We asked Fiona to share her heart for helping nonprofits raise awareness and fund through her beautiful jewelry designs. Here’s what she had to say:
At Carpia we believe that you can incorporate “doing good” into everyday life.
Spending most of our time at work, what better way to do good than making products that give back? Originally a jewelry design company, we decided to design gifts that support charities worldwide.
Knowing our every decision is one step closer to supporting a good cause, we design better, work harder and create faster. Every stone, every charm and every detail of packaging are geared towards attracting supporters for the world’s greatest causes.
We chose World Concern’s One Village Transformed project because the project focuses on long-term solutions such as clean water, fighting hunger, providing job skill training, and micro-financing to enable village members to break out of the poverty cycle and be self-sustainable.
The project is the epitome of the saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Now that’s a project worth supporting!
We designed the World Concern bracelets with agate beads embellished with a caterpillar and the butterfly charm to reflect this transformation.
When you wear or gift your One Village Transformed bracelet, you help fund and raise awareness for the villagers of Lietmhom, South Sudan.
Bracelets are available at www.carpia.org. *Free shipping during the month of October!
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.
She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Jean Berlin knows that his life was spared during the Haiti earthquake in 2010 for a reason. And that reason is to serve others. In honor of World Humanitarian Day, we wanted to share his amazing story of a life dedicated to serving people.
A math and physics teacher, Jean Berlin was teaching in a 5th floor university classroom in Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. Just before the earthquake hit, he got what he describes as “a bad feeling inside.”
“I felt something would happen,” he recalled.
He left the building, excusing himself from his students and explaining that he wasn’t feeling well.
Moments later, when the shaking started, Berlin was confused. He’d never experienced an earthquake before. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, the school was gone. The building had collapsed and everyone inside was dead.
“I said, ‘Oh my God what happened?’” Berlin ran home to check on his two sisters. Thankfully, both had survived the earthquake.
He’ll never forget that day when his city went dark. “It was a very, very bad time in Haiti,” he said. “After I wondered, ‘God why didn’t you give me the chance to ask my friends to come out too?’”
Berlin still has no answer as to why so many died that day, but he survived. All he knows is that he is here for a reason.
“Jesus saved me to serve people,” he says with confidence.
Although Berlin loved teaching, he now dedicates his life to helping protect vulnerable families and communities in Haiti from future disasters, like hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. As a project manager for World Concern’s Disaster Risk Reduction program in Port-de-Paix, Berlin teaches people safe building practices, disaster preparedness, and how to keep their families safe in a disaster. He says he never wants to see such massive, preventable loss of life again.
“If something happens in Port-de-Paix one day, now we won’t have as many victims,” he explains. “This is one way I can serve people.”
Berlin’s humanitarian service is his life mission, and the mission of World Concern.
“I can say that it is very, very important to serve people because, as Christians, we have to do what Jesus has done. Because Jesus himself, he served people too. As a Christian organization, it is our very special mission to serve people.”
We at World Concern humbly salute Jean Berlin as a dedicated humanitarian who is fulfilling his calling by serving others and protecting human life.
Listen to Jean Berlin say, in his own words, why he believes his life was spared so that he could help protect others.
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.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the island nation of Haiti on Oct. 24, it took the lives of more than 50 people, destroyed more than 6,000 homes, and damaged another 21,000 homes. According to the U.N., nearly 2 million Haitians were affected by the storm, which made landfall on the island nation as a category 1 hurricane before spiraling through the Atlantic and slamming into the East Coast of the U.S. on Oct. 29.
As families braced for the hurricane in Southern Haiti, a struggling farmer named Mr. Maxi did all he could to protect his home in the rural village of Marc-Cavaillon. He feared for the safety of his wife and two sons as fierce winds and torrential rains battered their home. Their lives were spared, he believes, by God and a few trees on their property as their home collapsed during the storm.
“We were so sad to see all that we possessed disappear in a brief moment,” he said.
The family gathered up the scraps of metal and wood from their home and pieced together the one-room shelter you see in this photo, which is where they’re living, “while waiting for God’s help,” Mr. Maxi said. The family is supported by his crops, but his income is barely enough to survive. His two children are not able to attend school, and can only write their names, he said.
Help has arrived for this family and others in Marc-Cavaillon and surrounding villages. The Maxi family will soon have a new home. Because of the remote location of this village, families here say they never receive any government assistance, even after major catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy. Residents said they consider World Concern’s help a “response from heaven.”
We are working to repair or rebuild more homes damaged by the storm in this area. We’re also giving families small cash grants to buy food, restart businesses, and get back on their feet earning income again.
Helping U.S. families recover
In the U.S., we’re working through partners who were on the ground on the East Coast within days of the storm, assessing needs, providing spiritual support, and organizing opportunities for cleanup teams. One partner your donations are helping support immediately dispatched rapid response clean up teams to communities in Northern New Jersey, such as the town of Little Ferry, which was heavily damaged by the storm surge.
As we maintain these relationships with our partners and assist with long-term recovery, we will continue to walk alongside families on the East Coast and in Haiti who lost so much. With a disaster of this magnitude, it will take time before life returns to “normal.”
In response to Deborah Sontag’s investigative report on the state of housing for earthquake survivors in Haiti, I wanted to expound on why building permanent homes is so challenging and revisit the idea of transitional shelters (T-shelters) and repairing damaged homes as ways to provide shelter for the homeless after a disaster.
In countries like Haiti, between one-third and one-half of the urban population lives in informal slums, essentially trespassing on government or private property. Many of these shelters are well below the minimum humanitarian standards to which aid agencies adhere. While working in informal settlements in Port-au-Prince, World Concern found that many people preferred the cramped quarters of a one-room shelter for large, extended families over the option of moving out of the city, away from jobs, transit and markets. In other words, moving people to outlying areas where large pieces of land might be developed for housing is not the best solution.
T-shelters are intended to last three years, with the understanding that a permanent housing solution will not be available before that time. It is important to note that the alternative is replacement tents every six months, which would cost approximately the same amount over the same time.
World Concern was one of several agencies that focused our work on repairing more than 2,000 damaged “yellow”-coded houses. Where houses could not be repaired, World Concern developed T-shelters with a permanent foundation, providing homeowners with a solid beginning on which they could build earthquake resistant housing within their own means.
An independent report prepared for USAID concluded that, of the 894,588 people who fled to camps in the days after the earthquake, more than 85% had returned to their homes by May 2011. This report concluded that there are many in the camps who are “hoping to take advantage of the aid; not necessarily renters.” This same study showed that yellow and green houses had a return rate of more than 95%, including renters.
One of the key contributions of foreign aid was the removal of more than 5 million cubic meters of rubble from the streets, walkways and private properties of Port-au-Prince. More than 50% of homes would not have been accessible without this work, and the cleared roads have enabled construction crews to rebuild more quickly.
Demolition of condemned buildings is not only expensive, but it’s a time consuming process. Many of these buildings are multi-story rental units or larger homes of wealthy families. Some of the latter have left town or even left the country, leaving a condemned building with no hope for new opportunities. Other landowners want the demolition to occur, but are not willing to accept single family units on their plot of land, preferring rather to wait until they have enough funds to replace the multi-story complex they once had. Land rights are an important part of democratic rule of law. If a former landlord refuses to rebuild, or to accept the affordable housing solutions offered by aid agencies, that is their prerogative.
It also takes time to work with the government to implement aid. Before the earthquake, Haiti did not have an urban redevelopment plan, so agencies have worked with the government to ensure an enforceable strategy is in place, rather than willy-nilly construction which creates a new hazard for the future. This strategy, while slow, is seen as the only way to prevent the cycle of calamity repeating itself again.
After the 2004 earthquake in Banda Aceh, it took more than five years to replace 140,000 homes. After two years, Port-au-Prince is only just shy of the same average rate of construction, with most of the heavy lifting already done.
While there is much more to do, the dream of safe housing is much closer for most Haitians than it was before the tragic events of 2010.
This is a guest blog post by singer Jenny Simmons, who recently traveled to South Sudan with World Concern to see the great need in this country and witness the transformation taking place with the help of her supporters.
It is a simple memory—but one that haunts my mind.
The sound of rain coming for me.
Last week in Lietnhom, South Sudan, I slept under a tin roof (one of the only tin roofs in the village; everything else is thatched) during one of the biggest thunderstorms I have ever heard in my life. The rain sounded like an army. Constant, steady, violent, encroaching. Angry. All night long it pounded away at the roof like artillery fire.
It is odd to sit in my living room today and watch the soundless rain roll off my shingled roof.
Like most of South Sudan, there is no electricity in the village of Lietnhom. So when it is dark, it is very dark. And when bolts of lightning strike, they pierce the sky with an unbelievably cruel, taunting brightness.
It must be scary as a small child to live in a hut with a thatched roof and no electricity during a thunderstorm.
It is utter darkness. No sound of cars in the distance. No highways. No stadium lights or street lights or sirens. Can you even imagine that kind of darkness? That kind of silence?
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.
In fact, the truth is,I was scared during much of my trip to South Sudan.
The people were kind beyond measure. They offered us the very best of every single thing they had. Their food. Their beds. Their friendship. Still, I found myself lying in bed each night praying several different prayers of desperation.
“Lord, please send a UN helicopter to come get me.”
“God, if you’re gonna end the world somehow, someway—tonight would be a perfect night for you to go ahead and do that.”
“God I will do anything—I will serve you anywhere—if you will please, please just deliver me from this place.”
It is with great shame that I confess: My solution, as I interacted with people living in extreme poverty, was to beg God to put an end to the world. Or at the very least, send in a special UN convoy to rescue me from latrines, mosquito nets, cold showers, no electricity and the really scary thunderstorm in the black of night that rattled the tin roof above my head like an army, coming to pillage.
Just because I spent a few days in the bush of South Sudan doesn’t make me a saint or a hero or even a humanitarian. I’m not. I straight up spent most of my time praying for the apocalypse just so I would not have to pee in another bush on the side of a dirt road. Is that really end-of-the-world worthy? I think not.
If you make any conclusion about me based on my trip to South Sudan, conclude this: I am scared and selfish.
Scared to eat food that comes out of a tin shack with mud floors and barefoot women. Scared to eat the chicken on my plate (because I swear he was just roaming around my bedroom window a few minutes ago). Scared to use the latrines, convinced that the horrific smell has created some sort of critter that will come out and eat me. Scared to sleep in pitch black darkness. Scared to hold a baby that may not live to be a little girl. Scared to hug a momma who has to bury that little girl. Scared to look at both of them in the eyes and imagine it being me and my little girl. Scared to love them and see them as people … because what if I go home and forget about their stories? Forget their cries for help?
“No milk. No milk,” the momma shows me her breasts, drooping and empty, “You take her.” And she tries to hand me her four-month-old baby.
Scared to look her in the eyes—scared that seeing her as human means I must act.
Scared that the problem is too big to be solved.
Scared that the only solution is death.
At the end of the day, I was just scared.
Though the country was beautiful and the people I met were amazing… the truth is, I couldn’t get home fast enough. When I got to Washington, D.C. my dad picked me up from the airport. I asked if we could go straight to a restaurant for breakfast. I scarfed down croissants and muffins. A latte. In a pastry shop that serves the up and up of Washington, D.C. elites. From there I went straight to the store and bought a new outfit. A razor. Body scrub. Face wash. I showered for nearly an hour. An entire hour of wasted water and gas. And then, we went out to eat again for Mexican food. I ordered $10 table-side guacamole. By the time I caught my flight back to Nashville I had spent more money in half a day than the families I had just been with, spend in a year.
And the spending and eating and gluttony on all levels was cathartic. A sort of cleansing of the poverty via a frenzy of money spending. It was like something in me needed to spend money. Needed to consume. Needed to re-ground myself in wealth and comfort as quickly as possible.
And that speaks to my own selfishness. My own poverty.
An unhealthy dependence on the things of this world to make me feel comfortable and happy.
So now you know the truth. I am just a girl. Mostly scared. Mostly selfish. Entirely out of her element in the small village of Lietnhom, South Sudan. Praying, begging for some end-of-the-world moment, simply so I could be delivered from my own discomfort.
Poverty does that to us. It makes us uncomfortable. And if we can just get to the center lane, so we don’t have to pull up right next to the homeless person on the corner and look them in the eyes, we have saved ourselves the discomfort of having to know and having to act.
The truth is, my trip to South Sudan with World Concern was one of the hardest trips of my entire life. And I feel like a baby saying that because my teammates joyously snapped pictures, conducted interviews, pooped in latrines without complaint and ate the poor little pet chickens without hesitation. But for me, it was hard. It was hard on my body and soul. It was an affront to every single way of life I have ever known.
South Sudan was hard for me.
We are all a little scared to stare poverty in the face. And we should be.
Poverty displays the very essence of our brokenness as people. Those living in it and the rest of us … avoiding it. We both operate out of poverty.
Jesus came to alleviate poverty. He didn’t avoid it. In fact, in the New Testament, many times Jesus went out of his way—literally, through different villages and cities in order to stare the broken, hurting, poor, widowed, ostracized people in the eyes. He looked poverty in the face, in order to give hope. Other times, he went out of his way to teach those with wealth what it truly looked like to follow him. To give away possessions, and more importantly, to be willing to follow His lead even when it meant personal comfort would be diminished. He knew that people were either impoverished in their spirit or in their possessions. A lack of faith or a lack of bread were the same in His eyes—and he sought to shine new life into both kinds of people.
We go where God sends us. To the least of these. And the truth is: we’re mostly too scared and too selfish to do this on our own. But God walks us through our greatest fears.
So at the end of the day, I do not stand here a proud girl, telling you of all the amazing things I did to serve the poor.
I stand here as a girl who prayed for a UN helicopter to come rescue me. And instead, found a Savior who gave me strength, comfort and overflowing power and love to stare poverty in the face and at the end of the day—to sleep through the storm.
It is beautiful here in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. That’s not something I imagine many Americans say on their first visit to this city—the poorest in the western hemisphere and home to about 3 million people. I expected it to be ugly, foul-smelling, really hot (which it is), and scary.
Blue skies blanket this city, and blooming fuchsia-colored bougainvillea drape over concrete walls that protect homes and buildings from the chaos on the other side. The smell of spicy grilled street food fills the air. Narrow, unpaved roads wind through hilly neighborhoods. The streets are clogged with honking vehicles and pedestrians who seem oblivious to cars and trucks swerving around them at terrifying speeds. Sidewalks are lined with vendors selling everything from shoes to dish soap.
But these are not the things that make it beautiful here.
This is the kind of beauty Isaiah describes in 61:3—the kind that comes out of ashes. Much of Port-au-Prince was reduced to dust in 2010 after a powerful earthquake crumbled its fragile cinder block structures. The city became a massive concrete grave for 230,000 people.
There are still piles of rubble every few blocks. Things have been cleaned up, but at first glance, it looks as though not much has been rebuilt.
To me, the chaos here is beautiful. The people here are beautiful—children in pressed uniforms and women carrying huge baskets filled with heavy loads on their heads. Mothers washing children’s clothing in metal tubs of soapy water. Families are starting over, making homes out of simple shelters.
The concrete floor is swept clean and the bed is neatly made in the home of Elias and Louis, a precious couple in their late fifties who welcomed us in, offered us a seat on the bed, then put on their best clothes to have their photos taken. A thin curtain separates the two shelters that were built together by World Concern so that the family of 12 could all live together. Their home is one of more than 3,000 World Concern has built or repaired after the earthquake.
They are retired teachers who lost their home in the earthquake. Louis rested her hand on her husband’s to try and still his trembling caused by Parkinson’s disease. Elias got tears in his eyes as he talked about their life, their losses, and the blessing their home has been.
“It is a gift from God,” he said. “After the earthquake, first God saved us, then World Concern helped us.”
Our eyes met and our hearts connected as we shook hands and thanked them for sharing their story and inviting us into their home.
“God bless you,” said Louis, in perfect English.
Beauty for ashes.
Strength for fear. Joy for mourning. Praise instead of despair.
Elias and Louis—and thousands of others who are starting over from nothing—are living examples of the “display of His splendor.”
We join with them in thanking God for the transformation that is happening in Haiti.
“Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” Psalm 115:1
Maria Abdi arrived in Dhobley, Somalia, with her five children and nothing but the clothes on their backs. She fled her hometown of Afmadow because there was no work there and the children were hungry. A relative paid her way to travel to Dhobley after Maria pleaded with them, having heard there was assistance here. But there was a charge for luggage and she couldn’t afford it, so she came empty-handed.
“I need everything a human being needs—all the basic necessities,” she said.
Maria’s family is among a new influx of arrivals in Dhobley, a transit point near the border for those traveling from Somalia to the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya.
World Concern has been responding to the crisis in Dhobley since August, but staff members are seeing a sudden sharp increase in new arrivals. Ongoing drought and conflict in other parts of Southern Somalia are to blame for the influx. However, some people are returning from the refugee camps in Dadaab, citing insecurity and lack of food and other support in the camps as the reason for leaving.
“We visited the areas where families are settling in Dhobley and conditions are bad,” said World Concern Africa Director Buck Deines. “Most live in very temporary shelters, inadequate to protect them from the harsh weather. In some cases the shelters are nothing more than sticks and mosquito nets. We saw the interiors of several shelters, and in most cases, the families have no supplies of any kind.”
Deines estimates there are approximately 12,000 people that have settled in makeshift camps and are in immediate need of help. World Concern is planning to distribute vouchers that will supply families with a two-week supply of food, as well as emergency supplies like tarps, blankets, cooking pots, water jugs and more. However, additional funding is needed to respond immediately.
World Concern has been supporting people affected by the famine and drought in the Horn of Africa for nine months, and the recent increase in displaced families presents an urgent need.
Khayro Yussuf sits inside her shelter made from faded garments and held together by rope. Two metal cups are the only possessions inside her tent, except for an orange flask, which a relative uses to bring her tea.
She fled her village after three of her brothers and her uncle were killed in front of her. Khayro and her children came to Dhobley, fearing for their lives.
She received some food rations, but when she put it on a donkey cart, the owner of the cart took off with her only food. “When he realized I was not a resident and that I didn’t know where to go, he ran away with it,” she said.
Shortly after arriving, Khayro sent her son to Dadaab. “I was afraid he would be absorbed by militia … I never wanted my son to carry a gun or to join such kinds of groups,” she said.
Her daughter is staying with her in Dhobley. “If she is to die, she will die here with me,” said Khayro.