Tag Archives: aid

How One Day of Rain Can Change Everything

There are some places in this world that are difficult places to live. The desert of Northern Somalia (Somaliland) is one of those places. The only thing interrupting the endless view of sand, rocks, and tumbleweeds is an occasional range of low mountains along the horizon. In the middle of the desert, clusters of homes comprise tiny villages. Once a week, the women from these towns walk for an entire day to the hills to get water—the only source of clean water for miles.

“It is so far,” explained Shamse, a young mom who lives here in the desert. “I walk from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and still only return with a few jerry cans – whatever I can manage to carry.”

Moms in Somalia must walk long distances through the desert to collect water.

Moms in Somalia must walk long distances through the desert to collect water.

The water she manages to bring home last only a few days. When the jerry cans run out, Shamse and her children are forced to drink salty, contaminated water from a nearby hole in the ground. “It makes us sick,” she said.

Many children in this community have died from diarrhea and other water-borne diseases. “As a mother, I feel so sad,” she said. “But there is no doctor here when the children get sick.”

Shamse’s conflict depicts the life-or-death dilemma that many others in the community face every day. The nearest access to clean water is a long and arduous day’s journey away, but local water sources are contaminated and unsuitable for human consumption. It’s a threat that fills Shamse with dread and exhausts her even before she rises from her sleeping mat.

But there is a solution, and it starts with a gift from above — rainwater.

In this region, it rains as little as two or three days a year. But when it does, it rains hard—often causing flooding, as the dry desert ground cannot absorb so much water all at once. Check out this video clip of a flash flood in Somaliland.

We help communities build large underground water storage tanks called berkads. These berkads collect, channel, and filter torrents of rainwater, capturing it for use between rains. The result of just one day of rain: enough clean, fresh drinking water for an entire community for months. In fact, one berkad can hold up to 80,000 gallons of water – that’s enough water not just for drinking, but also for growing crops and keeping livestock healthy and alive.

Berkads like this one channel and filter rainwater, storing it for months of use.

Women draw water from a berkad.

Women draw water from a berkad.

With berkads, moms like Shamse have access to clean drinking water that is safe for their children and close to home. Some women are even able to earn income from selling the water if a berkad is built near their home.

Along with this life-saving source of  water, we provide hygiene training and improved sanitation (latrines and toilets), leading to better health for families in need.

You can help mothers provide clean water to their children.

You can help mothers provide clean water to their children.

We’ve seen this system work in other communities in the region, but there are many more families waiting for clean water. You can be a part of this and help needy communities build berkads and other sources of water — bringing help and hope to Shamse and others.

Providing clean water for families is the first step to move beyond barely surviving, and toward lasting change. Your gift saves lives and transforms communities long-term. In addition, your year-end gift by Dec. 31 will be matched, dollar for dollar, providing clean, life-saving water to twice as many children and families.

Mitu washing dishes

Mitu is now free to learn

Some stories are more dramatic than others. Some stories deserve to be heard. Mitu’s story is one of those stories.

Thankfully, Mitu’s story caught the attention of a perceptive staff member in Bangladesh who knew something must be done to free the little girl who was living in slavery in a neighbor’s home. Our Asia communication liaison, Taylor, first brought us this story on her blog.

On this International Day of the Girl Child, we wanted Mitu’s story to be heard again.

At 5 years old, most little girls are going to school for the first time, making new friends, and learning to ride a bike. But this was not the case for young Mitu. Instead, by age 5, Mitu was scrubbing floors, cooking, washing clothes, and suffering from physical abuse with even the slightest misstep in her duties.

Mitu washing dishes

Instead of going to school and experiencing childhood, Mitu was cooking for and cleaning up after another family from the time she was 5 years old.

Scared, alone, and separated from her family, Mitu was forced to grow up overnight in order to care for another family’s children and housework when her own family was unable to care for her.

The nightmare began for Mitu when her parents divorced several years ago. Mitu’s mother sought work in the bleak conditions of Bangladesh’s garment factories, while her father struggled to get by. With neither parent able to support their young daughter, Mitu was left in the care of her elderly grandmother. Out of sheer desperation, Mitu’s helpless grandmother decided to send Mitu to work as a maidservant at a neighbor’s house. There, Mitu endured three years of bondage as a child laborer, receiving nothing but food to survive and suffering frequent physical abuse by her masters.

Mitu (right) is now in school, where she belongs, and spending time with her friends.

Mitu is now in school, where she belongs, and spending time with her friends.

Thankfully, during a visit to Mitu’s hometown, a wise and perceptive World Concern staff member caught wind of Mitu’s horrible situation. Heartbroken and determined to rescue the little girl, she took the right steps to save young Mitu from her life of slavery, alerting a senior staff member who contacted Mitu’s father.

Mitu, now 8 years old, in front of her school.

Mitu, now 8 years old, in front of her school.

Today, Mitu is back under the care and support of her father, who, with World Concern’s counsel and support, now recognizes the importance of allowing his precious daughter to go to school and experience childhood to the fullest.

Mitu is now in school, making friends, and learning. Most importantly, she’s free.

smiling woman

Real transformation comes from within

There was no complaining or pleading for more help at the goodbye ceremony in the village. Only a sense of empowerment and hope for the future. It was a true celebration. This village was ready to stand on its own.

water pumpThe tiny community of 40 families in rural Mon State, Myanmar, was “graduating” after seven years of development. Things look very different here than they did seven years ago, but maybe not in the way you’d expect.

There’s are several protected wells that supply clean water, and an absence of human waste on the ground – things you’d hope to notice after an NGO had been working there. The fields surrounding the village are producing abundant rice, and crops are thriving. Families are earning income, and children are healthy. But in terms of traditional rural village life, it is lived much like it has been for decades, maybe centuries.

rice fieldWhy? Because these changes came from within. All credit goes to the village development committee, made up of residents and community leaders, not World Concern.

Instead of dependence on our organization, the residents see our staff (who live and work amidst a cluster of local villages) as true partners. Relationships are built on mutual respect and empowerment, not a provider-beneficiary model. We are a catalyst to change, but not the change-maker. People taking responsibility for and pride in their community produces change.

Poverty is messy. The absence of trash and human waste is one indication people here care about their environment. But the real difference is seen in the confidence on people’s faces. They know they can continue moving forward on their own. This village is ready to say goodbye to World Concern – and this is our goal. We want to work ourselves out of a job.

babyWhat’s the biggest difference in the village? According to one grandma who has lived her all her life, “Our babies aren’t dying anymore.”

All the training, supporting, educating, and encouraging for seven years comes down to this: children are surviving. That’s transformation.

There’s a lot of talk about sustainable community development. Other than occasional follow-up visits from a development officer, how do we know this method is sustainable? Here’s a great example.

vegetable ladyRecently, one of our staff members visited an IDP camp in another region of Myanmar. Hundreds of families had fled their villages when the fighting came too close and threatened their lives. The staff member noticed that the families in the camp were well organized. They had taken their horrible circumstances (not enough food, no water or sanitation, and cramped quarters) and made a plan. They were working together to solve problems and meet needs.

“Where did you learn how to do this?” the staff member asked a man who appeared to lead the resident committee. “World Concern taught us when they worked in our village,” he replied.

These displaced families were able to replicate and use their skills in a camp when life took an unexpected turn and they were forced from their homes. And when they resettle back home, or in a new village, they’ll be able to do it again. That’s sustainable change.

To learn more about transforming villages like this one, visit worldconcern.org/onevillage

5 Key Principles for Working with the Poor: # 5 Transformation through Relationships

This is the last of five posts covering key principles in ministry with the poor intended to help churches move from transactional to transformational ministry.  In the previous post, we discussed the fact that we are all created to be creative.

5. Transformation through Relationships

“The tasks we think are so critical are not more important than the people God has entrusted to us.” – Sherwood Lingenfelter

Are you like me at work and keep your “To-Do” list within arm’s reach? I’m probably a little weird, but I find it cathartic to scratch stuff off that list. Sometimes I keep scratching through it a little longer than I need to.

Unfortunately, I think we often treat ministry with the poor like a “To-Do” list. We make it more about crossing things off our list than we do about the people themselves. In your church, is it more common to see drives for shoeboxes and back packs full of schools supplies, or mentor programs that focus on being with people? Ask most outreach pastors and they’ll tell you that close to 100 people will sign up to provide a shoebox for every one person who agrees to volunteer for a weekly mentor program.

We forget that poverty is ultimately about people, and ministry is relational. We tend to focus on the material problems rather than the people themselves. “See a problem, Fix a problem.”  If ministry with the poor is relational in nature like other types of ministry, shouldn’t it look more like small groups at our churches?

Community members and leaders in the village of Harako, Chad, meet with World Concern staff to share their needs and their goals for transforming their own village.

Community members and leaders in the village of Harako, Chad, meet with World Concern staff to share their needs and their goals for transforming their own village.

At World Concern, our community development process starts, in most cases, with several months of meeting with the community and its leaders. We want to hear the story of their village, ask them about their vision for the future and their struggles that keep them being where they want to be.

Then, we begin to work with them on the goals they’ve set by building on what they already do well. Seeing lives transformed in this way takes time and requires walking with people patiently through the ups and downs of life. It’s not a quick fix, but it is lasting.

In my next post, I’ll tell you about how World Concern pulls these five principles together in our community development process by telling you the story of one village.

Praying for Marubot

Finally, the first tears fell tonight. I’m ashamed to say, I’ve been too busy to cry. I’ve been quoting statistics all week, since the fury of Typhoon Haiyan left a bleeding gash on the Philippine islands. And repeating the message of why we need to help—now.

10 million affected

10,000 possibly dead

650,000 displaced

For some reason, those numbers just felt like numbers.

But tonight, sitting in my darkened car, reading the email on my phone about the first assessments in an area that took 7 hours to reach by car, it finally hit me.

Marubot. That’s the community the assessment team reached today. It has a name. It’s important for us to know its name, don’t you think?

And then the numbers:

24 barangays (villages)

15,946 individuals affected

7,344 families

2,058 dead.

That’s when the tears came. 2,058. Each one, a precious life. Unprotected from this God-awful, mammoth storm that made history. Gone.

“The municipality is totally destroyed,” the report reads. “Not one house is left standing. The barangays are 100% damaged.”

“People are eating coconut meat mixed with salt for survival.”

And they’re sick. With no drinking water, diarrhea is spreading fast.

No water. No electricity. No cellphone signal.

And until today, no one had been there yet to help. This team was the first.

This area is just one of hundreds waiting for help to arrive.

Suddenly, the numbers came to life. 10 million affected.

Lord, help them. Please help them.

I am encouraged by the flood of support pouring in. I listen to the phones ring at World Concern all day, and I hear my coworkers blessing and thanking generous donors whose hearts are also broken.

It makes me feel like we’re in this together. All of us. People whose homes are still standing, and who have something more to eat than coconut and salt.

Thank you for giving, and for caring. And for praying.

We’re coming, people of Marubot. Keep hanging on. We’re in this together.

 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalm 121:1-2)

 

 

IDP family in camp

Going Home: Eastern Chad, then and now

This week I was browsing through photos and documents from 2006-2008, when our staff was assessing the needs of families in Chad in the wake of the Darfur war. Wow. The situation was grim. According to these documents, in 2007 there were about 230,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad, and 180,000 displaced Chadians.

We were planning a response in camps near Goz Beida, a town that previously supported a population of 5,000. By 2008, there were an additional 60,000 displaced people living there. Imagine if your hometown of 5,000 suddenly had 60,000 traumatized, homeless, and desperately needy visitors.

Village destroyed by fire

A village in E. Chad, destroyed by fire.

These families—what was left of them—had survived horrific violence. Armed militia on horseback (called Janjaweed), had lit their grass homes on fire, destroyed their villages, and killed everyone in their path. Only those who hid in the bush survived.

One of those who survived was a woman we’ll call Hawa. I discovered her story amidst pages of data collected by our staff. One way we determine how to help is by talking directly with families—hearing their stories. Hawa was eager to tell hers, and other women gathered around as she spoke, nodding their heads that their stories matched.

Hawa lived in a village of about 2,000 people, their houses scattered along the edge of a seasonal river.  In the short rainy season, they cultivated grain, harvesting enough to feed themselves throughout the rest of the year, plus a bit to sell. 

During the dry season, they dug wells in the dry river bed and grew vegetables to sell in the local market, or to dry for eating.  Each family had about 60 animals that provided them with gallons of milk. 

The girls fetched water while the boys looked after the animals, attending the local school when their chores were done.  There were occasional droughts when times were tough, but they lived a full life and seldom went hungry…

Broken grain containers

Broken grain containers.

Then one day, without notice, men mounted on horses and camels surrounded the village, encircling it, running around the perimeter of the houses, shooting into the air.  Women scrambled, terrified, to collect their children.  A few of the riders charged into the village, killing 40 of the men, setting the thatch roofs of the houses on fire. 

In the chaos, the women ran with their children to hide beyond the riverbed.  For hours the attackers systematically pillaged the village, taking anything of value that had survived and loading them up on the large train of camels they’d brought along for that purpose.  They killed anyone they found remaining in the village, carrying away 3 women they captured alive. 

The attackers even poked around in the ground to find their grain stores.  The excess they could not carry away, they burned to make sure that no one could come back to live in this village.

After hiding for a couple of days, a few of their number returned to the village to see what they could salvage, to bury the dead and to find missing members of their families.  Hawa held a scarred cooking pot.  From all her possessions, it was the only thing she’d managed to save.  But she had all of her children together and was grateful for this.  She didn’t know where her husband was…

Family inside IDP hut

A family inside their hut in a camp for displaced families.

She sought safety amongst the tens of thousands of others in Goz Beida.  Now she had only a grass hut, a crusty cooking pot, a cotton cloth to cover her children at night and a few kilograms of grain to feed her children.  No milk, no vegetables, no oil or even salt. When she’d first arrived, she’d been lucky enough to receive a bag of grain as food aid, but she’d had to sell about half to buy some basics like a spoon, salt for the food, dried okra and soap. 

Not willing to simply watch her children starve, she braved the threat of rape to collect firewood to sell in the hopes of earning maybe 25 or 30 cents which she would use to buy food.  This takes time and plenty of stamina, but must be done in addition to the eight hours each day she spent collecting water.  Even then, it is only enough for drinking, cooking and washing their faces. 

Hawa had lost so much, but she retained her dignity and her will to fight for the survival of her family.

Children during the crisis.

Children during the crisis.

Around the time Hawa arrived in the camp, World Concern began providing emergency assistance there. Knowing that this kind of aid is temporary, we developed ways to help families become self-sufficient, mostly through cash for work, savings groups, and small business development.

The land had been depleted of trees for firewood, so when it rained, the water ran down hill, flooding certain areas, and leaving other places desolate and useless. Nothing was growing.

We began paying people cash to build rock lines that would cause rainwater to soak into the ground and allow plant life to grow again. At first glance, the work appeared tedious and pointless. But families could use the cash they earned to buy food or supplies. And the lush, green growth that emerged after it rained proved this system worked. Families began the long process of recovery.

I came across a statement in one of the reports written during this time that caught my attention. It said, “World Concern is committed to being a long term presence in the area.”

We’ve kept this commitment. We’re still there, five years later. Some of the camps have closed. Others turned into towns. Our focus in Chad has changed as people’s needs have changed.

I remember, about three years ago, asking the staff member who interviewed Hawa what the solution was—what these families really needed most.

She responded, “What they need is to go home.”

For the past year and a half, this is exactly what’s been happening. Families are returning to their villages—or the areas where their villages once existed—and they’re rebuilding their lives from nothing.

Scooping water from a hole in the ground in Harako.

A young girl scoops water from a hole in the ground in the village of Harako, Chad.

Once again, we started by assessing needs when several hundred families returned to the tiny village of Harako, about 40 miles from Goz Beida. A few grass huts were built as shelter, but fields for farming were overgrown with brush. The families had no tools to clear the fields or plant crops, and the planting season was near. Their only source of water was a muddy hole they dug in the sand.

Through One Village Transformed, and with the support of donors and groups like Westminster Presbyterian Church, things look very different in Harako today. Families received farming tools, seeds, and training to plant crops—and their first harvest provided enough to get them through the dry season. A well was dug, gushing forth thousands of gallons of fresh, clean water. And residents worked tirelessly, baking bricks to build the first classroom for their new school, which is scheduled to be completed this month.

New well in Harako.

The new well in Harako, built with the help of One Village Transformed supporters.

Everywhere you look in Harako, lives are being transformed. Out of the ashes, families are rebuilding what they never thought they’d have again … homes, crops, schools, wells.

In a way, things have come full-circle from the horrible tragedy that swept through Eastern Chad a few years ago. Full circle, from disaster to resilience. And restoration of what was lost.

These families are going home. And we’re going with them. Join us, and witness the transformation.

Farmer's group in Harako.

A World Concern supported farmer’s group in Harako that shares tools, knowledge, and seeds to grow healthy crops.

School construction in Harako.

Construction of a new school in Harako has been a team effort. Bricks were baked by villagers, and construction is supported by One Village Transformed partner Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Photos: Meeting critical needs for displaced families in Myanmar

Last month we told you about thousands of innocent families who were forced to flee their homes because of fighting in Northern Myanmar. These families arrived in overcrowded camps with nothing. People were sleeping outdoors in the cold and children were sick. Many of you stepped up and donated. Here are some photos just in from our staff in Myanmar showing how we’re helping.

New latrine in Mynamar camp.

A new latrine to protect the health of displaced families living in a camp in Kachin State, Northern Myanmar.

New well.

A new well being dug in one of the camps.

Nutritious food in camps.

A World Concern staff member (right) checks the nutritious food families are receiving in the camps.

Sick mom and baby receive medical care.

A sick mom and her baby receive medical care.

Hand washing training in camp.

World Concern hygiene trainers conduct a hand washing training in the camp to help keep families healthy and stop the spread of disease.

A water tank holds safe drinking water.

A brand new water tank holds clean, safe drinking water in one of the camps.

Well being dug.

Another angle of a well being dug to provide a sustainable source of clean water.

Families receiving supplies.

Families receive blankets, mosquito bed nets, and emergency supplies.

World Concern Horn of Africa beneficiaries

Food Distribution in the Horn of Africa Goes High Tech

Note: This article was originally published on the Huffington Post Impact X blog on Oct. 10, 2012.

World Concern Horn of Africa beneficiaries

As NGOs shift our response from disaster to development, there are still many hungry people to feed.

Getting food into the hands of the hungry in the Horn of Africa is about to go high tech. Seattle-based humanitarian organization World Concern is piloting a new mobile phone app in the drought-stricken region, aiming to streamline the process of tracking food distributed to hungry families and payment to local merchants.

World Concern has been distributing food and emergency supplies to families affected by the Horn of Africa drought since July 2011. As famine spread throughout the region, aid organizations struggled to reach millions of people, especially those living in southern Somalia. World Concern distributed vouchers to hungry families who were able to purchase food from local merchants. The system supports the local economy and helps ensure food reaches those in greatest need.

This method has been extremely effective, even in dangerous and hard-to-reach places. More than 30,000 vouchers have been distributed so far, each representing a two-week supply of rations for a family of six.

World Concern staff uses mobile technology  in the Horn of Africa

World Concern staff members learn to use a new mobile app to track food distributions in the Horn of Africa.

The new mobile app allows field staff to use a tool they are already carrying (a mobile phone) to record data in the field (instead of a pencil and paper), and negates the need for re-entry into a computer at a later date. This saves time and reduces the risk of errors.

The system tracks beneficiaries and the food they receive via bar codes that are scanned into a mobile phone. Merchants have an I.D. card with a barcode, which is also scanned so they can be paid via wire transfer almost instantly.

The mobile app was developed by Seattle start up ScanMyList, whose founder, Scott Dyer, created a mobile application to help retail businesses track inventory. When Dyer saw one of World Concern’s vouchers, he realized the same system could help the humanitarian organization reach people during a disaster more efficiently and track aid more accurately.

Dyer traveled to the Horn of Africa with World Concern to kick off the pilot program, which will put the new technology into action in the field this month, as 4,000 food vouchers are distributed in Eastern Kenya and Southern Somalia.

“Not many people can say they’ve birthed an idea and seen it to fruition,” said Dyer. “It’s super exciting.”

The real brain behind this technology is the custom database, which is not only programmed to receive data from mobile phones, but to “think” about what it receives. The database will identify possible duplicate entries, flag significant variations in data, and crosscheck entry errors. Then, the database is programmed to generate custom reports in real time. World Concern staff can view these on a website, seeing exactly how many meals are distributed immediately.

World Concern and partner agency staff practice scanning bar codes with their mobile phones during a training last week.

World Concern and partner agency staff practice scanning bar codes with their mobile phones during a training last week.

“This technology will enable our staff to report on their life-saving distribution in real-time, increasing our ability to respond to immediate needs as they arise,” said Chris Sheach, deputy director of disaster response for World Concern.

While the “famine” has officially ended in the Horn, the long-term effects of such a severe drought and crisis will be experienced for many years to come. As NGOs shift our response from disaster to development—teaching pastoralists who lost their herds to farm and other forms of livelihood diversification—there are still many hungry people to feed. This new technology will enable us to do this even more quickly and efficiently. It can also be used in other types of disasters, particularly in cash-for-work programs.

Joseph Kony and the LRA.

KONY 2012 — One piece of the poverty-injustice puzzle

The viral KONY 2012 awareness campaign around Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is succeeding in breaking through apathy and engaging people with the atrocities taking place in South Sudan, Congo and Uganda. For that I am very grateful. It misses the nuances of the issue, but it still brings light to this injustice. I see the effects of violence and injustice as I travel to World Concern’s programs in incredibly poor places. The LRA’s reign of terror is part of this injustice, and it must end. Oppression, slavery and murder must end throughout the world.

Joseph Kony and the LRA.

Joseph Kony and the LRA are among the most notorious perpetrators of violence and injustice.

Where does someone like Joseph Kony come from? Wherever people have more power than others, there is oppression. Where people have no power, they are taken advantage of, exploited and abused. Oppression happens in every nation in the world. Kony is a clear example that is being brought to light. We need to shine that same light on violence and injustice, as well as their sources, and take the discussion beyond a single person.

It is our nature to seek simple solutions. In some ways this is as simple as Kony needs to be stopped. But that is where the simplicity ends. In this case, an army must be demobilized. The cycle of poverty that creates vulnerability to abuse needs to be broken as well. Empowering people through economic security is the best defense against the Konys of this world.

Capturing Kony would be a huge victory and one we would all celebrate. But unfortunately, it won’t end the violence in South Sudan, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or other places. As strongly as this campaign advocates for involvement by the U.S. government to defeat one person, let us advocate for the long-term work of defeating extreme poverty and its ripple of devastating effects.

Mom and baby in Raja, South Sudan.

A mother and child at a World Concern food distribution site in Raja, South Sudan. Families in Raja are frequently threatened by LRA attacks.

Real change takes time. This film took nine years to produce and it is just a call for change. The best solutions are not imposed from outside. Walking with the people affected to solve complex problems brings sustainable change.

We need this new found awareness of complex problems to lead to a shift in our sense of responsibility for the suffering around the world. The best aid is not delivered in a day by westerners, and of course, it cannot be solved over social media. I see dramatic change in the lives of vulnerable people when we help equip them with tools to take control of their own destiny long-term.

If the 70+ million people who have watched KONY 2012 get engaged and fight global injustice, it will have a significant impact ending oppression in these difficult places.

Why we go to the remote corners of the planet

Sometimes we get asked, “Why do you help people in other countries instead of the poor right here at home in the U.S.?”

Good question and one I think is worth answering.

Every nonprofit has a mission – a calling they aim to fulfill through their work. There are more than a million nonprofits based in the U.S. Many help with domestic issues and serve people here, while others help internationally. Some do both.

We at World Concern feel a special calling to help those in the poorest, least developed and often hardest to reach places in the world. That’s our mission. We seek out places to serve where climate and geography, societal instability and scarce infrastructure create incredible challenges – both to the people living there, and in terms of reaching them with help.

The road to Somaila.

The desolate road to the Somalia border -- one of the places we go to reach people in need.

One example of this is in our response to the Horn of Africa drought crisis. The most practical place to help would have probably been the refugee camps in eastern Kenya. But there were already many organizations responding within the camps. As we assessed the area and the situation, it became clear there was an added strain being put on communities surrounding the camps and near the Somalia border as tens of thousands of displaced people were arriving in these towns.

We saw an unmet need and made the decision to support these communities – with food, access to water, medical care and emergency supplies. Since August, we’ve fed thousands of people, many who had been walking for weeks in search of assistance. Some might not have survived the last leg of the journey to the camps. Others have settled in these communities – a better place to start a new life than a refugee camp.

These communities are dangerous places to work. They are under almost constant threat of attack by militia. On the Somalia side of the border, we are one of only a few organizations working there. But we see this as fulfilling our calling to reach people in desperate need in hard to reach places.

Muddy road to Laotian village.

Muddy roads, like this one in Laos, make some of the villages we serve inaccessible by vehicle.

Some of the villages where we serve in Laos are cut off from society because of rain, mud, rivers and damaged roads. The people there have no way to access food or medical attention if needed.

Thanks to infrastructure, development and government assistance here in the U.S., communities are rarely cut off from aid, even in a disaster. We’re finding ways to reach people in remote parts of the world – because few others will.

In American culture, there is a an emphasis on helping ourselves before we help others. The self-help world tells us that taking care of our own needs first is as important as on our own oxygen mask on an airplane before assisting others. We secretly aim to make sure our own children have enough Christmas presents before giving to others in need. As Christians, we’re called to put the needs of others before our own (Phil. 2:3-4). This is not to say we shouldn’t support the needs of the poor here at home. But what would Jesus say about the idea of “helping our own” before reaching out to others?