN HCR checking our email using their wireless signal.  The crew from ACTED, another NGO, are in a vehicle parked just behind us.  HCR used to let us go in and use their conference room, which then became a good place to meet other NGO people, but now we meet in a dusty street.  Ah well, at least it is a connection.

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Read other disaster relief journal entries