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Lydia – serving in Sabah

By Lydia Lee
World Vision Malaysia

My name is Lydia and I am responsible to initiate and oversee World Vision Malaysia (WVM) community development programmes (CDPs) in Sabah, provide direction for the growth of CDPs in Malaysia, capacity building of local staff, engage with stakeholders and explore partnering opportunities, collaborate with like-minded organisations and am one of the spokespersons for the media.

Before embarking on implementing any transformational community development programme with an aim towards a community’ self-sustainability, relationships and trust must be built with the community. The initial phase in starting in Tulid CDP starting from October 2011 was tough – no one in the area has heard of World Vision, WVM had no past track record in Sabah, the communities had limited engagement with NGOs. In one of the villages, some leaders actually thought I was from a new political party when they saw my orange World Vision shirt.

A lot of hard work and sacrifice was made, achievements were slow to come by (for example, it took one whole year of generally working alone in Sabah throughout 2012, before we had the first two Sabahan co-workers, and later on more Sabahan staff as field facilitators), plans can be suddenly thwarted by unexpected, unannounced events (such as the 13th General Elections and the Sulu crisis in 2013 when we planned to facilitate a series of participatory programme design workshops in several clusters of villages).

Personal life is usually at the backburner as a high degree of flexibility is needed to shuttle between West and East Malaysia to accommodate stakeholders’ timing. In spite of having the ‘best laid plans’, community development work in Sabah inevitably takes priority over other commitments, resulting in feelings of guilt from bailing on commitments to my husband, family and friends, or simply not committing to events and gatherings for fear causing disappointment later. Nevertheless, I am grateful that they continue to be supportive and I hope to do better in the area of being a good wife, daughter and friend.

I am touched by the care and hospitability of the community in Sabah and also a partner NGO, Good Shepherd Services when I first started working in Sabah. They took me in as one of them, allowed me to join them in their day-to-day activities even though I had zero farming knowledge – unable to chop trees and slow in moving tree trunks to clear lands for planting, slow in harvesting paddy and unable to distinguish edible and non-edible wild vegetables.

During the early, relationship-building period I got to know the community better. Through spending more time with the community, they opened up when they share their thoughts. Mothers, fathers and youths share their dreams and struggles. People really desire to do something to improve their condition, but lack the opportunities.

Successes are – when you are able to witness for yourself that children have shown increased confidence and motivation to learn, when field staff increase in their capacity, confidence and commitment, when a community showed initiative, motivation and ownership in setting set up their own pre-school in their village for their children’s well-being. Parents are willing to sacrifice for their children’s future. After seeing improvement in their children, parents are motivated to be good role models, even to the extent of changing their old habits for the sake of their children.

Last year, we responded to the floods in Kelantan. It was WVM’s first local disaster response. I was responsible for the relief and rehabilitation work among the orang asli communities in Gua Musang. It was a steep learning curve, I was further stretched to juggle a precious resource, i.e. time, in working in three locations – Sabah, Kelantan and Selangor.

The amazing grace of God, even though I do not have the ability to teleport or to be omnipresent (my occasional wishful thinking and outrageous daydream), God had protected me from major physical injury caused by accidents, and I have been safe from any serious harm that may have happened to a female staying alone in a village(s).

Throughout my time in World Vision Malaysia, I grew in my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is in times of struggle, uncertainty and knowing you are not able to do things with your own strength that leads you to a deeper dependence on God. When I was nearing the brink of burn-out after expending physical and mental energy throughout two months without a break, He brought forth renewal, sustained me from simply giving up and reminded me that He is my source of strength and hope.

He has also provided help in the form of people – people who are really committed to serve by availing themselves to be full time staff. I am very grateful for everyone I work with, for without such committed people giving their lives to do this work, we would not have gone very far.

What keeps me motivated? Colossians 3:23 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”  These words drive me to focus and do my best in every circumstance, that ultimately what I do will be pleasing to God.

Lydia Lee currently serves in World Vision Malaysia under the Malaysian Programmes team as a Manager.

Jessica – the journey of 5 years

by Jessica Choong
World Vision Malaysia

More than 5 years ago, I joined World Vision Malaysia. I was excited to be part of this organisation that from my understanding was committed to helping the poor. Little did I know that World Vision’s work carried such depth and breadth worldwide. I am proud to be part of this dynamic community that is dedicated in serving the poor, even though most of us within the Malaysian office work indirectly by working hard to fundraise for our programmes in the field. Over the years I’ve come to better appreciate how the different parts of World Vision help contribute in their own unique ways for the greater good. It is also within this sphere that I’ve been able to grow professionally, socially and spiritually. Here I’d like to share some highlights from the past 5 years that has made it memorable being with the World Vision family.

My various roles in the Programmes department have provided me the opportunity to learn about both sustainable community development and emergency responses. When I first started, one of my first few responsibilities was to monitor the progress of child sponsorship programmes in a few countries. From there I learned about the holistic approach that World Vision uses to work alongside the poor, respecting their voices especially children’s and desiring for genuine transformation in the lives of those World Vision works with. I had the opportunity to visit some of our programmes to which I was able to witness the enthusiasm of communities wanting to improve their lives; discover the passion of committed field staff that have dedicated their lives to the poor; and hoped alongside children that believed that they could have a better future.

As a child sponsor, I’m glad to have the opportunity to journey with my sponsored children and their communities in this process of transformation. Having the privilege of meeting them has continued my desire to see them grow well and be hopeful for the community’s growth in the upcoming years. The connection that I have with a child in a programme allowed my work on community development to come alive, knowing that there are precious lives that really matter behind a report filled with words.


As I moved on to another role that coordinated fundraising efforts for disaster relief, I had opportunities to be deployed to be part of World Vision’s Syrian Crisis Response in the Middle East. There I served as a Programmes Officer, tasked to write grant proposals and reports to donors to fundraise for the needs of the affected community. During both deployments, I worked with international and national colleagues of various backgrounds who came together to use their skills, knowledge and passion to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected. In World Vision, it is amazing that during a time of adversity, a group of people with such diversity can come together to help others from diverse backgrounds.

Only by being part of an emergency response team, working closely with operational staff did I realise the complexity of an emergency response especially for a crisis such as Syria’s. We faced unprecedented challenges and often had to think outside of the box but still meet the needs of the affected children and community, as this was not your average or typical emergency response. This experience brought me one step closer to the field and although I did not work directly with those affected, I was able to see how my desk contribution could still bring some form of relief to those who needed them.

Looking back, it is hard to believe how swiftly five years has passed. This was made easy as I work with a great bunch of people. I have the privilege of working alongside fellow colleagues here and in other World Vision offices that are dedicated to the work at World Vision and have grown together with many professionally and spiritually. Our working relationship and focused goal of helping others has created a bond of friendship that I continue to treasure. This passion and commitment together with fellow colleagues help make the work more fulfilling and meaningful. I hope to continue to contribute in my own ways with my fellow colleagues on the work that World Vision does. And hope many will also see the small contributions we make in the lives of those we work with.

Jessica Choong currently serves in World Vision Malaysia under the Malaysian Programmes team as Programmes Coordinator.

World Humanitarian Day 2016

We share with you the stories 6 different individuals bound together by their quest to help the displaced.

There’s a female driver, two volunteers who give their time to coach football, an engineer in Syria and two others who have personal experience with conflict and now give back to help those in need.

Amira who works with children
Khalida who uses her driving skills to benefit others
Akram the Syrian footballer and volunteer
Khalil who works in Iraq
Raja the mother and volunteer
Ahmad who works in Syria

We are grateful to our colleagues who work in the World Vision Middle East and Eastern Europe offices for providing these stories to us.

Ahmad – Engineer in Syria


Photo: Hussein Sheikh Ibrahim/World Vision

In July 2016, World Vision reached over 400,000 people with clean water, emergency toilets and waste disposal services in northern Syria.

Ahmad Nassan is a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Field Engineer with World Vision in Syria.

‘We can see the impact the project has for the people, the provision of clean water, installing toilets and water tanks, we can see how satisfied they are and how happy these activities are making them. It is all based on evidence and need, ensuring that we can provide the services long-term. We do this with the hope that people can go back to their homes, to a rehabilitated community.’

Raja – Volunteer Syrian Refugee Coach


Photos: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

In November 2015, coaches from the English Premier League travelled to Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan to train thirty-six people from several humanitarian agencies, as well as a number of Syrian refugee volunteers, in how to coach football. The coaches are now using what they learnt on a regular basis to teach Syrian children football skills. Playing sport in the camp gives children the opportunity to stay active, have fun and make friends.

26-year old Raja is from Dar’a, Syria. She has a 2-year old daughter and a 3-year old son and has lived in Azraq refugee camp for two years. She has been a football coach in the camp for about two months and shares her thoughts on girls given the opportunity to play football.

I find it extremely beautiful that the girls are given a chance to play football! I used to enjoy playing football back in Syria. I liked football more than any other game as a girl. Here I enjoy teaching the girls. I feel like they are my children.

The girls come and play and release their energy. Some girls come to the multi-purpose sports pitch feeling sad and release their energy and feel better. The girls talk to me about their problems, they open up to me. I sometimes cry with them.

I will talk to parents who don’t want their girls to play and explain the importance of playing. I tell them that people and strangers can’t see into the girls’ pitch and sometimes after I talk to them they send their girls to play football. Many families in the camp are very conservative so it’s important for them that the girls have privacy when they play.

Khalil – The Response manager


Photos: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

In July 2016 World Vision provided 4,212 primary health consultations through six health clinics in the Kurdish Region of Iraq.

Khalil is from Lebanon. As a boy he was displaced by conflict and now works as World Vision Iraq’s Response Manager.

I know their feelings. I was once in their shoes. I slept as they are sleeping. Saw my father waiting for food kits in Lebanon.
I know their feelings. I lived the moment when I only had ‘A Dream’ to escape reality.
I know their feelings. Missing my home. Looking for hope in the eyes of others.
I know their feelings. When I only wanted to go back ‘Home’.

Akram – Volunteer Syrian Refugee Coach


Photos: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

During the current school holidays, there are two football sessions for children at the World Vision football pitches at Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. One in the morning and one in the evening. There is a break in the middle of the day as it is very hot.

30-year old Akram from Homs in Syria coaches the boys’ teams and the older youth team. He has been in Jordan for 2.5 years.

I used to play for a famous football team in Syria called Al-Karamah. We got to the semi-finals in the Asian Champions League in 2006.

I was once a kid and I had football coaches and they were my idols. I know that with the experience that I had, I can be a good example to these boys. The best thing about being a coach is putting a smile on the faces of the children. This generation has been deprived of so many things, it’s a bit of restitution for them, to give them hope.

The boys release their energy when they play football that could otherwise lead to aggression. It helps them release the extra energy that they have. If they didn’t have this space to play, they would play in the sand or think about stealing – instead they are occupied with football. When some boys first started playing football there was some aggression and we would ask them to leave the pitch for five minutes to calm down. We’ve seen a positive change, there has been development.

When new boys start playing football they need some time to adapt. The longer kids play football, the less aggression I see on the field.

It’s a beautiful thing that there are Syrian refugees in the Olympics. It’s good that people still have the determination to compete. When they eventually go back to Syria, the athletes will take those achievements back to Syria with them.

Khalida – Driver at World Vision Jordan


Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

World Vision is currently constructing a kindergarten at the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. It will open in late September. Khalida has worked as a driver at World Vision Jordan for two years. She is the only female driver.

Khalida is very expressive, friendly and quick to smile. Here the 50-year old shares her excitement for the role.

Being the only female driver is a unique experience. When I drive World Vision staff to other NGO offices, the staff at other NGOs can’t believe that I’m a female and a driver – once I got chocolates and coffee because of it! They are surprised that I drive everywhere in Jordan – the camps, Zarqa, Irbid everywhere.

I feel very happy and proud to work in this field. Before this job I was a driving instructor for 20 years. Women are willing to do lots of things. They just need the space. It was rare to have female driving instructors and when I started, my friends and family didn’t like the idea of me being a driving instructor. While I was an instructor I stopped learning new things after a while. I wanted to keep learning though.

At World Vision I meet people from different cultures and backgrounds, my English is improving and I feel like World Vision is a family. (Khalida did an English language course through World Vision.)

When I drive World Vision staff to the camps to do their work, I’m happy that I’m contributing to helping refugees. Before I worked at World Vision, I wanted to work for a humanitarian organisation – If I’m contributing to helping people it makes me happy.

When I was a driving instructor I put my children through university so they could learn, now in my job at World Vision I am learning.

Driving gives me a sense of freedom. The people in my car are my responsibility, I like to be professional and I like taking care of them. In the future I’d like to do work where I am working with refugees directly.

Amira – CFS worker


Ralph Baydoun/World Vision

World Vision runs child friendly spaces (CFS) for Syrian children in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The spaces provide the opportunity for children to play, learn and spend time with other children. Psychosocial support activities help children process their feelings.

When asking Amira about the reason she works in a CFS, the simple answer that you expect is a typical, “because I love my work”. What one doesn’t know is that Amira finished law school, and had many opportunities to work as a lawyer  but she chose to work with World Vision instead.

Why? ones asks, “The smile of a child is worth everything in this world” Amira says. It’s probably her role as a mother that made her feel this strong attachment towards children and why she has dedicated her life to this cause, or as she describes herself, “I have a soft spot for children, all children”

Every morning Amira wakes up with high hopes about the day to come. Her challenge is to make a change in children’s lives especially the children who attend the CFS. “This is my motivation, this is what keeps me going.” Amira adds.

World Vision works in cycles when it comes to the CFS. Every cycle is for a duration of 3 months. Amira can’t help but talk about how unpleasant is to be attached to children for 3 months and then not see them ever again. “They become part of a bigger family”, Amira tearfully says. Even the children’s families come begging Amira and the team to keep their children for another cycle due to the significant progress they showed!

Amira who is a Lebanese woman in her 40s, lived and survived the Lebanese civil war herself. Seeing the refugees remind her of herself in an earlier stage of her life. She knows exactly how they feel and what they need, and tries as much as she can to help them through their pain. “Because I know for a fact the children are vulnerable and they are the most affected, when it comes to their hygiene, education and physical and mental growth!”

During the the interview Amira explains how beautiful her childhood was and what she tries to do is to ease the childhood of these refugees a little because she believes that every child should live their childhood to the fullest!

The scourge of human trafficking: Is there hope?

By Edmond Lee
Communications
World Vision Malaysia

The world is moving
In 2015, Europe faced an unprecedented refugee crisis. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that 1,011,700 migrants arrived there by sea and almost 34,900 by land.

Many of these refugees hailed from Syria, where the civil war rages on, driving families from their homes and forcing them on a dangerous journey to the safety of Europe’s shores. They face uncertain futures, but to them, that is preferable to almost certain death.

Unfortunately, where there is human suffering and desperation, there are people ready to exploit it.

The tragic costs of human trafficking
Closer to home, news broke in May 2015 that 28 illegal human trafficking camps had been found along the border between Malaysia and Thailand, near which were found 139 mass graves filled with the bodies of migrants. This case, and the subsequent trial of 92 human traffickers in Thailand, threw more light on the horrific spectre of human trafficking.

The scale of the problem is staggering: an estimated 21 million people have been trafficked worldwide – victims of a ‘business’ that has made $32 billion in profits. Sadly, 5.5 million children have been caught by this dark trade, forced to beg, perform hard labour, or even become sex workers.

Although traffickers often prey on refugee children, more commonly they lure underprivileged children and youths into their sinister web by the promise of steady work abroad.  Economic desperation at home often places enormous pressure on migrating young people to succeed and send money to their families; helping their families survive can make even the worst hardships seem worthwhile.

Occasionally, victims of trafficking escape or get rescued, but continuing poverty and suffering is driving more people into the arms of criminals every day. What can stem the tide?

A reason to stay

trafficking1
Sauphorn with a large harvest of corn.

If economic desperation is a key reason people choose to leave, then economic opportunities can persuade them to stay. Take Sauphorn, a woman in Leuk Daek, Cambodia. Previously, during the dry seasons, she didn’t have the water to grow crops.

“I felt so upset when we didn’t have much food,” she says. “My children would get sick because they didn’t have enough.” In this vulnerable state, Sauphorn could have been swayed by the opportunity to earn an income abroad to care for her children at home.

But after World Vision arrived in her community, she was empowered to keep her children healthy through health and hygiene education, and has even gone on to train others in her community. By learning best practices for farming, her yields have more than quadrupled.

World Vision is transitioning out of her community soon, but she isn’t worried. “World Vision has already strengthened me for 10 years.” With her newfound confidence and expertise, others in her community gain the resilience to stay.

Education empowers
Traffickers often prey on the less-educated, but they would have a hard time in Leuk Daek, Cambodia. Families now have food security and know the value of education, so more and more children are able to go to school, where they can learn more about their rights and how not to be taken advantage of.

One such student is Bunteum, who is now 22.

His parents struggled to feed their family of 10. But through World Vision, they learned life skills and agriculture expertise that enabled them to provide for their family.

trafficking2
Bunteum now shares his knowledge as a school teacher and advisor to the Youth Club.

By taking part in the World Vision Youth Club, Bunteum learned about children’s rights and how to help his community. He worked alongside World Vision to raise awareness on education, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and of course, human trafficking.

All of this had a lasting impact on Bunteum’s life. “After I joined the club, I understood about my future. I could prepare my plan,” he says. He finished school and has returned to his community as a primary school teacher. He also consults with the Youth Club, educating and empowering a new generation of children.

Having hope keeps them safe
In 2013, the UN adopted a resolution to make 30 July the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. Raising awareness is indeed important, but awareness alone won’t keep vulnerable children and families away from human traffickers; not as long as the economic rewards seem to outweigh the risks.

But what is true in Leuk Daek is true everywhere: by giving communities access to education, economic opportunities and social protection, children and families won’t succumb to the risks of trafficking and exploitation in order to survive. The promise of hope and self-sufficiency will keep them safe at home, where they belong.

By sponsoring a child, you can give families hope and help them resist traffickers. Click here to become a child sponsor today.