Category Archives: World Vision's World

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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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Filed under On Assignment, World Vision's World

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

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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, 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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Filed under Recommended Resources, World Vision's World

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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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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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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