Garden = better test scores and more in rural Kenya

School children in Kenya.
Students hard at work at Naado Primary School in Kenya.

Kathryn Sciba is visiting some of our programs in Kenya this week. The following excerpt is from her blog about her trip.

We began our eventful journey to a primary school near Narok. This is the kind of land where safari animals roam wild. The children and teachers at this school blew my mind with how well they welcomed us. The people here are Maasai, nomadic herdsmen. This school has changed their lives since World Concern started working with them in 2008.

The school has a 28-acre garden that World Concern built a fence around so the elephants wouldn’t destroy it. The lack of farming means the families have had to follow the herds and lack a balanced diet.

In the past three years World Concern has not only built a solar powered electric fence around the school’s garden but they’ve also trained the community about farming. Now the families can stay put if they want to. Now the community has wheat and corn fields. The school produces more than enough food for their enrollment and is able to sell the rest. They grow passion fruit, mango, bananas, and vegetables, including basics like beans, corn and wheat.

They do have a water catchment system, which catches rain from the roof and carries it through pipes to the garden, but they need rain to sustain it. Please pray for a great rainy season which was supposed to begin this month but has been lousy so far.

Students in Kenya.
About 800 students receive education and nutritious meals at Naado Primary School in Narok, Kenya.

The garden has provided essential nutrition and that’s helped the student’s test schools improve dramatically. In 2007, 191 children graduated with a Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (a national standardized test required to pass primary school). In 2008, 216 students graduated and in 2009 the number was 261.

Enrollment has been increasing because the community is sending their children there to be well fed and educated instead of having them roam with the herds. The school provides boarding to 150 girls who would otherwise roam with their families. By having girls live at the school, their families may feel less urgency to marry them off at a young age in exchange for a 20 cow dowry.

There are currently about 400 boys and 400 girls enrolled in the school.

 

 

Moved to respond: expertise in disasters

First responders in Japan.
Japan's first responders provide aid after the devastating earthquake on March 11, 2011. Reuters photo.

Watching the earthquake and tsunami disaster unfold in northeastern Japan this week has been painful for all of us. Hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted, and aftershocks continue on a daily basis, reminding the Japanese people that this tragedy is far from over.

World Concern, a member of the Global Relief Alliance, is responding by working through alliance partners that were already in place and at work in Japan prior to the disaster. Some may wonder why we’re not loading our staff onto a plane and heading into the disaster zone. Believe me, as a member of our disaster response team, it’s hard for us to “wait this one out,” but it’s important that we do so.

After the Haiti earthquake, we were able to respond immediately  because we have worked in that country for 30 years, had staff in place, and were able to make an immediate impact, utilizing resources and donation dollars in the best way possible. But the disaster in Japan is very different on a number of levels.

I have been encouraged by the response being undertaken in Japan. Countless lives have no doubt been spared by the efficiency of their mobilized volunteers, military, and emergency response teams. Rapid assessments, organized distribution lines for rations and water, and shelter provisions reduce uncertainty and anxiety.  Heavy equipment has been mobilized, clearing roads and restoring communications and transportation. Japan has very accurate national registries (hence their ability to report the numbers of those who are missing) and has reached out to contact everyone in the affected areas. The Japanese have been a model of disaster response, and we have lessons to learn about how we can improve our own system in North America to match theirs.

Contrast this with Haiti’s 2010 earthquake or Cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar in 2008, where the number of victims will never truly be known due to lack of census records in the affected areas. The needs in these countries overwhelmed the fragile states, and basic necessities were unattainable. They desperately needed international support, simply to get food, water, and basic medical attention. World Concern had offices and programs in these places prior to the disasters and responded directly. We have continued to work – and will continue – in these countries long after they have faded from the headlines.

In Japan, after the immediate search and rescue and medical emergency needs are met, Japan’s disaster response teams will determine their need for additional help. Meanwhile, we are standing by, ready to deploy if needed in the field. Until that time, we will provide technical assistance and support to our partners on the ground, maximizing our team’s expertise and your donations.

Please join us in praying for the victims of this tragedy and their families, for the government of Japan as it coordinates the response, and for Christian partners and the church in Japan, as they work to support the local authorities and care for their neighbors.

For more information, visit www.worldconcern.org/disasters.

Japan Earthquake Highlights Disaster Risk Reduction

earthquake damage in Japan 2011
Houses, cars and buildings were washed away in a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake in Japan on March 11, 2011. Photo by REUTERS/KYODO, courtesy of Alertnet.

The dramatic events unfolding in Japan after a magnitude 8.9 earthquake off Japan’s east coast triggered a devastating tsunami are riveting. They also highlight the difference between communities that participate in disaster risk reduction activities (like Japan) and those that have not been prepared (such as Haiti).

No amount of preparation can stop an earthquake or tsunami, but the next few days will show how preparation and risk reduction have saved countless lives, and minimized the long term effects for the Japanese people. In other nations, this tragic event would have had much greater consequences.

We participate in risk reduction on a daily basis: when the radio identifies a forecast of rain, you assess the risk, and choose to reduce it by carrying an umbrella. On a national scale, this is much more complicated. It requires awareness, planning, and willingness to put plans in place. Today, a few low-lying communities in Washington State were evacuated due to the warnings issued by the West Coast and Alaska Warning Center, a part of the US early-warning system.

The effects of this earthquake in Japan are drastically different than the one measuring 7.0 which paralyzed Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. In Haiti, low-quality construction practices, lack of awareness about the risk of earthquakes, and insufficient government capacity to respond created one of the worst humanitarian disasters in history. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was also a horrifying tragedy impacting unprepared communities from Indonesia to Somalia.

How World Concern Helps Communities Prepare for Future Disasters

World Concern is currently involved in disaster risk reduction activities in high-risk areas around the world, training local communities to prepare for the next “big one.” With World Concern’s help, communities in Haiti, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar are identifying risks and developing strategies to mitigate losses during disasters. Community members work together to find solutions, and educate others on how to protect themselves during a disaster.

In Haiti, for example, communities dig and maintain storm drains to counteract flooding during hurricanes. Other areas have installed emergency water facilities, in case their regular sources are contaminated by floodwaters.

After Cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 130,000 in Myanmar, World Concern supported the establishment of Disaster Management Committees in affected communities, equipping them with disaster response supplies. World Concern also assisted in developing an early warning system, coordinating with the local government, and an implementation of multi-hazard action plans.

World Concern partners and donors are empowering the poorest in high-risk areas to make informed decisions and be proactive in protecting their loved ones and way of life.

Help us respond to disasters and prepare impoverished communities for future disasters by donating at  www.worldconcern.org/disasters

A Change of Heart

Kurt Campbell remembers the moment God melted his heart for the people of Sri Lanka. It was on Easter Sunday, 2009. Sitting in his comfortable, warm church, singing worship songs, he started to cry.

Several weeks earlier, he and his wife Cari had prayed and felt led to donate their entire savings account to aid in the crisis in Sri Lanka. They’d heard the details of how the end to the 26-year-long civil war had killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Knowing World Concern was responding and rescuing war victims, Kurt and Cari wanted to help.

“I’ve often said, your pocket book follows your heart, but sometimes it works the other way. It was after that financial investment that we felt more connected to Sri Lanka,” recalls Kurt.

As he sat in church that Easter, tears running down his cheeks, he realized they probably weren’t singing worship songs in Northern Sri Lanka.

“I thought, here’s a group of people who don’t know the Lord as their Savior, and surely aren’t experiencing the love and compassion I’m used to on a daily basis. My heart just broke,” he said.

Kurt’s burden for the people of Sri Lanka grew over the next two years, especially as he’s had the opportunity to travel there several times. During his visits to the displacement camps, he saw first-hand the tremendous losses people have endured – loss of life, loss of limbs, and loss of loved ones.

Kurt Campbell with Sri Lankan children.
World Concern donor Kurt Campbell visits kids who were living in camps after Sri Lanka’s civil war.

“One of the hardest places to visit was a special camp where people went once they left the hospital … it was basically and old factory floor with cots lined up one after another,” said Kurt. “I came across two children – a girl about 4 years old, and a boy about 6. The boy had a bandaged leg and would obviously be crippled for the rest of his life. The girl had lost three fingers on one hand. I was looking right at her, but she had a completely blank look on her face.

“If God had used me for anything in those camps, it was to make the kids laugh. But this girl, nothing. A blank stare. What had she seen?” Kurt wondered. She was most likely an orphan and had seen the horrors of war.

That experience changed Kurt. He felt more compassion and more of a desire to help than ever before. “There’s something about the Sri Lankan people – something within them – an ability to persevere and to tackle life that is so beautiful. It’s not a hand-out society. These are people who are truly hard-working individuals who want to do things on their own. That really resonates with me.”

One of the most significant aspects of the work Kurt observed was how World Concern staff pays attention to individual people, walking with them through their struggles. “We’re affecting people’s lives and it’s wonderful,” he said.

Learn more about how Campbell Auto Group partners with World Concern to impact the lives of people in the poorest, hardest to reach places around the world.

Kurt Campbell is the owner of Campbell Nissan of Edmonds, Campbell Nissan of Everett, and Campbell Volkswagon of Edmonds

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven …” – Matthew 6:19-20

The freedom to make a living

Sitting at my desk on this International Women’s Day, I’m reminded of the opportunities I’ve been given to be educated and earn an income to support my family. I don’t take this for granted, especially when I read stories like that of Rashida Begum, who grew up in the overcrowded slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh. She never went to school and was forced into marriage at just 13 years old. By the time she was 18, she had five children.

Rashida working.
Rashida has a thriving business making and selling beaded and embroidered fabric.

Despite the odds against her, today, Rashida has a thriving business. She’s able to use the talents she learned as a child – embroidery and bead work – and has gained self-confidence from the growing list of customer orders she receives. Even though she’s illiterate and living in a male-dominated, oppressive society, Rashida is able to support her family with her income.

It all began with a small business loan, which she desperately needed. Unfortunately, in many countries, skill and incentive aren’t enough. The loan enabled her to buy materials and start selling things. It’s amazing to think how different her life is, simply because she’s able to work. She’s also able to pay for her kids to go to school, which means the benefits of her business will carry into the next generation.

Microlending is a simple concept that leads to independence for so many women around the world. In honor of International Women’s Day, take a minute to learn more about it. For a small investment, you could change a life in a developing country.

A living example of hope

Harun at a community meeting.
Harun (in teal) at a community meeting in Southern Sudan.

When he visits the families World Concern serves in Southern Sudan, Harun Ringera shares hope through words of encouragement and practical help. But he also shares hope through the example of his own life – one of how education and having someone believe in you can change everything.

The youngest of seven siblings who grew up in Eastern Kenya, Harun is the son of illiterate peasant farmers. None of his brothers and sisters were educated beyond primary school, but his father saw Harun’s passion for school and worked hard to pay his tuition for high school.

When he ran out of money while attending university in Nairobi, his father sold a piece of land to help him finish college. Now married and the father of two young children, Harun is working on his thesis to earn his master’s degree in October of this year.

His education, experience and skills are impacting others far beyond his own family. As program manager for World Concern Sudan, Harun spends his days overseeing vocational training programs, and working with families who are receiving food and agricultural training. Although he lives in a staff compound for 10 weeks at a time, and only travels back to Kenya to see his family for two weeks in between, he loves his job.

“I felt called to go to Sudan,” he said of his decision in 2006. At that time, Sudan was very unstable. There was no central government and no infrastructure. Schools had been destroyed and people had no way to earn income. He worked with traumatized child soldiers and homeless refugees.

Harun Ringera
Harun Ringera is CRISTA Ministries' Employee of the Year.

It was far from glamorous work, but Harun persevered, and now oversees thriving microfinance programs, including savings groups and village banks. People are saving and borrowing money, starting businesses and planting crops. Others are rebuilding schools and earning food for their work. Women are learning to read and write, and they’re obtaining business skills. Life is improving.

“It called for a lot of patience, sacrifice and prayers,” he said of the progress in Sudan. He also believes it has to do with how people are treated. “If you want to succeed in Southern Sudan and motivate people, learn to appreciate them. These people have never been appreciated, because they have been under oppression for a very long time. Give them an opportunity to work and tell them, you can make it. Give them hope.”

Harun’s dedication to his work earned him recognition as CRISTA Ministries’ Employee of the Year (World Concern is one of CRISTA’s seven ministries).  He’s currently enjoying his first trip to the U.S. – and his first time outside of Africa – to be honored for his service at World Concern’s headquarters.

Seeing Christianity blossom in Kenya

Kenyan Pastor With A World Concern Staffer
A World Concern Kenya staff member translates a former witch doctor’s story.

World Concern Ministry Development Coordinator Mark Lamb recently returned from a trip to Kenya.  Here are some reflections on his trip.

After traveling through rural Kenya for several hours on a road marked with potholes like Swiss cheese, we arrived in a village where World Concern is making an impact.  One of the first people we met was a man who introduced himself to us as a former witch doctor who is now a Christian. As if this wasn’t enough to catch the attention of our group of jet lagged Americans, our new friend Joseph interrupted my associate as he was explaining the location of America using his head as a globe and said, “You mean the earth is round?”

Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

Although this may seem nearly unbelievable to those of us who have been blessed with an education, reality began to sink in as Joseph told us about the women in the village walking 12 hours round trip to bring back water, villagers carrying a sick person 10 miles on a sheet to the nearest clinic, and the children walking over six miles round trip to the nearest elementary school.

In such bleak circumstances, I was surprised to find hope. World Concern is currently constructing a water pan in this community to help provide a clean water source, but their hope was not in the water pan alone, or in World Concern.  It was clear, as they discussed their faith in Jesus Christ, that there hope was in Him.  They praised World Concern, and there was a clear love for our staff, but Joseph and the other villagers talked about the hope they have in Jesus for a better life.


Maasai women sing worship songs.

In another village we visited, I met a young pastor named Jackson who had taught himself to read so he could read and teach the Bible. He treasures his Bible, carrying it with him wrapped in two layers of protective plastic. I also witnessed spirited worship songs sung by the women in the church. I couldn’t understand the words, but I was told the song was from a verse in Exodus about God’s victory.

I was encouraged to see kitchen gardens in schoolyards producing healthy vegetables for the students who otherwise would be eating only grain and meat. I saw the hope of better health with pits for latrines being dug, and wells flowing with clean, fresh water. But I was most excited about the spiritual fruit I saw as a result of Christ’s light shining into these villages.

To learn more about church partnerships, please visit www.worldconcern.org/churches.

Contact Mark Lamb at MarkL@worldconcern.org.

Crafter turns passion into action

Here’s the truth: the work of World Concern will not happen without the support of others who get behind it. The more people engage with us and what we’re doing, the bigger difference we’re able to make. It’s that simple.

Minneapolis resident Diana Neidecker came up with a very cool idea. She’s donating a percentage of the February sales from her Etsy site to World Concern. Here’s why, in her own words:

After work, Blake and I spent over an hour on World Concern’s Facebook page, looking at all the incredible photos. We love the mission, the idea of empowerment and the way you are lifting all of these wonderful countries up.

Back in first grade, I had an assignment asking me my three wishes for the world. I answered with 1) enough money for the poor; 2) to save the environment; and 3) to have all kids be safe at night.
That paper is hung up in our craft room. I love it. Not much has changed in my since 1991. Blake and I are super conscious about the products, companies and practices that we use/utilize in our lives.

The day of the Haiti earthquake, the two of us were out to eat and couldn’t stop talking about the quake and what we could do to help. I immediately donated my paycheck, but still didn’t feel satisfied. A few days later, I just knew I had to be there. After talking and planning, we decided to spend the month of July there, helping to deconstruct a five-story boys’ home that fell.

Diana and Blake with Haitian workers.
Diana and Blake working in Haiti, July 2010.

I get chills just thinking about how this trip impacted us. We worked with a crew of 14 Haitian guys clearing rubble by bucket line. Blake and I live a pretty modest lifestyle, but showering with a bucket and eating two small meals a day really made us think. We were able to tour a tent city and so many people trusted us enough to answer tough and honest questions about money, lifestyle and what they really need.

We are very interested in making Haiti a part of our lives. We would love to go back at least once a year. Also, learning fluent Creole has been a goal of ours. In the next two to three years, we would actually like to start the adoption process and adopt one or two orphans.

I do photography and I also knit. In the past few months, I have realized that I am meant to create for a living. It’s been a hobby for years, but I am now ready to make a life of creating.

For the month of February, I have decided to give 35-40% of all earnings from my business to World Concern to use for microloans or goats in Haiti – I love the idea of giving goats! I know that the more ways I can reach people and help, everybody will benefit.”

Wow! Thanks Diana and Blake for all you’re doing for the people of Haiti.

Diana's knitting.
Diana wearing a few of her cozy, hand-knitted items.

Check out Diana’s Etsy at http://dianapantz.etsy.com

You can also read her blog post announcing this project at http://flytothewall.blogspot.com/2011/02/big-news.html

Young girl knows the “right thing” to do

We get excited here at World Concern when a large donation comes in because we envision the difference that money will make in the lives of those we serve. Dollar signs translate into construction materials for homes in a disaster area, or containers filled with deworming medication for children in need.

We get just as excited when a smaller donation arrives, knowing the person’s wish is the same no matter the amount of their check – they want to help someone who is suffering.

Autumn's letter
Autumn sent this letter with her $10 donation.

Just today we received a $10,000 check, and moments later, opened an envelope with $10 inside from a young girl named Autumn. Her hand written Christmas card and drawings brought grins to the faces of our staff members. Here’s what she wrote:

Dear World Concern,

I want to give money to you because I think it is the right thing to do. My mamma gave me ten dollars and told me to pick a charity and I picked World Concern. Please help people with this money.

Happy holidays!

Your friend,

Autumn

We feel an incredible responsibility to honor Autumn’s wish to help people with her money. And we will do just that.

Thank you Autumn, and all of you who have trusted us to use your donations to reach people with help and hope in the most challenging places on Earth.

Happy holidays to you too!

P.S. If you’d like to make a donation of any size before the end of the year, please click here. Or click here to shop the Global Gift Guide.

How one family brings more meaning to gift giving

Sarah Carpenter’s nephew Stephen is 19 years old and in college, but he still enjoys receiving Christmas gifts from his aunt, knowing they will fill a vital need for someone living in poverty.

Ever since they were young, Sarah has given her niece and nephews, as well as other family members, gifts from World Concern’s Global Gift Guide. Over the years, she has discovered creative ways to match gifts to individual interests or even family holiday themes.

Sarah and her nephew.
Sarah and her nephew Stephen.

“When they were little, I loved giving the kids the privilege of picking something themselves,” said Sarah. “I told them I will provide the money and you pick the gift.”

One year, Stephen saw a picture of people fishing with a net in the Global Gift Guide. He related to that because he was learning to fish himself. So Sarah stocked a fish pond in Bangladesh in honor of her nephew for his gift that year and gave him a photo of a man fishing with a net in a pond World Concern had helped him stock. “He posted it on a bulletin board by his desk and kept it there all year,” recalled Sarah.

As an adult, Stephen has continued to help others and make a difference in the world. He worked in a South American village, serving the poor, and spent a summer at Oxford studying the conflicts in the Congo.

“He’s grown into a lovely person,” said Sarah, who hopes her Global Gift Guide Christmas presents were some of the many influences in his life that gave him his passion for helping others.

Sarah has come up with other creative ways to honor family members with gifts from the guide, like the year their family orchard in Yakima became the theme of their celebration. Can you guess what her relatives received from her? A share of an orchard in a poor village. And for the teachers in her life, she’s chosen education related gifts, such as school uniforms and classroom supplies so students in rural areas can attend school.

“I’m conscious of how much all of us have to make our way through the piles of stuff we’ve accumulated,” said Sarah. “I think others are happy to receive gifts that don’t add to their clutter and that honor something they’re interested in.”

Shop the Global Gift Guide online at globalgiftguide.worldconcern.org.