Monthly Archives: June 2010

Going for the goal

By Ryan Smith, Associate Editor

World Vision soccer
(Paul Bettings/WV)

Here at World Vision, we’ve been keeping track of the FIFA World Cup over the last few weeks. Being an international organization, our staff has allegiances to a number of teams in the tournament, including team USA.

During one lunchtime viewing session, a colleague asked, “Are there any former World Vision sponsored kids playing in the World Cup?” That is a great question. I’m pretty sure the answer is no. But it did get me wondering about how many of the nations competing have World Vision child sponsorship programs.

It turns out that six countries fall into this category: Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Honduras, Mexico, and South Africa. World Vision also works in North Korea, Serbia, South Korea, and the United States. So if you’re looking for someone to root for now that the Americans have been eliminated, this list might be a good place to start.

World Vision soccer

(Heidi Isaza/WV)

Watching these matches also reminds me how sports like soccer can play an important role in World Vision’s work. When I travelled to Senegal a couple years ago, I saw an intriguing activity called “Red Card for AIDS.” World Vision organizes soccer clinics and tournaments to bring kids together, have fun, and teach them about the dangers of HIV and AIDS. They use the language of soccer—a red card is given to a player who commits an egregious foul, resulting in automatic ejection from the game—to teach children how to avoid contracting the disease.

Recently, in Albania, World Vision took part in an event called “Go for the Goal: End Child Labor.” The gathering brought together key national and local leaders, media, and, most importantly, 500 children. Altin Lala, a well-known Albanian soccer player, stood with the children as they held up red cards, asking their political leaders to stop child labor.

Perhaps one of these programs will produce a great soccer star, but at the very least, they will play a part in helping children grow up healthy—and that’s a win, from my perspective.

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Then and now, in photos

By Jane Sutton-Redner

We’re putting the final touches on the Autumn magazine, which highlights World Vision’s 60th anniversary. So we’ve been doing some archival spelunking. When you look at World Vision with a long lens, it’s interesting to see what changes, what repeats, and what lasts. Instead of trying to explain this, maybe I’ll just show you what I mean.

Start with the obvious—how have publications changed? Here’s World Vision magazine from 1963 and today …

… and one of the first newsletters, produced in the 1950s, with its current counterpart.

Signs of the times: World Vision’s first headquarters sported a pretty jazzy neon sign, in contrast to today’s sedate look outside our office in Federal Way, Wash.

In the category of what’s old is new, Exhibit A:

In the 1960s and 70s, Americans gathered to assemble World Vision Viet Kits, packs containing hygiene supplies for families affected by the escalating Vietnam War (above, left). Today, groups get together to assemble Caregiver Kits for those caring for AIDS sufferers in Africa and elsewhere (above, right).

Exhibit B: In 1965, World Vision founder Bob Pierce started a radio show that aired on 130 ABC stations (below, left). Today, World Vision Report, hosted by former ABC News correspondent Peggy Wehmeyer (that’s her in the right photo below, interviewing World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns), airs on hundreds of radio stations across the U.S.

And last but not least … One of the key tools Bob Pierce employed was a film camera—his footage from war-torn and poverty-stricken countries moved people to give and pray. Today, the cameras are still rolling. You can see both old and new footage at worldvisiontv.org.

Interested in more of World Vision’s history? Stand by for the Autumn magazine, mailing next month—and plenty of web extras about the organization’s rich past.

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The times are a-changin’

By James Addis, Senior Editor

Venture Expeditions

Josias Hansen of Venture Expedtiions (Courtesy of Josais)

Growing up in Britain and New Zealand in the 1970s and ’80s, I regret to say global problems of poverty, injustice, and disease seldom made much of a blip on my personal radar screen.

Not that I was uncompassionate, disinterested, or unwilling. It’s just that at the time, those concerns seemed vague and remote. I did fundraise for various causes—a better gym for my school, an effort to secure improved training opportunities for Britain’s Olympic athletes, and, somewhat more creditably, a fund that provided money to secure better care for impoverished elderly people.

But some of the world’s bigger issues—hunger, child-killing diseases, human trafficking, or the fact that millions lack access to clean water—hardly registered.

If I or my peers ever did think about such things, I suspect we might have said something like, “the government really ought to do something about that.” The sense of personal responsibility, the feeling that one could do something oneself to change the world, was almost entirely lacking.

How times have changed. These days I stumble across a young person just about every week who is on some kind of mission. I try to cover as many of them as I can in the Frontlines section of World Vision magazine.

The last one I met was Josias Hansen, 23, who spoke in chapel at World Vision this week. A recent college grad, Josias is leading a team of 14 bicyclists who are cycling about 3,500 miles from Seattle to New York as part of the Just+Hope campaign—an effort to combat human trafficking. Along the way they will be speaking at schools and churches, posting daily blogs, and aiming to raise $100,000 for anti-trafficking initiatives.

Why is he doing it? Because rather than seeing trafficked children as beings remote from himself, he feels an intimate personal connection. “They just happen to be in a different location—a location where they are enslaved, mistreated, and beaten,” he says. “But I can’t think of them as a different kind of person. They are the same sort of person as my brother or my little nephew.”

Quite right, of course, but what interests me is why there seems to be this cultural shift. Why do there seem to be so many more people like Josias around? Is it the impact of that imprecise word “globalization”? Did Bob Geldof set the ball rolling when he raised his voice about famine in Ethiopia? Was it USA for Africa, or Bono, or Mother Teresa or Princess Diana cradling babies infected by AIDS? Which reminds me: I saw her sons William and Harry on television this week. They were in Lesotho, Africa, supporting humanitarian efforts there and continuing in their mother’s compassionate tradition.

Or is it the influence of people like Bill and Melinda Gates, pouring millions and millions into initiatives to combat AIDS and find a vaccine for malaria? Of course, big business philanthropy is nothing new. But has the world ever seen it on such a scale? Last week, the Seattle Times ran a front-page story about Gateses persuading other billionaires to sign a “Giving Pledge” whereby they would donate most of their wealth to worthy causes.

Or is it the fact that Christians are rediscovering the gospel of Jesus. That it’s not just about personal salvation but it’s also about responding to the plight of the poor—something evidenced by my boss’s book, The Hole in Our Gospel, being named ECPA’s 2010 Christian book of the Year.

Frankly, I haven’t the foggiest idea why the times are a-changing. But I like it. I like it a lot.

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Man of passion

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Stephen Lewis at a World Vision conference in Bucharest, Romania, in 2004. (Rienk Van Velzen/WV)

One of the people I have most enjoyed interviewing for this magazine is Stephen Lewis, the former (and first) UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, in 2002. He was well-spoken, as you’d expect of a former Canadian politician, but he did not communicate in impersonal sound-bites. His heart was clearly engaged in his work; his passion came through clearly over the phone as we talked.

Recently I was happy to hear him again on World Vision’s excellent radio program, World Vision Report. Now the co-director of AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization, Lewis continues to use his influential voice on behalf of a group greatly affected by AIDS—women. A major cause of the global AIDS pandemic, Lewis argues, is gender inequality, “the greatest scar on the face of the planet.” In many developing-world societies, women not only lack rights, but they are also victims of sexual violence. They cannot stop the spread of AIDS or effectively network to change their culture.

Listen to Lewis, and you can tell how deeply he feels these injustices. For example, on the topic of rape in Congo, he says, “I’m 71 years old … I never thought I’d reach the age where I would see such wanton malice visited on women with such indiscriminate brutality as to sear the soul.”

Wow. You get the sense that this man will use his last ounce of energy for this cause. That’s exactly the kind of person we need in the fight against AIDS.

After you listen to Lewis’ great interview on World Vision Report, stick around on the site and explore the fascinating stories this award-winning team produces every week.

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Connecting the dots

By James Addis, Senior Editor

Leon McLaughlin

Leon's shoeshine stand in Seattle. (Laura Reinhardt/WV)

Few people can talk or network like shoeshine man Leon McLaughlin, and he’s always got something interesting to say. So when I got copied in on a group e-mail from him a few days ago—which to be honest I couldn’t quite follow because I was clearly joining the conversation late—I thought I’d better give him a call to find out what was going on.

But to recap: I first wrote about Leon in the Spring 2009 magazine. The extraordinary thing about him was that he had managed to use his shoeshine stand, located in a big tower complex in downtown Seattle, as a rather unlikely base to bring clean water to people who desperately need it in the developing world. As Leon shines the shoes of some of Seattle’s top movers and shakers, he shares his passion for the need for clean water and enlists their support.

Water is a subject Leon knows something about. He has traveled extensively, taken online courses in water management, and founded the non-profit Clean Water Foundation. Leon came to the attention of World Vision when he funded water-filtration equipment and provided technical support for flood-devastated communities in Bolivia.

Well, let me tell you how Leon’s been “connecting the dots” to make things happen since then. First, he struck a deal with the Moka Joe coffee company to create a blend called “Coffee for Clean Water.” Part of the proceeds are funding more filtration units in other water-scarce communities.

He also enlisted the support of engineer Dr. Phillip Thompson, an associate professor at Seattle University, to assist with the installations. The last one occurred in Potosi, in a remote village in Bolivia. This involved setting up a web video conference featuring Leon at the shoeshine stand; a translator in Bolivia’s capital, La Paz; First Water, the Georgia-based makers of the filtration equipment; and World Vision staff in Potosi who were talked through the installation. Leon’s especially happy about the project because he got to visit Potosi before the installation took place. He says negotiating the steep mountain passes to get there “scared him to death,” but that was nothing compared to meeting children suffering malnutrition and diarrhea because of the filthy water they were compelled to drink.

Leon McLaughlin

Leon in Bolivia. (Raimi Mendez/WV)

The next installation should take place later this month at Yanama, also in Peru. Currently, World Vision workers in Peru are procuring parts for the system, and Leon anticipates that, if necessary, Dr. Phil will talk them through the assembly and install via another web conference. Come to think of it, this could make a good yarn for the next magazine. To make the planned inauguration ceremony especially sweet, Leon managed to procure about 5,400 bars of soap from the Clean the World Foundation [www.cleantheworld.org] to bolster a World Vision hygiene program in the village.

Indeed, Leon would make any journalist turn bright green with the extent of his contacts. The foundation has just completed a fundraising music CD featuring many artists Leon got to know while working at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre in a former life. “Music for the World” features tracks from Expresión Latina, Nik West, Eric Verlinde, and Paula Boggs—a singer who also happens to be executive vice-president of Starbucks. The CD will be available soon on Amazon. Meanwhile, you could try contacting Leon for a copy at the foundation website.

Next year, the Clean Water Foundation is putting on a concert at Seattle’s Key Arena to celebrate World Water Day, on March 22. Leon says they are currently negotiating with several major artists to perform.

So if you happen to be in downtown Seattle and your shoes could do with a bit of a shine, pop into the Columbia Center and get the inside word on Leon’s latest water projects and promotional plans. He cannot contain his enthusiasm, and it’s a joy to hear him talk. Your shoes will end up looking pretty good, too.

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It’s all about the story

Tom Costanza writes from Uganda, where he’s working with a film crew on an upcoming project.

Tom tells stories with one of these (Tom Costanza/WV)

It’s all about the story. My wife, Kari, and I have spent years traveling the world, hearing and telling people’s stories. The story I’m working on right now in Uganda, in fact, came from one of Kari’s trips here. She often finds them, does a print version, and then says, “This would make a great video!” For that reason, I am known in many places around the world simply as “Kari’s husband”—a title I’m proud to hold, I might add. But enough about us.

Let’s talk about stories. What’s so wonderful about stories is that they let us go where we might not go otherwise. They let us glimpse, even if it’s in our imagination, heartaches, struggles, triumphs, and transformation. They help us think differently. And they teach us. There’s a reason Jesus taught in parables.

“Jamaa,” a World Vision film currently in production, has all of that. Because it’s based on real life events, it highlights stories of lives lived in service to God and to others.

Jamaa” is the Swahili word for “family.” Without giving too much away, it’s the story of two children who lose their parents to AIDS. Together they carry their mother’s body from the slums of Kampala to the rural countryside of Kasangombe. It’s a journey of heartbreak and desperation as they search for family, happiness, and hope.

Max Lucado is one of Kari’s and my favorite writers. Max is a fountain of love and common wisdom. Here’s what he says about life stories: “Let your life be your first draft … Love grumpy neighbors. Feed hungry people. Help a struggling church. Pay your bills, your dues, and attention to your spouse … Live with integrity.”

Videographer Tom Costanza.

You see, it’s all about the story. The one you hear. The one you tell. The one you live.

Related:  Why I do it (April 13, 2010)

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