Have you ever had an experience that was so life-changing that you had trouble putting it into words? Every time I come home from a trip with World Concern to a difficult place – exhausted, jetlagged, and emotionally spent – I have this experience. It’s called re-entry culture shock, and I only experience a fraction of what others who have lived or worked for longer periods of time in hard places experience. But it’s real, nonetheless.
It’s usually my husband who picks me up at Sea-Tac airport. He graciously heaves my dusty, overloaded bags into the car and hugs me tightly after not seeing me for several weeks.
“You need a shower!” he usually jokes, knowing I’m coming off 24+ hours of flying after several weeks of limited bathing.
“Yes, and a nap,” I usually mumble.
He’s gotten better at honoring the silence on the drive home, knowing I’m still processing what I’ve experienced. Everything I see out the window looks strange. Drive-through restaurants, people going about their daily activities, traffic without the sound of horns blowing (that one is nonexistent in most of the places I’ve visited).
But eventually, maybe later that day, or the next day, he asks me about the trip. The jet lag has worn off and the exhaustion has started to subside and that’s when the amazing experiences and beautiful people and places I saw start to come into focus. I show him some photos, and try to describe the highlights, and ever-present lowlights, but it’s so hard to explain.
“I wish you could have been there,” I say.
The Podcast Vision
The truth is, these places and the people there changed me. I want my life partner—as well as my friends, family members, acquaintances, everyone I know—to see, first-hand, what life is like in other parts of the world. Everyone should meet the people I met and interact with the amazing World Concern staff around the world. I want to tell everyone that there is a massive world out there that is so different from what we know. And I want to tell the world how real and how present and active God is in these places. Maybe it’s being away from the routine and familiarity of daily life, but I always experience God’s presence in profound ways at the end of the road. And I want to share that.
We want to invite others along for the journey and offer a glimpse into the remote, mostly forgotten, unknown parts of the world. We want to introduce you to the people there through the stories and experiences of those who live and work at the end of the road. That’s really the vision behind The End of the Road podcast and why we started it.
Some of these places take days to reach by plane, car, boat, and then—on foot. And many of them are not safe for the average Westerner. Some require special visas and letters of invitation. Getting there without a local host to navigate the journey with you would be next to impossible.
Our hope is that through this podcast, you’ll get to journey to these remote places through our guests and in turn, the world might feel a little smaller. When we experience other cultures, we realize we’re all human – moms, dads, students, workers, people – who have the same desires, same needs, similar dreams, and hopes for the future, it connects us as “humanity.” I believe it removes much of the fear and lack of understanding that makes us critical of people we don’t know. We write a story in our heads about why they’re poor or why their culture is the way it is. But that’s not what our world needs right now. Our world needs hope, unity, and most of all, God.
Through the interviews and stories on the podcast, our prayer is that your mind and heart are opened up a bit and you feel more connected to your brothers and sisters around the world and to what God is doing in these places.
We hope you’ll come along for the ride and that along the way, you’ll be changed by the people you meet and the stories you hear.
Life as a woman at the end of the road requires bravery, but bravery does not come without fear. It just means you step into it anyways, moving forward amidst the overwhelming opposition you feel within. We recently sat down with Maggie and Kate, two humanitarians and World Concern staff members who both spent several years resisting the call in their hearts to do what they get to do now in some of the most remote and challenging places on the planet.
Though sometimes terror-stricken at the thought of moving, living, and working in such remote places, they moved forward and embraced the call on their lives by journeying to the end of the road.
Living and working in places like Cairo, Egypt, and Kabul, Afghanistan, both women had the opportunity to experience many facets and layers of life in these remote places. From the richness of culture and genuine relationships to some of the challenging and dangerous situations they faced, it’s no surprise that life as a woman in these places is unique and life changing.
A Glimpse of Katie’s Life
During Katie’s time in Afghanistan, she enjoyed the way the white snow covered the brown land and the fields of flowers that bloom, creating such stunning scenery. A prominent reflection she shared was of the people and community she encountered while she was there. The relationships were so genuine and special and she started to truly be known by others.
The empathy and compassion many of them showed to Katie were contagious. One of the most heartfelt and inspiring truths she shared of those she encountered was, “if you are feeling something, they will feel it with you and if you’re crying, they will cry with you. You will never cry alone.” There’s an incredible way that communities come together through thick and thin. The people she met had a vested interest in her well-being. “When I think about the love, care, and empathy shown, it is revolutionary,” said Katie.
When facing an unusual experience in Afghanistan, Katie shared a story about a situation where local men in the area she was staying in made sure she was safe and protected. Also, during this time, there was a local family that offered to take Katie in and ensure she was safe, despite potentially placing themselves at risk for housing a foreigner. That’s the testament of ongoing love and care she experienced while in Afghanistan.
A Glimpse of Maggie’s Life
Stories of empathy, compassion, and community don’t stop there, Maggie also gives us a glimpse of her experience while in Iraq. Describing Iraq as a beautiful place of diversity, diverse in people and religion. It’s very welcoming and people are genuinely curious to know you as a person and there is a richness in friendships that is present.
There also isn’t a homogenous faith. There are different faiths, different ways of practicing. Maggie was able to enter that space and experience the beauty of their practices and the long history of those places and see the courage and care extended to people who didn’t share the same religion but were all able to work together toward one goal, which was very special for her to experience.
Through the stories of these two humanitarians, there are many challenges and narratives that extend beyond borders and are relatable around the world. From women who are excluded from decision-making spaces, challenges women face and having limited routes of receiving justice, to the richness of sisterhood and community despite it all.
As with any experience, there are always things learned along the way and things you will never forget. For Katie, she came to deeply appreciate the faith of her neighbors. She learned things that helped enrich her own faith and develop a deep sense of commitment. Maggie was reminded of the beauty and importance of hospitality and showing kindness to strangers. Her experience made her even more curious about her faith and set her on a journey of deepening her encounters with others through her faith.
Welcome, friends! I’m so excited to welcome you to the End of the Road podcast! My name is Cathy and I’ll be your host and “tour guide” as we journey together to some of the most remote, challenging places on the planet.
I’m a Seattle native, loyal Sounders fan, wife of the best third grade teacher – quite possibly – on the planet, and mom to three amazing humans.
I’ve worked with World Concern, a faith-based humanitarian organization headquartered in Seattle, for the past 11 years and had the privilege of traveling to some of the places where World Concern serves… Places where I’ve never felt so far from home in my life. Places where absolutely nothing is familiar. Places I fell in love with, and that changed me forever.
I cannot tell you how excited I am to see this podcast come to life. I know this sounds cliché, but it truly is a dream come true.
The vision behind this podcast is to take you – our listeners – to some of these places through the stories and experiences of our guests. They have lived and worked far beyond the end of the road … from a village that takes an entire day to reach by canoe through the Congo jungle … to a war-torn city in the Middle East, you’re going to hear, first hand, what life is like in some of these places, and how God is present and active in these places and in the lives of people who live there – moms, dad, kids, families – just like yours, only they live at the end of the road.
You’re going to hear from some incredible peoplewho have sacrificed so much to serve, live, and work in some of the toughest places on earth. They’ve experienced unimaginable things, and met people you’ll get to meet too, through their stories here on the podcast. I can’t wait to introduce you to these selfless humanitarians – our guests on the podcast. I’ve handpicked each one, because I know tidbits of their stories, but even I learned so much in my conversations with them. You’ll be amazed.
I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned in my experiences in places like Bangladesh, where 165 million people live in crowded urban slums and bustling rural villages. Or northeastern Kenya, where Samburu tribespeople have survived as pastoralists in the bush for centuries… or the mountains of Haiti, far above the teal waters of the Caribbean and far from the chaos of Port au Prince, where families live in tiny villages with no running water, electricity, or infrastructure of any kind.
As I mentioned, these places – and more so, the people I met there, changed me.Now, these places are not the places you’d go on a typical church mission trip. That’s why I want to take you there – virtually – through these stories.
I want to introduce you to people like the 13-year-old girl in Bangladesh who sobbed and told me through her tears that she was about to be forced to marry a much older man, because it was the only option her parents felt they had in order to feed her siblings. Her name was Rima… I remember sitting down on the steps of a school to talk with her and hear her story. She was about 13, but she looked very young. She was wearing a school uniform – the only thing keeping her from being married off to a family friend, a man in his mid-30s.
I want to tell you about walking 5 miles through the dry, barren desert of Eastern Kenya for water with a strong, beautiful, resilient Samburu mother who made this walk every morning of her life. During this moment, I realized we shared something… We were both moms, both working women, both human. And we shared a deep desire to make the best life for our kids as possible.
And I want to share with you how God was so present, right beside me, in each of these situations – reminding me that he is with them too – every person…
3 Things I’ve Learned
I’ve learned some things in my time at the end of the road – about myself, about people, and about God. Let me share a few thoughts with you as we prepare to travel together…
First of all, I learned that I have a lot to learn. I know so little about the world, beyond my own familiar surroundings. I had no idea how mind and heart-opening it would be to visit places I thought would be scary, uncomfortable, and disturbing (spoiler alert: they are mostly all those things!).
I remember right before my first trip to Haiti, I was telling my mom where I was going. Her naïve response was, “Why in the world would you want to go to a place like that? It sounds awful!” Now, my mom has lost her filter a bit in her older years, but I wonder if most of us, deep down inside, think the same thing about these places. They sound awful. And I’ll admit, I thought that way.
After working a few years for World Concern, I was sifting through photos of Bangladesh for a project I was working on, and I remember looking at the crowded streets – there was literally garbage piled up so high on either side of the street, it was like a 10-foot wall. In one of the photos, there was a cow standing on top of this pile, eating the garbage. And in another photo… much more heartbreaking. In fact, it’s a photo that has stuck with me ever since. It was of a young boy, maybe 8 years old, shirtless, but wearing a pair of adult pants that were cinched up around his waist and tied with a piece of rope or string. He was picking up a piece of rotten fruit from the garbage pile and smelling it – I’m sure to check if it was safe to eat…
So I was looking through these photos, and I thought to myself, that is NOT a place I ever want to go. I’d go to some of the other places World Concern works, but not Bangladesh.
Well, God has a sense of humor, you know? My very next trip, I was assigned to go to Bangladesh to interview and capture stories of young girls who were at risk of becoming child brides. Bangladesh has a longstanding and harmful practice of child marriage. I was like, really, God? After I said that’s the last place I’d want to go? Yes, really, He said.
That trip, and subsequent trips to Bangladesh, changed my heart for that place. Yes, it was hard. Yes, it was so foreign to me, and yes, it was hot, stinky, indescribably crowded, and all the hard things. But I prayed for God to help me see the people there the way He sees them. I prayed a dangerous prayer – for Him to break my heart for the things that break His. And He did – into a million tiny pieces.
Another thing I learned is that I have a much greater capacity for empathy and compassion than I thought I did. We can become so consumed with the struggles of our own lives that we forget how important, and I’d even say, freeing (from self-absorption) it is to consider the needs of others before your own.
I’ve also learned about people in my journeys. I’ve learned that people are essentially the same, when you get down to the heart and soul. We have the same needs, desires, and even similar dreams.
Lastly, I’ve learned a ton about God at the end of the road. Mostly that He is there. Always. Constantly. He is present in the hard places, and He loves the people there – those who by chance were born into such hard places.
God was always present with me there, but He used the hard places I’ve been to show me how utterly alone I am in the world, and how much I need Him.
The Evidence of His Presence
I remember one time, in a very remote part of Northern Kenya – I’m talking 8 hours by car from Nairobi, the last hour and a half on very bumpy dirt roads (so bumpy I’m shocked I didn’t break a tooth!), and the last half hour beyond where the dirt road ends and goes into the bush! That’s how remote we were.
We stayed in a guest house that was basically a concrete room with bars over a square cut out in the concrete wall to make a window and bugs were everywhere. And for the first time, I got sick with a stomach bug in the field, and I was down for the count. So, I didn’t travel with the team out to the field that day. I stayed back at the guest room. Alone. No cell coverage. No internet. No nothing. Just me in that concrete room. And I didn’t feel well at all.
God was there, and eventually showed me through two angels—World Concern staff who checked in on me—that He was right there with me. He heard my cries for help, and He sent them. I was able to rest peacefully the remainder of the day.
I hope this gives you a little taste of what it’s like at the end of the road. There is pain and there is beauty. And we can learn so much about ourselves, about people, and about God, if we’re willing to make the journey. I’m so glad you’re joining me!
So buckle up, my friend, this is not a podcast about your average church mission trip… Are you ready? Prepare for takeoff … we’re going to The End of the Road.
Every parent knows what it’s like to care for a sick child—the uncertainty, the frustration, even the fear.
For me, what always gets me is the moment I realize I can’t comfort my son. Or when he complains about something that I can’t possibly solve on my own. It’s heartbreaking because I want to be his protector, his hero, and make everything right again.
Most parents would gladly trade places with a sick child. And this is Alexi’s lament right now.
“When my son gets sick, it’s like I am sick too,” he says as his little boy sits quietly on his knee.
Lew is Alexi’s youngest (and sickest) son. All his children have been sick at one time or another, and all with the same symptoms—severe diarrhea, constant nausea, horrible stomach pain. This father is very familiar with effects of intestinal worms, some of which come and go, but Lew’s problems are persistent. And the worms are refusing to move.
“He’s really suffering right now,” Alexi tells me. “If it’s not the pain in his tummy, it’s the fevers. It’s one or the other and I don’t know what to do.”
This father of six lives in Haiti, high up in the hills and far removed from anything we would describe as livable. There is no medical clinic in this village, not even running water. There are no faucets. No flushing toilets. No place to bathe.
This is why Lew is so sick. The dirty water and unsanitary conditions are the perfect breeding ground for parasites. These nasty worms are now multiplying in Lew’s belly and sapping all the nutrients from his tiny body. The cure for this horrible condition?
But Alexi can’t afford it, and that was the reason I was visiting him. Thanks to the generosity of donors, World Concern is distributing these life-changing tablets to hundreds of sick Haitian kids.
How the 44-Cent Cure Saves Lives
The 44-Cent-Cure is the most cost-effective solution to poverty’s biggest problem.
Within days of taking the pill the worms are dead, Lew is cured, nutrients are being absorbed back into his body and he’s able to return to school and enjoy life as a happy, healthy child.
Alexi is a farmer, or at least was until Hurricane Matthew destroyed his crops.
Now, Alexi survives day-to-day, working odd jobs to scrape together enough money for the occasional meal and to send his kids to school. He’s planted some corn and some grain, but the plants are not even close to harvest yet.
So this single father does what he can and puts on a brave face. Yet he admits even this is getting harder and harder to do. Especially since Lew has been so sick.
“I am responsible for him and have no time to cry,” he whispers, not wanting his son to hear how difficult things are. “I must work.”
After a few days, the pill that we gave Lew killed all the worms in his belly. His fevers are now gone. The nausea and diarrhea are gone. And Alexi is able to return to work.
Alexi and I have something in common. We are both dads and dearly love our kids. We love Jesus. We both work. And we both want our families to be healthy.
After praying together, Alexi and I shook hands. And that’s when his story really hit home for me. Our hands could not have been more different. His are strong; his palms calloused and his fingers tough and weathered. Mine are the exact opposite. We have lived vastly different lives.
The biggest difference though? I am in a position to help. To learn more about how you can give the 44-cent cure and help cure a child, click here.
When Nepal shook more than a year ago, the world quickly responded with an outpouring of aid and support. In the aftermath of the disaster, a dark and sinister threat has been lurking beneath the rubble, just waiting to pounce.
As thousands of livelihoods lay in ruins, and humanitarian organizations scrambled to save lives and rebuild flattened communities, opportunity knocked for evil men. Fueled by a growing demand for child labor in nearby countries and fed by the perverse desires of a growing sex industry, these men had one goal—to exploit the desperation of local Nepali families.
Hoping to build a better life for their children, unsuspecting moms and dads are lured with false promises and quickly fall into the debt of evil men. With no way to repay, women and young girls are being trafficked across poorly patrolled borders. And without anyone to police, or prevent this horrific injustice they are being abused, exploited, and completely forgotten.
World Concern has been active in Nepal ever since the earthquake hit, working tirelessly with the local church to rebuild communities and reach the most vulnerable with livelihood support, and income generation opportunities.
Recognizing that trafficking is a threat in the poorest Nepali villages, World Concern is actively leveraging its Child Protection experts to provide in-country training. The aim is to raise awareness of the problem, and begin mobilizing a network of local partners to seek out and stop the threat of trafficking in high risk communities.
“There is a huge opportunity to prevent human trafficking in Nepal,” says Selina Prem Kumar, World Concern’s Sri Lanka Country Director who is in Nepal training church and community leaders to prevent trafficking. “Women and children are being trafficked into forced labor and as sex workers into neighboring countries with no border patrols.”
Having established a comprehensive child protection program after the bloody Sri Lankan civil war, Selina is now taking what’s she’s learned and accomplished across Southeast Asia, and is well aware of the dangers families face in the wake of an emergency.
The communities she’s visiting are within a few miles of the India border, where no visas are required to cross, making it an extremely high risk area.
Braving heavy rains, flooding and mountain road closures due to mudslides, Selina and her team traveled close to the Indian border, and into one of the trafficking ‘hot-zones’ to conduct the workshops. Proof that World Concern truly does go beyond the end of the road to serve those in need.
Expectant for change and eager to become more active in fighting trafficking in their communities, more than 40 volunteers from local churches, schools, and human rights groups attended.
“People walked through the jungles to get here,” Selina says. “Some traveled for over 7 hours—the landslides and floods turning what would have been a 3-hour journey into a day long trek.”
While there is much to do in Nepal, Selina is hopeful, “There is a lot of meaningful and deep possibilities in Nepal. We will continue working to train and mobilize border villages, churches, and organizations to prevent human trafficking.”
Even in the darkness, there is always an opportunity to shine light, and the work happening in Nepal is proof that there’s always hope for a brighter future.
Pushing my shopping cart hurriedly through the supermarket aisles, I paused briefly to glance at my watch.
Four-thirty. Great, I still had time to get what I needed and make my doctor’s appointment.
Weaving past carts filled with food, expertly avoiding strollers,
and randomly placed boxes, I barely slowed down to grab each item off the shelf and toss it in my cart. I was on a roll; a can of peanuts, lightly salted of course … a bag of washed potatoes … risotto rice … a bunch of fresh celery … a dozen free-range eggs … and the list went on.
Within ten minutes I’d finished my shopping, proudly looking at the pile of groceries that now spilled over the side of my cart. I’d checked off every item on my list, and managed to find a checkout aisle with less than four people waiting. I am the greatest shopper in the world.
Out of breath, I now stood impatiently in the checkout line, waiting to now unload everything that I’d just put in. Well, at least they would repack it for me. It was around the time I was contemplating whether I wanted the 2 for 1 candy bar offer that I thought of April. Not the month, but a little one-year-old girl I’d been reading about earlier that afternoon.
Before my frantic trip to the grocery store, I’d spent a few hours with little April. She lives with her mom in a small village in Myanmar. I wasn’t physically sitting with her, but reading her story it sure felt like it. I read about how this precious one had been sick for over six months. That’s half her life.
Her mother shared April’s story with a colleague of mine, and told of how hungry they both were. She earned enough to buy the very basics; rice, and a few vegetables every now and then. But they were never fresh, and something always had to be sacrificed in order to afford them. It was clearly April’s health.
I unpacked my cart, haphazardly placing each item on the belt as the checker scanned, and dropped them in a paper bag. My thoughts were not on whether my eggs were cracked, but firmly focused on April, and the dire situation she was in.
April and her mom had been screened for malnutrition, and the results were not good. In villages across Myanmar (and elsewhere in Asia and Africa), World Concern staff visit children like April and test them for malnutrition and other illnesses. It’s a free service, and the results (while often shocking) can save a child’s life.
I read about how April’s mom carried her to the mobile clinic, sitting quietly on a chair and waiting for the volunteer to call them. April did nothing but cry; not a wail or an impatient tear, but a whimper, as if there was simply nothing left to cry about. Her mom did everything she could to comfort April—making faces, singing, and bouncing her on her knee—nothing worked. So she sat there, totally defeated, and waited for her daughter’s name to be called.
When it was April’s turn to be seen, the nurse first weighed April in a sling, kind of like a hammock, recording her weight before moving onto the next, and most
important test. The nurse delicately threaded a paper tape around April’s upper arm. This measures the mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) and diagnoses the level of malnourishment according to a color scale—green is considered healthy, yellow shows that the child is malnourished, and red indicates severe and acute malnutrition.
April’s arm was in the red. And by a long way.
The cheerful grocery checker had almost finished packing my groceries, but at this stage all I could think about was April, and all I could hear was the beep … beep … beep … beep … of my food being scanned. Then I saw my total.
I quickly moved my eyes to my two bags of groceries. How is that $181.91?
Little April was starving, and here I am buying $181.91 worth of groceries. Her tiny immune system simply didn’t have the energy to keep on fighting, and so it was slowly giving up. She needed nutritious food, and quickly.
Thankfully, that’s exactly what World Concern is doing for hungry children in Myanmar and other communities like April’s. So after the clinic visit April’s mom was given an emergency food kit and told lovingly to come back when the basket was empty to receive more.
The basket they carried home that day was filled with locally-sourced, highly nutritious, fresh food—a bag of potatoes … nuts and beans … rice … fresh vegetables … free-range eggs—pretty much everything that I’d just bought.
And the cost of the emergency food kit? Only $22. I could feed 8 hungry children with what I just bought.
Collecting my receipt and trudging out to the car, I cringed at the abundance that was around me. Food was readily available. I had money to buy it. And I was about to visit my family doctor.
Later that evening I spoke with my son about April, and how we could give a hungry child basically everything I’d bought at the supermarket, for just $22.
My son is seven, and his response to me was exactly what ours should be:
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.
After living in Haiti for two years where I worked with World Concern, I returned to the U.S. a couple weeks ago. Aside from getting used to much colder weather and way too many cereal options at the grocery store, I have been attempting to answer, as best as possible, all kinds of questions about Haiti.
One of the most common questions has been how the country is doing since the 2010 earthquake—Haiti’s strongest in two centuries, claiming more than 230,000 lives. This tells me that perhaps not everyone has forgotten about Haiti and that fateful day on January 12, 2010.
However it’s a challenge to answer that question. It’s a big question and I feel a burden to answer accurately and completely, but at the same time I realize most people are not asking for a lecture.
As someone who has lived in Haiti, I can tell you that it is a wonderful place full of color and life. Most of all, it is my friends there and the dozens of others I’ve met through my work with World Concern that I remember. These faces are what stand out in my mind when someone asks how Haiti is doing and each face is a beautiful creation of God with a distinct story. Everyone has a story and each is unique. And with the stories of healing and restoration have come ones of difficulty and loss.
The recovery process and transition to long-term development has been slow and difficult at times, but positive things have happened in the past five years. But there are major chronic issues that persist which keep people from living healthy and productive lives. This is the reality. Is Haiti progressing? The answer, in my opinion, is yes. Does Haiti face challenges? Also yes.
There are more people coming to Haiti as tourists and the country’s image is slowly improving, roads are being rebuilt with many paved for the first time, and the number of homeless people has fallen to less than 100,000 out of the 1.5 million initially without a home following the earthquake.
And what about the struggles? Cholera, which was first introduced in Haiti in October 2010, is on the rise again, and the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to defeat it is missing. Too many families are not able to get enough food with 2.6 million people food insecure as of July and a political crisis looms as long overdue elections in the country are yet to be held. And Haiti remains vulnerable to drought, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.
The earthquake highlighted the need to focus on helping communities become better prepared and less vulnerable. This is an area that the government and many organizations, including World Concern, have chosen to invest in since 2010 which is encouraging. A community that is more able to cope with a crisis on their own is one that will be more protected and have less loss of life.
At World Concern we have worked to train local first responders, build community shelters, establish early warning systems, and introduce drought resistant seeds to farmers. Our goal is to see communities empowered, resilient and able to stand on their own. We’re grateful for significant progress in this area.
Haitian Creole, the national language of Haiti, has lots of proverbs or sayings—one thing that makes the language so rich and beautiful. There is a common proverb that says “Piti piti wazo fè nich,” which means “Little by little a bird makes its nest.”
So how is Haiti now? How has the country moved forward? Well, things are better and there is a lot of hope, but piti piti wazo fè nich.
It’s not a particularly artistic or perfectly composed photo. It’s even a little hard to tell what’s happening in this photo, which is probably why I paused for a moment while browsing through photos of Bangladesh’s slums.
It was my first week at World Concern, four years ago, and I had looked at thousands of photos of the places World Concern works as part of my orientation. There were many stunning photos of beautiful people, faces, families, and extreme poverty. But this is the one I’ll never forget, because it’s the one I was looking at when it “clicked” for me.
I stared at the image of a little boy, not more than 8 or 9 years old, wearing pants that are cinched at the waist so they won’t fall down, standing in the midst of a sea of garbage. He is smelling what appears to be a piece of rotten fruit. He was doing this, I’m sure, to try to determine if it was edible.
My stomach turned.
Several thoughts slammed into my mind as I stared at the boy in the slum:
He is a real person.
He is hungry enough to consider eating from that pile of garbage.
I must do something.
When I came to work at World Concern, I considered myself a compassionate, caring Christian. I gave regularly to my church, donated to our food bank, and supported a few charities, including humanitarian organizations.
But at that moment, my heart broke for the hungry, the poor, the forgotten ones in the world. I felt compelled to help. I believe God used that photo to break my heart for what breaks His.
I wiped my tears away, glancing around my new office to see if anyone was looking. Then I whispered a prayer: “Lord, help this little boy. Please reach down into that horrible slum and rescue him.”
I felt like God responded, “I will. And you will.”
I knew that didn’t mean I would hop on a plane to Bangladesh and find that one little boy out of the 162 million people in Bangladesh. It meant I would pour myself wholeheartedly into the mission and work of World Concern so that the experts in ending extreme poverty and rescuing children like this boy from its clutches can do their jobs.
Our 234 Bangladeshi staff members, along with our Kenyan staff, our Haitian staff, and all the others in the poorest countries in the world are pouring themselves wholeheartedly into this work. With our support, they provide real, tangible, lasting ways out of poverty. And my job is to spread the word about this cause, this mission, so people like you and I can do something too.
Sarah Kaczka is a social media intern at World Concern and will be posting on the blog this summer. As a sophomore at Wheaton College, she is interested in journalism and humanitarian aid, and hopes to use her love for storytelling to spread Christ’s love and encourage others.
As an avid reader and aspiring writer, I am fascinated with the art of storytelling. There’s something about a good story that pulls directly at my heart strings, and they often stick around in my mind for days after I hear them. Besides a riveting plot, intriguing setting, and a memorable cast of characters, a good story ultimately requires purpose and development, challenging the reader to consider a new idea or way of thinking. I especially love ones that have a redemptive ending.
Kahinur’s journey is definitely one of those stories.
As a mother living in a crowded urban slum in Bangladesh, Kahinur feels helpless to care for her infant son who has been sick for months. Her little boy likely has intestinal worms caused by the filthy environment and lack of sanitation in the slum where they live. These parasites suck the nutrients from her baby’s food and keep him awake all night, crying in pain.
This sweet little guy rests his head on Kahinur’s shoulder as she talks. His eyes are half closed, and his thin body is limp in her arms.
“I took him to several places for treatment, but nothing is working,” she pleads. Beads of perspiration cover her worried brow. The stifling afternoon heat causes a nauseating stench to rise from the garbage piles in the slum.
“I don’t know what will happen next with my son, and I am scared,” cries Kahinur. “If I fail to provide, then I fear my son could die.”
Parasites, like the ones attacking her baby’s body, can lead to malnourishment, diarrhea, and even blindness. And they stunt the development of a young child, causing permanent deficiencies if left untreated.
I can’t even imagine the fear Kahinur must have been facing in that moment, or her desperate frustration at not being able to provide relief for her son. Here in my suburban home, I am blessed to have doctors and hospitals nearby, never once having to worry about not having access to medicine.
Thankfully, Kahinur’s story continues. After receiving the 44-Cent Cure (deworming medicine), Kahinur’s son was fully restored back to health. Now Kahinur’s overwhelming worry is replaced by joy, and her tears are replaced by peace of mind and gratitude.
As much as I wish the story could end here, the truth is that there are thousands of families still suffering from parasite infections in Bangladesh. And their cries for help are not fictional – they are heartbreakingly real.
But the good news is, it isn’t hard to help. For a small handful of pocket change, we can provide medicine that changes lives. Isn’t that exciting? When I first heard about the 44-Cent Cure, I couldn’t believe that providing immediate relief for sick children could be that simple – but it is. Learn how to get involved and partner with World Concern today.
In Christ, our stories are beautiful ones of redemption and hope. Our stories are important – they shape our identities and are the means by which we connect with one other. It’s so exciting to think that through organizations like World Concern, the story of an American college student, like me, can intertwine with that of a woman in Bangladesh like Kahinur.
How does your story empower you to take action and make a difference in the lives of others?