Give A Goat – A Goat Donation Works!

This is Thermogene, a widow in Haiti. Give A Goat and help someone like her. Because someone decided to donate a goat, she has reason to smile.
This is Thermogene, a widow in Haiti. Give A Goat and help someone like her. Because someone decided to donate a goat, she has reason to smile.

Hope for many people has four legs and goes “Maaa!” It is time again to Give A Goat!

I bring this up because it is time once again to consider goats, and to invite them into our lives. I will buy several this year, even though I live in a city, and have nowhere for them to roam. I will buy several as Christmas presents for family, and turn them over to people who desperately need them. Give A Goat! It is truly Humanitarian Aid.

I recently took a trip with World Concern to visit Haiti, a country filled with wonderful people who struggle to eat, learn and find work. Then, last summer, three hurricanes and a tropical storm further ravaged the country.

I met families in Haiti who live on resources that would baffle most people. It is not unusual for someone to stake their livelihoods on a couple of goats, but that is exactly what people I met are forced to do.

I met a sweet grandmother in Haiti named Thermogene who lost everything – EVERYTHING – she owns in the hurricanes, including goats, and she was left without an income. For Thermogene, an income comes from raising a few animals, including goats. And the storm killed every animal.

When I met Thermogene, it was about 100 degrees. I was hot. It was dusty. She was dressed in her best clothes. She was ecstatic. What in the world would make this woman smile so much?

Someone decided to give a goat to her through World Concern’s Global Gift Guide.

Thermogene received two goats from World Concern, and with it she will be able to sell milk and sell the kids, when her goats have babies. People who donated through World Concern also gave her fruit trees.

These are such simple gifts. It is easy to donate – to Give A Goat. To Thermogene and so many others, goats provide life.

Check out goats and the rest of the Global Gift Guide at www.worldconcern.org/ggg

Humanitarian Aid In Asia – All Mapped Out

World Concern’s humanitarian aid programs in Asia run the gamut, from disaster response, to job training, to education. I had the chance recently to document our programs in Asia over the course of 40 days. Today I mapped it out on Google. Follow along and learn about what World Concern does in the lives of the poor.

Click on the image to explore a map and get a tour of World Concern's humanitarian projects in Asia.
Click on the link below to explore a map and get a tour of World Concern's humanitarian projects in Asia.

View World Concern Journey Across Asia in a larger map

Radio Personality Brings Spirit to Kenya

Seattle radio personality Matt Case is visiting World Concern's humanitarian projects in Kenya.
Seattle radio personality Matt Case is visiting World Concern's humanitarian projects in Kenya.

My friend Matt Case has temporarily left his job behind a microphone to see what life is like in African villages. Matt is the mid-day radio host on Christian radio station Spirit 105.3 in Seattle and has joined World Concern to visit some of our humanitarian aid projects in Kenya. He just arrived on Sunday and has completed his first full day in the field. The goal of this trip is to equip Matt with the truth: Compelled by Christ’s love, we can transform the lives of the poor and offer them hope.

In this first day, Matt has seen World Concern’s Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) program. He’s met widows and boys and girls who have lost their parents because of AIDS. World Concern is helping equip orphans and their new guardians to live healthy and productive lives.

Here’s a cool note I just received from Matt, with explanatiory notations from me:

Here in Narok (small town near a wildlife refuge) at the Chambi Hotel right now sitting with Sakuda (a World Concern staff member) … finished dinner after a long long hot and dusty day in the field! Did an OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) in-home visit…WOW!!! Local church pastor took us there with WC and it was amazing.

Then off to two sites……Empura and then Endoinyio Narasha welcomed by the kids and teachers singing. Kids are amazing and the love that we see there is fantastic! God is at work big time here. Saw clean water well, a bank, and I bought in and became a member of the bank with 3 shares!!! It was a long hot day and seeing the two widows on the OVC was a hard one on the heart. Took some toys to the kids and then we were all invited to join in in a traditional Massai dance…Yeah Dave Eller (World Concern’s president) was getting down!!! (Right on!) I have video to prove it!!!

Big day tomorrow so I must get going…I think its time for a tea (every day, several times a day) and Sakuda is telling the Mizungo (white person) is on the internet!!! Great times and we’ll try to email if we can. Internet has been down in Narok for 2 weeks I guess??? Not like home with wi fi EVERYWHERE…T.I.A (Truth in Action?) …this is Africa!

The internet connection kind of stinks where Matt is right now, but whenever he gets a chance, he’s posting to his Facebook page and shooting me a more detailed message as well. So check in a little later to this blog and get an update on his adventure in Africa!

Join Matt and support the work of World Concern in serving HIV and AIDS orphans.

World Concern provides support for those orphaned or vulnerable because of HIV and AIDS.
World Concern provides support for those orphaned or vulnerable because of HIV and AIDS.


Success with Humanitarian Aid in Kenya

World Concern President Dave Eller spends time reading to Maasai boys in Kenya. World Concern works with the Maasai to provide many aspects of sustainable humanitarian aid.
World Concern President Dave Eller spends time reading to Maasai boys in Kenya. World Concern works with the Maasai to provide many aspects of sustainable humanitarian aid.

Here’s a handy tip for keeping elephants from eating your garden: You should install several low-voltage electric lines close together along your fence. If they are spaced wide, the elephant will rip one out, reach between, and eat your vegetables.

That gardening trip is from World Concern President Dave Eller, who has returned to Kenya to get an update on our projects. Dave and his family lived in Kenya for several years, as Dave served as the country director. It was refreshing for Dave to arrive and see many successes in a variety of areas of Humanitarian Aid. As an executive, he often deals with problems and doesn’t get to relish the victories.

Here is some of what he’s seen:

  • Maasai herders are learning how to farm.  This year they built a one acre farm behind a solar electric fence and the first crop has been harvested. With dwindling availability for open rangeland, it is important for the Maasai to think beyond what they’ve done in the past (herding) and look to new opportunities (agriculture, small business). It was at this pilot project farm that Dave saw the low-voltage electric fence to keep out elephants.
  • Stigma against AIDS orphans is way down. The children are being accepted by the community after World Concern’s educational and support services began five years ago. World Concern has reached 5,000 children and is preparing to turn over this particular orphans project to churches to run indefinitely on their own.  Many of the volunteers providing the Humanitarian Aid are from Christian churches, and the outlook from the orphans has grown much more hopeful.
  • We now have seven Financial Service Associations, also known as village banks. The first five are making a profit and adding services.  Three are doing phone money transfers, all are cashing third party checks and offering over night safe storage. One of them is a post office and they are setting up direct deposit with government agencies.  These are in addition to the basic services of savings and loans.
  • World Concern Kenya’s newest Humanitarian Aid project focuses on water and sanitation, including in a community called Lamu, which is on the Somalia border. After water surveys, five hand-dug wells have begun. Three of them have struck water and are complete.  The other two should be done soon.  Water committees are in training and sanitation training has started.  This is a large scale project meant to provide clean and consistent water to 98,000 people over the next three years.

Dave will soon be joined by Matt Case, a radio host on Spirit 105.3 in Seattle. We want people to know of this fantastic Humanitarian Aid, so we can grow our resources and help more people reach their full God-given potential.

A Maasai herdsman provides water for his goats at a World Concern water pan, a pond dug to retain water even in the dry season.
A Maasai herdsman provides water for his goats at a World Concern water pan, a pond dug to retain water even in the dry season.

Not A Moment of Humanitarian Excellence

World Concern's Humanitarian Aid outreach in Vietname includes employing people with disabilities. They show time and again that they have much to offer.
World Concern's Humanitarian Aid outreach in Vietname includes employing people with disabilities. This young man works in a photocopy shop and handles customers with ease, yet he couldn't easily find work elsewhere because of a slight deformation.

I always want to give somebody, or even a company, the benefit of the doubt. But it seems that there may be a pretty big problem here.

If you haven’t seen it, someone else has decided to sue trendy clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for disability discrimination. A beautiful young woman in London named Riam Dean claims that she was forced to work in the stockroom in the back of the store because she has a prosthetic arm. Dean was born without her left forearm and says she has not experienced this kind of discrimination before.

From a Guardian article about the case:

Dean claims that when she told A&F about her disability after getting the job, the firm agreed she could wear a white cardigan to cover the link between her prosthesis and her upper arm. But shortly afterwards, she was told she could not work on the shop floor unless she took off the cardigan as she was breaking the firm’s “look policy”. She told the tribunal that someone in the A&F head office suggested she stay in the stockroom “until the winter uniform arrives”.

The “look policy” stipulates that all employees “represent Abercrombie & Fitch with natural, classic American style consistent with the company’s brand” and “look great while exhibiting individuality”. Workers must wear a “clean, natural, classic hairstyle” and have nails which extend “no more than a quarter inch beyond the tip of the finger”.

Dean said today in her evidence: “A female A&F manager used the ‘look policy’ and the wearing of the cardigan as an excuse to hide me away in the stockroom.

If this is all true, I could kind of understand if there was a heartless manager who didn’t care about the civil rights and emotions of an otherwise capable young woman.

What surprised me the most was this, from a Wall Street Journal article:

The New Albany, Ohio, company has faced criticism in the past from some who claim it deliberately selects young, good-looking people to work in its stores. In 2004 it spent $50 million to settle a number of employment discrimination suits in the U.S.

Really? $50 million dollars? That’s a lot of cash to pay out and not reform your company policies. More than that, it shows a widespread pattern.

When I was in Vietnam a couple of months ago to document World Concern’s Humanitarian Aid activities, I met dozens of people with disabilities. They showed that they have more abilities, than disabilities, as our Vietnam country director says. These people included seamstresses, small business employees and entrepreneurs.

World Concern tackles humanitiarian aid in a sustainable way. We teach people how to work and maximize their abilities. We offer microloans at a lower rate than they could get elsewhere. We outline a path to success, and if someone has the initiative, they can probably achieve their dreams.

The best part about the outreach to the “disabled?” Their confidence. If you can offer someone the ability to see that they have value, that they were created in the image of God, it’s the best possible outcome.

The can do far more.

Humanitarian Interns Arrive

Two of the World Concern interns will work closely with staff in Kenya, including country director Hesbone Kange, who grew up in the country.
Two of the World Concern interns will work closely with staff in Kenya, including country director Hesbone Kange, who grew up in the country.

Internships are notorious for being boring. Get coffee, make copies. But at World Concern, our four new interns are going to have an adventure. They might be getting coffee, but it would be in a tin cup inside of a Masai tribal hut in Kenya.

The four World Concern summer communications interns arrived today. They’ve been getting the lowdown on what we do and why we do it. One week from now, they’ll be on their way to Kenya, Bolivia or Bangladesh.

The idea behind the internship is to broaden the scope of who knows about World Concern and what we do. We also want new audiences to see why it is so important to reach out to these remote communities. They’ll learn about the lives of people who might work an 11-hour day of hard labor, all for a couple of dollars. They may meet children at risk of being forced into prostitution. They’ll probably meet people living with AIDS – and the friends and family members who are willing to work with us and raise awareness, or even take in children who have lost their parents because of the virus.

Our interns will be writing blog entries about what they see – and it will be from their perspective as a young Westerner who is part of the social networking generation. They’ll also take photos to help show the reality. We’ve also planned out how they will use their experiences to write for local newspapers, aiming to each get published in a mainstream media outlet during their time abroad.

The internet connections will be sketchy, but workable, I am sure. I’ve traveled to eight countries so far with World Concern and always found an internet connection, at least every couple of days. In the next week, I’ll introduce you to the crew – and we’ll all enjoy seeing things from their perspective this summer.

Buy a Latte, Get a Goat

World Concern humanitarians enjoy a cup of tea on the way to visit projects in Bangladesh. On the left is Prodip Dowa, who leads the team in Bangladesh; on the right is Rick Johannessen, who oversees operations across Asia.
World Concern humanitarians enjoy a cup of tea on the way to visit projects in Bangladesh. On the left is Prodip Dowa, who leads the team in Bangladesh; on the right is Rick Johannessen, who oversees operations across Asia.

What do you like with your coffee? Maybe a bagel? How about a goat instead!

This month, a Seattle coffee shop called the Q Cafe is donating 10% of all proceeds to World Concern. The chief barista, a pastor and friend of mine, estimates it will bring in about $350 that we can put toward humanitarian work. (Eugene Cho wrote about this today in his blog.)

You may think, “$350? That’s great, but it’s not a whole lot of money.” But that’s where you would be mistaken. $350 can absolutely, positively change the lives of many people, in some long-lasting transformational ways.

Eugene the barista/pastor asked what $350 could do, and this was my e-mail reply:

Wow, Eugene!

That’s very kind. I appreciate you and the rest of the folks at the Q Cafe thinking of World Concern – and it’s a pleasure to figure out how to spend the money!

When I was in Haiti, I saw the value of goats, which provide incomes through the sale of kids. Some people also sell goat milk. Often, having a goat means children in a family can attend school.

After a series of hurricanes last year, people were left with nothing of value. The storm killed their livestock. I met grandmothers and children who were positively ecstatic to receive goats, to begin to build their herd once again.

So let’s buy a goat, with vaccinations and a pen, for $70.

When I was in Bangladesh, I met several fish farmers. One stands out in my mind. He went from being a pedal-taxi driver to a small businessman, once he began a business to farm-raise fish in a pond. It has allowed him to buy land, build a home, and send his little girls to school. He rises early each morning and works hard – and with an opportunity from World Concern – it has paid off.

Let’s buy some fish fingerlings. A set of 2,000 fingerlings costs about $40. We can purchase 4 sets for $160.

Also in Bangladesh, and in many other countries, I was particularly saddened by the plight of women. It’s a tough place to live on a good day. But many men in Bangladesh (and elsewhere) treat women as second-class citizens. Women have so many responsibilities, from raising children, to farming and raising livestock, to keeping a home. Many also have to earn any income her family may need, because the husband doesn’t feel like working, or because she has been divorced. (And it’s easy to do in that culture. Say “I divorce you” three times.) On top of that, if a woman wants to start a small business, she is often at the mercy of loan sharks. She didn’t have an opportunity to get an education when she was young, so she may fall prey to someone who can see her vulnerabilities.

Let’s provide training and business equipment for one woman, so she can start her own business. It’s $125.

All of this adds up to $355. We can adjust it once we figure out how much was raised.

I am getting all of these prices from World Concern’s Global Gift Guide. Flipping through it, I recognize many of the items for sale as real programs that really do make an enormous difference in the life of the poor.

Let’s pray for good coffee sales this June!

Derek

"Twitterview" with local TV station

A local ABC news station interviewed me about World Concern's humanitarian work in a "Twitterview." Pretty tweet!
A local ABC news station interviewed me about World Concern's humanitarian work in a "Twitterview." Pretty tweet!

A news anchor from a local ABC television station interviewed me over Twitter, in an ongoing segment called a “Twitterview.”

Brandi Smith from KEZI in Eugene, Oregon, talked with me about  World Concern’s work in Southeast Asia, especially regarding our cyclone response work in Myanmar.

Thanks to Brandi for the good coverage of our humanitarian aid response. It was a very interesting way of conducting an interview! Pretty cool.

I never had heard of a Twitterview before, but after further checking (a Google search!), George Stephanopoulos from ABC News interviewed Sen. John McCain in the same way.

To watch a short news story about this and to read a transcript from the “Twitterview,” click here.

You can also follow World Concern on Twitter and get the latest news about our humanitarian work worldwide.

Obama’s Cairo Speech & Islam: Should the poor rejoice?

CAIRO, EGYPT - JUNE 4: U.S. President Barack Obama makes his key Middle East speech at Cairo University June 4, 2009 in Cairo, Egypt. In his speech, President Obama called for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims", declaring that "this cycle of suspicion and discord must end". (Photo by Getty Images)

I’ve just returned from Asia and, because World Concern works many places in the Islamic world, I listened closely to Obama’s Cairo speech. This morning I was in the middle of writing an email responding to a very conservative critique of the speech when I took a call from our Area Director for Africa. Because of the now uncontested control of Al Shabab in the two major areas of our work, we have had to table any plans for expansion even though the need of the poor increases. We will expand in Somaliland where there is greater stability.

The media report on only a few of the attacks of Islamic fundamentalists, especially if they target Europeans or Americans or involve a suicide bombing. Even more than those who are killed, though, the poor pay the price for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. They may flee their homes in the midst of fighting, as we now see tens of thousands doing in Somalia and Pakistan. They may remain as helping agencies are driven out or required to curtail their work as we are having to do. And they may not even be able to cultivate or harvest a crop. Men and boys who would be working to feed the family are forcefully conscripted into militias. The suffering of the poor is many times greater than those who are violently killed or maimed.

So will Obama’s speech make anything better? The conservative commentary that I read was a resounding “no” for one of these reasons.

1) Saying something does not make it so. Failing to challenge intolerance of other faiths even among non-fundamentalist governments and communities does not protect minorities. Policy differences still remain. Nothing is really different on the ground after the speech than before.

2) Fundamentalists are not going to change their beliefs and practices as a result of the speech because their actions are rooted in an Islamic expression that would discount the words of infidels.

I’ll concede those two points but that does not mean that “words are cheap” or that nothing has changed.

The criticism does not recognize and words and symbols are powerful, not in bringing magical solutions to seemingly intractable problems but in changing the context in which they are seen and discussed. Sure, a speech will not solve all of the contradictions within the doctrine and practice of Islam anymore than a Papal edict would have stopped the IRA until the power of the community had turned against the violence in Ireland. Yes, there is a significant difference between the foundations of Islam and Christianity in how we regard political power and nature of kingdom. Islam is too savvy to embrace grace and such impractical concepts such as loving enemies. The Prophet Mohammed entered Mecca at the head of an army from Medina and triumphed over those who had ignored him earlier, establishing a religious/political reign that has been contested ever since his death. Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and was killed by his opponents less than a week later, triumphing only through his death and resurrection and establishing a Kingdom of servants.  Islam and Christianity are different at their cores.

Even though words and symbols alone do not change circumstances on the ground nor reconcile true differences between faiths, peoples or nations, I believe in their power in changing the context in which debate and discussion happens. When I meet an obstructive government official who wants a bribe, I will not oppose him but try to include him in solving the problem that he has created. “Let’s see. It does look like we have a problem. How do we manage to solve it.”  That approach has worked more often than not and certainly better than the confrontational approach that drips with judgment. I do not expect the official never to extort money again as a result of this interchange but rather to solve an immediate problem. By (hopefully) changing the context of the discussion from “me against you” to “we’ll solve this together”, my words and attitude make a difference.

I also think that Obama is right in presuming that most Muslims worldwide do not want to live under a fundamentalist regime, not even in Somalia. Muslims are created in God’s image and worthy of respect. They desire to live in peace and without fear. Fundamentalists of any flavor eventually hang themselves on their own rope but US rhetoric and attitudes have given the Islamists a lot more rope to work with before it begins to tighten. Obama’s speech shortened the rope and Obama and his team are not naïve enough to think that all will now be well. But we have a better chance for progress.

Finally, isn’t there an Arabic tradition of fine words and hospitable actions on the part of both guests and hosts while action, if there is any, takes place behind the scenes? Obama respected that tradition, again showing that he values those within Arabic and more broadly Islamic cuItures. I think that we need to look more closely at the responses of the Muslim man and woman in the street to gauge the success of the speech in accomplishing what the US hoped that it would—not in solving the problems but in beginning to change the ethos in which the problems are discussed. The last president to be able to do that effectively was Carter and the peace that he facilitated between Egypt and Israel has been among the few hopeful elements that has endured in the Middle East.

Do I think, then, that we’ll be able to immediately revive our plans to expand our work in southern Somalia because of a speech in Cairo? No, of course not. But I do believe that it incrementally reduces the power of the fundamentalists who sacrifice help for the poor among their own people to acheiving and maintaining rule over them.

And I believe, because we are created in God’s image, we wish to be respected and valued. Approaching those with whom we disagree with respect will not in itself close the gap that divides us but does make bridge-building easier.

An American's Impression of Bangladesh

Men muscle 3-wheeled rickshaws through the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The average income for a Bangladeshi: $1,500 a year.
Men muscle 3-wheeled rickshaws through the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The average income for a Bangladeshi: $1,500 a year.

I arrived in Dhaka at the peak of the summertime, where my sweat-drenched shirt never dries in the near 100 degree heat, and the power seems to go out every few hours (like it did as I typed this  sentence).

During my first five minutes in Bangladesh, beggars approached us as we walked to our vehicle at the airport, then more beggars asked for our help as we drove on the streets. Crammed among the cars are 3-wheeled rickshaws driven by thin chauffeurs. If they’re not waiting for a customer, they’re standing on the pedals, straining against a load.

Other countries where I have documented World Concern’s humanitarian work face more significant problems with infrastructure. In Haiti, some roads in the city are in such disrepair, it is like they had never been leveled or paved. In fact, it was simply years of neglect – coupled with some storms.  Dhaka generally has nicely paved streets, and many homes and businesses have power, outside of the frequent blackouts. In Kenya, access to clean water seemed like a greater need than here, though I have not yet seen conditions in the poorest homes made of scrap wood and sheet metal.

This is not to say Bangladesh does not have great need. I can see it in the man without legs who instead walks with his hands. I see it in the older gentlemen crouched on the hot sidewalk, without eyes, who was hoping that somewhere in the blackness, people would provide him with coins for a bowl of rice. The average income here: $4 a day.

Outside the wall of a World Concern-sponsored school that was in session, I see the need in the children without shoes or uniforms, who play marbles in the dirt instead of learning how to read in a classroom. Like in many places where we work, schooling here is not guaranteed. It is usually only a privilege for the wealthy, or for those benefiting from an organization like ours. We give 5,000 children an opportunity they may not have otherwise had.

I was not able to find a guidebook about Bangladesh prior to my trip here to document programs. It is the least Western country I have visited, with no familiar stores or advertisements, and very little English on signs outside of on the primary thoroughfares. From what I’ve seen so far, I suspect there are very few people from the West who visit Dhaka, which means less foreign investment, both financially, and in awareness of the country. Did you know Bangladesh is more populated than Mexico or Russia?

So far I have visited a medical clinic and a school, both packed with people and highly regarded in the community. Once again I am pleased to see World Concern working in areas of intense poverty. Though Christians amount to about one half of one percent of the population, I see the hands of Christ working through our humanitarians, both employees and volunteers. They touch the lives of those in desperate need of compassion.

Beautiful children outside a World Concern school in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We have a special interest in seeing girls have an availabilty to education.
Beautiful children outside a World Concern school in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We have a special interest in seeing girls have an availabilty to education.