Monthly Archives: April 2010

Art and music in Congo

By James Addis, Senior Editor

I’ve traveled all over Africa for World Vision to report and write about events in the continent, though regrettably, I have never been to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

That’s a shame, because the war-torn country exerts a fascination for me. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps because the country’s vast interior is given over to jungle, perhaps because the famous George Foreman/Muhammad Ali fight was hosted in the capital, Kinshasa, or maybe simply because I’ve edited a lot of copy from there.

Benjamin Yumba at work in Kinshasa. (Vianney Dong/WV)

The last piece was from our communicator Vianney Dong, who tells the story of a former sponsored child who has gone on to study at the Kinshasa Fine Arts Academy and recently won a major international art competition. Although growing up dirt poor, Benjamin Yumba never gave up the urge to produce great pictures. When he could not afford paint and brushes, he would resort to using charcoal from the embers of burnt-out fires. You can read the full story of Benjamin in the Summer issue.

I was reminded of Benjamin when I read a story in The Economist the other week. It’s about a new documentary called “Kinshasa Symphony,” following the ups and downs of the Kinshasa-based Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste as they prepare for a concert of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The all-amateur orchestra is more inventive than most. When strings break on their violins, they are compelled to replace them with brake cables from old bicycles. Other scenes include a viola player scraping away at a busy Kinshasa traffic interchange amidst great clouds of dust.

The film sounds like an absolute joy. View the trailer here. I looked up “Kinshasa Symphony” on Netflix; it’s not in stock yet. But you can reserve it now, and if many people show an interest, maybe it will appear sooner.

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Summer reading

World Vision magazineSummer 2010 is out!

Read the cover story about microfinance in Mexico; a feature about empowering disadvantaged U.S. youth; a Haiti reflection; the president’s message; an essay by John Ortberg; and more.

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Stuff happens

By Jane Sutton-Redner

This went AWOL on press.

“If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be,” said the great New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra. As a guy who “didn’t really say everything [he] said,” Yogi probably won’t mind me co-opting his statement this way: If a magazine were perfect, it wouldn’t be.

(Sigh) Our magazine is not perfect.

I thought it was, but this is how God teaches me humility. There’s a small mistake on the cover of the Summer issue, mailing this week. The 60th anniversary identifier, meant to appear in the lower left corner, disappeared somehow in the printing process. There is, of course, a technical explanation, and our designers know how to fix it for future issues. But for Summer, you must just imagine the graphic shown here on your magazine cover. Or see this preview for what it was supposed to look like.

Meanwhile, we’ll try to stop making “wrong mistakes” (quoting Yogi Berra again), but if we do, this blog at least allows us to explain them. After all—one last Yogi-ism, I promise!—“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

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Rolling back malaria

By James Addis, Senior Editor

Dr. Mark Maire (Courtesy Mark Maire)

With World Malaria Day coming up on April 25, I thought it would be worth giving Dr. Mark Maire a call to get a feel for how the global campaign to eradicate malaria was working out and how World Vision’s efforts in particular were coming along.

Mark is a World Vision infectious disease specialist who works out of World Vision’s Washington D.C. office. I’m based on the West Coast, so we don’t meet often. In fact, the last time we spoke was about a year ago when I did a brief Q&A interview with him which appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of World Vision magazine.

Back then, Mark was full of enthusiasm. World Vision was about to launch a malaria campaign which aimed to deliver 3 million bed nets in Zambia, Mozambique, Mali and Kenya—part of an ambitious global strategy to cut malaria infections by 75 percent and perhaps get close to zero child deaths in World Vision project areas by 2015.

So how are we doing? Mark remains cautiously optimistic. Unfortunately, the economic meltdown last year meant less money has been available and progress has not been as rapid as he hoped. All the same, World Vision has completed the distribution of 301,000 nets in Zambia and plans to begin distribution in Mozambique later this year. Kenya and Mali will probably start getting their nets in 2011. Meanwhile, the organization has dramatically increased its original goal. World Vision now aims to distribute 10.6 million nets and will add Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Malawi, and India to the list of countries to benefit.

Beyond World Vision’s efforts, the overall global Roll Back Malaria campaign (led by a partnership of U.N. and other humanitarian organizations including World Vision) is also running a bit behind schedule. Over the last three years about 200 million bed nets have reached Africa, an impressive number but still about 155 million short of the goal of universal coverage—something that was hoped to be achieved this year but now looks unlikely.

Still, the number of people who are being killed by malaria has already been dramatically reduced in many countries. Some, such as Eritrea and Zambia, have seen death rates cut by more than 50 percent.

Mark says such good news means we need to be wary of dropping our guard. As malaria prevalence declines, funding for anti-malaria initiatives can dry up and people living in malaria-prone communities can start getting lax about using nets. This can be fatal because during periods of low malaria prevalence people’s resistance to the disease is also lowered. This means if malaria does make an unwelcome comeback it will be even more deadly than before.

However, assuming the current energy to combat malaria is maintained and communities can be persuaded to remain vigilant, Mark thinks it’s perfectly possible that the goal of close to zero child deaths in World Vision project areas might still be achieved by 2015. Given malaria is the biggest killer of children in those areas it would be a tremendous accomplishment.

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Summer cover preview

By Jane Sutton-Redner, Editor-in-Chief

World Vision magazine

The Summer magazine is on press this week, and if you’re on our mailing list, you will see it in your mailbox the week of April 26. Look for these two adorable kids from Mexico smiling out at you.

World Vision magazine

Lupita cover option

This cover wasn’t a tough choice. Jon Warren provided many appealing images of the children in the family featured in the article about microfinance in Mexico. These are some seriously photogenic kids—the older sister, Indra, has a quiet beauty; the youngest son, Christofer, had an irrepressible smile; and the youngest girl, Lupita, delighted in posing for the camera.

Although we liked the photos of Lupita or Indra alone, our previous two covers featured solo children, tightly focused on the child’s face. We wanted a bit of variety. The image of Lupita and Christofer in a doorway worked on several levels; Lupita’s outstretched arms and the door frame provided nice angles, and the dark negative space allowed the kids’ faces to pop. What really sold me was the cross hanging around Christofer’s neck, just visible below Lupita’s arm—an appropriate detail for this Catholic family, and an organic way to include this symbol of faith on our cover.

World Vision magazine

Indra cover option

There were a few challenging additions to this cover. First, we’ve been running a special identifier for World Vision’s 60th anniversary on every issue this year. We also wanted to promote a special section on Haiti in an attention-grabbing way. How to add these elements, plus cover titles, and not clutter up the image? We left it in Journey Group’s capable hands, and as usual, they delivered.

That’s what I think. What about you? Do you like our cover choice?


Filed under Behind the Scenes, World Vision's World

Why I do it

World Vision videographer Tom Costanza reflects on his time in Haiti a few months ago.

Haiti earthquake

(Jon Warren/WV)

I don’t even know where to start. So I guess I’ll start at the end.

Haiti was the kind of experience that changes your understanding of how desperate people can be and how unselfishly others can respond. By the time I left, I was sure I was different. I was definitely more tired. I weighed less. But I also felt that, mentally, I’d reached some kind of turning point. Whatever it was, I began to feel, more deeply than I had in some time, that all I’d seen and heard—the cries of injured children, the pleas of helpless mothers, the anger of people who’d lost everything—was weighing on me, more than it had since I first started in television news more than 25 years ago.

It wasn’t a breakdown—just a vague feeling of fatigue and sadness. The culmination, maybe, of the last year’s frantic schedule. Since November 2008 I’ve covered stories in Niger, Mozambique, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, American Samoa, New York, Ecuador, Cambodia, Zambia, Ethiopia, and back again to the DR and Haiti. Hunger, poverty, disease, earthquakes, a tsunami … it’s enough to make your head spin. The sick and the lame. The hopeless and the hungry. The dying and the dead.

World Vision in Cambodia

Tom shooting video in Cambodia (Heidi Isaza/WV)

People often asked me, “How do you do it?” “I don’t know,” I reply. “I just do.” Why do I do it? is what I ask myself. I could be home on the couch, watching HBO. Instead, I’m shooing cockroaches off my pillow, trying to get some sleep before my next cold shower.

Sometimes I think I know why I do it. When I’m feeling noble, I think it’s a calling. At other times, I think it’s just to satisfy my wanderlust—a taste for adventure, a chance to get a few more good stories to tell.

Then I go somewhere like Haiti, where people sleep on the remains of their crumbled houses and children scream in pain. “God help us all,” I think. Then I turn on the camera, and it captures people like Lomene LaGuerre. She was selling things in the marketplace when the quake hit. Now she lives with her three children under a tarp on a basketball court. She cooks what’s left of her food and summons what’s left of her pride. “I was a businesswoman,” she says proudly. “A businesswoman does not go hungry.”  A few days later, World Vision brings her more food. Her pride will have to wait a little longer.

Haiti earthquake

Tom and World Vision communicator Paula Saez interview families in a displacement camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Jon Warren/WV)

Outside the city, near the Haiti/Dominican border, Nicole Muse, a World Vision child sponsor, holds a small boy with a large bandage. She left Haiti several years ago and is now a nurse in Chicago. When she saw the news, she says, she just had to come. Her Creole makes her a valuable asset at this makeshift hospital, where a few words in a mother tongue, from a mother’s tongue, can calm a scared, hurting, and parentless child.

I meet people like these, and I’m reminded that they are why I do it, why we do it: comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I don’t know who said it first, but I like it. It’s why, when I feel tired and sad, I do lay on the couch and watch HBO. And I recharge my batteries and go out there again. And again. And again.

Related: Photographer deployed to Haiti (Jan. 18, 2010)


Filed under Behind the Scenes, Haiti, Haiti Earthquake, On Assignment

Bible brings joy

By Jane Sutton-Redner, Editor-in-Chief
Swaziland Bible

Qondile Ndzabandzaba, 11, proudly displays the Bible she received from World Vision. (Zanele Dlamini/WV)

In the Spring magazine, there’s a story about an Armenian girl who received a Bible from her U.S. sponsor. Worldwide, about 75,000 children benefited from this meaningful gift—perhaps including your sponsored child?

In Swaziland, a country a bit smaller than New Jersey, sponsors were particularly faithful. In one project area alone, more than 4,000 children received Bibles. Among them: 11-year-old Qondile Ndzabandzaba, a seventh-grader and aspiring nurse who attends church at Apostolic Faith Ministries.

“This is the best gift ever,” she said when World Vision staff gave her the Bible from her sponsor. Qondile wondered how they knew that she has been longing for one. She had asked her parents to buy her a Bible when they had the money.

“Now I am able to read it anytime I want to. Even in church, I no longer bother people to share their Bibles with me. Before I sleep, I read it, and my mother will then use it afterward,” she said. Her favorite verse is Psalms 1:1, which has influenced her to choose good friends.

I’ve never in my life lacked for a Bible, so it’s touching to read about the impact of this gift. Thank you to all who provided Bibles for sponsored children—this will bless them for years to come.

And thanks to my World Vision colleague in Swaziland, Zanele Faith Dlamini, for reporting on this story!

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