An Educated Way To Stop Child Marriage

When Karima was just 8 years-old, her father left. And she took it hard.

She had not lived a day without him by her side.  This man had protected her, and worked to keep her in school.  So when he abandoned her mother and two sisters, Karima’s world came crashing down. Nobody came to console her. Nobody was there to wipe away her tears.

Karima (right) stands with her mom outside their home.
Karima (right) stands with her mom outside their home.

And sadly things would only get worse.

Karima’s village is in Bangladesh, and while she was too young to know it, it’s a country where many young girls are married off as child brides.  Bangladesh has the fourth highest rate of child marriage in the world, where 1 in every 5 girls is married before they turn 15.

Mired in poverty after her husband left, Karima’s mother managed to survive in a small dilapidated shack, no bigger than your average kitchen.  She fiercely protected Karima, and fought to keep her in school, knowing that an education was the only thing that would help her escape this life.

So she did what any mother would—she worked to find a way.

But with no money, and never having worked before, it was close to impossible.  She finally found a day laboring job but the wage was small, barely enough to pay for food.  There were days when the family would go without just so Karima could stay in school. It was an overwhelming sacrifice and money was quickly running out.

In Bangladesh, stories like this are far too common. In this article, a 15-year-old child bride sadly reflects on her situation saying, “We were very poor. Sometimes we would eat every two or three days,” she says. “Even though they [parents] really wanted all three of their daughter to study, it wasn’t possible –so they got me married.” Her older sisters married at 11 and 12.

Ratna (Karima) studying
With her scholarship, Karima hopes to finish school and become a teacher.

So for Karima’s mother, it was no surprise when a friend suggested her daughter be married off as a child bride.  This is the shocking reality for girls like Karima. They have no say, no choice.  Their only hope of avoiding this terrifying prospect is to stay in school.

At World Concern, we consider every child precious.  And for that reason we’re focusing our efforts on preventing girls like Karima from becoming child brides, by doing all we can to keep them in school.

We do this by providing scholarships for girls like Karima.  The scholarship gives them an education and keeps them from being married off too young.

And a scholarship only costs $50… for an entire year!

Please pray for girls like Karima, and for their brighter futures.

The Freedom of Income

Leh showing her earnings for the day.

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 making her sticky stick snacks.
Leh making her sticky stick snacks.

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.

Ready for selling!
Ready for 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.

Leh teaching her friend how to make sticky sticks, so she can earn income too.
Leh teaching her friend how to make sticky sticks, so she can earn income too.

When you support World Concern’s child trafficking prevention programs, you help keep girls like Leh safe from harm. Whether by participating in the Free Them 5k, or by donating directly, you’re helping protect vulnerable girls and put an end to this horrific crime.

5 Key Principles for Working with the Poor: #4 Created to Be Creative

This is the fourth 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 importance of building on God-given skills and abilities when we help the poor.

4. Created to Be Creative

“Like all good and satisfying work, the worker sees himself in it.” – Tim Keller

This woman in Bangladesh earns income by using her skills as a seamstress.
This woman in Bangladesh earns income by using her skills as a seamstress.

In the last post, we talked about the importance of starting with what people have not with what they lack when doing ministry with the poor. In this post, we’re going to continue that thought, but focusing on the God-given need we all have to use our skills and abilities.

From the outset of the Bible, we see God at work in creation, and throughout the Bible we see God continuing to work within creation. We also see God reflect back on His work with joy, for instance at the end of each day of creation. I think this is, in part, because His work bears His signature, it’s a reflection of who He is in some sense. Pslam 19 affirms this idea:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Tim Keller says, “Like all good and satisfying work, the worker sees himself in it.” This is not only true of God, but being made in His image, we’re also designed to use our unique skills and abilities.  Keller also says:

“Work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul. Without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually.”

A young Haitian man uses his construction skills to rebuild homes in Haiti.
A young Haitian man uses his construction skills to rebuild homes in Haiti.

This video, “Eggs in Rwanda,” shows an example of how good intentions of helping actually undermined the God-given need for a person in that community to work.

Let’s be sure we’re equipping people use their God-given skills and abilities when we help the poor.

5 Key Principles for Working with the Poor: #2 Dignity Matters

This is the second in 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 importance of listening to the poor before acting.

2. Dignity Matters

Consider the message when we try to  fix what’s broken.

When I was a sophomore in college, some friends were talking about a spring break trip they were planning to Juarez, Mexico, to build houses.  I was a fairly new Christian and was excited about the idea of an adventure with a great cause attached to it.  Other kids were headed off to beaches in every direction, but I felt like this was an opportunity to see the real world, and serve the Lord at the same time.

For my first “mission trip” it was just about as eye-opening and real as you could get.  The part of Juarez that we worked in looked like an attempt to reclaim a garbage dump.  As we dug up the ground to prepare a place to pour the foundation, we discovered little plastic bags that we jokingly called “goodie bags” because they had anything but goodies on the inside.  For a kid that had grown up in the suburbs, this was extreme, and I honestly felt pretty good about my willingness to serve the Lord by digging up human feces in the hot sun of the desert.

More students signed up for the trip than the organizers were expecting, and we looked a little bit like stirred up ants on an ant hill.  We had so many people that we didn’t even have enough jobs or space on the work site, so we had a team of people in the street prepping stucco and other materials for those working on the house.

One afternoon, the man who would be receiving the house came home from his day of labor.  He picked up two trowels, one for each hand, and began applying stucco to his new home. There were five other college students working on the adjacent wall, but this man did his work faster and with a higher level of quality than all five of the students combined. This man was clearly a skilled construction worker by trade.

When the house was completed, we concluded with a ceremony where we presented this home to the family.  We brought them into their home, waited for their reaction to this gift.

As a husband and a father myself, there are few things more important than having a family who is proud of you, as a person and as a provider. Being unable to give your family something as basic as a home tears at the fabric of who you are as a person. I can’t imagine the shame a dad must feel when his kids are asking for basic necessities he can’t provide.

I wonder how this man felt, having a lifetime of experience in construction, when 100 unskilled kids from America came to do what he was unable to do for his family. As a man with such expertise, could we have honored him in front of his family by at least putting him in charge of our efforts?

When we “see a problem, fix a problem,” the message we send often reinforces some of the unseen problems of poverty, like lack of dignity. Dignity matters.

The Lasting Impact of Living Out our Faith

I had an amazing answer to prayer I want to share with you. I have been out traveling for the past two weeks, first at a conference in Haiti, then meeting with donors in the U.S. I ended the trip with a meeting with a foundation in Colorado.

The foundation wanted to meet World Concern’s new president and hear my vision for the future of World Concern. During the meeting, the executive director asked me how World Concern lives out our Christian faith in our work. I explained the challenges of the different contexts where we work, and mentioned to her that one of the ways we express our faith is during staff devotions in all of our offices around the world.

The executive director became very excited as I shared. She told me that she had met a young woman in Colorado who was from Laos. She was here studying and was working part time at a Christian agency. She was intrigued by how this young woman had become a Christian, so she invited her to lunch on her last day in the U.S. before returning home to Laos.

The young woman explained that in 2007 she had worked as an intern for a Christian organization in Laos, where every day they prayed and read from the Bible to start the day. During this time she had opened her heart to this Jesus she had heard about through those devotions, and gave her life to Christ. The executive director was so moved by this story that she wept in the restaurant and thanked God that there were agencies that truly lived out their faith in places like Laos.

She asked the young woman to send her a CV so that she could introduce her to her daughter, who also worked in Laos. At this moment in our meeting, the executive director searched through her files and found the CV. There on the CV was the name of the organization that through their daily devotions had led this young woman to Christ.

It was World Concern.

I cannot even begin to explain how moving this experience was for me and for this executive director. I am so grateful the Lord allowed us to see his work.

That young woman from Laos was only involved with World Concern for a few months and now, all these years later, she continues to live out her faith. However you are connected to World Concern—as a staff member, a supporter, or a beneficiary, let us believe that God will continue to go before us in extraordinary ways and supply our every need. Surely He is able.

5 Key Principles for Working with the Poor: #1 Listen First

When your church helps the poor, could your actions be summarized: “See a problem; fix a problem?” Many churches work to repair what’s fractured in the lives of the poor or try to solve their problems for them, but they forget that poverty is about people and ministry is relational.

1. Listen First

Often we act on behalf of the poor without actually knowing them, or even asking them about their situation.

Shortly after college, I began going on short-term trips with my church to a rural part of Central America.  Many of the kids had tattered clothes, rotting teeth, and gnats circling them as soon as they stopped moving. We quickly grew to love these kids and wanted to do what we could to help.

Giving hygiene kits to these kids in Central America failed to solve the hygiene problems in their community.
Giving hygiene kits to these kids in Central America failed to solve the hygiene problems in their community.

We had seen this problem and we decided to do what we could to fix it. So, throughout the year we started collecting travel-size hygiene items at hotels. The next year we returned with enough large Ziploc bags for each family in the community to have items like soaps, shampoos, tooth brushes, and toothpaste.

We walked through town passing these out door to door. We felt good doing this, but we never actually asked the community if they wanted hygiene kits or felt like they had a need for them.

Over the next five years I went back on the same trip and passed out hygiene kits every year without seeing any change in personal hygiene in the community. We were unable to fix the problem. But I worry more about how we affected problems that can’t be seen. Without listening first to the community about things they could change, our actions carried a clear message: You look dirty. Here’s something to fix that.

Years later, I read about a study done by the World Bank in which they asked 60,000 poor people from around the world about poverty. I expected to read quotes from the poor talking about hunger, lack of clean water, the need for adequate shelter, and poor hygiene. But instead, the poor spoke more often of issues that are unseen, things like dignity, hopelessness, oppression, humiliation, and isolation.

It helped me realize that poverty is not only more complex than I thought, but it goes much deeper than what I can see on the surface.


Making bracelets that make a difference

Carpia's World Concern bracelet design features our butterfly logo on the charm.
Carpia’s World Concern bracelet design features our butterfly logo on the charm.

We’re thrilled that Hong Kong-based jewelry designer Fiona Ho and her company, Carpia, has chosen to partner with World Concern to help transform the village of Lietnhom, South Sudan. Carpia has created three unique, custom-made, limited-edition World Concern bracelets, featuring gorgeous fall colors and our butterfly logo. For each bracelet sold, $8 will be donated to our One Village Transformed project in Lietnhom, helping bring sustainable sources of income, food, education, and more.

We asked Fiona to share her heart for helping nonprofits raise awareness and fund through her beautiful jewelry designs. Here’s what she had to say:

At Carpia we believe that you can incorporate “doing good” into everyday life.

Spending most of our time at work, what better way to do good than making products that give back? Originally a jewelry design company, we decided to design gifts that support charities worldwide.

carpia adKnowing our every decision is one step closer to supporting a good cause, we design better, work harder and create faster. Every stone, every charm and every detail of packaging are geared towards attracting supporters for the world’s greatest causes.

We chose World Concern’s One Village Transformed project because the project focuses on long-term solutions such as clean water, fighting hunger, providing job skill training, and micro-financing to enable village members to break out of the poverty cycle and be self-sustainable.

The project is the epitome of the saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The World Concern bracelet comes in 3 colors, marbleized beige (shown here), fall brown, and black.
The World Concern bracelet comes in 3 colors, marbleized beige (shown here), fall brown, and black.

Now that’s a project worth supporting! 

We designed the World Concern bracelets with agate beads embellished with a caterpillar and the butterfly charm to reflect this transformation. 

When you wear or gift your One Village Transformed bracelet, you help fund and raise awareness for the villagers of Lietmhom, South Sudan.

Bracelets are available at *Free shipping during the month of October!


Check out Fiona’s video about this project:

Carpia x World Concern| For | Lietnhom, South Sudan

Car dealership helps drive away poverty

Kurt and Craig Campbell with goats in their dealership.
Craig (left) and Kurt Campbell know that goats like these can have a huge impact on the life of someone living in poverty.

Customers at Campbell-Nelson Volkswagen and Nissan in Seattle might be hearing, “Baaaa!” rather than, “Ho, ho, ho!” this holiday season. That’s because owners Kurt and Craig Campbell wanted to do something to make an impact on the lives of the poor this Christmas, so for every vehicle sold, Campbell-Nelson is giving a goat through World Concern to poor children and families in developing countries.

And car buyers are loving it.

“Our customer feedback has been 100% positive with many of them actually feeling a strong connection to the good that a goat provides to those struggling in poverty around the world. I have seen several customers smiling as they walk toward their new car, holding the plush goat they receive after their purchase,” said Kurt. “We have given 340 goats and are well on our way to reaching our goal of 500 goats by year end.”

Salesman Clint Richardson agreed his customers really appreciate the outreach. “World Concern does amazing work, and we love being part of it,” he said.

“Goats are a very tangible way for us to help people suffering from dire economic circumstances in some the poorest countries in the world,” said Kurt, whose compassion for hurting people led him to visit Sri Lanka with World Concern. One of the most significant things Kurt observed was how the World Concern staff pays attention to individual people, walking with them through their struggles. (Read more of Kurt’s story)

“We’re affecting people’s lives and it’s wonderful,” he said.


It’s Giving Tuesday! Make your holiday shopping matter

You survived (or avoided) Black Friday and Cyber Monday and made it to Giving Tuesday!  A much more meaningful day, we think. Giving Tuesday was created to encourage giving to charity during the holiday season, which we heartily support!

A boy in South Sudan drinks clean water from a well.
Clean water is a life-saving gift. You can provide this for children like this boy in South Sudan, knowing your gift is changing lives.

Here at World Concern, we have a special Giving Tuesday challenge – an opportunity for you to double the impact of your gift. Any gift made to the Global Gift Guide by the end of today will be matched. We’re already more than half way to our goal! After hearing about the success of this challenge, another donor has offered up an additional $10,000 in challenge money. An amazing blessing.

Will you help us reach our goal and ensure the families we work with benefit from these matching funds? If you’ve been thinking about giving alternative gifts that truly impact the lives of the poor this year, today is the day to do it. You’ll double your impact, helping provide life-saving care and practical gifts to twice as many children and families living in extreme poverty.

Here’s a little inspiration – a few of our favorite gifts:

Clean WaterHelp build a well! For families who are used to walking for miles to fetch dirty water, a well is a real blessing.

Give a Goat!Help hungry children with a kid goat. Once full-grown, goats can produce up to a gallon of nutritious milk each day.

Soccer BallsSoccer is more than fun and good exercise—it’s a sport that unifies and builds friendships. A soccer ball shows kids somebody cares.

Thanks for helping us reach our Giving Tuesday matching challenge goal, and for giving gifts that really matter.

Going farther down the road

Rural road in Haiti
The rural roads in Haiti are steep, bumpy and long. World Concern reaches communities on some of the roughest roads in the country.

The bumpy roads here in rural Haiti toss you around like a bull rider. Hairpin turns wind you through steep mountains, striking even the toughest travelers with motion sickness. And the roads seem to go on forever. Just when you think the road couldn’t go any further, it keeps going.

A sense of dread came over our team visiting Haiti this week when one of our Haitian staff informed us, after 7 hours on these roads, that we were about to go on “the worst road in Haiti.” We thought it couldn’t possibly be any worse than we had experienced. But it was. Dust and dirt swirled around us as our Land Cruiser lurched up rocky mountains with cliffs on either side.

It is at the end of many of these roads, far beyond where most are willing to go, that World Concern works.

When our vehicles pull into villages, children wave and grin excitedly. The leader of the community often greets our Haitian staff warmly with a hug of recognition, signaling relationships that have been formed over time.

People who live in these remote communities are grateful because someone has come so far for them. Mothers whisk their children home to put on their best clothes. Little girls in dirty, torn shorts and T-shirts return wearing frilly dresses, looking more like they’re going to a wedding than meeting visitors.

Parents talk openly about their struggles: not having opportunities to earn income, lack of clean water, and sick children. Some fear earthquakes and flooding will threaten their lives again soon.

They are strengthened by the help they receive—not a handout, as it is starkly obvious to those of us visiting that this would not change anything. This kind of widespread, extreme poverty, requires a long-term, well-planned response—the kind of help that brings the chance for something different. A better future.

Irrigation canal in rural Haiti.
This irrigation canal, built by community members with the support of World Concern, helps prevent flooding in a rural village in Haiti. The water is channeled to irrigate crops.

“If we have water, we can do anything,” said one farmer whose community has a new canal that channels rainwater away from homes and into the fields where it waters crops.

“Education is the key,” said a second grade teacher who has served his village since 1995.

These people tell us they want to learn new ways of doing things. They don’t want handouts. They want changes that will last. They want to do the work themselves, with our support and assistance, but they want ownership over the projects.

This is where you come in. You don’t have to go to the end of the road to help. We invite you to witness the transformation in Haiti by supporting the work of World Concern. We’re encouraged on days like this, to know that even at the end of a tough road, real and lasting change is possible.