Monthly Archives: February 2010

Seven ways to pray

By Jane Sutton-Redner

(Andrea Peer/WV)

First Haiti, now Chile. Here’s how you might pray for people affected by disasters, sparked by daily life moments.

1. Waiting at the drive-through for coffee or fast food, think of people standing in long lines for food distributions. Picture their anxiety—Will there be enough? When this food is gone, what’s next? Pray for a steady supply of food and drinkable water for survivors in their time of need.

2. As you pop a pain reliever or stick a band-aid on a cut, remember people wounded in disasters. Their injuries can become fatal if they’re not treated in time. Pray for doctors and nurses to swiftly help the wounded—especially frightened children—with the right medications and supplies.

3. When you look at photos of your relatives and friends on Facebook, think of those grieving after a disaster has taken away their loved ones. Take a moment to register the pain of people reeling with such loss, and pray that they feel the comfort that only God can provide.

4. While cleaning your bathroom at home, thank God for your easy access to sanitation. Homeless disaster survivors lack toilets, hygiene supplies, and privacy in crowded displacement camps. Pray for families in these undignified circumstances.

5. When you pick up your kids from school, remember the children who get separated from their parents in a crisis. Imagine the fear on both sides: a mother’s or father’s desperation, a child’s terror of being alone. Ask God to protect separated children and bring to their aid caring guardians who can help them reunite with their parents or surviving relatives.

6. As you run errands, reflect on how life is utterly disrupted for people after a disaster—stores, schools, and even churches damaged; electrical power failing, phones dead, roads impassable. Think of how strange—and even dangerous—it must be to have to scramble for the most basic necessities when civil society shuts down. Pray for order to reign in these communities and for protection for vulnerable families.

7. In those first few moments when you lie down to sleep, think of the people forced to live outside or in tent camps because their homes were destroyed. Appreciate what’s on their minds as they drift off to sleep—distress over what has happened; uncertainty about what the next day will bring. Pray that families will obtain adequate shelter and feel a sense of peace that God has not forgotten them.

Go to www.worldvision.org for updates on Chile’s earthquake.

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Haiti: An African’s view

John Kisimir in Haiti. (Madeline Wilson/WV)

By John Kisimir, World Vision’s relief communications expert from Kenya currently based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

I am on the trail, following thousands of people on the run from the tribulations of the devastating earthquake in Part-au-Prince, Haiti. An estimated 40,000 of them have fled to La Gonave, an island to the west of the capital city.

They have moved from the massive camps in Port-au-Prince either because they have family or friends in La Gonave or have found conditions in the sorrowful, overcrowded camps unbearable. Moving with them are thousands of children, distressed and hungry.

Parts of Haiti are like a sub-Saharan African nation—from its cultural beauty to an economy on its knees. But there are two things about Haiti that set it apart from a country in Africa. One is that it has been knocked flat out by the earthquake. Second it is not a young nation—it emerged from colonialism and slavery more than 200 years ago.

Haiti earthquake

World Vision staff inspect the quake's impact on the island nation. (Jon Warren/WV)

The country is a mere 680 miles from Miami, a world where expensive Ferraris grace the massive freeways. The Dominican Republic, Haiti’s island neighbor, hosts thousands of holiday-makers on all-inclusive Caribbean paradise tours. Yet Haiti’s children are just as desperate and hungry as many in Sudan, Congo, or Kenya.

Haiti’s poverty is crippling, to say the least. My visit to La Gonave is a testament to a forgotten and defeated people. Its roads are extremely neglected, making it near impossible for vehicles to pass. Residents find mules, donkeys, and their own feet more reliable transportation. Our drive through the hills and valleys was painful—the vehicle shook and swerved, creaking all the way—shaking those onboard like seeds in jar.

The island had an estimated 100,000 inhabitants before the 40,000 new arrivals. Its young people have little or no education and are unemployed. Thousands of those who fled Port-au-Prince have found a place among friends and relatives. Homes are overcrowded, food and water resources overstretched, and there will be challenges of accommodating the new children in schools.

Haiti earthquake

What lies ahead for Haiti's children? (Jon Warren/WV)

World Vision has started food distributions here, but there are challenges in the days and weeks to come. Access to water has always been difficult in La Gonave. The quake has destroyed water tanks in many homes, and a water crisis is looming. Many schools have had classrooms damaged, and it is not clear how many will be usable when schools open. The cost of food has also shot up—the price of rice is up by 60 percent—since supplies from Port-au-Price are hard to come by.

I left La Gonave and returned to Port-au-Prince, the headquarters of sorrow, where street after street of fallen buildings and a million people in camps remind us of the work ahead to rebuild Haiti. This does not only entail responding to the immediate and longer-term needs of a fallen city, but reviving the hopes of those in rural and remote areas like La Gonave—who are now carrying the burden of the displaced.

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No sign of comfort

Fiona Perry, a health advisor for World Vision from the U.K., writes from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Fiona Perry distributes clean-delivery kits to pregnant women in the camps. (Paul Bettings/WV)

On hearing the rain in the morning, I hoped it was someone showering in the next room. But no, Port-au-Prince had been soaked through. Not only have families got to put up with living cramped in a tiny, 6-foot-by-6-foot space covered with sheets, blankets, or sometimes plastic sheeting held up by makeshift poles—now they have to battle the rain.

I have been in Haiti for a month, helping to address the health, hygiene, and nutrition needs of those affected by the January earthquake.  A few days ago, I had one of those experiences that helped me to remember why I am here. I was visiting a camp with a particularly well-organized and obliging committee. We walked through the labyrinth of narrow pathways where close to 200 families live on a plot of land perhaps the size of a tennis court.  Here, World Vision has provided people with heavy-duty plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, and cooking sets. It was great to see that each house had a plastic sheet and most have made every effort to make their hut a home. A kiosk had been established out of an entrepreneur’s home selling fruit, condensed milk, sugar, and spices, and a few of the children were having their afternoon wash. 

Fiona helps set up a mobile heath clinic for displaced families. (Jon Warren/WV)

I was called over to a woman lying on a plastic sheet on the floor, having just given birth to a baby boy not more than a few minutes before. A nurse who happened to be in the camp had helped deliver her baby but had run out of equipment. She needed some more gloves and was out of plastic sheets. There was no sign of any of the childbirth comforts that we in the U.K. take for granted—a nice, soft mattress; a pillow; some nice, soothing music playing in the background; or someone to hold your hand. 

The week before, I had been at the same camp, distributing clean-delivery packs to pregnant mothers, so I sent the camp leader to get a pack from one of the mothers. I took out the clean gloves, plastic sheet, and piece of material from the kit and helped the nurse with the woman’s prolapsed uterus. We both agreed she needed to go to hospital. Her new baby was wrapped in a towel, and we assisted her to walk to the car.  At the busy city hospital, a doctor examined her before telling us he had nowhere to live. I am constantly shocked at how everyone has been affected by this disaster.

When I went home that evening and felt tempted to complain about a lack of electricity, or that I have to eat the same food every day (rice and beans mostly), that there is no light in the bathroom, or that I have to have a cold shower every morning, I stopped myself. One day with those affected, and my struggles seem very small indeed.

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Prayer for Catherine

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Haiti earthquake

Catherine Charles, 1 month old. (Paul Bettings/WV)

Friday marked one month since Haiti’s earthquake. What does this crisis look like 30 days later?

For me, it’s a child’s face. Catherine, pictured above, was born on that terrible day, January 12. “I was in the final stages of labor when the earthquake struck,” said Catherine’s mother, Amide Charles. “Everyone ran out of the building.” Not Amide, of course. She went on to deliver Catherine safely, with the hospital fortunately staying intact.

Haiti earthquake

A newborn baby inspires so much hope. But it’s tough to ignore what she’s up against. Catherine’s mother and siblings are living in a tent in Port-au-Prince, relying on aid from World Vision and others. Amide is not eating as much as she should for a breast-feeding mom. Catherine’s brand-new skin is infected. Their home in Petit Goave, about 40 miles away, is destroyed. The family—like millions in Haiti—will have to start over.

Still, there is good news to report at the one-month mark: World Vision’s round-the-clock relief work has, so far, reached half a million people. Food has been distributed to more than 470,000 people; items like blankets, water containers, tarps, and mosquito nets to more than 28,000. Four mobile clinics are providing basic healthcare to survivors. Six Child-Friendly Spaces have created safe areas for children to play. Engineers are building latrines in seven homeless camps. And no one is slowing down.

Haiti earthquake

A girl dances at a Child-Friendly Space set up by World Vision. (Paul Bettings/WV)

About a month ago, we shared the story of Tsunami, a little girl in Sri Lanka named after the devastating event that struck just days before her birth. It was heartening to see this child at 5 years old, starting school, thriving. The death tolls for the Asia tsunami and Haiti’s earthquake are eerily similar—more than 200,000 people lost. And while they’re very different disasters in other ways, the stories of families’ recovery in Sri Lanka or Indonesia give us reason to hope that the same can happen for Haiti in five years.

Some 200 World Vision staff in Haiti are working full-time toward this. Donations from hundreds of thousands of generous people are fueling these efforts. And God’s hand is on Haiti, in ways we can see and many we can’t.

My prayer is that Catherine’s fifth birthday finds her healthy, happy, surrounded by family, with a solid roof over her head and a thriving community around her.

Thanks to Chris Webster, World Vision’s emergency communications manager in Haiti, for bringing us Catherine’s story.

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Spring has sprung

By Jane Sutton-Redner

This irresistible Rwandan child appears on page 21 of the Spring 2010 magazine. (Jon Warren/WV)

We’re slowly reverting to business-as-usual around here instead of Haiti 24/7. We’ll still post content now and again from our communications team in Port-au-Prince, but there are routine matters to attend to, like the Spring magazine fresh off the press.

This cutie was a cover possibility. (Jon Warren/WV)

This issue goes deep into child sponsorship, showing and telling what happens in a brand-new sponsorship project in Burundi. Writer Kari Costanza describes Burundi’s context: ethnic strife, displaced families, weak governance, and deep poverty—a lot to overcome. But get about 1,000 caring U.S. sponsors involved, and that just might be a game-changer. We’ve already seen this happen in Rwanda, just across the border from Burundi and sharing a similar horrid history. Sponsors’ investment there has complemented the efforts of Rwanda’s government to forge a future of progress and national unity—and it’s working. Burundi may have more of an uphill climb, but its people are ready for positive change.

Don’t miss Kari’s blogs about her assignment with Jon Warren in Burundi and Rwanda—starting with an airline strike that stranded them overnight in Nairobi, Kenya.

Jon Warren makes friends in Haiti. (Paula Saez/WV)

Speaking of unforeseen events, this issue was just about to go on press when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti. In a mad rush, we put James Addis on a plane that same night. A few days later, Jon Warren was deployed. Meanwhile, we considered what to do with the magazine. One option was to delay printing and rush to add a feature or section on Haiti. It’s never easy to predict even a few days ahead during an unfolding crisis, and without a clear picture of what James and Jon would contend with on the ground (logistics, access, connectivity), we decided to go forward with the issue, adding a small Haiti article on page 7. The good news is, much of James’ and Jon’s fine work was captured here, and more will come in the Summer magazine (mailing in early May).

Belly-laughing boy in China. (WV staff)

Also, starting with this issue, we are posting full articles from the current issue on the “Content” tab above. It’s pretty much the whole magazine, less the gorgeous design, but for that you can download the PDF.

Happy reading … and don’t be shy to tell us what you think!

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Beyond Haiti’s headlines

Jon Warren/WV

Anna Ridout, senior emergency communications officer for World Vision U.K., writes from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

While headlines report violence and looting in Haiti’s capital and observers speak of chaos and desperation on the streets, I’m seeing another side to Port-au-Prince often lost in disaster reporting.

Young boys scramble and leap over rubble chasing their ingenious kites made of flimsy plastic bags. A dozen teenagers sing their hearts out at a spontaneous open-air church service overlooking the devastated city. Small businesses—barbers, corner shops, bars—have already sprung up in many of the haphazard settlements of tents and makeshift shelters. Children dance, sing, and laugh in one of World Vision’s safe play areas. Only three weeks after the earthquake caused catastrophe here, people are already finding ways to rebuild their lives, often with a smile.

Children play in an activity organized by World Vision in Port-au-Prince. (Paula Saez/WV)

When World Vision, the World Food Programme, and other agencies launched a city-wide distribution of rice designed to reach close to 2 million people in just two weeks, many feared chaos. Today our team was in the notoriously volatile district of Cite Soleil. We intentionally started the distribution a few days later there to give us additional time to talk to those who have influence in the community, such as leaders and local groups. This meant we were able to reach 8,500 people in the most dangerous part of town with calm and cooperation.

Incredibly poor, Cite Soleil was already a huge densely populated neighborhood of iron roofs and inadequate services. My non-existent Creole means I’m often communicating with people in gesture or expression. As the empty food trucks left the site, a young girl with confident inquisitive eyes looked at me and smiled. I scrunched up my nose and she did the same. She tried to speak to me and I shrugged my shoulders; she laughed. It’s staggering how such a spirit of tenacity can exist alongside devastation and poverty.

A blind man and his family receive food. (Chris Webster/WV)

At all the food distributions this week the most vulnerable have been first in line. A blind man and his daughter, an elderly woman with her arm in a sling, a pregnant woman with a month to go, all left with 25-kilogramme sacks, assisted by World Vision volunteers, without hassle.

Elderly women tell me how the only way they are eating is because neighbors, friends, strangers are sharing food and water with them. Such generosity was echoed by a woman I met in a lively crowded camp, who has lost both her home and job. “When we get help here, we never fight,” she said. “We are friends, and we share our things and support each other.”

Six-year-old Alex, who lives in a camp for displaced people, still radiates a cheerful spirit. (Jon Warren/WV)

The generosity of the public all over the world in response to this disaster has been incredible. Today that money is helping provide families with food, healthcare, water and shelter—immediate, life-saving relief that is still needed for the millions of people. As we look to the long-term rebuilding of Haiti, the continued support of the international community will be vital. World Vision will continue working here beyond the emergency phase to help people find secure jobs, reliable incomes and strong community networks. 

As local artists start once more to line the streets with bright bold paintings, and potters display mosaic plant pots in amongst the debris, artists and businesspeople alike need help to enable their businesses to grow and families to flourish. The evidence on the ground here in Haiti proves there is the resiliency and determination to make it happen.

Related post: Christmas in a refugee camp (Dec. 23, 2009)

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Pray this month for Haiti

Haiti earthquake

World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns (right) joined hospital staff in Port-au-Prince as they prayed at the hour of the quake one week later. (Jon Warren/WV)

Is Haiti still on your mind? It is for us. James Addis is back home, thankfully, but our prayers continue for the devastated country, especially children in dire need. Our colleagues have come up with a way to devote this month to praying for Haiti’s children, focusing each day of the week on a specific request. Will you join us?

Mondays: Food and water. Many children in Haiti were already malnourished before the earthquake. The impact of further malnutrition, especially on children under age 2, can do permanent damage to their physical and brain development. Pray that deliveries of food and water reach children, that secure distribution channels be established for the ongoing relief effort, and for sustainable clean water and agriculture projects to flourish.

Haiti earthquake

Believers at the Park Accra camp for displaced quake victims hold a church service. (Jon Warren/WV)

Tuesdays: Injury recovery and health. Disasters make children particularly vulnerable to diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections. Many will also require ongoing health services to recover from injuries. Pray for medical supplies and health care to reach these children.

Wednesdays: Homelessness. Streets are increasingly unsafe places for children to be, yet without schools and homes, many have no safe places in which to take refuge. Pray for homeless children to find temporary shelter and for homes to be re-established.

Thursdays: Families’ livelihoods. Many families have lost their jobs, small businesses and other means of income because of the earthquake. Pray for struggling families: that they may find and develop new sources of income to provide for their children.

Fridays: For children’s voice to be heard in recovery. The children of Haiti bear a heavy weight from their country’s problems as well as earthquake losses. Families, teachers and officials can create forums where children can share their concerns and learn about their rights. Pray that communities will foster this and that leaders will listen to children’s needs and work with them towards developing solutions.

Haiti earthquake

Resilient children at a homeless camp craft kites out of plastic bags and play. (Jon Warren/WV)

Saturdays: Comfort and healing. The horror of surviving a disaster, seeing bodies in the streets, lacking basic necessities and—for some—being separated from parents, takes more than a physical toll. Pray for the emotional and psychological restoration of children affected by this disaster.

Sundays: Safety and protection. Children without adult caregivers become vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation—especially following disasters. Pray for the reuniting of children with their families, the proper care for orphans, and for the protection of children from harm.

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