Monthly Archives: November 2009

Poll: Reading magazines

A student in Sichuan Province, China. (Fu Xinhua/World Vision)

A student in Sichuan Province, China. (Fu Xinhua/World Vision)

Think about your favorite magazines—the ones you get in the mail, buy on the newsstand, or hope you’ll find at the hair salon. How do you read them? We’re curious about people’s reading (or even skimming) behavior and interested in how we can make our publication as reader-friendly as possible. 

We want to hear from you … please take our poll!

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Survivor’s story

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Just when I think I’ve heard all the amazing stories about Rwanda’s genocide, I come across another. In the current Winter magazine, Chantal Kagaba, a colleague in Rwanda, contributes a touching essay about how she forgave her mother’s murderer—and more than that, she and he became close friends.

Chantal Kagaba. (Andrea Peer/WV)

That’s just part of Chantal’s gripping story, the rest of which we put on the Web. When the killing began in 1994, Chantal’s husband was among the first victims. Grieving, seven months pregnant, and with her toddler daughter in tow, Chantal ran for her life. How she survived, kept her daughter alive, and birthed her son in the bush is compelling reading. An equally difficult journey was her emotional recovery years later, helped in part by World Vision workshops. Now Chantal courageously tells her tale to visitors in Rwanda (she met with Women of Faith speakers earlier this year) and wherever she goes.

When news of Rwanda’s genocide broke 15 years ago, it spoke only of incomprehensible human brutality. But in the years since, survivors like Chantal have enhanced the story, reminding us that the best of humanity—valor, faith, compassion, and resilience—can overcome even times of terror.

I invite you to read Chantal’s story. And share with us: What stories about Rwanda’s genocide have inspired you?

Related post: Dinner at the Hotel Rwanda (Sept. 3, 2009)

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All the right ingredients

By Kari Costanza, just back from Mexico.

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Michoacán, Mexico. (Jon Warren/WV)

Last week, photographer Jon Warren and I were in Michoacán, Mexico, doing a story on World Vision child sponsorship and microfinance. Microfinance involves giving small loans to people—usually in groups—to grow small businesses. The program is hugely successful. We wanted to find out if microfinance in communities with sponsorship yields even better results for families. You’ll have to wait until one of next year’s magazines for the story.

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Yolanda and her family. (Jon Warren/WV)

Jon and I try to focus on one family to tell our stories. I remember stories best when I can connect them with faces. We found a wonderful, hard-working family with three sponsored children. They’re using their loan to run a number of businesses—a taco stand, a pork carnitas business, and they create beautiful local handicrafts. The bags are made from the wool of their own sheep, and they’re so lovely that I became a customer.

We spent three days with the family. They told us about the challenges in their community—how poverty forces migration. How migration disintegrates families. And how for them, family is everything.

As we left, the family’s mother, Yolanda, said, “Come tomorrow for dinner. I’ll make mole.”

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Mole in Mexico. (Jon Warren/WV)

I had mole (pronounced mol-ay) once before in San Antonio, Texas, at what is supposed to be Barbara Bush’s favorite restaurant. I was disappointed. The sauce was runny and I didn’t taste the chocolate. But I looked forward to the experience of eating with the family.

The next afternoon, we arrived as the family was making mole near the taco stand. They’d set up a table in the middle of the road for us. We watched the process—stirring the chocolate, chilies, and onions in a cast-iron pot, then letting the mixture bubble like a geyser at Yellowstone. Yolanda made blue-corn tortillas, and rice, and stewed a chicken we’d seen the day before—when it still had feathers.

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Yolanda treats Kari to a superb mole meal. (Jon Warren/WV)

The mole was delicious, thick and grainy, with amazing flavor. I’ve never had anything like it—chocolate and chilies together. I wished Barbara Bush could taste it. The chicken was perfectly cooked. I had a thigh and Mexican rice covered in dark-brown mole sauce. The family asked if I wanted more. I said, “Yes, please—but just mole. Just give me more of that mole.”

As Yolanda spooned mole on my rice and chicken I thought, This could be a Food Network show.

My daughter, Claire, and I love the Food Network. Sometimes, on weekends, we’ll watch shows together (she especially loves Giada) and prepare special dishes while my son, Nick, shakes his head in dismay. What I was experiencing—sitting in the street with a family I loved, knowing their incredible story, and enjoying their delicious mole—was the genesis of program the likes of which I’ve never seen. It had all the ingredients for good TV. Jon agreed and suggested adding a guest chef to travel to a different country, meet a family, and then learn to cook their way.

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Making tortillas the old-fashioned way. (Jon Warren/WV)

The show would combine context and cuisine. You’d learn about the issues that people face—in Michoacán, there’s poverty, a powerful drug mafia, and deforestation threatening the existence of the Monarch butterflies that fly back every winter. You’d learn how people make their food—and why it tastes better that it does at a first lady’s favorite restaurant.

World Vision meets the Food Network. My question is: Would you watch it?

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Lying to our children

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Kari examines a Monarch butterfly. (Jon Warren/WV)

Kari Costanza is on assignment in Mexico, but a recent family event is on her mind.

Our dog, P.J., has been sick with cancer. It came on suddenly. He went from a garbage-can-raiding, UPS-truck-chasing, barking-at-even-the-friendliest-of-neighbors beagle to a lethargic, puffy, tired old dog who would let the UPS man drive by without lifting a paw.

We took him to the vet and she diagnosed him with cancer and put him on medication. We’d mix the pills in his food and he’d gobble it up. It worked for awhile, but recently the cancer exploded—one side of his face swelled like a Macy’s Day parade balloon. He was panting like crazy, even starting to lose his taste for food.

My husband, Tom, laid out the options: The dog would either get more medication to delay the inevitable or be put down. I hesitated. “What about the kids?” I said, “The kids love the dog. Won’t they be angry if we let the vet put him down?

“We could lie,” I suggested. “We could say he had a stroke and that he died on his own at the vet.”

Then I thought about Santa, a woman I met in Gulu, northern Uganda, in 2006. Santa was a grandmother who took care of her orphaned granddaughters by day. The girls—Lilly, Harriet, and Nancy—spent every night at Noah’s Ark, a shelter in Gulu for children to protect them from being abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). At the time, the LRA often stole children and made them soldiers or “wives” to soldiers. It was safer for kids to sleep at the shelter than at their homes.

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Children at Noah's Ark in Gulu, Uganda. (Jon Warren/WV)

I was working on a story about a family whose parents had been killed by the LRA, to show how difficult this conflict was on children. World Vision workers pointed me to Lilly and her sisters. I walked home from Noah’s Ark with the girls one morning to meet Santa. I asked the grandmother how she came to take care of the girls after their parents were killed by the LRA.

Out of earshot of the girls, she whispered, “They weren’t killed by the LRA. They died of AIDS.”

“Why did you tell the girls they were killed by the LRA?” I asked.

“AIDS is too scary,” said Santa.

I pondered that lie for awhile—how in Uganda, for this grandmother, dying of AIDS seemed scarier than dying at the hands of rebels. What an awful world these children live in, where the lies their guardians tell them are big lies because the issues children face are so traumatizing. I couldn’t imagine having to make that choice as a grandmother—choosing death by AIDS over death by rebels.

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P.J. (Courtesy the Costanzas)

We told the children the truth about their dog, that they might not see him again and that it was time to say goodbye. Buckets of tears were shed, especially by our daughter, even though the dog had systematically eaten through her Barbie doll collection (he loved their hands and feet). But when we came home from the vet without P.J., we didn’t have to lie.

Remembering Santa’s lie and what motivated it helped me make a decision. Death is trying, but death happens. Dogs die. People die. But in our situation, death didn’t involve fear. I don’t begrudge Santa her decision to lie to her grandchildren, even though for me, rebels are scarier than AIDS. I’ve met so many people living with HIV in Africa who are living life to the fullest. But I’m not a grandmother in northern Uganda. My choices are much easier.

More from Kari in Mexico soon.

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Design notes

By Mike Ryan, Design Director at Journey Group

Mike Ryan

If you receive World Vision magazine, you see the culmination of a long and fruitful design process between Journey Group and World Vision’s magazine staff.

As the designer, I usually start with a 3,000-word story, hundreds of images, and a handful of graphic ideas. Fitting all of the necessary elements into four or five spreads is a challenge.

The larger challenge, however, is packaging all of these elements together in a way that creates pause and communicates clearly. Purely by nature, designers relish the former and editors strive for the latter.

The process between Journey Group’s designers and World Vision’s editors embraces both. The final magazine design should be distinct for World Vision, consistent in feel, and appropriate for the content.

In an effort to share our collaborative design process, I’d like to show you four opening spread designs for the cover feature of the Winter 2009 issue. The feature is authored by Max Lucado, reflecting on Acts 3 and his trip to Ethiopia, where World Vision is at work. The theme for the entire feature package is “Stories of Transformation.” These four images represent about 5 percent of the designs that were created, but I think they effectively illustrate this particular design process.

Winter 1

Proof 1 design

Journey Group starts with the raw content and a visual summary—a document where the editorial team outlines the storytelling objectives. This story was unique in a few ways: 1. There was a prominent guest author (Max Lucado) who was to be featured photographically, and 2. The feature was more of a devotional than the usual photojournalistic World Vision magazine feature.

At first, the editors wanted to explore featuring Max on the cover and less prominently on the opening spread. Because there wasn’t a particular photo tied to the story to represent on the spread, we searched for a generally hopeful and scene-setting image of Ethiopia. I really liked a portrait of a young boy, seen above in proof 1. The boy wasn’t a mentioned in the story, but he was both Ethiopian and hopeful. From a design perspective, his portrait provided rich color and texture for the backdrop of the entire feature package. We felt that the story’s environment had to be rich in design, since there wasn’t the usual photographic narrative that usually carries a feature.

Winter 2

Proof 2 design

After proof 1, we and the editors decided together that it was important to feature Max Lucado on the opening spread. This, of course, changed the way we thought about the design of the spread. There were plenty of great photos of Max. The best were images of Max with his wife, Denalyn, and his sponsored child, Mimi. We were all in agreement that the design flavor started on proof 1 was appropriate. This design (above) was our best effort to maintain the same look with a new photo.

As a side note, photos of Ethiopian landscapes were also entertained, but the right image needed a prominent subject in order to counterbalance the weight of the graphic elements on the opposite page.

Winter 3

Proof 3 design

The visual changes at this stage had to do with the weight of the cover story compared to the other two features in the issue (“Footprints on the Heart” and “Something to Live For”). Prior to this stage, all of the features had a single-page photo opposite the story introduction. World Vision encouraged us to give prominence to the cover feature by using a landscape image of the same scene of Max.

The design at this stage began to suffer. The problem was how to retrofit a horizontal image AND keep the rich design elements that were already throughout the feature well. This image (above) was our first attempt. It made this feature more prominent, but it was yet to be solved graphically.

Winter 4

Final design

With one proof stage to go, the problem was finally resolved. The solution: The image remained a large horizontal, but was reduced in size to accommodate breathing room for the complimentary design elements. The final design became a distinct introduction to the feature package that was consistent in look and feel, and appropriate in tone.

I hope that our design work on World Vision magazine only enriches your interaction with World Vision’s stories of transformation.

Thanks for reading.

Related posts: Choosing Chaltu (Nov. 3, 2009), Too many choices (Sept. 21, 2009)

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Choosing Chaltu

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Winter09.CoverThis is it! Out of many great options by Jon Warren, the photo of this adorable Ethiopian girl with the shy smile, 7-year-old Chaltu Dechasa, is our final choice.

Thanks to those of you who expressed opinions here and through Facebook, this was a fun process. I loved reading your reactions to the children’s beautiful faces.

I was blown away by one of the first comments, by Todd Pottinger, who found our cover girl “extraordinarily compelling,” for these reasons: “The light of the child’s face emerges from the darkness of her circumstances, the wisdom in her eyes, her faith in the viewer to do the right thing, and a bit of mirth, even. In any other context, this would be a simply beautiful portrait, but here, there is a quiet power, an imperative that speaks beyond words, an understanding and a grace. She holds both the question and the answer.”

Wow!

Hard to follow Todd’s words with a much more mundane explanation for the final choice, but here goes. We narrowed it down to the two girls’ photos (dropping out the boy’s photo only because it had been used in other World Vision pieces already and we didn’t want to risk overexposure), and then we started playing around with cover titles. That’s the key to a good cover—the right combination of image and words.

For this issue, we wanted to call out Max Lucado’s amazing excerpt and connect the Ethiopian girl to Max’s trip. Eventually we landed on “In Ethiopia, Max Lucado Encounters Miracles in the Making.” (Yeah, we like alliteration.) Chaltu’s expression in the photo fit those words—as did her story. Chaltu’s mother, Bontu, is a widow struggling to raise her children alone. But help is coming through World Vision and Chaltu’s sponsors.

Secondary reasons for choosing Chaltu: We liked that she was wearing red (a nod to this issue being live at Christmas), and that little glimmer of light to the right also added something (thanks, Jon!).

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An alternate cover choice is on page 14 of the magazine. (All photos by Jon Warren/WV)

Because so many people loved the other cover option, the girl with the big smile, I was nearly swayed—I agree that her joy was irresistible. But as it turned out, we already had a place for her in the magazine. Early on our designers had selected her photo for page 14, a quartet of “slice of Ethiopian life” images, and her green shirt added the right color. So there was a home for this photo, but there wasn’t for little Chaltu.

Put all those reasons together, along with insightful comments by Todd and others, and we felt we were choosing a winner.

Thanks again to all of you who weighed in! And stay tuned … another issue’s in the works, and you better believe I’ll ask for opinions again!

Related post: Too many choices (Sept. 21, 2009)

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