Tag Archives: World Concern

For The Love of The Game

4 - Returnee Biz Kuajok -Sudan_092small

Dust flies as the boys’ feet shuffle across the dirt, their laughter piercing through the quiet late afternoon. The lush green bushes sway with the slight breeze, the sun beating down on their backs as they pass a worn soccer ball to each other. There’s nothing unusual about this playful pick up game – soccer has been played all over the world for centuries. But there’s one small detail that makes this scene extraordinary. The boys are from the Dinka and Nuer tribes – two tribes that have been at conflict with each other for generations.

In South Sudan, the main tribal groups include the Dinka and the Nuer. These nomadic tribes highly value strong warrior ethics. In fact, young men primarily achieve social status by raiding each other’s cattle herds. Young men in these communities, raised to make up a bulk of South Sudan’s guerrilla armies, grew up in a generation of brutal war and tribal tension. This tension is especially prevalent between young people that were educated in the North and those that grew up in the rural villages of the South. Many young people in the South resent those that had the opportunity to attend school in the North, away from the harsh realities of the war.

But among the thorns there are always wildflowers of hope peeking through. In Kuajok, South Sudan, one young man’s passion for loving others – and soccer – is sparking incredible ethnic reconciliation.

After receiving an education in the North, Akol Akol returned to his home village of Kuajok to work as a World Concern staff member. Rather than becoming discouraged by the fighting and disunity he saw in his community, Akol saw an opportunity to use his experiences to pour into the lives of others – and decided to take action.

Inspired by his passion for soccer, Akol organized two neighborhood soccer teams and began meeting with the community’s youth every afternoon for practice, as well as organize tournaments on the weekends. The tension between the Dinka and Nuer youth eased as relationships were built, and soon the constant fighting greatly declined.

There’s something truly beautiful about the way the mutual love of a sport unifies people of all different upbringings together – age gaps and cultural differences fade to the background as the love for the game takes center stage.

The older kids, inspired by Akol’s gentle spirit, began to recognize their responsibility to look after the younger children. The cycle of hate and prejudice began to break down, being replaced with one of acceptance and teamwork.

“He felt that soccer could be a form of reconciliation because they don’t need to be able to talk a lot, they just need to be able to understand the rules of the game and play together as a team,” explains Jane Gunningham, a World Concern staff member that worked closely with Akol. “He just had a heart for peace. He saw something specific he could do, something he knew how to do, and he just did it.”

Changing the world isn’t as hard as you may think. It doesn’t require daunting, expensive, over-the-top plans. It only requires a willingness to practice sincere kindness and invest in others at an individual level.

But sometimes, in a world with so much suffering and brokenness, it can be hard to know which action to take. That’s where World Concern comes in. Through World Concern’s numerous programs, hope isn’t just a distant idea; it’s a tangible reality. Through campaigns such as One Village Transformed, World Concern is committed to pursuing reconciliation and empowering the poor, so that they may in turn share with others.

Consider your passions. What’s that one topic you can’t stop talking about? What social issues make your heart ache? How can you imagine a way to respond to global poverty? For Akol, it’s reconciling community through soccer. For me, it’s protecting children through education. For you, it could be a number of things, from providing clean water to teaching job skills to empowering entrepreneurs.

One of my favorite quotes is by a 20th century cultural anthropologist named Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” How true and encouraging that is.

Just like the way a single skipped stone creates dozens of ripples, it only takes a one act of kindness to set off a tidal wave of reconciliation throughout a hurting world. Whatever cause it may be that tugs at your heartstrings, I encourage you to consider taking a step of faith and seeing where your passions take you – it’ll be worth the risk, I promise.

The Photo That Changed My Heart

Bangladesh boy

It’s not a particularly artistic or perfectly composed photo. It’s even a little hard to tell what’s happening in this photo, which is probably why I paused for a moment while browsing through photos of Bangladesh’s slums.

It was my first week at World Concern, four years ago, and I had looked at thousands of photos of the places World Concern works as part of my orientation. There were many stunning photos of beautiful people, faces, families, and extreme poverty. But this is the one I’ll never forget, because it’s the one I was looking at when it “clicked” for me.

I stared at the image of a little boy, not more than 8 or 9 years old, wearing pants that are cinched at the waist so they won’t fall down, standing in the midst of a sea of garbage. He is smelling what appears to be a piece of rotten fruit. He was doing this, I’m sure, to try to determine if it was edible.

My stomach turned.

Several thoughts slammed into my mind as I stared at the boy in the slum:

  1. He is a real person.
  2. He is hungry enough to consider eating from that pile of garbage.
  3. I must do something.

When I came to work at World Concern, I considered myself a compassionate, caring Christian. I gave regularly to my church, donated to our food bank, and supported a few charities, including humanitarian organizations.

But at that moment, my heart broke for the hungry, the poor, the forgotten ones in the world. I felt compelled to help. I believe God used that photo to break my heart for what breaks His.

I wiped my tears away, glancing around my new office to see if anyone was looking. Then I whispered a prayer: “Lord, help this little boy. Please reach down into that horrible slum and rescue him.”

I felt like God responded, “I will. And you will.”

I knew that didn’t mean I would hop on a plane to Bangladesh and find that one little boy out of the 162 million people in Bangladesh. It meant I would pour myself wholeheartedly into the mission and work of World Concern so that the experts in ending extreme poverty and rescuing children like this boy from its clutches can do their jobs.

Our 234 Bangladeshi staff members, along with our Kenyan staff, our Haitian staff, and all the others in the poorest countries in the world are pouring themselves wholeheartedly into this work. With our support, they provide real, tangible, lasting ways out of poverty. And my job is to spread the word about this cause, this mission, so people like you and I can do something too.

The Power of a Single Story – How the 44-Cent Cure Can Change a Life

Sarah Kaczka is a social media intern at World Concern and will be posting on the blog this summer. As a sophomore at Wheaton College, she is interested in journalism and humanitarian aid, and hopes to use her love for storytelling to spread Christ’s love and encourage others. 

As an avid reader and aspiring writer, I am fascinated with the art of storytelling. There’s something about a good story that pulls directly at my heart strings, and they often stick around in my mind for days after I hear them. Besides a riveting plot, intriguing setting, and a memorable cast of characters, a good story ultimately requires purpose and development, challenging the reader to consider a new idea or way of thinking. I especially love ones that have a redemptive ending.

Kahinur’s journey is definitely one of those stories.

FortyFourCentPillMom_FIN2917 - low res

Kahinur and her son at their home in an urban slum in Bangladesh.

As a mother living in a crowded urban slum in Bangladesh, Kahinur feels helpless to care for her infant son who has been sick for months. Her little boy likely has intestinal worms caused by the filthy environment and lack of sanitation in the slum where they live. These parasites suck the nutrients from her baby’s food and keep him awake all night, crying in pain.

This sweet little guy rests his head on Kahinur’s shoulder as she talks. His eyes are half closed, and his thin body is limp in her arms.

“I took him to several places for treatment, but nothing is working,” she pleads. Beads of perspiration cover her worried brow. The stifling afternoon heat causes a nauseating stench to rise from the garbage piles in the slum.

“I don’t know what will happen next with my son, and I am scared,” cries Kahinur. “If I fail to provide, then I fear my son could die.”

Parasites, like the ones attacking her baby’s body, can lead to malnourishment, diarrhea, and even blindness. And they stunt the development of a young child, causing permanent deficiencies if left untreated.

I can’t even imagine the fear Kahinur must have been facing in that moment, or her desperate frustration at not being able to provide relief for her son. Here in my suburban home, I am blessed to have doctors and hospitals nearby, never once having to worry about not having access to medicine.

Thankfully, Kahinur’s story continues. After receiving the 44-Cent Cure (deworming medicine), Kahinur’s son was fully restored back to health. Now Kahinur’s overwhelming worry is replaced by joy, and her tears are replaced by peace of mind and gratitude.

As much as I wish the story could end here, the truth is that there are thousands of families still suffering from parasite infections in Bangladesh. And their cries for help are not fictional – they are heartbreakingly real.

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The 44-Cent Cure provides lasting relief, evoking beautiful smiles on the faces of cured children.

But the good news is, it isn’t hard to help. For a small handful of pocket change, we can provide medicine that changes lives. Isn’t that exciting? When I first heard about the 44-Cent Cure, I couldn’t believe that providing immediate relief for sick children could be that simple – but it is. Learn how to get involved and partner with World Concern today.

In Christ, our stories are beautiful ones of redemption and hope. Our stories are important – they shape our identities and are the means by which we connect with one other. It’s so exciting to think that through organizations like World Concern, the story of an American college student, like me, can intertwine with that of a woman in Bangladesh like Kahinur.

How does your story empower you to take action and make a difference in the lives of others?

 

World Concern disaster response expert doubles as Red Cross volunteer for Oso landslide

On March 22, 30 seconds altered the lives of residents of Oso forever. That night, I received an urgent email from the American Red Cross chapter of Snohomish County. They needed volunteers to staff the evacuation shelter which they were providing for families affected by the slide. While I couldn’t help during the day, I was able to volunteer for the night shift, providing support in the shelter from 8 pm to 8 am.

Chris Sheach uses his disaster experience with World Concern in places like Haiti, and closer to home as a Red Cross volunteer. He recently served at a Red Cross shelter for victims of the tragic Oso landslide.

Chris Sheach uses his disaster experience with World Concern in places like Haiti, and closer to home as a Red Cross volunteer. He recently served at a Red Cross shelter for victims of the tragic Oso landslide.

Driving up to Arlington, passing very familiar landmarks, it was a bit discomforting to see the elementary school with Red Cross signs posted on it, and to see people who last week may have stood behind me in the grocery store checkout were now sleeping on a cot with only the clothes on their back, waiting anxiously to hear word of their missing loved ones. It’s a very different thing to respond so close to home, but wearing a Red Cross vest, I was instantly recognized as someone trustworthy, and there to help. During a time when many families were beset by national and international media, they were very grateful for the safe place we offered, the hot food, showers and listening ear.

I’ve been a volunteer for a year and am now a certified Red Cross disaster instructor. In some ways it’s a natural fit, since my role at World Concern means I respond to disasters like the Haiti earthquake, and am familiar with these kinds of crises. I do this work because I have a heart for those whose lives have been devastated by disaster. Now, as a registered Disaster Team Specialist, as well as a member of my Community Emergency Response Team, I know that I will be able to fulfill my calling at home, and not just overseas.

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.

My Christmas prayer

Christmas is that busy time of year with parties, shopping, and time with family and friends. It holds so many memories for me personally. As a child, my brothers, sisters and I stayed awake half the night in anticipation. We were up before dawn rushing to find presents under the tree.

Now, so many years later, the wonder of the season hasn’t left me. I anticipate the joy of spending time with our newest grandchild, just one month old.

Jacinta in S. SudanAs we celebrate this special time of year, it is a wonderful time to remember that God himself came to earth. What is so extraordinary is that He chose to identify with the poor and marginalized. He gave up all of His splendor, was born in a stable, and laid in a manager. In 2 Corinthians 8:9 we read, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor.”

The heart of God is close to those who are poor, forgotten, and alone. Of all the classes and peoples on earth, He chose to identify with them. He lived and walked among them. He knew their pain and struggles. He opened His arms to bless and heal them.

As the president of World Concern I am keenly aware that God continues to walk with the poor. He does that through you and me. I see it every day.

This Christmas, amidst all the joy we will experience, let us pause and remember. Join me in prayer for the poor and marginalized—those close to God’s heart.

Merry Christmas and God bless you.

P.S. Shoot me an email and let me know you are praying: jacintat@worldconcern.org

 

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 www.carpia.org. *Free shipping during the month of October!

 

Check out Fiona’s video about this project:

Carpia x World Concern| For | Lietnhom, South Sudan

My First Day as President

From the moment I woke up on October 1—my first official day as President of World Concern—I was struck by God’s presence and the clarity of walking in His will.

My journey to this role has been a lifetime in the making. Today I can look back over my shoulder and say, “of course.” Of course, that situation or that trial prepared me for this. And, of course, God had a plan.

Jacinta in Kenya.

I am immensely blessed to be called to walk alongside the people World Concern serves.

I didn’t always see the way as clearly as I do today. But that’s the faith journey. We don’t always see; we don’t always understand, but we walk in faith.

I’m excited as I look at World Concern’s incredible life-transforming work, which I get to be a part of. I find meaning as I labor alongside men and women, who are called to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of the poor and marginalized. And, when I look around at the support of so many donors, so many praying friends, so many concerned churches and individuals, I feel immense hope. Yes, the task is great, but there are many who are called to this work along with me.

I am also incredibly humbled by the opportunity to raise my voice for those who are overlooked, exploited, or in desperate need around the world. I am motivated to use my voice to remind myself and others that today there are little babies without adequate nutrition, families without clean water, and young women vulnerable to the evils of human trafficking.

At the same time, I am excited to share the ways God is using each of us to bring hope into their lives in big and small ways. And, I am committed to remember that God always uses regular people, like you and me, to accomplish His plan.

World Concern has fabulous programs, sound relief and development strategies, and years of experience working in some of the most difficult places on the planet. Today, I am grateful for the wonderful legacy that I join. But more than all of this, today I am reminded of the blessing it is to express the loving heart of God to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. May I do so faithfully, as I assume the position as President of World Concern.

 

#WeAreOne – Kenya’s Unity Shines Through Crisis

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is senseless. I am speechless. We are all shaken.

As many of you are acutely aware, for the past several days the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, has been under siege in what appears to be a very organized and intentional terrorist attack. Though the true motives behind this horrendous act are not yet fully known, here are some things I know:

Innocent lives were lost. And innocent lives should never be lost.

One’s race, religion, economic-status, age, gender, or political affiliation have never, will never, and should never be reason enough to rob an individual of his or her life.

Despite the obvious tension looming over Nairobi, Kenya’s largely diverse and culturally rich capital city, home to about 4 million people, life continues to move forward.

Kenyans are extremely resilient people.

If you have been following Kenyan Twitter accounts over the last two days, you will have seen this popular hashtag attached to many Westgate Mall tweets: #WeAreOne.

Carrying a complex history sewn together by the threads of colonization, suppression, tribal violence, political corruption, and economic difficulties, Kenyans have managed to continually strive toward unity: unity in the home, unity in the larger community, and unity as a nation.

Out of the dark events of the past hours, a bright light that is the Kenyan people’s commitment to human unity has been a shining reminder that We Are One.

Amidst the weekend’s tragedies, numerous beautiful stories have surfaced – sweet reminders of God’s kingdom on earth. The following is a brief recap from a Nairobi resident’s Twitter account:

#WestGate

Little children pushed other children out of harm’s way. Children pulled children to safety.

Kenyan police run into harm’s way for us with no helmet, no bullet proof vests and regular shoes.

A Muslim man wrote a short prayer on a piece of paper for a Christian man he was hiding with and helped him to memorize it in case the terrorists asked him to say something from the Quran.

Secretary General of the Red Cross put on a volunteers vest and went on site to work with his paramedics.

The Kenya Defense Forces went in there like superheroes.

No hospital turned a patient away.

Blood banks were full before they were empty again.

#KOT outrage on NY Times images made them pull those images off.

Heaven was filled with prayers and questions.

We will prevail.

“We are as brave and invincible as the lions on our coat of arms.” – President Uhuru Kenyatta.

As this sickening event continues to plague the media – as speculations make their way into many a conversation – I encourage all of us to use our words wisely. No matter who committed these atrocities, no matter what innocent victims have lost their lives, we are one. As difficult as it is to stomach, we are all God’s sons and daughters. Somali, Kenyan. Black, white. Rich, poor. Male, female. Old, young. Al-Shabaab, Kenyan Military.

In the aftermath of such events, it is common that previously existing stereotypes, labels, and divisions are only widened and strengthened.

I encourage you to pray for those who will fall into these stereotypes and categories. I urge you to remind them that they are loved and valued. I urge you to think and process before you speak.

I urge you to pray. Pray for the victims and the families of victims. Pray for Nairobi. Pray for Kenya’s government. Pray for the future of this beautiful nation.

Pray for the persecuted and, equally important, the persecutor.

#WeAreOne

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

 In closing, here are some words from World Concern’s Kenya Country Director, Peter Macharia:

“Westgate is a lovely place and Kenya is a very beautiful country. With 68 confirmed dead and many more people still inside the building with 10-15 gunmen, my heart sinks. I sincerely congratulate our police and army for the rescue of the more than 1,000 people from the building and my condolences to those who have been left by their loved ones. As the president said, we will not be cowed. Kenya will rise again!

World Concern has accounted for its entire staff in Kenya and we are glad no one was injured or killed by this despicable and devilish terrorist act. We continue to pray for those who lost their loved ones and hope that those still being held hostage will survive. We also pray that this will never be witnessed again in our country. We also pray that Somalia will soon find peace. The Westgate attack gives a glimpse of what has become the norm in
Somalia.”

Jean Berlin

Saved to Serve People

Jean Berlin knows that his life was spared during the Haiti earthquake in 2010 for a reason. And that reason is to serve others. In honor of World Humanitarian Day, we wanted to share his amazing story of a life dedicated to serving people.

A math and physics teacher, Jean Berlin was teaching in a 5th floor university classroom in Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. Just before the earthquake hit, he got what he describes as “a bad feeling inside.”

“I felt something would happen,” he recalled.

He left the building, excusing himself from his students and explaining that he wasn’t feeling well.

Haiti earthquake - collapsed building

A building in Port-au-Prince that collapsed during the January 2010 earthquake.

Moments later, when the shaking started, Berlin was confused. He’d never experienced an earthquake before. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, the school was gone. The building had collapsed and everyone inside was dead.

“I said, ‘Oh my God what happened?’” Berlin ran home to check on his two sisters. Thankfully, both had survived the earthquake.

He’ll never forget that day when his city went dark. “It was a very, very bad time in Haiti,” he said. “After I wondered, ‘God why didn’t you give me the chance to ask my friends to come out too?’”

Berlin still has no answer as to why so many died that day, but he survived. All he knows is that he is here for a reason.

“Jesus saved me to serve people,” he says with confidence.

Although Berlin loved teaching, he now dedicates his life to helping protect vulnerable families and communities in Haiti from future disasters, like hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.  As a project manager for World Concern’s Disaster Risk Reduction program in Port-de-Paix, Berlin teaches people safe building practices, disaster preparedness, and how to keep their families safe in a disaster. He says he never wants to see such massive, preventable loss of life again.

Jean Berlin

Jean Berlin survived the Haiti earthquake. He believes it was so that he could serve others as a humanitarian and help prevent future disasters.

“If something happens in Port-de-Paix one day, now we won’t have as many victims,” he explains. “This is one way I can serve people.”

Berlin’s humanitarian service is his life mission, and the mission of World Concern.

“I can say that it is very, very important to serve people because, as Christians, we have to do what Jesus has done. Because Jesus himself, he served people too. As a Christian organization, it is our very special mission to serve people.”

We at World Concern humbly salute Jean Berlin as a dedicated humanitarian who is fulfilling his calling by serving others and protecting human life.

Listen to Jean Berlin say, in his own words, why he believes his life was spared so that he could help protect others.