Cathy Herholdt is World Concern's Senior Communications Director. With a background in journalism, Cathy honed her writing skills as a newspaper editor and now enjoys sharing the inspiring stories of those World Concern serves. She has served with World Concern since 2010.
Astrelle’s harrowing story of rescuing her elderly parents from the rubble
The terrifying moment the magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck Haiti’s southern peninsula on Aug. 14, 55-year-old Astrelle was outside the home she shares with her nine family members, including her elderly disabled parents, daughter, and infant grandson. Astrelle was getting ready to go to the market when the earth started to shake.
Mercifully, just minutes before the quaking began, her grandbaby, who was sleeping inside the house, woke up and began to cry. The baby’s mother had gone inside and brough him out. But Astrelle’s parents were still asleep inside…
Astrelle’s first instinct was to run inside the house to get her parents out, but she was thrown down by the earth moving, hitting and injuring her head on the ground. She looked up and saw the walls of the house starting to collapse with her parents inside.
One of those walls crumbled, burying her parents beneath the rubble. Miraculously, they were still alive.
“After the tremor we had to pull them out from under the rubble and they were both injured.”
“After the tremor we had to pull them out from under the rubble and they were both injured,” Astrelle said, recounting the chaos after the quake. Unable to take her parents to the hospital, she did her best to treat their injuries herself.
Despite the extensive damage to the home, the family felt they had no alternative but to sleep inside while Tropical Storm Grace dumped rain on southern Haiti. Caring neighbors gave Astrelle some salvaged metal sheets and tarps to help protect them from the storm.
Astrelle’s family lives in a small remote village, located near the epicenter of the earthquake. It’s barely accessible by road and the village itself is more than half a mile from any road. The World Concern team was the first to reach the village to assess the damage and their needs.
“This is the first time since the earthquake that an organization has come to visit us…”
“This is the first time since the earthquake happened that an organization has come to visit us,” said Astrelle’s daughter. “Hurricane Matthew had severely damaged our house, and no one helped us. We repaired it with our own means, but now the situation is beyond us and we don’t know what to do if no one comes to our rescue.”
I have a confession. I haven’t been thinking about Haiti enough. My thoughts, as they often are, seem to be consumed with my life, what’s going on in my country, my world, my family, my home, my job (which is even partly to think about Haiti), COVID numbers… the list goes on.
I want my concern for others, especially those who are suffering, to be my natural, first instinct response. But I’m selfish, and Haiti’s crisis does not hold its rightful place as first in my thoughts.
It seems like the world is not thinking about Haiti enough either.
Why is that? Are we desensitized to suffering, disasters, violence, poverty, and now see these tragedies as the norm?
I’ve been there—to Les Cayes, the hardest hit city on the southern peninsula in Haiti. I’ve been to Haiti several times, but I visited Les Cayes in 2012. It’s beautiful and hard there. It’s where I put my feet in the turquoise Caribbean waters, and ate fresh fish that came from those waters alongside fried plantain. And it’s where I met some beautiful people who have lived really hard lives.
The southern peninsula of the backwards C-shaped island is often in the direct path of Atlantic storms that form to the south and creep slowly north, gaining strength and sucking up water before unleashing furious wind and lashing rain on this and other defenseless islands.
But until the morning of August 14, earthquakes were not in the minds of many living along the southern coast. In fact, some moved from Port au Prince after the 2010 quake devastated the city, in search of safety. Their worlds were once again shaken to the core when the minute-long quaking jolted them awake.
It wasn’t until I saw the face of a distraught mother yesterday in a video our field staff shot—the vacant look of trauma in her eyes—that I was jolted awake and reminded of what’s happening in Haiti right now.
This mom, Marie, who lost her 14-year-old daughter, Marilyn, is one of thousands who lost loved ones, homes, everything.
Her circumstances and pain deserve my full attention. If nothing else, I need to pray. I need to move the people impacted by this crisis to the top of my prayer list, every day, and throughout the day.
I moved recently and while unpacking boxes, I came across this painting. I bought it in 2012 from a man who was selling his artwork on the street in Haiti. I’m going to finally frame it and hang it in my home so I can remember Haiti. Every day.
We invite you to pray with us for people suffering in Haiti, and elsewhere in the world. Visit our prayer page to join us and let us know how we can pray for you. www.worldconcern.org/prayer
A celebration took place on the banks of a riverbed in the barren region of Samburu, Kenya, a few weeks ago. Just beyond the blessing ceremony was a rare and precious sight—something previously very difficult to find in this part of the world: water. Lots of water.
The pounding seasonal rains that normally create rivers of muddy water and flood the hardened soil gushed over a newly constructed sand dam and filled a huge reservoir that now holds enough water to provide a reliable, year-round supply of clean water for nearby villages.
This is indeed something to celebrate in Samburu, and here’s why…
The plight of women in this drought-prone part of the world, who walk for miles every day to collect water for their families, is evident in the life of a mom named Lolmodooni. We joined her on her journey through prickly brush where cheetahs hunt their prey in the blazing desert heat.
When Lolmodooni reached the dry riverbed, she began to dig into the sand, smelling the wet soil for animal and human feces. Once she hit water, about two feet down, she began to scoop the grey, milky water into her 20-liter water jug. This water is not safe to drink, and likely made her children sick, but she had no choice… until now.
With the support of World Concern, the new sand dam was constructed with local community members doing much of the work. It not only provides natural filtration of the water through the sand, and a hand pump for easy access, it dramatically reduces the distance women have to walk to get water.
“We thank God for this sand dam because before we used to walk tens of kilometers in search of water and then walk back home,” said Narikuni, a 30-year-old mother of four. “It is tedious and time consuming [collecting water]. Our children were forced to stay at home and miss school because of water shortage, but now that the sand dam is less than a kilometer from our home, we will be able to get enough water and have time for other errands.”
Clean water means better health. A water source near home means safety for moms and their kids, more time in their day to do the things that matter, like work and go to school. And abundant water also means more food, a healthier diet, and income.
Sand dams raise the water table, so they are an effective way to regenerate soil, enabling vegetation to grow. With this, the communities can be trained to grow vegetables which will improve nutrition and lower food costs. Vegetables can also be sold at the local market, generating income for families in the village.
So, why not just dig a well in the village? In an area like Samburu, digging wells is not always possible. The water table may be too low, and the water is often brackish, making it not fit for human consumption.
World Concern uses innovative approaches to provide clean water, depending on the context, location, and needs. In areas where it rains very little and wells are not possible or cost prohibitive, sand dams offer a possible solution.
A sand dam consists of a concrete wall built on a seasonal riverbed. With time, sand builds up on the dam. Beneath the sand, water is stored and protected from evaporation. It also filters the water and makes it clean. A well installed with a handpump is usually constructed on the banks of the same river since the water table is raised by the sand dam, and a storage tank retains clean water for quick access. Watch this animated video to see how sand dams work.
Abundant, clean water in a place like Samburu is indeed reason to celebrate. You can be a part of making clean water a reality in a remote village. To learn more, visit www.worldconcern.org/water.
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground…” Isaiah 44:3
This article contains advertorial content provided by World Concern for promotional purposes.
When Angelina Agol gave birth to twin boys, she was overjoyed. But her joy turned to panic when she realized that her weakened, undernourished body couldn’t produce milk to feed her babies.
Angelina and her newborn twins were starving.
In South Sudan, where Angelina lives, the vast majority of families struggle to find food to eat. Some are so hungry, they resort to eating leaves off trees to survive.
“There was no food to eat,” she said. “Then, these babies were born and they were suffering. I was not able to breastfeed them… that’s when World Concern came in.”
Local staff assessed the babies’ weight, growth, and nutrition levels and immediately referred them to an emergency feeding program. Angelina and her babies spent 13 days in the hospital-based program, where they were treated for severe malnutrition.
When they were stabilized and returned home, the family received emergency food and financial support.
“We were given soup, milk, fish, tomatoes, and eggplant. I also received food and recovered. I was given eggs and goat’s milk,” she said.
Her kids and her garden are not the only thing growing in Angelina’s home—her goats and chickens are multiplying too. In fact, her original female goat has given birth to twins—three times! Over a two-year period, her flock grew to 21 goats.
She started a small business making insulated containers to keep food hot or cold. And she has taught other women to do the same. Entrepreneurs like Angelina are empowered to grow their businesses and increase their income by joining a savings group.
Through these practical, life-saving gifts Angelina received, she experienced God’s incredible love for her for the first time in her life. And when she was healthy enough to learn about His son Jesus, she opened her heart to Him.
“I have now become a Christian, and I go to church regularly,” she said.
“If World Concern had not intervened, my children would have died, just like other children in this village have died,” said this grateful mom. “I was helped by World Concern. That is why my children are now healthy, and they are living.”
To give practical, life-saving gifts like the ones that helped Angelina’s family, visit World Concern’s Global Gift Guide at www.globalgiftguide.org.
Ten years ago, the community of Oltarakwai in rural Kenya, got their first taste of clean, clear drinking water from a new well, built in partnership with World Concern. Everything changed in the community.
“During the dry season, when the springs began to dry up, we had to wait overnight to get some water to take home,” recalls Namna Olorupa, a village elder, of what life was like before the well. “We also drew water from open pools which we shared with our livestock and wild animals like hyenas.”
The well was a Godsend, providing safe, accessible water to families for over a decade. “During the 2017 drought the [well] served us and up to 5 neighboring villages. They would carry their water with Donkeys and Motorbikes,” said Namna.
You can imagine the strain on the well’s handpump with hundreds of families from multiple villages using it round the clock. Maintenance on the well became more frequent, and parts for the hand pump had to be replaced often.
But this year, the well in Oltarakwai got an exciting upgrade. With the help of World Concern and Nairobi water company Davis & Shirtliff, a solar pump, tap, and 3,000-liter water storage tank were installed at the well, drastically improving its output and efficiency, reducing maintenance, and saving precious time.
No more long lines of people waiting to fill up water containers at the pump. No more strenuous pumping water constantly, and no more replacing broken or worn out pump parts.
Just clean, safe water flowing from the simple turn of a tap!
“This solar powered-water project is the best ever,” exclaimed Mayiani Meyagari, a joyful community member. “We no longer have to strain as we pump water like before. With the new tap, we now take less time fetching water. We are now utilizing the extra time in our kitchen gardens and making beaded artwork for sale.’’
‘’The water is very clean… there is now no scarcity even in the dry season,” said Kimanyisho Noolbariko, who also lives in the village.
“We are no longer worried about tomorrow; where our next source of water will come from.”
– Elder Namna
Elder Namna says he sees a brighter future for his village because of the well improvements. “There is so much water being pumped by the solar pump. I see a lot of potential. It can even be used to do small scale irrigation. We are no longer worried about tomorrow; where our next source of water will come from,” he said.
“God has used you to bring this project to us. Every kid that is born from this year will grow up testifying of the goodness of this water.”
– Elder Meyagari
Another village elder, Meyagari ole Salankat, credits God for this transformation. “God has used you to bring this project to us. Every kid that is born from this year will grow up testifying of the goodness of this water. This protected water will save us from water borne diseases like typhoid. My village was blessed to have the original hand pump. We prayed for you, and see, God has worked through you … we now have a better water project.”
On average, it costs just $20 to provide clean water to one person. To find out how you can help deliver safe drinking water to a village like Oltarakwai, visit www.worldconcern.org/water
For Sokina Begum, a young mom in rural Bangladesh, it’s not the threat of a deadly virus that keeps her up at night – it’s the cries of her children and the hunger pains in her own stomach.
The government lockdown in Bangladesh means her family is crowded together inside their tiny shack that’s part of a slum for landless, poor beggars. It also means she’s forbidden to leave the house to work. Sokina’s husband is crippled and unable to work, and her two daughters, ages 11 and 6, are hungry.
Before the pandemic, she was earning about $2.35 a day collecting fish, which was enough to feed her family and even send her eldest daughter to school. But now, there’s no way to work, and their food supply had run out.
“If I do not work a day, our food and other things are uncertain. It has been more than 25 days. I have no work and I don’t have any savings,” said Sokina. “I can’t go to work anywhere. I am living a helpless life in this situation. My children are crying for food.”
But a ray of hope arrived at her door when World Concern staff delivered emergency food and hygiene supplies.
World Concern teams delivered emergency food packages to 480 families in Sokina’s neighborhood. Each family received 16 pounds of rice, 7 pounds of potatoes, 2 pounds of onions, plus lentils, oil, and salt.
“I believe this package came from God for our survival,” proclaimed Sokina, who believes the food came just in time. “Otherwise, we may have died.”
In addition to food packages, 4,000 masks and 3,000 bars of soap were distributed to families in need. Handwashing stations were also set up around villages, and important Coronavirus prevention information was broadcast over megaphones attached to rickshaws.
Father of four, Shajahan Bayati, also received emergency food and supplies for his family. Within a week of the lockdown, they had completely run out of food. Shajahan tried operating his rickshaw to earn some money, but was sent back home by the police.
He was grateful to receive the desperately-needed food.
“It feels really good at that moment because I had nothing to eat,” he said. “Now we can have three full meals a day for a week and my children will be very happy.”
In Bangladesh, distributions are done house-to-house to avoid crowds, and staff and beneficiaries maintain safe distances and wear personal protection, such as masks and gloves.
In countries like Laos, where rural farmers already struggle to earn sufficient income from the rice crops so many depend on for food, the COVID-19 crisis is making matters worse. Food supplies, market pricing, and distribution are all unstable.
To help ensure families have enough to eat, 270 farmers in 8 villages recently received 30 kilograms of rice seeds. Rice banks will be established in the villages, and these farmers will, in turn, 35 kilograms of their harvested seeds so that more farmers can borrow and benefit as well.
“We are thankful to World Concern for giving us this high-yield and quality variety of rice,” said one of the farmer, Mr. Bounkert.
As the pandemic worsens in developing countries, like Somalia, where COVID-19 comes on the heels of drought and locust infestations, food prices are skyrocketing and livestock herds diminishing. Hungry children received emergency nutrition packets that save lives and restore malnourished little ones to health.
As families and communities in the world’s poorest places do their best to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting social interactions and staying home, the very activities they depend on to survive are also limited, leading to hunger and despair.
Though most businesses are being impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, one Northwest business is keeping morale high and not letting up their commitment to giving back and serving others.
Josh Bayles, branch manager at Capstone Home Loans in Lynnwood, Washington, says he’s grateful to be working during this time when so many have lost jobs and livelihoods, and that the mortgage industry is doing well right now.
“Our whole team is working overtime, lowering rates through refinances, and helping clients purchase homes,” he said.
In addition to supporting multiple local charities such as the Everett Gospel Mission and Olive Crest, through their employee-funded Community Chest Fund, Capstone is also a faithful annual sponsor and supporter of World Concern’s Free Them 5k.
“We have a special heart for World Concern and for this cause—helping rescue kids from trafficking,” said Josh. Capstone formed their own team for the 2020 Free Them 5k and set a goal to protect 100 children from trafficking, exploitation, and harm, through their team’s fundraising efforts.
This year, for the 2021 Free Them 5k, Capstone sponsored the first match, April 16-18, doubling the impact of every donation participants raised up to $2,500!
As some are pulling back from giving during this time of uncertainty, Josh says they’re committed to keeping the spirit of generosity and helping others going.
“My partners and I are men of faith and we trust God with our finances. We want to give our ‘first fruits’ back to Him from our business income and net profits,” he explains. “We have an extra responsibility and privilege to share what we’ve been given with those in need, and we’re grateful our business enables us to do that.”
To sign up for the 2021 Virtual Free Them 5k and join the fight against child trafficking, visit www.freethem5k.org.
This article contains advertorial content provided by World Concern for promotional purposes.
We’re all painfully aware of the impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on families, jobs, small businesses, the economy, and nearly every aspect of our lives. The long-term impact and ripple effect of the pandemic could be devastating for years.
The impact is even greater on the world’s poorest families and on those whose lives are already a struggle.
For us, grocery stores have remained open and the supply chain functioning. Not so in the developing world. Imagine if your only source of income and food was a market where you could sell a goat or other livestock to pay for necessities like food, water, and medicine. At the height of the pandemic, local markets shut down in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.
“People are not scared of the virus, they’re scared of not having food,” explained one World Concern program manager.
Now imagine you’re in this situation and you hear of a way to earn money in a city across the border. Someone told you there are jobs there. Your teenage daughter is healthy and strong and can make the journey. So you let her go… not knowing she’ll be sold as a slave into the sex industry.
Or, imagine a wealthier family offers to take your little girl into their home and pay for her living expenses if she’ll marry their son.
With schools closed in some of the poorest places, young boys are put to work to help support their families, and young girls are being married off. Girls who are in school are six times less likely to be married before their 18th birthday. The pandemic shut schools down across the globe. Sadly, many of those girls will not be returning to the classroom when schools reopen.
People who are hungry will do desperate things.
A crisis like this one that destroys already fragile economies and infrastructures puts those who are vulnerable to crimes like human trafficking, child marriage, abuse and exploitation, at even greater risk.
World Concern’s model of community empowerment is effective in a crisis like this, as we’re able to incorporate COVID-19 messages and hygiene promotion within our community-based programs, such as care groups, nutrition programs, savings groups, and child protection programs.
Our long-term village development work is also proving to be vital in sustaining families and communities during this unique crisis. As families have learned to diversify their livelihoods and sources of income in preparation for crises, and to grow their own vegetables and sustainable crops, they are better able to survive.
Parents who have received vital training and information on the dangers of trafficking and the harmful effects of child marriage are able to lean on that knowledge now more than ever, and avoid these risks, even in desperate times like this.
All the work that has been done—and is being done—in remote villages, crowded urban slums, and hard places beyond the end of the road, with the help of our supporters, is proving powerful and effective through crisis.
If you’re interested in helping protect the most vulnerable girls and boys from the increased danger they now face with COVID-19 and economic impacts in their communities, consider walking or running on May 8 in the 2021 Virtual Free Them 5k to stop child trafficking. Sign up here: www.freethem5k.org
January 12, 2010, is a day Haitians will never forget
“I heard a noise like a storm,” recalls Efanor Nore, World Concern Haiti Country Representative. He was driving with several other people through Haiti’s capital city Port-au-Prince when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit on January 12, 2010. The road buckled in front of him and another car smashed into the broken concrete.
He’d snapped a photo of a large white building in the city just minutes before the earthquake, not knowing it might be the last photo of the building standing.
“This building totally collapsed after,” he said, “We couldn’t even imagine how many people died in there.”
Efanor spent the next 17 hours trying to get to his family’s home in Petit Goave, just south of the city, but the roads were blocked and he had to sleep in his car. Not knowing if his family had survived, Efanor spent the night praying. “I talked to God in my heart and said, ‘Give me strength … If I am still alive, I will serve the Lord,” he prayed.
“I saw many people—women, girls, boys, and men—coming out into the street and seeking a place to rest. They were covered with dust from concrete. When they saw our car, they asked us to take them to the hospital. I felt really powerless, then I cried,” he remembers.
“When I arrived at Leogane, where the epicenter was located … a woman lay down on the ground in the middle of the street, screaming and weeping. All the communication was cut around 2 to 3 minutes later.
“It was a nightmare.”
Port-au-Prince was in ruins. Cinder block buildings crumbled into dust. While there is no official death toll, the Haitian government estimates more than 300,000 people died in the earthquake.
World Concern’s Response
No World Concern staff were lost or injured in the quake, and the Port-au-Prince office sustained minimal damage. Sleeping in tents on the rooftop for fear of aftershocks, the staff went to work immediately, distributing emergency supplies—bottled water, food, and tarps—to families in need. Over the following weeks and months, World Concern implemented a large-scale response that assisted tens of thousands of people who were affected by the disaster. A massive outpouring of generosity from donors helped meet immediate needs for shelter, water, medical care, and income, as well as plan a long-term response. It was evident it would take years to rebuild Haiti.
In the months after the quake, transitional shelters were provided to families who lost their homes, and cash grants were given to families and business owners to restart businesses that were lost, among other activities.
Since 2010, World Concern has helped numerous communities prepare for disasters in Haiti, equipping families and communities to be more resilient in the face of recurring disasters, particularly hurricanes and storms. The goal is to bring the government’s disaster plans that are in place down to individual families, where training and equipping are needed most.
“Community members have to own the process,” explains World Concern Deputy Director of Disaster Response, Maggie Konstanski. “At World Concern, we don’t see disaster as a one-time event, but always aim to leave a community more resilient and protected than before.
“When communities are truly equipped with early warning systems, trained on how to use them, and they’re owned at the community level, and an effective, safe plan is in place, it does save lives,” she says. “The community wants to protect and save themselves. We’re giving them the knowledge and tools to protect themselves.”
Is there hope to rebuild Haiti?
Despite efforts from the Haitian community, aid organizations, and the government, the unique and extensive challenges in Haiti have prolonged and even crippled rebuilding efforts. Efanor believes only about 3% of buildings in Port-au-Prince have been rebuilt in 10 years. And an estimated 38,000 people still live in tents and makeshift camps that were set up after the quake.
Corruption, gang violence, political crisis, and drugs have left the city in a state of ruin he believes is even worse than 2010.
“Gangsters occupy many places downtown. Many areas are very high risk and not accessible. Even after the earthquake people were able to operate. Now … it’s not safe at all. Most people have fled downtown– no one would want to live there. All the businesses have moved out,” he said.
But as this Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the earthquake approaches, Haiti’s president plans to unveil plans on Friday to rebuild the presidential palace that was destroyed in the earthquake. The lot where the palace once stood has remained vacant since about 2012 when the damaged building was finally demolished.
“(The design) takes into account the history and culture of Haiti,” said Efanor, who believes, “It will be a wonderful building that will remind us of the capital city of Haiti.”
Is there hope for Haiti? Efanor believes so.
“Haiti is really resilient. Even at this time of political crisis … Haitians still have hope,” he said. “They think a new day will come where people around the world will use the example of what Haiti has faced over the past 100 years of suffering to learn … The time of Haiti will come,” he said. “We continue to be an example—positively. We face more than any civilization has faced in the past. We hope to use our past experience to move forward.
“Haitians want peace. And we want solidarity. And Haitians love God. We want people to keep loving God in spite of problems, disasters, in spite of poverty, we thank God – the creator of the universe, who has a plan for the world.”
I was observing a class of preschool children joyfully singing songs and reciting the alphabet in English in a rural village in Bangladesh. Their “classroom” was a dirt courtyard between shacks, but they didn’t mind. Their bright faces were intently focused on their teacher, following her lead as she moved her hands to the rhythm of the song and mouthed the words to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
As the young teacher turned around, our eyes met and we immediately recognized each other. Her name was Salma, and I had met her three years earlier when I had spent a week in the same area interviewing young girls who were at risk of being married off as child brides.
During that first trip, I listened to many heartbreaking stories of 12 to 14-year-old girls whose parents were too poor to pay for them to attend school. Their parents felt they had no choice but to marry their daughters off to older men who could support them.
Salma was one of those girls. She was around 13 the first time we met—an innocent girl who giggled shyly with her friends as she waited for our interview. Salma told me she wanted to be a teacher, but she feared her father would marry her off. Her only hope was to stay in school.
Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. Girls who are in school are six times less likely to be married before the age of 18.
With the support and generosity of donors, World Concern provides scholarships to girls like Salma. It costs just $50 for an entire year’s tuition in a place like Bangladesh. A small amount to save a girl from the horrors of child marriage and offer her the gift of education, the ability to pursue her dreams, and escape the cycle of extreme poverty.
Salma received a scholarship, finished high school, avoided child marriage, and today, she is planning to go to college. The smile on her face says it all. She is free and full of hope for the future.
After her preschool class was dismissed, we walked to a small shop where we ran into some of the other girls I met three years earlier. Dipa and Rima were running a small business, selling beaded purses and hair clips for income. They too had received scholarships and avoided child marriage.
As I watched these beautiful, educated young women pursuing their dreams, there was no doubt in my mind—