We’ve moved!

Hello friendly readers!

This is an announcement to tell you that World Vision magazine’s blog has moved.

You can now find us at worldvisionmagazine.org.

Now you can find all of our stories from the print edition of the magazine at worldvisionmagazine.org/stories.

And if you want just the blog posts, head over to worldvisionmagazine.org/blog. And the new RSS feed is here.

Thank you so much for reading and supporting us in the last year. We’re excited about the new site, and we hope you check it out.

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Here for the kids

By Laura Reinhardt at the Youth Empowerment Program Summit in Washington, D.C.

World Vision YEP

The YEP team from Albany, Ga. (Laura Reinhardt/WV)

I’m a heat wimp. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The Pacific Northwest has spoiled me with its relatively cool and humidity-free summers. But for the past four summers, I’ve found myself in our nation’s capital, dealing with heat and humidity that can knock you over. And honestly, there’s no place I’d rather be. I’m here for World Vision’s Youth Empowerment Program Summit. It’s like a family reunion of young people from across the country.

[Ed. note: Here are some of Laura’s photos from the summit]

They been through some of the toughest things I’ve ever heard about—certainly things beyond my high school experience. When I was in high school, it was shocking when a classmate got pregnant. I never worried that I might not make it home from school like young people do in some urban areas these days. Smoking cigarettes in the bathroom was about as rough as it got in my rural high school. Now, youth in rural areas face rampant prescription-drug abuse and alcoholism among their peers.

But these teens want to make a difference. They’re dedicated to it. They spent two evenings a week or a Saturday morning for the past 20 weeks meeting with their teammates. They focused on their community’s assets and problems, then picked one problem on which to focus. Now they’re here to meet with their members of Congress. They’ll attend workshops by nationally renowned speakers.

But they’re also here to connect with each other. Some of them have attended for the past three or four years—that’s where the family reunion aspect comes in. Many are eager to see friends they made last year or the year before.

Fundisha (Heidi Lenssen/WV)

I’ve gotten to watch some of these teens grow up, find their voices, and become ready to step up and make a change. In my job, my interviews and stories often capture a moment in time. But with this assignment, I see what happens to these kids year after year. I’ve watched Shelby from Albany, Ga. (pictured above, kneeling, white shirt)—with her quirky, high-pitched voice—blossom into a young woman on her way to college in the fall. I’ve seen Fundisha come back home to Seattle after her first summit and launch a community program to raise awareness about youth violence. This year, she did her senior project on the same topic. She plans to go to Howard University.

After their first Youth Empowerment experiences last year, Giovannie and Kevin from northern Virginia were asked to lead an advocacy workshop for adults. They said they never would’ve had this experience if it hadn’t been for their involvement in this program. They’re back at the summit this year.

So as long as the Youth Empowerment Program Summit continues to convene, I will be here, even if temperatures push 100 degrees (like now). I want these teenagers—who are so committed to positive change—to know that there is an entire network of people around the country committed to helping them.

Laura Reinhardt

Laura Reinhardt

Read Laura Reinhardt’s magazine feature about the Youth Empowerment Program.

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The “Real Africa”

By Tom Costanza, on assignment in Zambia.

A hotel courtyard in Lusaka. Real crocodile, unreal experience of Zambia. (Tom Costanza/WV)

The Southern Sun was cold when we got to Zambia. People were walking its hallways in hats, scarves, and down parkas. To a guy from the Northwest, it was just a little chilly.

The Southern Sun is a fairly upscale hotel in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city. Its restaurant courtyard surrounds a pond filled with crocodiles (really!) and these beautiful yellow birds called weavers that spend all day building elaborate hanging nests. It’s a wonderful place to sit with a cup a coffee and just watch.

Tom films volunteer AIDS caregivers. (WV)

Zambians call their country “the Real Africa.” But if you only saw the Southern Sun, you’d never come close to seeing the real Africa. To see that, you need to head out to where the pavement gives way to red dirt and dust devils and the sky is deep blue and filled with billowing white clouds. It’s the Africa of laughing children and hardworking adults. That’s where you meet people like Richard, a home-based caregiver who walks seven kilometers several days a week to tend to his ailing friend, Nickson (I couldn’t help but chuckle at the name coincidence—Richard and “Nixon”). Or you meet Pastor Crispin Varruth, who, before becoming a pastor, lost three brothers, two sisters, his wife, and four of his five children to AIDS.

Now Pastor Varruth runs a support group in his congregation to help lift up those living with HIV. They call it “living positive.” I love the dual meaning of that phrase. Thanks to anti-retroviral drugs, these days people who are HIV-positive are no longer condemned to a slow but sure death. They see people like Pastor Varruth, who’s HIV-positive himself and living a happy and productive life. He is the embodiment of the term “living positive.” If he can do it, they reason, so can they. Here, community members, churches, and even whole villages reach out and support each other.

That’s the “real Africa” I know.

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Lest we forget

By James Addis, Senior Editor

Haiti Earthquake

Gina Jean and her family. (James Addis/WV)

Today, I am working from a comfortable office. Exactly six months ago, I was on a plane to Haiti to report on one of the worst earthquakes in human history—one that killed more than 220,000 people. My work environment there included overcrowded hospitals and hastily set-up displaced people’s camps that lacked water and sanitation.

One question I was sometimes asked after returning home was: “How did if affect you personally?” That’s not easy to say. There was a range of emotions. Some experiences were heartbreaking. I’ll never forget the corpses of children lying in the streets and the people trying to dig relatives out of the rubble using small crowbars and flimsy hacksaws.

One woman I met, Gina Jean, was cradling her 4-month-old daughter and living in a tent made of bed sheets. Losing her home was not so bad. Her real concern was that she had not seen her husband since the quake. Was he alive or dead? “How can I continue living like this?” she asked me. “How am I supposed to take care of my children?”

Haiti earthquake

Nicole Muse cares for a child after surgery. (Jon Warren/WV)

But in the midst of tragedy, I was also inspired. World Vision’s relief manager, who lost her daughter in the quake, carried on working so that the lives of others might be saved. Chicago nurse Nicole Muse hopped on a plane without hesitation as soon as she heard the news of the quake. Within hours she found a field hospital in Haiti and began caring for dozens of horrifically injured children.

Coming home after seeing these kinds of things, it can be a little hard to adapt. Everything seems slightly banal. There’s a discussion with my wife about where we will find the money to fence the yard. At the supermarket checkout, tabloids are trumpeting that Dr. Phil’s marriage is on the rocks, and there are updates on the turbulent love lives of actors called Brad, Jennifer, and Angelina.

It can be easy to feel superior to this trivia. But the truth is, after a few months my memories of Haiti do begin to fade. Immediate “concerns” reassert themselves. Even for World Vision, there are other big issues to think about—devastating floods in China, for example, or a hunger crisis in Niger.

So the six-month anniversary of the quake is a good reminder for me and an opportunity to check on progress. A World Vision report on the last 180 days is encouraging in that it shows how much help is getting through: the distribution of food to 1.8 million people; the delivery of 2 million liters of clean water every week; the construction of hundreds of toilets and showers; the continuing work of 10 health clinics; and the ongoing distribution of tarpaulins, tents, and cooking utensils to assist some 120,000 people.

Haiti earthquake

James interviews a quake-affetced family. (Jon Warren/WV)

And yet, as the report notes, the needs remain great. About 1.5 million people still live in emergency shelters. Difficulties in securing construction materials and establishing land ownership rights and the logistical challenge of removing tons and tons of rubble are proving to be major obstacles.

I confess it’s been a while since I prayed for Gina Jean and the thousands in her predicament. I’ll do so tonight. Perhaps you could join me?

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Memories of Cambodia

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Carl Harris, former World Vision Cambodia director. (Paul Diederich/WV)

World Vision’s 60th anniversary has provided an opportunity to look back and take stock. For history-lovers like me, it’s deeply satisfying to retell the old stories and connect with people who helped shape the ministry through the years.

I want to tell you about one of those people. Carl Harris served with World Vision in Cambodia in 1973-75, as the country descended into chaos. Unbeknownst to many of us at headquarters, Carl lives right here in Seattle, on a boat on Lake Union. A few weeks ago, he and my boss, Milana McLead, crossed paths at a church neither of them usually attended. They struck up a conversation and quickly discovered their mutual connection to World Vision.

The timing was serendipitous. My colleague, Paul Diederich, was working on the 1970s chapter of the “60 Years of Vision” documentary. There was just enough time to get Carl’s story on tape.

Minh Tien Voan, deputy director for World Vision Cambodia in the 1970s. (Eric Mooneyham/WV)

An Episcopalian priest and former Marine, Carl was working for the U.S. State Department in Vietnam in the early 1970s when World Vision’s president at the time, Stan Mooneyham, pegged him to fill one of several open positions in Southeast Asia. Carl became the director of a brand-new office in Cambodia. Calling himself “more of an Indian than a chief,” Carl relied greatly on his second-in-command, Minh Tien Voan, a U.S.-educated former executive of Shell Oil, to oversee relief operations for the refugees flooding into Phnom Penh and the construction of the first-ever pediatric hospital in Cambodia.

A photo Carl treasures of the Khmer staff at World Vision's nutrition centers in Cambodia. Many of them died during Pol Pot's reign.

In January 1975, the Khmer Rouge’s offensive on Phnom Penh began. Carl and his team endured three months of constant shelling and rocket attacks. In April, just ahead of the city falling to Pol Pot, expatriates were evacuated, with Carl among the last to go. Voan sent his wife and children out, but he stayed behind, believing that his country needed Christians. Soon after, Voan was killed as he attempted to distribute Scriptures to terrified refugees.

All these years later, Voan’s loss is still a bruise on Carl’s heart. Recently he came to headquarters to attend chapel, arriving early to tour the Visitors Center. I found him rooted in front of the memorial fountain honoring World Vision’s fallen employees. He gazed at Minh Tien Voan’s name, right the top of the list. “Murdered by the Khmer Rouge, that’s true,” he murmured, blinking back tears. “I’ve never seen it in black and white.”

Carl made this particular piece of history real for me. He put flesh on a man who was once a name on a plaque, a figure in an old photo. His still-fresh grief gives necessary gravity to the fact that some who walked before us sacrificed everything for God.

See Carl Harris in “60 Years of Vision: Part Three.”

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Our history channel

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Here’s a great way to walk through World Vision’s 60-year history (a good prep for the next anniversary-themed magazine). It’s the first of six documentaries available on worldvisiontv.org.

Like it? Watch the next two chapters on the site; three more are in production. See clips of the Korean Orphans Choir singing and dancing with the Muppets and Julie Andrews. Watch heart-tugging footage of Operation Seasweep, World Vision’s rescue ship that plucked “boat people” refugees from the South China Sea in the 1970s. Hear from the people who witnessed pivotal events (and me, although I wasn’t there—I just love our history).

Also on worldvisiontv.org, don’t miss “Back to Amoy,” a documentary of Marilee Pierce Dunker’s visit to China. This is a great preview for the article Marilee wrote for our upcoming Autumn issue, mailing in just a few weeks.

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Stuttering progress at the G8

By James Addis, Senior Editor

World Vision campaigners make the point that G8 promises on child and maternal health are overdue. (Henry VanderSpek/WV)

“Any problem can be rendered insoluble,” some wit once said, “if there are enough meetings held to discuss it.” If you enjoy that line as much as I do, you might be skeptical that last weekend’s round of meetings of the G8 and G20—involving heads of state from the world’s major economies—could possibly produce anything useful.

Nevertheless, World Vision has quite a big interest in the outcome of both meetings, which were held in Muskoka and Toronto in Canada. For a long time, World Vision, along with a number of other NGOs, has been lobbying governments to make humanitarian concerns a priority at the meetings, and in particular that they honor previous financial commitments to alleviate global poverty.

World Vision’s special concern at these summits was child health and the distressing fact that about 24,000 children die every day from readily preventable diseases. Would the G8 and G20 stump up with the funding necessary to reduce child mortality of under 5-year-olds by two-thirds by 2015? This was, after all, one of the Millennium Development Goals set by world leaders with much fanfare in 2000.  

Well, would they? I phoned my colleague Robert Zachritz, World Vision’s director for government relations, who attended the meetings, to find out. His answer: “No.”

Robert Zachritz

It might have been a rather short conversation, except Robert went on to explain that the news was not all bad. While commitments at the G8/G20 fell far short of the estimated $24 billion required to meet the above-mentioned Millennium Development Goal, the G8, largely thanks to the leadership of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, did make some headway by committing $5 billion over the next five years to child and maternal health—something now known as the Muskoka Initiative. Additional commitments from a handful of countries outside the G8, plus commitments from the U.N. Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, added a further $2.3 billion, bringing total commitment to $7.3 billion.

Robert says the fact that child and maternal health occupied so much of the agenda is significant given that there were so many other pressing issues to discuss—the global economy, security, and the environment. He also liked the Canadian government’s publication of the Muskoka Accountability Report, which candidly assesses the G8s past performance in honoring development-related commitments. Incidentally, the gist of the 88-page report is: some progress, but could be better.

Robert sees the emphasis on tangible measurement of progress as a helpful trend. It means nations are discouraged from making fanciful commitments to unrealistic goals. They know that whatever they do commit to will be tested—and it will be noted if their actions fail to match their rhetoric.

Despite such gains, Robert regrets the summits could not have showed more heart by committing more cash. “There’s been real progress, and lives will be saved,” he says, “but it’s disappointing so many will still be dying.” 

He says it points to the continued need for NGOs to maintain the pressure at these kinds of international forums, and especially to try to get the stuttering momentum toward eliminating poverty achieved by the G8 to spill over into the newer G20 grouping.

Robert points out that the United States alone was able to find $1 trillion to combat last year’s financial crisis. In this context, finding $24 billion to save children’s lives shouldn’t be that much of a stretch.

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