Contributed by Laura Walls for Stories from the Field
My five-year-old daughter came out of her bedroom this morning, rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and asked, "What smells so good?"
" Apple muffins." I smiled, remembering how happy it made me as a child, to wake up and smell good things baking in the kitchen.
Then I thought about my writing topic for today. Hunger. The contrast feels so extreme.
A food crisis has been ravaging East Africa and World Vision writer, Kari Costanza, and photographer, Jon Warren, have been witnessing the grief and despair of families whose children wake up hungry and go to bed hungry. Kari's stories are "must-read" for every child ambassador.
This morning, I admit that East Africa seems so far away. I have muffins in the oven and children that are healthy and full. Nothing I see around me indicates that anything is amiss. And yet right now, on the other side of the globe, children are going to bed sick from hunger.
And Claire was once one of them.
While the Child Ambassador team was in Rwanda, we had the chance to meet Vedaste and Beata, a family whose lives were transformed and, overflowing with abundant grace and fullness of life, they reached out in turn to help little Claire. Read along to hear their story and to learn about how the Child Ambassador team is being challenged to act on behalf of suffering children in East Africa - because each of those kids, like the special children we have in our own lives, has a name and a story, a smile and a unique personality all their own. And each one longs to have a future, like Claire.
Petite, four-year-old Claire greeted us at the door of her rural Rwandan farmhouse, smiling sweetly.
"Muraho." (Hello!) She held out her right hand for a handshake, left hand holding her right forearm in a perfect, poised display of Rwandan etiquette. We were immediately smitten - every last one of us!
As her family shared their story, Claire batted her eyes, grinned, and peeked out from the safety of their arms. She was enchanting and sweet and adorable. It was hard to learn that life had almost ended early for Claire. Two years before, Claire had been malnourished and suffering. As the Rwandan rain poured down outside, Vedaste and Beata poured out their hearts.
"I want to share with you our story of God’s faithfulness." Vedaste began. "We once lived a very challenging life but God has protected us and enabled us to come out of our extreme poverty through World Vision." He smiled and asked Beata to share.
She spoke with a quiet, elegant confidence. "I am greeting you as friends. We were once very poor and had no land. We didn’t have enough clothing for our children. It was extremely difficult to earn money. We were farming and working so hard but our soil was so acidic that it didn’t yield much harvest."
She went on to share that their children suffered greatly as a result of their poverty. They were hungry and malnourished. She had been unable to breastfeed seven of her nine children because she was so malnourished herself, as well.
But in 2007, World Vision came into their lives. They received training in agriculture and their son, Emmanuel, was registered for sponsorship. Emmanuel had severe vision and hearing problems and the family was very concerned. But with medical care through World Vision, his sight and hearing were restored!
World Vision gave the family a cow and Beata started a small business doing some sewing. Things began to improve. They were able to save up and buy another cow and this cow produced a calf. Now they were able to not just enjoy the nutritional benefits of having a cow but also experience the financial benefits of selling milk! In addition, Vedaste devoted himself to the World Vision-led trainings he received in agriculture. At this time, the family farm contains 260 different types of produce and employs up to ten people in the community to take care of the cows and help with the harvest. Vedaste is also part of a model farmer program through World Vision. Through this specialized training program, he now reaches out to other farmers in his community and teaches them new agricultural techniques like mixing fruit trees with vegetables and preserving water for irrigation and cattle during the dry season.
Meanwhile, Beata's sewing business expanded with the help of micro loans through Vision Fund. Currently, she employs 6 people at her local shop and has trained 102 girls in her community to sew! And Emmanuel, her oldest son who was once at risk of becoming blind is now in charge of the embroidery machine, placing beautiful, intricate designs on the clothing in her shop!
But for Vedaste and Beata, it wasn't enough to employ and train others in their community. Their cup had gone from empty to overflowing and the family longed to do more to serve others. With great love and compassion, they adopted Claire.
Vedaste's face grew serious. "We found Claire living in the same condition as we were living in before. She was malnourished and suffering. We adopted her because we feel we have been given so much of God’s grace and we wanted to give back."
Beata explained further,* “I know what it means to be hungry. I know what it means to have a child when you don’t have food or drink to give to them. I feel compelled to help people, because God restored my life when I was almost dead. The second chance was given to me to live. I want to use it to help people.”
* Beata's last quote was found on the same page where the prayer guide is located. It was such a surprise to see little Claire's face on that page and to read Beata's words! I hope that you don't mind that I added it to this story of our time spent with them. It fit in so beautifully!
A Call to Action:
As child ambassadors, we have a chance to help a hungry child like Claire. We have the opportunity to take the grace and abundance that we have been given and overflow to help others, like Vedaste and Beata.
Downloadable Prayer Guide
The Prayer Guide was first found here on the World Vision site. A downloadable version can be found here!
Sponsorship Changed their Lives: the story of Martin, Vestine, and their sponsored daughter, Justine
Contributed by Laura Walls in Stories from the Field
On the recent Vision Trip to Rwanda, Martin moved our team of child ambassadors deeply as he shared the impact sponsorship has had on his family. Read along to learn of their transformation!
We arrived at the home of Martin and Vestine and their six children as the sun was easing closer to the horizon. The sound of our vehicles brought neighborhood children running to greet us from every direction. They practiced their English with big smiles. “Howareyoo?” They grinned.
We trekked down the steep, rocky hillside to the homes below us where Martin and Vestine graciously welcomed us. Vestine carried two beautiful twin babies in her arms and smiled a gentle, warm welcome. We entered into their bright, cheerful home and sat along two benches that spanned the length of the walls.
Martin, the father of the family, addressed us proudly, explaining that they have received much “tangible and intangible help” from World Vision.
He started from the beginning - when their daughter, Justine, was sponsored.
“The day they told us we had a sponsor for our child, I couldn’t imagine it. I couldn’t imagine that someone could look at a picture and fall in love with my child. That really touched my heart. I’ve always had a dream to meet this person who would love my child.” Martin unabashedly smiled.
“And then the next day, I heard they sent money as a gift and I couldn’t believe the love they had for my child!” He shook his head, smiled, and continued. “We never had any animals. I used to wake up at 6 am and go farming. With the gift from our sponsor, we bought a pig and a goat.” Martin’s eyes twinkled and he laughed. “Now, I had to wake up at 5 am to take care of them! That has made me busy and my life has changed!”
Their transformation continues
After receiving the animals, Martin wanted to further his education so he received training from World Vision on animal husbandry and farming techniques. He learned that the manure from the animals would help his land to produce more vegetables. Now he not only had enough produce for his family but to also had a surplus to sell!
After six months, the pig had 8 piglets. Martin laughed again. “Now I started dreaming! I started seeing myself as a business person. I started thinking of a cow for milk.”
With the additional sales from the surplus vegetables and the piglets, it was time to make that dream a reality. Martin purchased a cow. The sales from the milk of that cow now cover the cost of health insurance for his whole family.
Five months later, the cow had a calf. This calf was a crossbreed and produced more milk than it’s mother. Now there were two liters of milk for their family and two liters left over to sell!
Martin continued, “But when a miracle comes in the house, the door is always open!”
Justine’s sponsor sent a second gift notification. “I started thinking about more training. I could see they really cared about our well-being!”
Martin bought a second plot of land with his combined savings and the gift notification. Martin smiled,
“From then, dreams really came to happen!”
The sponsor sent a third gift notification and with it, they were able to purchase cement and a sturdy tin roof for their home. A fourth gift notification bought another plot of land but this one, was even more special. “Because Justine has been a source of blessing to our family, we entitled this plot of land in her name.”
When she is old enough, this land will belong to Justine.
Justine responded sweetly, “I really thank you so much for the sponsorship. My sponsor bought me clothing and books and takes care of me every day.”
Martin continued where Justine left off. “There’s no way I can describe all of the blessings of sponsorship. Having you (the child ambassador team) here reminds me of where I was and where I am now.”
World Vision sponsors can send gifts of money (gift notifications) to their sponsored child in many (though not all) countries through the World Vision Help Desk: 888-511-6548. World Vision staff will then work with the family to determine how the gift will best suit their needs. The sponsor will then be sent a thank you letter listing what was purchased, as well as a photo of their sponsored child with the items.
Contributed by Laura Walls in Stories from the Field
As child ambassadors, we often hear the question, "What difference does sponsorship make?" In Rwanda, we learned the official answer. May it inspire you to realize the impact you make as a child ambassador and may it also compel you to passionately seek sponsors for children.
We were all captivated by the little baby that Seraphine carried on her back. When she invited us in to sit with her in her small, adobe house, she lifted him off her back and he cooed and gurgled. Jean Claude, at seven months old, was beautiful.
Seraphine shared her story softly, her voice barely above a whisper. “I lost my husband on Christmas last year.” She avoided eye contact. “We are now living an unpredictable life. I live by God’s grace or perhaps if a gracious person comes by and gives us rice.”
I looked beyond where Seraphine sat in the doorway to where her two young children stood outside. Claudine, in her red shirt, stared curiously at her home full of strangers. Vincent, four years old and wearing a green Christmas sweatshirt, looked small and tired. They wandered into the room where we foreign Americans were sitting and sat among us on the ground.
Seraphine continued. Her husband’s death from AIDS left her widowed with three young children at just 28 years old. Additionally, she had also contracted HIV.
I looked from her face to where sweet little Jean Claude lay nursing at her breast. Yes. It was suspected that the baby also had HIV.
I fought the urge to step outside and get some air. To get away from that dark house where mosquitos swarmed in the corners and children were hungry and babies had diseases and mothers were suffering. I remembered the title of a book I read recently called, Walking with the Poor. I wanted to be someone who would walk in solidarity with Seraphine and her family and yet I also desperately wanted to just give whatever money I could and protect myself from that sorrow. I wanted to run away from the pain I felt in my heart. My eyes burned from unshed tears.
As child ambassadors knowledgeable in sharing sponsorship, we were brought to meet Seraphine so we could learn about the difference that sponsorship makes in the life of a family. It’s a question we are often asked. Now, I was sitting in a room at the top of a tall green hillside in Rwanda and the answer HURT.
What benefits are NOT available for unregistered children and families?
We learned that because Seraphine didn’t have registered children for sponsorship, she wasn’t eligible to participate in World Vision Savings Clubs, to receive Gifts-in-Kind, or training in farming or animal husbandry. Without a sponsor, Seraphine would never receive a gift notification (gift of money) from her sponsor to help her start a business, buy some chickens, or even simply purchase some needed essentials for her home. She wouldn’t receive encouragement from knowing she was loved and cared for by someone around the world nor would she receive the regular World Vision staff visits received by sponsored children. Her life would continue as it was, waiting, hoping, and praying that a neighbor would take pity on her and drop off a bag of rice or beans so her children could eat that day.
And some days, they didn't.
But doesn’t EVERYONE benefit from being in a World Vision community?
The short answer is yes. Absolutely. Seraphine has access to clean water. The farms in her area are more productive so their prices are more competitive and variety is more accessible. The schools are stronger and the teachers are better equipped. And, especially important to Seraphine, she has access to the health clinic and medicines to help treat her HIV. But many of the programs that would help her find an income-generating solution to care for her family are currently not accessible.
I shifted uncomfortably at these answers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from going on a Vision Trip, it’s that I’m wholeheartedly American and I default to wanting to slap a quick “bandaid” fix on problems that require deep understanding, patience, and time. I’m used to Disney movies that have short, happy endings. My mind whirled, even as I stayed silent and wrote down every word in my notebook.
Why can’t Seraphine’s children be registered?
There’s a waiting list, even for sponsorship. A certain number of children are eligible based on budgets and deeper, internal matters and currently, there wasn’t a spot available. But because this was a World Vision community, World Vision staff were aware of Seraphine’s struggles and had put her children on a short list - meaning that in two weeks time, they would be eligible to be sponsored. Two of the ten child ambassadors, Michelle Lazaro and Javy Diaz, immediately stepped up to sponsor Claudine and Vincent.
What happens to Seraphine and her children now?
As soon as Seraphine's children are registered and sponsored, she becomes eligible for training programs, Gifts-in-Kind, the World Vision Savings Club, and the personalized attention of World Vision staff. As she receives the love and prayers of her children's new sponsors, she will be encouraged and, in time, Seraphine will begin to hope and dream again.
Jimmy Gahima, our World Vision interpreter and donor liaison spoke with Seraphine about her future. “Seraphine, did you ever think that you would host a group of foreigners from the United States in your home?
She laughed and shook her head.
He smiled. “Well, you see, you just never know what your future might hold!”
Seraphine's eyes brightened a moment.
With the grace of God and help from World Vision child sponsors, suddenly anything seems possible.
Meeting Seraphine: a slideshow of images by talented child ambassador, Javy Diaz.
Story & photos contributed by Javy Diaz / intro & editing by Paula Hemphill in Stories from the Field.
Today's post comes to us from Javy Diaz: fellow CA and Leadership Team member serving our greater DC area! Javy (pictured back left) just recently joined our ranks after seeing the work in the field first hand. A Vision Trip to Ethiopia and Uganda with other members of his workforce opened his eyes and heart in a new way and was one of the catalysts that brought him to our team. He has hit the ground running-- connecting many sponsors with children to love and serve. I have never met Javy face-to-face, but he is my friend and I consider it a deep honor to serve alongside him. He stewards the stories of the people he has met in the field so well, and I hope his recounting of his time in Africa will educate and inspire you as you continue to do the work God has called you into.
It was a beautiful, bright morning. You could tell that it was hot outside because there was condensation on the windows – the air conditioner had been on all night. I was so incredibly comfortable, though a little bit hungry and thirsty. Good thing there was a bottle of water waiting for me bedside. In the distance I could see my camera gear, ready for an exciting day, the camera bag completely covered in a fine, red-clay dust. Above me was a mosquito net, a tell-tale sign that I was very far from home. Off goes the alarm, time to start driving two hours into the bush to see God’s great creation and His mighty works. On this day, my life would change, my heart would break in just the right places, and my faith and hope in God and humanity would be transformed.
Today was WASH day. WASH stands for water, sanitation & hygiene. In Africa they have a saying – “Water is Life.” No doubt you’ve heard this before. I had heard this too, but for some reason it hadn’t worked its way up from my heart to my head. You see, I had no idea how foundational water was to every aspect of life. Try not using it for a few days and you’ll get an idea of how critically important it is to everyday survival. On our journey to the village of Lakwana, we saw many children & families carrying jerrycans by hand, and if privileged enough, by mule. The irony of jerrycans is that they were originally created to transport fuel and in many ways, the water that now fills them is as toxic to drink as the fuel that once filled them.
As we looked out from the comfort of our 4x4 vehicle, the road seemed to narrow, the tall grasses encroached further into the path until we could only see out of the vehicle’s front window, covered in dust. Soon enough I began to feel my heart pounding to the rhythm of the drums in the distance. As the sound crescendoed, louder and loader still, we entered a clearing in the small village. Welcomed by the entire village, in an overflowing statement of joy & gratitude, the people of Lakwana, dressed in their very best attire, rejoiced in song and dance as they invited us to experience the reason for their thanksgiving. Once a source of pain and multiple waterborne diseases like typhoid, diarrhea, and scabies, the polluted water source was slowly crippling this community. But then World Vision arrived and the trajectory of the community changed.
While we met with the leaders of the water committee they asked us if we would like to see their old water source. The drums had stopped pounding but my heart had not. We walked down a narrow path carved out by the feet of children heading towards water. At about 1,500 feet we came to a small bridge, a water-filled ditch underneath it. The path continued and I thought we would too. Camera in hand, I was asked to video some of the women fetching water and pouring it into the jerrycans. Like a flashback, I recalled the last 20 minutes of the walk to this waterhole, but instead of the faces of these sun-kissed African children, I saw the faces of my children. It was at this moment that knowledge and compassion moved from my heart to my head. Suddenly it all made sense. If it’s not good enough for my children, then it’s not good enough for these children. These children are my children. Children and all people deserve clean water. It’s that simple.
Where they once had a nearly impossible decision between illness and dehydration, today better choices can be made - enabling a community to thrive and rejoice. The ditch still survives, a distant memory of what was, and a new well now stands proudly in Lakwana Village, a beacon of hope and an instrument of change. It is maintained by a multi-generational water committee who knows the significance of water and how it can change lives for good. Time spent once fetching water or taking care of a sick family member, can now be used in school, play, and community. Illnesses that once threatened their survival have been reduced by 80% and in some instances completely wiped out. Crops that once had little yield are now flourishing allowing for economic development, bartering for other staple food items, and diets full of nutrition.
When water arrives, life arrives; they are inextricably linked. The children in Lakwana no longer have to be afraid. But there are many others who do not have such a luxury. According to World Vision, nearly 1,000 children under age 5 die every day from diarrhea caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene. As we have seen, this doesn’t have to be the end of the story. You are part of this story and like me, your heart can break in just the right places, and move forward in the confidence of our great God who gave us the ultimate well and water of life – Jesus.
Isaiah 41:17 tells us "[the] poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them." May we be compelled to tap into the deepest source of life and bring it to the world in both word and deed. May we be part of the LORD’s response in His world.
To learn more about World Vision’s WASH program, click here.
Contributed by Laura Walls in Stories from the Field
My Facebook feed has been flooded with beautiful photos of children heading back to school. Their faces are bright with promise and their backpacks filled with supplies for the coming year. It's a hopeful time for so many kids!
But for Mao Reasa, the youngest of ten children, the return of the school year was not a time for hope. Reasa lives in northwest Cambodia, near the border of Thailand where the average daily wage is just $1.29 a day. Her parents Vann Mao and Soa Soeurt had told her she couldn't go to school anymore. They could no longer afford the school fees and expenses. Reasa watched as the other children went to school each day while she stayed behind.
When World Vision came into Reasa's community, a children's club was started and Reasa began to attend with her friends. It was there that a hunger to return to school began to grow in Reasa's heart. With the support and encouragement of World Vision staff, Reasa approached her parents to see about returning to school and, in addition to making the request, she had a plan.
World Vision would supply Reasa with chickens and, to pay for her schooling, she would sell the eggs.
Her parents were proud of Reasa's determination and happy to allow her to return to school. They quickly noticed a change in Reasa's spirit and her appearance. "Just look at her." Her father beamed. "She takes such good care of her hair and appearance, now."
And we could see it, too! Reasa had an air of hope and promise - just like the faces of the kids we see scattered across the wall of our Facebook feeds. And it was all because of child sponsors and donors who believed in and gave to help a little girl they had never met, in a place they had never been to, because of the example of a Savior who loved and gave to us all.
So, as child ambassadors, when you see photos of kids heading back to school, remember the many children like Reasa, who need someone to stand alongside them, encourage, and support them. Be faithful to look for sponsors for the kids who need your voice and share the story of Reasa, whose life is changed as a result of World Vision's impact in the lives of children around the world!
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
World Vision in Schools
A Photo Gallery
Contributed by Laura Walls in Stories from the Field
Nourishing others through the support of World Vision child sponsorship helps others physically, even while it feeds us spiritually.
It was late in the afternoon and the shadows were growing long when we turned down a narrow dirt road within view of the looming Mombacho Volcano. Our team of World Vision child ambassadors were making our first visit to a family in rural Nicaragua. As we walked up to a small collection of homes, children started pouring out of the doorways and crowding around us with shy smiles and curious giggles.
We learned these families were basket-weavers, led into the craft by their father and his father before them. It's a trade virtually unchanged between generations. We stood under the trees and watched as the grandfather used a knife to split bamboo into long, narrow planks for weaving and his son and daughter-in-law shared about the impact World Vision made in their lives.
They explained that, after helping the children get to the medical clinic, it was discovered by World Vision staff and their parents, that the kids were malnourished. It wasn't that they weren't getting enough food. They were simply getting the wrong kinds of food. As a result, the kids were suffering the effects of malnourishment - reduced stamina and muscle mass, a weakened immune system, and more difficulty focusing.
To help these beautiful kids to become nourished and full, World Vision helped their families to plant a garden. They also invited the mothers to take part in "The Common Pot" mom's club. This group meets once a week to cook a meal together and learn about nutrition. Gradually, as more nutrients were added to their diet, kids grew stronger, healthier, and more energetic. As their bright smiles indicate, the children were all healthy and thriving at that their last check-up!
As I came home, I reflected on the idea of malnutrition and the importance of nutrients for children - how one could be fed but not nourished - and another thought came to mind. This time, I reflected on my spiritual life. Am I malnourished as a believer? Just like my physical body would suffer from an imbalanced diet, so too, without a balanced spiritual "diet," I can be sluggish, weak, and easily frustrated by small challenges.
In John 4, Jesus talks about spiritual food. He had been speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well, treating her with great dignity and equality. After his encounter with her, the disciples urged him to eat. But Jesus said he had already eaten and added, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." By doing God's will and ministering to the Samaritan woman and others, his own spirit was nourished and full. Likewise, by serving others, my spirit will be filled, as well.
Part of what led me to this ministry as a child ambassador was Isaiah 58:6-11. In it we read that when we share our food with the hungry, provide the poor wanderer with shelter, clothe the naked, and not turn away from our own flesh and blood, then our "light will break forth like the dawn" and our "healing will quickly appear." We will become like a "well-watered garden."
Isn't that a beautiful picture? A well-watered garden -- thriving, healthy, and producing fruit that nourishes others.
As child ambassadors, we have the chance to experience the energizing excitement of being used by God to serve children and families in some of the hardest places in the world. By finding sponsors for kids, we become part of stories like these - bringing health, wholeness, and fullness of life to children around the world. And in doing so, we too, become a spiritually strong, like a well-watered garden, providing nourishment to a world in need.
Contributed by Laura Walls in Stories from the Field
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." II Corinthians 1:3-4
I knew that look.
The look of someone who's been hurt before. Someone who's been left before.
Her eyes were wary, untrusting, and less than comfortable making contact with mine. After a half an hour together, her first real smile came when her beautiful, little daughter's eyes lit up with wonder and joy while she was blowing bubbles. But she looked away quickly and her smile faded. And it was in that moment I knew.
I've been in that place.
I asked the translator to confirm what I'd already guessed. Yes, Fatima's mom was a single mom, trying to care for her two children while living with her mother. Yes, it was just the four of them living there.
"What does she do for work?" I asked. Gustavo, our translator paused and repeated the question, this time in Spanish. She shifted and explained.
"She goes house to house and does laundry or house cleaning. Whatever she can find..."
She looked at me and looked away.
"Tell her, tell her I was a single mom, too. Tell her I know how hard she's working to take care of her children. Please tell her that her daughter is beautiful and that she's doing such a good job raising her."
Our eyes locked as he repeated it to her and she smiled and nodded.
I hadn't realized that fact when I was coming to meet them on a Vision Trip to Nicaragua with the Child Ambassador team. Little Fatima was just a picture then with an ID number that I showed to my cousin after she expressed an interest in sponsoring. There was no other information about Fatima's background. But God knew her needs. He knew that there was a special little girl who needed some extra support and encouragement. He knew there was a kind and wonderful woman in the US who longed to connect with and love a child through sponsorship. He knew Fatima's mom needed that hope and kindness. And He knew... He knew I'd relate and that I should be the one who brought them together.
I gave Fatima all the things her sponsor, Susan, had lovingly picked out for her. A jumprope, a doll, a coloring book... each item was exciting to her and her smile was irrepressible. She loved looking at the picture of Susan and passed it to her mom. They pointed at it and I heard her mom say, "Patrocinador." Your sponsor. Fatima smiled and carefully began taking each item from Susan out of the little plastic tote. She lined it all up on the table, eyes wide with joy and approval. Then she gingerly placed it all back inside the tote, closed the lid, and gave a deep, satisfied sigh. She looked up at me, grinned, and abruptly squeezed me close in a tight hug.
Oh, be still my heart!
You know, life isn't always easy. For some of us, maybe even most of us, it takes a lot of regrettable sharp twists and turns. Sometimes, we can feel all alone, as though we don't matter to anyone. We can shut down, afraid of being hurt again. But then... God surprises us. He sends someone unexpectedly into our lives to gently whisper to us that we matter to Him. We are not forgotten. He sends someone like Susan to remind us that we are seen. We are known. We are loved.
Friends, this is child sponsorship. We often think of it as affecting only the child but really, it affects the whole family and their community. And through it, God will work to bring healing to brokenness, lift up the lonely, and to move families from poverty to HOPE. And this work - changing how stories end - this is what we are blessed to be part of as child ambassadors. So be BOLD! Know that what you do is changing lives - like the life of little Fatima in Nicaragua.
Photos and stories contributed by Laura Walls in Stories from the Field
Ever wondered what it would be like to go on a Vision Trip?
Pull up a chair and ride along with us to Nicaragua - land of lakes and volcanoes. Click through the slideshows below and meet some extraordinary people. You'll have some new stories to share with family and friends about the power of World Vision sponsorship!
The Basket-weaving Family
The Importance of Volunteers
Teachers and Schools
The "Entrepreneur's Bakery"
THE SPONSORED CHILD VISITS!!!
Other Stories to Share
Angelica has served as a World Vision staff member for the past four years. She was once a sponsored child and, though her sponsor didn't write a lot and even discontinued the sponsorship after a couple of years, she still described her sponsor " ...as a friend, like someone you're close to - like a family member."
Though Angelica's contact with her sponsor didn't continue, it wasn't a negative experience in her life. Even without a sponsor, she was able to be part of World Vision programs in her community. "It's one thing to say you have a sponsor. But with World Vision, you have a network of sponsors." And without that, "I never would've acquired the skills I have today."
And not just Angelica, the whole community has been helped. "All of these strategies benefitting and giving back to children, without World Vision, they wouldn't have taken place."
Rafael describes his family as "very humble." He and his sister were raised by their grandparents. Like many rural families, his grandparents didn't see the value of an education beyond elementary school. World Vision helped their family to see the benefit of Rafael and his sister continuing in school.
He and his sister were sponsored by the same donor. She encouraged them to dream and set goals for their futures. When he wrote that he would like to become a civil engineer, she said she would like to help him achieve that goal and fulfilled her promise by helping him pay his way through college.
"Thanks to her, I am now an engineer and working for World Vision. I can actually say that, 'I know that World Vision changes lives' because I was once one of them."
Photos and story contributed by Laura Walls in Stories from the Field
Coming to Cambodia, I’d never really experienced the hopelessness of deep poverty before. But while there, hearing stories of families struggling to survive on just $1.25 a day, I saw that poverty is so much deeper than a lack of material things. It’s really a lack of hope. An inability to think about anything beyond survival for your family. A lack of choices. But that's not where the story ends! God is working to transform lives in Cambodia, using Christian staff as tangible witnesses of his love and care. Read along for a story of transformation and hope!
Is there anything as quintessentially American as a front porch? It expresses an American ideal of family and community - right up there with baseball games and apple pie! But strangely, my favorite porch, where I experienced the greatest hospitality and sweetest moment, isn’t found here in the United States at all. Rather, it's half a world away in the country of Cambodia and belongs to a remarkable woman named, Boeun.
We met Boeun late in the afternoon after driving past miles of rice paddies, through a small village with houses poised delicately on stilts, and finally walking down a little dirt path to the very last house along the trail. On the drive to her home, staff explained that Boeun has six children, four of whom have moved to Thailand and two who are in primary school. She also suffers from a disability – a foot that’s permanently arched and makes her tasks more challenging. She'd experienced so much trauma and pain in her life that when World Vision staff met her, she couldn’t find it in herself to even make eye contact with them. Her trust in people was gone. She had no hope for a good future for herself or her children. She was isolated, alone, and withdrawn.
We walked beside Boeun's neatly thatched home and I couldn't help but appreciate the tidy yard and the peaceful sound of birds in the trees. I reflected on the trauma Boeun had experienced in her life and braced myself to hear a sad story. But nothing could've prepared me for what happened next: we came around the corner of her house and there was Boeun, standing beside her door with an honest-to-goodness radiant smile. She was so beautiful! We walked into her home and there seemed to be some kind of confusion. Sophorn, the World Vision ADP manager and our guide stopped and laughed.
“Boeun! Where did this come from?!” Sophorn motioned to the deck of the porch and then looked at us, completely incredulous. “I was here two days ago and this (the deck) wasn’t here!”
Boeun smiled with absolute delight and pride, hopped up onto her bamboo plank deck, and patted it. Sophorn translated. “She made this so you could sit with her!”
We were amazed that this thoughtful woman had, in addition to her huge amount of daily tasks, been so concerned about OUR well-being and comfort, that she BUILT us a deck, in her porch, so we could sit alongside her as friends.
We listened as she shared her personal story through tears and saw how her face lit up as she shared about when World Vision staff found her and started helping her - sitting with her, listening, and showing her Christ’s love. They learned she was struggling to get her bamboo cakes to the market so they provided her with a bike. They also gave her chickens to supplement her family’s diet and income. They check in on her and her children and, in short, Boeun isn’t alone any longer.
Boeun showed us how she went about finishing the cakes, and it was labor-intensive! First she carved the outside, then smoothed it until it was finally ready to be peeled like a banana and eaten. It’s filled with rice, coconut milk, sugar, and beans, and it’s really good!
The next few hours transcended culture and countries. Boeun’s inspiring act of selfless hospitality had transformed us from strangers into friends. It was as though, in that moment, we were simply neighbors stopping by to enjoy Boeun’s wonderful bamboo cakes and fellowship on her porch. And as we laughed and talked together, a beautiful thing happened. A cold blast of wind blew through the doorway and the sky grew dark. Rain, desperately needed to soften the dry ground and coax it to bloom, poured down like a gift. This gift was like a reminder of our Father’s great love – a love greater than the bitterness of poverty and broken dreams, a love that transforms and brings fullness of life.
I went to Cambodia unsure of what I would see and the whole experience turned out to be so much greater than I’d dared to hope! Boeun’s life has already changed as a direct result of what God is doing through the World Vision. She has gone from hopeless to hopeful! God is so in love with Boeun and has placed Christian staff in her life to show her he cares. Her children will no longer have to see their mom withdrawn and broken. She’s free and hopeful for the future!
And this transformation isn’t just for Boeun. All across Cambodia we witnessed God’s power changing and restoring lives. There is a lot of work to be done but through sponsorship with World Vision, God is bringing hope to families and smiles to the faces of women like Boeun.
2016: Update on Boeun!
I received my annual progress report from Cambodia for my sponsored child and saw this familiar face on the back of the booklet!
It's wonderful to hear that Boeun and her children are continuing to thrive!!!
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.