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.
In the back of her classroom in rural Haiti, 12-year-old Dashna often puts her head down on her desk and prays. The pain in her stomach gets to be too much and she can no longer concentrate on the lesson being taught. She winces with pain and silently cries out to God for help.
Worms are ravaging Dashna’s insides, sucking away vital nutrients she needs to grow like vitamin A, and causing her excruciating pain. Can you imagine try to learn in a classroom when you are in so much pain?
This is common in places like Haiti, where children walk barefoot, drink from filthy streams contaminated by raw sewage, and parasites are rampant. Worms enter the body through dirty water, or when a child eats or touches her mouth without washing her hands after going to the bathroom. They can even enter through the soles of her feet.
Once worms enter a child’s body, they multiply and begin their painful pursuit of eating away at what little food she consumes. Sometimes, this can cause her stomach to hurt all day long.
Even more, parasites spread easily between family members living in cramped quarters with no access to toilets or a way to wash their hands. Because of this, Dashna’s two younger siblings are also sick.
The good news is that deworming medicine is inexpensive and can begin to work within hours of taking the pill. When coupled with vitamin A, which is depleted by worms, and long-term solutions like clean water, sanitation, and hygiene training, the 44-Cent Cure can prevent reinfection.
37. That’s the first number I heard when I woke up before dawn this morning to the news that another earthquake had struck Nepal and killed 37 people while I slept. A sense of dread rolled through me.
“Lord, after all they’ve been through, now another one?”
As the morning turned to afternoon here on the West Coast of the U.S., that number increased slowly to 39, then 42, and now I’m seeing 68 people have died.
68. Why does this number break my heart as much as, if not more so, than the 8,000+ lives taken by the April 25 earthquake? I guess it seems more personal. It’s easier for me to imagine a face and a name with each number when it’s smaller. Each one represents a daughter, a son, a mother, a father, a friend.
Whether it’s 8,000 or 68, each one represents a precious human life.
It also makes me sad to think of people in Nepal being so scared. I can’t imagine the terror little children and parents must have felt when the earth shook, yet again, today. That same terrifying sway of the building, as bricks fall and buildings threaten to collapse. Running into the streets, vowing this time for good not to go back inside.
“People are standing outside and they are scared,” described one of my coworkers by phone this morning from outside his hotel in Kathmandu. “I saw one woman who had been here for the first earthquake run out of the building crying. She fell to the ground and was nauseous.”
The trauma of this experience will no doubt haunt people for years.
So I pray. I pray for the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, to comfort the hearts and minds of the people in Nepal. And I pray for their hearts and minds to heal from this tragedy.
I’m encouraged by the stories of survival we’re hearing. Our staff on the ground are sharing photos and stories from people they’ve talked with in hard-hit communities.
Him Kumari was eating lunch with her 12-year-old son, the oldest of four, on April 25 when her house began to shake. She made her son run out of the house, but was not able to escape herself before it collapsed on her. Trapped beneath the rubble and boards, she went in and out of consciousness.
“When I came to, I was in the hospital,” she said. “I thought I would die as I was buried for four hours.”
Twenty-two of her neighbors did not survive. Nearly every home in her village was damaged or destroyed.
Him’s family is now living under a tarp they’ve made into a tent. She is grateful to be alive, but doesn’t know what the future holds.
Lok Shrestra is another mom whose future is uncertain. She was outside feeding her animals when the earthquake struck. Her daughter was inside their house on the second floor. Somehow, her daughter knew to stand in the doorway of her room, and as the roof collapsed and walls fell around her, she stood safely beneath the door frame.
While Lok and others will likely stay and try to rebuild in this village, many others wonder if they should start over in another place. “This looks like a different place now,” said a leader in the village. “This is not our community.”
Amidst the destruction, there is encouragement. Mark Estes, World Concern Asia Director, helped distribute supplies and aid to these moms and others in this area last week. “Walking around that community was heart wrenching – to see the loss, to see every home was just a heap of stones and sticks,” he said. “Nestled up in the foothills of the Himalayas, I can imagine what a beautiful place this would have been. I think that beauty now is surrounded by the opportunity that God gives us to serve these people.”
If you’d like to help reach families affected by the earthquakes in Nepal, providing practical help and hope to those who have lost everything, you can donate here.
The outpouring of support from donors is enabling World Concern staff to reach families in Nepal with emergency supplies and compassionate help within days of the devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck on April 25.
Although our disaster response team is enduring nerve-rattling aftershocks, sleeping on floors, and hiking for miles to reach remote villages, they are buoyed by prayers and support and excited to reach survivors with critical supplies.
“The worst hit villages are east and east southeast where we hiked in at 4:00 this morning. All homes are gone there,” wrote World Concern Asia Area Director Mark Estes in a brief update from 3,500 feet up in the Himalayan foothills. “On the move. Distribution complete for this morning.”
“One of the aftershocks sounded like a truck hitting a wall,” said Chris Sheach, deputy director of disaster response, who is coordinating World Concern’s relief efforts from Kathmandu.
Because of the quick response of donors, emergency supplies have already reached families in the village of Bhotechaur in the Sindhupalchok district, where about 1,200 families live.
Villagers described the terrifying moments after the earthquake. Tears flowed as they recalled people screaming and running from buildings as they crumbled. Rubble and the sound of Injured people were crying out for help filled the streets.
Fourteen-year-old Lesout said the scariest moment was when the shaking happened. He ran home to look for his parents. His parents were safe. But when he saw the pile of rocks and dust where his home once stood, he felt like he was in a nightmare.
“All of their belongings were covered in stones and sand,” said World Concern Program Manager Ye Win Tun. “Lesout ran to check on the homes of his friends and they were all like this.”
People are still afraid to sleep inside. One young girl pointed to a small tent where 22 people are living.
An 11-year-old girl named Pya said her parents were worried about not having food, shelter, or water. There is a stream nearby, but no water bucket to carry it with. “We drink wherever we can get water,” she said.
Working in partnership our with our Integral Alliance partners Mission East, we were able to supply families in Bhotechaur with tarps, jerrycans (water jugs), water purification tablets, cups, soap, and solar lanterns.
We’re also helping in a remote village called Khalte in Dhading district, where no other aid had arrived yet. More than 1,400 families received tarps and blankets, as well as food – rice, lentils, oil, and salt. We’ll share stories and photos from this community in the coming days.
None of this would be possible without the quick, generous response of donors who have been giving since the earthquake.
Barefoot and dressed in filthy clothes, tiny Xay refused to leave his mother’s arms to play with the other children being evaluated for the Child Survival program. At 18 months old, Xay should be running, squealing, and playing with the other children. Instead, he was pale, thin, and listless. More critically, Xay is underweight, weak, and suffered from chronic diarrhea.
We measured his arm with a special band to determine his level of malnutrition. Xay’s arm measured 11cm, indicating he is severely malnourished.
For Xay’s mother, nothing is more important than saving her son – but she doesn’t have very many solutions. She knows the food she scavenges for in the woods outside her village in rural Laos each day isn’t enough. She knows her son is hungry and sick. She knows that without enough food, her beloved son could die.
With your help, this little guy can soon be eating healthy, gaining weight, and on his way to better health – in just a few short days.
A gift of $34 will provide nourishing, healthy food for Xay and others, rescuing them from the pain and sickness that comes with not having enough to eat. In addition, Xay’s mom and others will be able to participate in a special program where they learn how to grow and prepare locally available vegetables and other easily accessible foods, providing highly nutritious meals for their children. With these simple changes, 100% of children gain weight and show measurable improvement within 12 days.
Moms also learn the importance of good hygiene, safe drinking water, and using toilets to keep their children free from sickness and disease.
The best part is, they learn from other moms who are already successfully feeding and caring for their little ones – so each mom has support from a mentor right in her own village. This helps ensure kids keep gaining weight and growing strong.
With these vital tools and training, moms like Xay’s will be equipped to keep their sons and daughters healthy, ensuring they grow strong throughout their childhood.
“You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you…” (Joel 2:26)
Because of matching grants, your gift to feed a hungry child like Xay’s will TRIPLE, helping feed three children throughout their childhood.
In most of the impoverished places where World Concern works, meeting needs starts with water. Why? Because when a mom is trying to keep her child alive, nothing else matters.
Through your gifts to provide clean water, you are the hands and feet of Jesus to these moms, meeting this critical need and opening the way for lasting transformation to take place. As you read the stories below, I hope you know how much your gift matters!
One Mom’s Story of Survival
War War knows her children are alive today because of the water you provided. For the first few years of her babies’ lives, War War did what all the moms in her village did – she retrieved water by the bucketful from the mucky, still water that sat in the pond in their village.
The water made them sick. At the same time her younger son became ill with severe diarrhea, War War herself got sick. With the help of friends and family, they eventually made the four-hour boat ride to the nearest hospital where they were treated for water-borne diseases.
In and out of consciousness, alone and fearful for her son’s life, War War learned it was the dirty water she had been giving her son that caused his sickness. She was devastated.
Thankfully, both survived. Because of you, the village now has clean water, and families like War War’s have learned the importance of good hygiene and sanitation to stay healthy.
Clean Water Changed Mohamad’s Life and Future
Clean water is changing the lives of students like 14-year-old Mohamad – helping him stay healthy and focused in school. Mohamad’s school in Somaliland (Northern Somalia) now has a tank that captures rainwater, providing plenty of fresh, clean drinking water for the students.
“Before, we didn’t have any water to drink while we were at school. We would feel thirsty, but we could not get anything to drink until we went home,” explained Mohamad.
The school now has a 6,600-gallon tank that captures rainwater through a gutter system on the roof, providing abundant clean water for students to drink and wash their hands with at school.
“Now it’s easier to learn because we have water,” said the grateful teen. “Now we are healthy.”
The Life-Changing Impact of Berkads
Many families in Somaliland now have clean water from berkads. Berkads are large concrete tanks that channel and store rainwater. With a berkad, one day of heavy rain can provide enough clean, fresh drinking water for an entire community for months. Here’s what a few people have to say about the impact of these berkads:
“Before the berkad was built, there was not enough water. We were going so far to gather water. Now that World Concern rehabilitated this berkad, it is good. When it rains, the berkad fills up and we save it for use when our water supply is low.”
– Asha, 48, mom of three
“In school we learned about hygiene—to wash our hands before we eat and to wear shoes when going to the toilets. It is good to do these things because if you don’t wash your hands and then you eat something, you will probably get a disease.”
– Sahra, 12, student in grade 2
“Before these berkads, we did not have enough water in our village. When the water ran out, we would have to travel three hours by foot to the mountains in order to gather water. These berkads provide us enough water. They also benefit us as we earn income to help build them. We very much appreciate the berkads because we now have enough water to cover our needs.”
– Sahra, 30, mom of three
The stories above show just how much your gifts matter. Clean water not only saves and transforms lives, but also brings immeasurable joy to families in need.
With the support of our donors, lives were saved, protected, and transformed in some of the world’s poorest places in 2014. Hungry families were fed, people in crisis were given shelter, and entire communities received abundant clean water.
One of the biggest challenges of 2014 was reaching families displaced by civil war in South Sudan. The problems affecting the world’s newest nation are extremely complex. Many families are still homeless, living in tents or under trees with no shelters. Prices have skyrocketed because of the war, leaving poor families unable to buy food or essential commodities. There is also a looming threat of famine – because they were displaced during the rainy season, many were not able to plant crops. As a result, the annual hunger gap, which is fast approaching in April, is expected to be worse than usual.
Achol was nine months pregnant when she fled with her children after fighting broke out in her village in South Sudan’s Unity State. “I ran when I heard gunfire and saw people running,” she said. “I left with nothing.” Achol gave birth outside – alone – after arriving in a makeshift camp. “I had no food and no blankets. I delivered my baby and spent two days outside. Then I made this shelter,” she said, looking up at the flimsy tent made of sticks and tarps that sheltered her children.
Donations in 2014 helped provide food, shelter, and emergency assistance for many families like Achol’s. Now, families like hers need to move beyond life-saving, emergency aid and rebuild their lives with plans for a better future. As we usher in the new year, we are leading communities in South Sudan to move beyond crisis and relying on short-term hand-outs towards lasting change. Our focus in 2015 includes long-term initiatives, such as:
Providing seeds, tools, and training in sustainable agriculture to farmers
Sharing peacebuilding skills and reconciliation in communities torn apart by violence
Educating children, turning their dreams of a better future into real opportunities
It’s clear that the situation is South Sudan is complex. People like Achol face immense challenges and have great needs. But at World Concern, we refuse to shy away from complex problems because things are too hard. Rather, we tackle these challenges head-on, walking alongside the families in South Sudan into recovery and helping them rebuild their lives.
Though these situations can seem hopeless and overwhelming, we put our full confidence in God – He alone can change lives and circumstances. He can bring peace to any situation, and nothing is too complex for Him. He has called us to be His hands and feet, and equips us with what we need to help the families in South Sudan and other challenging places. As we enter 2015, we rely on the ongoing support of our donors to help families and communities to move beyond crisis towards restoration, healing, and transformation.
Seventeen-year-old Leh bounded into the office of the village leader in her rural Laotian community with a handful of money, beaming with pride.
“I sold all of my sticky stick snacks in just an hour!” exclaimed the ecstatic teen. She held up her earnings, which she planned to share with her friends who helped her sell the snacks.
Leh’s village is just a few miles from the border of Thailand. Young girls often disappear after crossing the border into Thailand to look for work. Many are trafficked into Thailand’s insidious sex tourism industry. Others are forced to work for no pay, or other forms of exploitation. Three of Leh’s older siblings have gone to Thailand in search of work. When her father passed away three years ago, she considered doing the same thing so she could help support her disabled mother.
We’re offering alternatives—helping provide job skills and awareness training for girls like Leh in this region to earn income close to home and stay safe. Leh recently participated in cooking classes at World Concern’s youth center. That’s where she learned how easy it was to prepare sticky sticks. She knew immediately she could start a small business selling the tasty treats.
Leh was determined and started her business with $2 she saved to purchase a sack of flour, sugar, and oil. She sold her first batch of sticky sticks at the school during the students’ break time for 10 cents each. In just one hour, she had earned $5—a profit of $3 for an hour of selling.
“Doing this makes me happy,” she said, after several weeks of operating her snack business. “I wake up at 5:00 a.m., do my chores, and start cooking at 8:00 a.m.” She’s home by 11 a.m. with the day’s profits in hand.
“Thank you not only for changing my life but also my family’s life,” said Leh. “I am very grateful to the project for guiding me in choosing the right path and for securing my future and making me safe.”
Leh is sharing what she learned with her friends, and is now an active member of the youth campaign in her village that helps raise awareness about human trafficking.
So many of the issues we face combating poverty are incredibly complex. Thankfully, some are simpler to solve than others.
Parasites cause children to suffer and families to struggle. Sickness, absenteeism from school, loss of work for parents, malnutrition—all of these things worsen poverty. But the ripple effect of deworming medicine makes it one of the most effective ways to fight poverty. It’s so simple, and it costs just 44 cents.
Luxmi, a mom of two living in the Rishipara slum of Bangladesh’s capital city, was overjoyed to learn that World Concern was distributing deworming medicine in her neighborhood. Her children were constantly suffering from stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, and the effects of malnutrition. At a time in their young lives when they should have been growing and thriving, parasites were feeding off their bodies, sucking the vital nutrients from their food, and causing intense pain.
As soon as her children took the medicine, they started to feel better. “After a few days, their health problems vanished,” Luxmi said.
They are healthier, happier, and full of energy. They’re even completing their chores enthusiastically—something any mom loves to see!
“This tablet saved my daughter’s life”
Amidst the muddy, narrow streets and dilapidated shacks Kalyani and her neighbors call home, toilets are almost nonexistent. Diseases like diarrhea and parasites spread rapidly.
Kalyani’s daughters were sick and malnourished. Her infant daughter was extremely weak and suffered from constant stomach pains. Since Kalyani could not afford medicine, she had taken her little one to the local monk for help, but her daughter’s symptoms only worsened.
A few months ago, each member of Kalyani’s family received deworming medicine, and the results were dramatic. Her youngest daughter’s stomach pains completely stopped, and she started absorbing nutrients from her food. Today, she is a healthy, smiling little girl—full of life and bounding with energy.
“This tablet saved my daughter’s life,” exclaimed a grateful Kalyani.
With healthy kids, Kalyani can now focus on growing her small business and paying for her older daughters to attend school.
When children are free from parasites, it opens the way to addressing the larger problems of sanitation, hygiene, and access to clean water. That’s how a simple pill helps combat poverty.
There are some places in this world that are difficult places to live. The desert of Northern Somalia (Somaliland) is one of those places. The only thing interrupting the endless view of sand, rocks, and tumbleweeds is an occasional range of low mountains along the horizon. In the middle of the desert, clusters of homes comprise tiny villages. Once a week, the women from these towns walk for an entire day to the hills to get water—the only source of clean water for miles.
“It is so far,” explained Shamse, a young mom who lives here in the desert. “I walk from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and still only return with a few jerry cans – whatever I can manage to carry.”
The water she manages to bring home last only a few days. When the jerry cans run out, Shamse and her children are forced to drink salty, contaminated water from a nearby hole in the ground. “It makes us sick,” she said.
Many children in this community have died from diarrhea and other water-borne diseases. “As a mother, I feel so sad,” she said. “But there is no doctor here when the children get sick.”
Shamse’s conflict depicts the life-or-death dilemma that many others in the community face every day. The nearest access to clean water is a long and arduous day’s journey away, but local water sources are contaminated and unsuitable for human consumption. It’s a threat that fills Shamse with dread and exhausts her even before she rises from her sleeping mat.
But there is a solution, and it starts with a gift from above — rainwater.
In this region, it rains as little as two or three days a year. But when it does, it rains hard—often causing flooding, as the dry desert ground cannot absorb so much water all at once. Check out this video clip of a flash flood in Somaliland.
We help communities build large underground water storage tanks called berkads. These berkads collect, channel, and filter torrents of rainwater, capturing it for use between rains. The result of just one day of rain: enough clean, fresh drinking water for an entire community for months. In fact, one berkad can hold up to 80,000 gallons of water – that’s enough water not just for drinking, but also for growing crops and keeping livestock healthy and alive.
With berkads, moms like Shamse have access to clean drinking water that is safe for their children and close to home. Some women are even able to earn income from selling the water if a berkad is built near their home.
Along with this life-saving source of water, we provide hygiene training and improved sanitation (latrines and toilets), leading to better health for families in need.
We’ve seen this system work in other communities in the region, but there are many more families waiting for clean water. You can be a part of this and help needy communities build berkads and other sources of water — bringing help and hope to Shamse and others.
Providing clean water for families is the first step to move beyond barely surviving, and toward lasting change. Your gift saves lives and transforms communities long-term. In addition, your year-end gift by Dec. 31 will be matched, dollar for dollar, providing clean, life-saving water to twice as many children and families.
Every year, Reneé Smith’s family draws names for their Christmas gift exchange. It just so happened that in 2012, it was Reneé’s turn to buy a gift for her sister-in-law Patti.
Patti was battling a recurrence of breast cancer that had spread to her bones and liver. Christmas would be different for everyone that year.
“The news was devastating for all of us,” recalled Reneé.
Patti’s loving and generous spirit was evident in her family relationships. She was a wonderful mom and aunt to her nieces and nephews, and a former preschool teacher who loved children. But she was also an introvert—a quiet person who struggled to come to terms with the fact she was dying.
“She was terrified of dying and leaving her kids and her husband,” said Reneé.
Reneé felt led to help Patti, but their personalities where so different, and she felt unsure of how best to help. She started by just showing up. They lived three hours apart, but Reneé made the trek to Ridgefield, Wash., from her home in Gig Harbor every other weekend to help take care of Patti.
Over time, Reneé’s calling became clearer through three words she constantly felt impressed on her heart: “Love her extravagantly.” With each chemo visit, the bond between the sisters-in-law grew. Eventually, Patti allowed Reneé to bathe her and care for her in intimate ways.
Reneé started a Facebook page called “Pray for Patti Peace” (Patti’s last name is Peace) where friends and loved ones could stay updated on Patti’s condition. The group had about 100 members who posted regular messages for Patti. It became a great source of encouragement during the dark days of cancer treatment.
As Christmas drew near, Reneé often thought about Patti’s gift. “What do you get a dying person for Christmas?” she wondered.
One day, they were out shopping, surrounded by Christmas displays. They stopped at a table stacked with toys and Patti said to Reneé, “I don’t want any presents this year. I’d rather just help kids.”
That moment, Reneé had an idea. Rather than trying to find a gift that Patti wouldn’t be able to use, Reneé decided to fulfill her sister-in-law’s wish to help children.
World Concern’s Global Gift Guide had arrived in the mail and Reneé scoured it for ideas. “I got so excited. I was seeing all these gifts to help children get an education and animals to help them earn income and feed themselves. I knew this would bless Patti’s heart,” she said.
Reneé and her husband had a set budget for gifts. “Then I thought, wouldn’t it be neat if I had a whole lot more money? What if Patti could help a whole village? It dawned on me that she had all these Facebook followers on her page,” said Reneé.
Not wanting to spoil the surprise by posting on the page, Reneé emailed everyone she had addresses for and asked if they wanted to participate. Within a few days, Reneé had received almost $500 for Patti’s gift.
“It was just amazing to me. Even people who didn’t know Patti, had not ever met her, wanted to show love to her in this way and let them know they cared,” said Reneé. “I’m a church secretary and people would walk in the door and say, ‘Here’s $20 for Patti’s animals,’ or message me saying, ‘I’m mailing in a check.’”
Reneé was able to give 40 chickens, 24 ducks, two goats, and two pigs (all with vaccinations, feed, and supplies) in Patti’s name to help children living in places like rural Kenya, Myanmar, and Haiti.
She could hardly wait for Christmas. Reneé bought stuffed animals to symbolize each gift, and put a tag on each one with a note describing the impact of her gift, “In the name of Patti Peace, a child will receive ducklings, which will provide income and nutrition for years to come.”
On Christmas morning, Patti opened each gift and read each tag aloud.
Reneé will never forget Patti’s joy-filled response. “She looked up at me with tears rolling down her face and mouthed the words, ‘thank you.’”
“It felt like the best gift anyone could give her,” said Reneé.
Patti passed away in February, but Reneé and the entire family are comforted by the fact her memory will live on through the life-changing gifts given in her honor to children in need.
The Christmas season is upon us again, and like Patti’s gifts, yours can also have a memorable and lasting impact on children in need. You can look through the Global Gift Guide to find ways to change lives this Christmas and bring joy to your own.