Cathy Herholdt is World Concern's Marketing and 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.
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, but the mortgage industry has not been immune to the current crisis.
“We’ve seen a reduction in the variety of loan options we can offer,” he said. “But our whole team is working overtime, lowering rates through refinances, and helping clients purchase homes. And, believe it or not, people are still buying homes right now!”
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 has formed their own team for the Free Them 5k and have set a goal to protect 100 children from trafficking, exploitation, and harm, through their team’s fundraising efforts.
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 2020 Virtual Free Them 5k and join the fight against child trafficking, visit www.freethem5k.org.
We’re all painfully aware of the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on families, jobs, small businesses, the economy, and nearly every aspect of our lives. The long-term impact and ripple effect of this virus could be devastating for many months.
The impact will be even greater on the world’s poorest families and on those whose lives are already a struggle.
For us, the grocery stores remain open and the supply chain is 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. Now the government has had to close that market 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.
Families who live in countries on lockdown can’t leave their home to work, or sell goods for income.
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.
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 9 in the 2020 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—
Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.”
Many of you have heard the sad news of the death of a World Concern staff member in South Sudan. Akol Akol was playing soccer and sustained an injury, was rushed to the local hospital where he died 30 minutes later. He was a much beloved staff member who knew the Lord, and worked as a peace maker in his community.
Peter Macharia, our Africa Area Director, wrote this word of tribute:
“I’ll miss Akol Akol. He started soccer teams in Magai and Mayen and the young team loved it a lot. Through soccer he would share the love of Christ and engage young men on how to better their lives and stay away from crime. When I last visited South Sudan he asked me for more soccer balls. He also brought me his new wife to say ‘hi.’ They were expecting a baby.
He was deeply loved by all those that met him. He was also deeply passionate about his work, loved World Concern, was always eager to learn, and full of laughter. When he joined World Concern in 2012, he couldn’t speak a word of English, but within a very short time, he would engage in an English conversation as if it was his mother tongue. He longed to see Magai and Mayen transformed. We will definitely miss him. We are praying for his dear wife.”
Our team in South Sudan thanks you for your prayers. They spent today with Akol Akol’s family. We are praying for God’s comfort and the peace that passes all understanding to stand guard over their hearts. Through it all, we trust in the goodness and mercy of our Lord, knowing that this is not the end. We take comfort in that blessed hope of life everlasting with our Lord.
We are so grateful for the opportunity to have known and served with such a kind and good heart. We pray now for his family and our precious team in South Sudan as they grieve this great loss.
Every parent knows what it’s like to care for a sick child—the uncertainty, the frustration, even the fear.
For me, what always gets me is the moment I realize I can’t comfort my son. Or when he complains about something that I can’t possibly solve on my own. It’s heartbreaking because I want to be his protector, his hero, and make everything right again.
Most parents would gladly trade places with a sick child. And this is Alexi’s lament right now.
“When my son gets sick, it’s like I am sick too,” he says as his little boy sits quietly on his knee.
Lew is Alexi’s youngest (and sickest) son. All his children have been sick at one time or another, and all with the same symptoms—severe diarrhea, constant nausea, horrible stomach pain. This father is very familiar with effects of intestinal worms, some of which come and go, but Lew’s problems are persistent. And the worms are refusing to move.
“He’s really suffering right now,” Alexi tells me. “If it’s not the pain in his tummy, it’s the fevers. It’s one or the other and I don’t know what to do.”
This father of six lives in Haiti, high up in the hills and far removed from anything we would describe as livable. There is no medical clinic in this village, not even running water. There are no faucets. No flushing toilets. No place to bathe.
This is why Lew is so sick. The dirty water and unsanitary conditions are the perfect breeding ground for parasites. These nasty worms are now multiplying in Lew’s belly and sapping all the nutrients from his tiny body. The cure for this horrible condition?
But Alexi can’t afford it, and that was the reason I was visiting him. Thanks to the generosity of donors, World Concern is distributing these life-changing tablets to hundreds of sick Haitian kids.
How the 44-Cent Cure Saves Lives
The 44-Cent-Cure is the most cost-effective solution to poverty’s biggest problem.
Within days of taking the pill the worms are dead, Lew is cured, nutrients are being absorbed back into his body and he’s able to return to school and enjoy life as a happy, healthy child.
Alexi is a farmer, or at least was until Hurricane Matthew destroyed his crops.
Now, Alexi survives day-to-day, working odd jobs to scrape together enough money for the occasional meal and to send his kids to school. He’s planted some corn and some grain, but the plants are not even close to harvest yet.
So this single father does what he can and puts on a brave face. Yet he admits even this is getting harder and harder to do. Especially since Lew has been so sick.
“I am responsible for him and have no time to cry,” he whispers, not wanting his son to hear how difficult things are. “I must work.”
After a few days, the pill that we gave Lew killed all the worms in his belly. His fevers are now gone. The nausea and diarrhea are gone. And Alexi is able to return to work.
Alexi and I have something in common. We are both dads and dearly love our kids. We love Jesus. We both work. And we both want our families to be healthy.
After praying together, Alexi and I shook hands. And that’s when his story really hit home for me. Our hands could not have been more different. His are strong; his palms calloused and his fingers tough and weathered. Mine are the exact opposite. We have lived vastly different lives.
The biggest difference though? I am in a position to help. To learn more about how you can give the 44-cent cure and help cure a child, click here.
I woke up last Saturday morning in my 72 degree house, safe in my cozy bed. Birds chirping outside my window and thoughts of doing yard work today on this peaceful Saturday.
Little did I know, at that very moment, gunfire was erupting in a town in South Sudan. Bodies were strewn in the streets and families were running for their lives to the bush.
But God knew, and He redirected my thoughts. I had fallen asleep the night before reading an intense book about World War II. My pleasant early-morning meditations were interrupted by images of the horrors people suffer in war—especially children, who don’t understand what’s happening around them. All they know is that their parents are scared, chaos surrounds them, and “home” is wherever they can find a place to curl up and sleep that night.
These images haunted me as I got up to pour a cup of coffee. As a mom, I have such a strong instinct to protect my children. My heart aches for moms who are unable to keep their children safe. And it’s happening to millions of children around the world today.
Working at World Concern, I have to be mindful not to become anesthetized to the circumstances I hear about every day. A mother scooping up her child and fleeing gunfire in terror. Waking up the next day on the hard ground, enveloped in sweltering heat to hear her child crying because of hunger pains. Panic when she realizes the child is not just hungry, but sick with fever.
I can’t ever let this become “normal” to me.
I took a sip of my coffee and thought of the people in South Sudan whose tragic circumstances seem to get worse each day. A colleague who had recently returned from a visit told me he saw children picking leaves off of trees to eat to quell the hunger pains. I felt sick. He showed me a video he’d shot on his iPhone of a 14-year-old girl scooping scum-covered water from a hole in the ground, bees swirling around her head as she waited for the hole to fill up again.
“Sometimes I wait several hours for enough water to fill the hole again so I can scoop more,” she told him.
I pondered this as I sipped my cream-sweetened coffee, which suddenly tasted extraordinarily decadent.
And then I pick up my phone to see an email that our team was evacuated as violence erupted in Wau town, the base for several new villages in our One Village Transformed program. I prayed for the hundreds of families who lost loved ones in the fighting and for those who had fled in terror.
Earlier this month, I had barely noticed the automatic withdrawal from my checking account. $33. That’s my humble gift each month to that 14-year-old girl’s village outside of Wau.
It’s not much. I spent about that on a new shower curtain liner and cat litter at Fred Meyer yesterday.
But I felt a twinge of relief when I thought about that gift this morning. God reminded me I was doing something. That $33, combined with yours and someone else’s and others, is enough to do some amazing things in this one village. Not just a meal far better than leaves for today, but empowerment for the parents in her village to plant colorful, vibrant vegetable gardens that will supply many nutritious meals. It will help them dig a well where she can collect cool, fresh, disease-free water every day—without having to wait for a mud puddle to fill up. It will enable her to attend school, learn to read and write. And she’ll be introduced to a group of neighbors who meet twice a week under the shade of a giant tree to sing worship songs and study the Bible in her native language, allowing this child of war to experience peace in the midst of turmoil.
She will see her neighbors working and starting small businesses and thinking about the future, and it will all be new and different and hope-filled. She will begin to see the possibility for a better life and focus beyond waiting for the water hole to fill or picking leaves from a tree to eat.
I’ll never miss that $33 from my checking account each month. But it will mean a child of war is fed and cared for and a village in South Sudan is transformed.
In a small village in rural Bangladesh, a team of strong fishermen wade through the neck-deep water of the village pond they share as a fish farm. Underneath the water’s calm, murky surface, calloused hands work tediously to reel in the rope that holds an increasingly heavy fishing net. One of those hands, belonging to a fisherman named Muhammad, is crimped—his fingers fused in the shape of a claw. But he is all smiles as he uses this hand to skillfully hook the net, now filled with hundreds of fish jumping out of the water.
For Muhammad, who has endured many hardships, not least of which was being robbed, beaten, and left for dead while working as a tuk tuk driver some 15 years ago, he is grateful to have a business that earns him a sustainable income.
“I cannot do anything else,” Muhammad reflects as he reveals his hand that’s been disfigured since the attack that left him permanently maimed. “So I chose this profession … my hand is like a hook for pulling in the ropes,” he says confidently.
Muhammad has been receiving business loans, support, and training from World Concern since two years after the attack. Prior to that, he was unable to work and therefore unable to provide for his family.
Muhammad’s wife, who cannot help but smile each time her husband looks at her proudly, recalls that time with tears in her eyes. “I cannot express how sad I felt. We were helpless and I could not do much. Our brother helped support us.”
It wasn’t until World Concern came to Muhammad’s village that he began to see the possibility to make a fresh start for himself. Today, Muhammad is not only a successful fish farmer, but he also raises ducks in a large pond on his property.
“Before, I was so poor,” Muhammad says, “and then World Concern came and encouraged me and helped me get started again.”
Muhammad and his loving wife work together to support themselves as well as Muhammad’s brother’s children—generously repaying the family that supported them for so long.
What does fatherhood look like?
It looks like a loving, supportive uncle raising and caring for his brother’s children.
It looks like a husband who adores his wife and in a culture of arranged marriage that often results in lack of respect for spouses.
It looks like Muhammad, who works tirelessly to provide for and ensure a better future for his family.