When 7-year-old Nina Tomlinson heard that fire had destroyed most of the homes and crops in the remote village of Maramara, Chad, she was heartbroken for the families who lost everything. Nina’s church partners with the village of Maramara through World Concern’s One Village Transformed project. Nina had also just learned about habitats in school, so she understood how bad this disaster was.
“I know that you need food, water, and shelter to survive and Maramara lost two of those things,” the concerned first-grader told her mom. “I want to help!”
Nina’s birthday was coming up and she decided to ask friends and family to donate to help the people of Maramara instead of giving her gifts. Her mom, Brie, created a Facebook event to tell others about Nina’s cause, and the donations started pouring in.
“It was awesome to show her other peoples’ generous hearts,” said Brie.
At her birthday party, an excited Nina revealed the total her friends had given. After it was all over, “She ended up raising just about $1,500,” said Brie.
Nina said she feels pretty awesome about being able to help other children and families facing devastating circumstances. Her birthday donation, along with additional support from her church, will enable people in Maramara to rebuild their homes, have enough food to eat until their crops can be restored, and most importantly, have hope for the future, knowing people like Nina care enough to help.
“I am 40-years-old and above,” shares a poised Canab (pronounced Ah-nahb), “and I have lived in Balanbal my entire life.”
Snuggling up next to her without-a-doubt adorable daughter who is wrapped in a pink burka and wearing a coy smile, Canab tells me, “My children are healthy and they go to school. Some people think the school here is not good, but this is where all of my children have gone.”
We’re sitting on the dirt floor of Canab’s thatch hut – located on the main, and only, road in the very rural village of Balanbal, Somaliland. After meeting each other at one of the village’s recently rehabilitated berkads (a local water catchment system), Canab has invited me into her home to impart on me a bit more of her story.
“This land is difficult. We have suffered many droughts and famines,” Canab says, peering out of her doorway. “In the past, there have been times when we have gone seven days without water.”
I ask her how this makes her feel. The only question my dumbfounded mind is able to conjure up in response.
“My children are my heart, so when there is now water, I worry about them,” she pragmatically answers.
Due to its semi-arid climate, Canab’s village is afflicted by persistent floods and droughts.
“The water is not always enough because we all are sharing, and currently we are experiencing a drought,” says Khadar, a 45-year-old father and lifetime resident of Balanbal.
Due to the area’s extreme weather, water devices such as berkads are necessary in order to catch and hygienically store rainwater – sustaining communities through the seemingly endless dry seasons.
Unfortunately, when a berkad has not been well maintained, it serves as more of a community monument – either inefficiently or un-hygienically storing the water.
“Our berkads used to be dry so we had to get our water from Burao, a faraway town,” explains Canab, reflecting on the past. “We would have to buy the water, but often times we had no money to do so.”
Canab continues, “Additionally, when we suffer, our animals also suffer. For a period of time I only had three goats.”
“The berkads containing water are far away. The nearer berkads have dirty water or are empty,” says Muna, an 18-year-old mother and community member.
Recently, World Concern rehabilitated berkads in Balanbal, also offering hygiene and sanitation community trainings, contributing to a more holistic transformation.
According to Khadar, “Previously, the berkad’s water would only last for ten days. Now the water is enough for three months.”
“The World Concern trainings have taught us how to manage, distribute, and clean the water,” expresses a joyful Canab. “We are also learning about caring for the environment, including planting trees!”
World Concern is partnering with communities across Somaliland to improve their current water situations as well as prevent future disasters from occurring.
“Our eyes have been very opened by the trainings. We are healthier and so are our animals. We have learned many tangible things. As a community, we are helping each other and giving to those in need.”
Clearly, Balanbal’s berkads are now more than rusted tin meeting points – they are tangible symbols of health, income, disaster risk reduction, and community cooperation.
This week, I’ve been traveling in Kenya with ExOfficio, a generous company that has outfitted our field staff with new shirts.
Yesterday, we visited two villages in Kenya that have been dramatically changed by access to water.
In the first village, Naroomoru, Maasai boys danced for us, singing a special song about how World Concern and their water pump has changed their village. Incredible. Before the pump, villagers were drinking out of a disease-filled lagoon. The kids in the village were sick all of the time. Typhoid, dysentery, diarrhea…
The teacher in Naroomoru was telling me he once had to call for a medic because a child was having uncontrollable diarrhea and needed to be rushed to the hospital. No more. With clean water, hygiene and sanitation, this plague of diseases has ended.
School performance has also increased, as the children are not sick. The school’s rating in the area has increased from about 160 out of 180 schools in the area, to about the 30th best performing school out of the 180 schools. Huge.
The second village, Mpiro, now has a water pan—a protected man-made pond for providing water for livestock. Before the water pan, the villagers had to walk their animals for three hours, round trip, to get water at the base of a mountain. This area is filled with dangerous animals. One man told me about his nephew being trampled to death by an elephant. Now, the access to water is 5 minutes away.
In Mpiro, we and our clothing partners from ExOfficio had the opportunity to work with the villagers as they planted sisal, a drought-resistant plant, along the edges of the water pan. This planting helps protect the berms of the water pan from degradation, and reduces the amount of crud that blows into the pond.
An incredible day—to reflect on how blessed I am to have unlimited, clean water—and a reminder of the dramatic ways life can change for the better by partnering with villages to tackle these problems head-on.
3 1/2 weeks.
10 villages. Over 35 interviews. 7 airplanes. A large variety of beds.
15 Cokes. 3 Coke-car-explosions (inevitable). 2 head-scarfs.
2 times getting the Land Rover stuck – once in a wadi & once in mud. 25 cups of hot tea. 1,596.97 moments of wishing I spoke French. 42 herds of camels.
Countless painful stories. Countless stories of resilience and hope.
1 fantastic team of colleagues.
Over 4,000 photos.
The following photos are highlights of Africa Communication Liaison Kelly Ranck’s time spent visiting World Concern’s projects in the Sila Region of Chad. “I’m fairly certain I could write over 30 blog posts based on everything and everyone that I saw, heard, met, and experienced. But, for now, I give you photos,” says Kelly. “If you haven’t caught my last two posts on Chad, make sure to check them out here and here.”
Bithi and her husband left their families in rural Bangladesh and moved to the over-crowded city of Dhaka—home to 5 million people—in search of a better life. The only work they could find was in a garment factory, earning meager wages. The couple rented a small, one-room home in a slum near the garment factory.
Thousands of Dhaka residents, desperate for work, accept low-paying—and often dangerous jobs in garment factories. Others work as rickshaw pullers or day laborers.
The couple was barely surviving when Bithi became pregnant. She gave birth to a little girl named Jannath, which means “heaven.” Bithi was referred to a World Concern clinic so Jannath could receive immunizations. During her visit to the clinic, doctors discovered that Jannath had a hole in her heart. The family was referred to a local hospital where their daughter received treatment.
As Jannath grew, Bithi visited the clinic regularly for checkups. She built a relationship with the staff there, who support and encourage her to keep her daughter healthy. But they also noticed that Bithi was struggling emotionally and financially. Her husband blamed her for Jannath’s health problems. And their daughter was often left in the care of others so that Bithi could work at the garment factory.
Realizing that Bithi needed a better income to afford treatment for her daughter’s heart condition and to support herself and her family, the staff recommended her for a World Concern microloan. With Bithi’s first loan of $270, she was able to quit her job at the garment factory and start her own business as a seamstress.
She’s now able to care for her daughter full-time, and has hope for a better future, beyond grinding poverty and exhausting, long hours in the factory.
World Concern microloans help thousands of women like Bithi transform their lives by starting their own businesses. Women who are helped through our microcredit program are provided with loans, training on how to profit from a business and ethical business practices, and ongoing support to grow their businesses – even hiring more women who need to earn income safely.
Quietly, a crisis is brewing in Haiti. You likely have not heard about it. It rarely makes headlines or even surfaces in mainstream media. It currently affects 6.7 million people, or about two-thirds of the country’s population. And it is getting worse.
At the center of this crisis is one of humanity’s most basic needs—food. In Haiti, as of March of this year, 6.7 million people face food insecurity. Simply put, food insecurity refers to a limited supply of food and the inability to access it. This means families in Haiti, already stretched financially, are forced to make hard decisions. Where will we get food today? How much food can we afford? Will we eat two meals, one, or even none today? Can I afford my children’s school fees when there are more pressing needs? These are questions no one should have to ask and wrestle with on a daily basis.
The destruction Tropical Storm Isaac and ‘Superstorm Sandy’ left behind in 2012 meant combined agricultural losses totaling $174 million. This is an incredible amount of money when you consider that the average Haitian only earns $700 per year. There is no safety net in Haiti, aside from the support one has from their family and others in the community. Though Haitian culture is very communal and it is almost expected that you will help out someone when they are in trouble, there is only so much support that can be given.
For poor farmers, the most valuable thing they have is the land they work. Their entire income may be dependent upon a successful harvest. Following Hurricane Sandy, 70% of Haiti’s crops were destroyed. This means a loss of income for many farmers and less food available on the market, which drives up prices. These two outcomes, due to a rough year of consecutive natural disasters, are why so many people are currently facing food insecurity.
The cost of living here in Haiti is actually quite high and is not something widely known. It has definitely surprised my wife and I since we moved here to work with World Concern. To put things in perspective, currently our monthly food budget is the same as it was in Seattle (and we’re not buying imported wines and cheeses). We often eat rice twice a day because it is cheap, a good filler, and we like it. We have the resources to feed ourselves even if the cost steadily rises. Unfortunately, this is not true for many in Haiti especially as food insecurity worsens.
So, what can be done about the Food Crisis?
A priority must be to get farmers producing again. Productive farmers mean increased income for families and also a needed boost to local production. This is why supporting farmers and helping them become successful is important and positively impacts both farmers and consumers alike.
World Concern’s food security project is one way we are attempting to support rural farmers. In 2013 alone, this project aims to improve food security for 2,000 people. This is a really cool project and one that I am happy to share about. World Concern leases three hectares of land in three different departments and uses the space as an outdoor classroom. Here, local smallholder farmers are taught how to produce high-quality seed that they can use season after season.
Other trainings geared towards youth interns, the next generation of farmers, teach best practices. Another important piece of this project is the introduction of mechanized equipment to local farmers. Many farmers in Haiti work the land manually which is tedious and difficult work. The project uses small tractors to help farmers increase productivity.
This is definitely a silent crisis. My goal is to, at the very least; make people aware of the current situation and how it is affecting millions of people in Haiti. So please check out the links you see throughout this post and become informed. Even do a little research on your own if you feel compelled. In order to effectively engage we must understand what is going on and why.
Last month we told you about thousands of innocent families who were forced to flee their homes because of fighting in Northern Myanmar. These families arrived in overcrowded camps with nothing. People were sleeping outdoors in the cold and children were sick. Many of you stepped up and donated. Here are some photos just in from our staff in Myanmar showing how we’re helping.
You survived (or avoided) Black Friday and Cyber Monday and made it to Giving Tuesday! A much more meaningful day, we think. Giving Tuesday was created to encourage giving to charity during the holiday season, which we heartily support!
Here at World Concern, we have a special Giving Tuesday challenge – an opportunity for you to double the impact of your gift. Any gift made to the Global Gift Guide by the end of today will be matched. We’re already more than half way to our goal! After hearing about the success of this challenge, another donor has offered up an additional $10,000 in challenge money. An amazing blessing.
Will you help us reach our goal and ensure the families we work with benefit from these matching funds? If you’ve been thinking about giving alternative gifts that truly impact the lives of the poor this year, today is the day to do it. You’ll double your impact, helping provide life-saving care and practical gifts to twice as many children and families living in extreme poverty.
Here’s a little inspiration – a few of our favorite gifts:
Clean Water – Help build a well! For families who are used to walking for miles to fetch dirty water, a well is a real blessing.
Give a Goat! – Help hungry children with a kid goat. Once full-grown, goats can produce up to a gallon of nutritious milk each day.
Soccer Balls – Soccer is more than fun and good exercise—it’s a sport that unifies and builds friendships. A soccer ball shows kids somebody cares.
Thanks for helping us reach our Giving Tuesday matching challenge goal, and for giving gifts that really matter.
I confess I’ve avoided writing about the families in this post for weeks. I doubt I’ll ever get to the point where photos like these don’t disturb me, but I will say there are fewer that shake me up inside – mostly because I know we’re doing something to help.
This set of photos and stories, sent by our staff in Somaliland (northern Somalia), really affected me. They were taken during an assessment of drought-affected communities to determine the needs of people there. One of World Concern’s priorities is to reach the most vulnerable first, so the families we help are often headed by females, have sick or disabled members, or are among the poorest of the poor; in this case, in the fifth poorest country in the world.
These are some of the families we met. I wanted to share their stories and photos so that others know their circumstances. To give them a voice, in a way.
It took me a moment to figure out what was going on in this photo to the right. It shows Khadra, a young mother of three from the Sanaag region outside her small hut fashioned from sticks, plastic and pieces of fabric. The family had 200 sheep and goats before the drought. They lost them all.
While talking with Khadra, our staff learned her husband is mentally ill, suffering from psychosis. Khadra said that she feels she has no alternative other than to tie him to their hut so he won’t wander away.
I can assure you, there aren’t any social services in this part of Somalia. Definitely no mental health counseling.
Imagine being in Khadra’s position and not knowing what else to do. My heart aches for her.
The part of Salah’s family photo (left) that troubles me most is their home. You can see they’ve tried to use scraps of trash, or whatever they can find to create some sort of shelter, but it’s no match for the searing daytime sun or cold desert nights.
I’m assuming this father has lost his wife. I’m told he has chronic respiratory problems and is very sick. He and his children survive off of food provided by neighbors and relatives.
Arale (below, right) is a disabled father of four who migrated to Garadag after losing his herds to drought. Their only source of income is to send their children to look for animals owned by other families, for which the children earn a small daily wage.
World Concern is helping these families, and thousands of others, initially by trucking water into drought-affected communities in this region and distributing emergency food. Families also receive plastic tarps for shelter, jerrycans, mosquito nets and cooking pots.
Long-term, we’re building berkads (semi-underground water reservoirs) and digging new wells – 36 of them in the coming months! Another way we’re helping is providing people with the tools and knowledge to grow vegetables and improve nutrition through kitchen gardens.
There is hope for these families.
Somaliland is slightly more politically stable and has experienced more peace than the rest of Somalia, having declared its independence in 1991. This is one reason we’ve been able to make progress there. Time is another factor. We’ve worked there for 30 years, enabling us to respond quickly when disasters like drought, war or famine strike.
We’re hoping to reach more families like these throughout Somalia.
“Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
It’s tough to break through the noise. People have got places to go. They’re lost in thought as they walk, talking on the phone, worrying about their own lives.
That’s why it was so cool to see a moment in time where people could pause and reflect, even briefly, about the enormous human cost of a pandemic.
It’s tough to miss what amounts to a graveyard on a college campus.
Seattle Pacific University students helped me place 1,000 white crosses with red ribbons on their campus, for World AIDS Day 2009. 1,000 represents the number of people who die from AIDS worldwide in a four hour period.
Big numbers make my eyes glaze over. That’s why the crosses are so important.
Every cross represents a name. A life. A mom, dad, son or daughter. Someone with a smile, with hopes for the future, with interests and passions.
I was able to spend a day with children orphaned by AIDS in Kenya last year with Christian humanitarian organization World Concern. I was amazed at the way they played and horsed around and kicked around a soccer ball. I took They are children – and they find themselves with nobody to watch out for them.
It’s awesome what World Concern is doing to help people with AIDS, and those left behind, in Haiti, Zambia and Kenya. Such critical needs, of food, water, income, education.
It is the calling of Jesus to care for widows and orphans, and this is exactly what AIDS has caused: 15 million orphaned boys and girls. This is essential work. As one person said about this grassroots project to raise awareness for AIDS, “This looks like Christ.”