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How to stay aware without burning out

By Edmond Lee, Communications

Thanks to the Internet and social media, we can keep up with what’s happening in the world in an instant. Whether it’s the war in Syria, a terrorist attack or any number of world events, social issues or calamities, you can find what you need to know within seconds. This has led to an unprecedented level of awareness and activism. People don’t just know what’s going on; they’re getting involved in advocacy and social justice – online and even in the streets.

But how much awareness is too much?

The pace of news has gone from fast to frenetic. As soon as one issue is trending, it’s replaced by another. We hear about multiple events in real time; sometimes our attention spreads thin. It’s not uncommon for even ardent social activists to “burn out” or be overwhelmed. It’s impossible to care about everything.


Image from blogs.hopkinsmedicine.org

At World Vision, we encourage our sponsors, donors and advocates to care and reach out to children and communities living in poverty. But the last thing we want is for you to care to the point of total exhaustion.

Here’s how to be an engaged global citizen who takes control:

1. Pick your issues.
As we said, it’s impossible to care equally for every single issue. So, consider what you are most passionate about. Do you care deeply about education for poor children? Are you concerned about refugees? Do you want to end hunger? Pick a few issues closest to your heart and focus on them instead of spreading yourself thin.

And remember, just because someone isn’t actively supporting your cause doesn’t mean they don’t know or care!

2. Watch out for fake news!
The Internet can be a wonderful source of news. But remember that anyone can publish or say anything they want, including blatant lies. When you read a story from a source you don’t know, check other sources to make sure the story is accurate. If a story is developing, wait for more details before drawing conclusions. Try to stick to trusted, well-known sources, but also remember that everyone makes mistakes. Watch out for corrections.

People on social media often skew news stories to fit their agendas and validate their own opinions. If someone posts a controversial headline, video or snippet from an article, track down the original source and get the full context. Most of all, remember that it’s OK not to react immediately. Pause and check before you act. Haste can make you wrong.

Here are some other tips for consuming news:
• Don’t trust anonymous sources or stories that cite other news organisations as a source of information.
• Pay attention to the language used by the media. For example, ‘We are waiting for confirmation’ means that they don’t have it.
• Watch out for fake or Photoshopped images.

3. Learn to filter the voices you hear.
The Internet gives everyone a voice, but not everyone uses that voice wisely. Unfortunately, many go on the web and social media to speak cruelly or thoughtlessly, espouse dangerous viewpoints such as violent racism, or amuse themselves by behaving in ways they know will get a negative reaction from people (also known as ‘trolling’).

It’s good to hear different perspectives, but be mindful of points of view that misrepresent reality and cause harm. If you’re on social media, use your blocking or muting functions judiciously when dealing with toxic or unreasonable people. It is possible to change hearts and minds, but if an interaction is going nowhere, learn to move on.

4. Get off the Internet once in a while.
On the Internet – and social media in particular – the bad that happens in the world can often be amplified, exaggerated and distorted by thousands of voices weighing in. So take a moment and step away. Get outside. Take a walk. Do something you enjoy. Have a nap.

Above all, take a moment to remember that the world can be an awful, dangerous place, but it is also filled with incredible beauty and good. Savour it.

A mother’s story: Being positive about HIV

By Elayna Fernandez

She kept saying “I’m so grateful,” and she couldn’t stop smiling. I was instantly inspired by her sense of pride and the light that radiated through her beautiful brown eyes.

I think it is no accident that her name, Milagros, means “miracles.” That’s what you experience in her presence.

I couldn’t help but stare at her and just soak it all in. She is a loving mom, an entrepreneur, and an inspiration to many.

A smiling Milagros at home.

By now you may be wondering: who is this woman and what makes her so happy? I’ll answer the second question with a simple word I’m a big fan of: perspective.

In Philippians 4:11, we read this statement from Paul: “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

I find this verse exquisitely brilliant.

To refresh your memory, Paul was in a yucky state that not everyone would be content to be in. He wrote this verse from prison. Now, I don’t know Paul personally and didn’t read this in the original language, but I can assure you I’ve learned a powerful lesson from this very short sentence: you may not necessarily be grateful for the prisons in your life, but you can choose to be grateful for whatever else is happening, while in the prison, through the power of perspective.

Well, back to Milagros. She’s not in prison per se, but for over six years, she’s found herself in a condition she never thought she’d be in. I was in awe of Milagros as she told her story: she had a near-death experience while giving birth to her son Genesis, and she thought she almost lost him. Whew! The tales of the past can be an emotional experience for both the storyteller and the story hearer.

But, wait. Behind Milagros’s perfect smile, sparkly eyes, and passionate gratitude, and beyond her survival is the condition that is very much present right now, as you read, and will continue to be present in her life: she’s positive … HIV positive.

So you asked, who is this woman? Well, yeah, I assumed you asked. And here’s my heartfelt answer: she’s a brave single mother of seven kids, living with HIV in a stigma-filled community, providing for her family by selling homemade bread at the local market. She’s also the go-to person for anyone who is diagnosed with HIV, because she’s turned her pain into a passion to help others understand that they can lead a healthy, meaningful life despite the disease.

Why is Milagros so grateful? I can’t possibly recall all the reasons. I was too caught up in the moment, and too in love with her kids, and it’s been a long day. She had a long list. I’m serious.

Do you have a long gratitude list? Is it so long that it would overwhelm people? Especially people that seem to have more than you do?

While you think on that (I did for a long while today while riding the bus around some impoverished communities in the Dominican Republic), let me share what I remember:

  • She’s grateful to God because she can be alive to raise her kids.
  • She’s grateful because she can be a loving, caring mom.
  • She’s grateful because she has had the support of World Vision (Vision Mundial, in Spanish), through her son’s birth, her diagnosis, and the roller coaster of emotions and challenges that come with it.

World Vision is the organisation that invited me to live this incredible experience in my homeland. Most of her kids are sponsored through World Vision, they provided her with small business training, and they even built her house for her.

Perspective is how you view something. It has a Latin root meaning look through or “perceive.” It means going broader and going deeper, to find the good in every condition we may find ourselves in.

Perspective can help us find JOY in the JOurneY.

You may find pain, poverty, and pestilence along the way, but if—when—you take a closer look, you will see HOPE, JOY, and LOVE shining bright.

Perspective doesn’t get you out of prison, yet it arms you with the awareness that, though it may sound or seem unreasonable, there’s actually a way out.

What actions can you take to help someone? Sponsoring a child may sound like too easy or little of a solution. RM65 may sound like too crazy of a “price.” [Insert your perspective] And you may be sceptical about it. And I would be, too.

Except that I’m not.

Meeting Milagros’ children today reminded me vividly of my own childhood. Things like safe drinking water, proper nutrition, basic sanitation, decent clothing, access to healthcare, and good education were often considered a luxury. And sometimes being poor also meant feeling judged and lonely, and suffering the anxiety of lack and apparent doom.

Milagros with her four sons at their home.

Meeting Milagros’ children, and other children that are sponsored through World Vision, also reminded my heart of what child sponsorship can make possible. One of my siblings had a sponsor in the USA, and that afforded a different set of possibilities for that child, while improving the situation and condition for our family as a whole.

And for Milagros? Her positive story is possible today because her children were part of World Vision’s sponsorship program. Their staff make regular visits to every family involved in those programs, and when they do they evaluate each family’s situation and needs. That’s how they discovered her condition in the first place.

When I was packing for my Dominican Republic trip as a World Vision Blogger, I found an old fortune from a few months ago. It read: Your happy heart will bring joy and peace to those in need.”

That is my prayer. Is it yours? If like me, you pray for a world in which children can break free from the prison of deprivation, where they have access to safe drinking water, nutritious food, empowering education, protective clothing, quality healthcare, and secure shelter, and the chance at a brighter future, I invite you to explore child sponsorship and take compassionate action.

I am living proof that your gift can bless a child, a family, and a community at large.

And as I think of Milagros’ gratitude and joy, I wouldn’t want to mislead you. These don’t just come from perspective. She’s become a mentor and an instrument of hope. She’s an inspiration to her six natural children, and an angel to the little one she rescued when his mom died from giving birth.

She’s an example to me of how perspective makes you positive in any circumstance therewith. She’s also a testament that God blesses a cheerful giver, and a grateful receiver who gives back.

This story was featured on worldvision.org

Archery allows sponsored child to take aim in right direction

By Somluck Khamsaen
World Vision Thailand

archer
Following the death of both her parents, Preaw found comfort in an unlikely source — a bow and arrow.

Preaw’s father died when she was 8; her mother passed away soon after. By then, Preaw was a World Vision sponsored child in her community in Thailand.

Preaw and her younger sister went to live with their uncle. When she was in sixth grade, a cousin introduced her to the sport of archery.

“Archery requires concentration and accuracy,” says Preaw, now 21. “I like archery because it helps me in my concentration.”

The thrill of hitting a target dead on became Preaw’s mission. As she continued her education, she practiced consistently in her extra time.

Preaw started to win local competitions and was selected to attend regional events. As she continued to excel, she traveled internationally, and her Canadian sponsor helped pay for contest entry fees.

In 2007, Preaw represented Thailand in the 24th Southeast Asian Games, where she won a bronze medal in recurve archery at a shooting distance of 70 meters. Next came the World Archery and Para Archery Championships in 2011 — and she’s not done yet.

“I’m not skillful yet. I still have much training to do,” says Preaw.

Her commitment to her sport is equaled to her commitment to her education. She loves to study and is not willing to miss school even for one day. Now a third-year student at Rattanabundit University in Bangkok, Praew is majoring in science and technology.

When there are no classes, she teaches archery to children interested in her sport, earning money for personal expenses and to contribute to her younger sister’s plans to attend nursing school.

“World Vision has given me love and support all along, advice in my studies and for my family,” Preaw says. “I really can’t imagine what my life would be like without [her sponsor] and World Vision.”

Click here to sponsor a child today!

Tips for raising children with tenderness

EscogeLaTernura
Violence can be hidden under the intention to educate or correct, but there are other more effective ways to raise children with love.

Raising children with tenderness asserts his dignity and strengthens emotional ties. Tenderness encourages dialogue and shows the comprehensive care we have for the needs of children, accompanying their growth.

1. Tenderness sets unconditional love relationships, communication, affection and respect

Children’s feelings must be treated with respect. Girls and boys with positive relationships will grow with enough confidence to become assertive adults who exercise their citizenship with ethical principles.

2. Tenderness guides children’s growth with empathy and understanding

Earn their trust so they share their dreams, joys and achievements, but also their fears, sorrows and insecurities. Children need limits and firmness; but they also need to feel heard and understood. With love and understanding they make good decisions.

3. Hug and kiss each day

The touch strengthens affection, relationships and promotes positive behaviors. Show your love by hugging and telling them that you love them.

Story by World Vision Dominican Republic

Top five ways to connect with your sponsored child

By Lindsey Minerva,
World Vision US

Work Hard At School: ìMy sponsor always tells me in her letters, to work hard at school. I am trying because I want to be a nurse in future,î Najat, nine-year old sponsored girl said smiling. Najat (age 9) has never met her sponsor but she knows how she looks like. She is one of the children in the Ashanti Area Development Program sponsorship program who often receives greeting cards, photographs, colored pencils, writing pad and photographs, among others, from her sponsor.Najat holding letters and photographs from her sponsor. Summary: Context: The occupation of the people is mainly farming. They leave very early for their farms where they plant maize, yam, groundnut, garden eggs and tomatoes. When they return in the evening, girls assist their mothers to prepare the evening meal. You can tell food is cooking from the smoke rising from firewood they use. SHARE assignment: s100591-2, photos and captions only. Project name: Ashanti-Gap ADP Funding: United States Africa digital color horizontal

My sponsor always tells me in her letters, to work hard at school. I am trying because I want to be a nurse in future. Najat has never met her sponsor but she knows how she looks like. She is one of the children in the Ashanti Area Development Program sponsorship program who often receives greeting cards, photographs, colored pencils, writing pad and photographs, among others, from her sponsor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sponsorship is about more than just giving money to help people in need — it’s about letting children know they are loved.

Taking time to write letters or send small gifts and cards can create a meaningful relationship with your sponsored child. Many sponsors find that investing in this relationship is more than a blessing for their sponsored child — it also changes their own life.

Read on to learn how you can create a lasting relationship with your sponsored child.

1. Write a letter.

Letter-writing (do check out the guidelines on page 2) might feel intimidating at first, but your letter doesn’t have to be perfect to be encouraging to your sponsored child. He or she is curious to know about who you are and what your life is like!

Introduce yourself and your family members. Share your age, hobbies, sports you watch or play, and other activities you are involved in. Who do you consider to be a part of your family? Share about their ages and interests to help paint a picture of daily life for your sponsored child. It’s important to focus not on possessions — your sponsored child might not have many of those — but rather on relationships and activities.

Taking the time to write your sponsored child conveys the message that he or she is valuable and loved by you.

2. Send photos.

Photos of you and your family will be treasured by your sponsored child, and they’ll help him or her feel more connected to your life.

Like letter-writing, it’s important to focus on people, not possessions. Remember how connected you felt to your sponsored child when you saw his or her picture? Sending photos of your own will help your sponsored child feel similarly connected to you.

3. Send a small gift.

Many families don’t have money for anything extra, so small gifts (do check out the guidelines on page 2) can mean a lot. Your gift will need to fit in an A4 sized envelope. Stickers, hand towels, socks, coloring books, colored pencils (with a sharpener!) are a great place to start.

If you have children or grandchildren, you can also send their drawings or photos.

4. Write an email.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time to create a meaningful connection. You can now email your sponsored child. Your child will respond via regular mail, so it may take several months to receive a letter back.

Here are some step-by-step tips on emailing your child.

writeto

5. Send a card.

After you sponsor a child, World Vision will send you colorful card template to send to your sponsored child. It is one of the easiest ways to make a connection with the child — simply fill out the card and email (my_worldvision@wvi.org) it back us.

The card will be sent to the World Vision office in your child’s country and translated into his or her language. Children receive these cards around birthdays and holidays. Greeting cards can brighten your child’s day, and your card will be treasured for months to come.

Know that the letters, photos, and packages you send will bring joy to your sponsored child and help foster a deeper connection.

If you have written a letter or email to your sponsored child, it might take some time to receive a reply. World Vision staff members are hard at work processing, translating, and delivering your messages. Please don’t let that discourage you from reaching out to your sponsored child. Doing so will be a blessing and encouragement — for your sponsored child, and for you!

Story by World Vision US.

Syria refugee crisis: Facts you need to know

Updated January 31, 2017
by World Vision US Staff

The Syria civil war, now in its sixth year, is “a slaughterhouse, a complete meltdown of humanity, the apex of horror,” U.N. emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien told the U.N. Security Council Jan. 26. The war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced more than 11 million from their homes. In many cases, children caught up in this crisis have fared the worst, losing parents or friends to the violence, suffering physical and psychological trauma, or falling years behind in school.

Here is a little bit about the conflict, its effect on families, and how World Vision is helping them.

Syrian refugee crisis explained: Fast facts
– 13.5 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance due to a violent civil war that began in 2011.
– 4.9 million Syrians are refugees, and 6.1 million are displaced within Syria; half of those affected are children.
– Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school. View these photos to see life through
the eyes of Syrian refugee children.
– Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt; slightly more than 10 percent of the refugees have fled to Europe.
– Peace negotiations continue despite a fraying and piecemeal ceasefire.

Children under siege in Aleppo
“The children of Syria have experienced more hardship, devastation, and violence than any child should have to in a thousand lifetimes,” says Dr. Christine Latif, World Vision’s response manager for Turkey and northern Syria.

World Vision staff say the situation in Aleppo city is the most dire they have ever seen it. Health supplies and clean water are urgently needed. Aid hasn’t reached the city since mid-July.

“Civilians have been continually in harm’s way, caught in the cross-fire and changing front lines.  Civilian infrastructure has been targeted, leading to mass civilian casualties, including women and children,” says Angela Huddleston, program manager for the World Vision’s Syria response.

World Vision is helping about 100,000 people fleeing recent violence in Aleppo with:
– Clean water and sanitation services
– Primary and mobile health clinic support
– Women and young child centers
– Support for a women and children’s hospital with equipment and supplies

Help children and families fleeing violence in Syria. Donate Now

SyMo
Shy and fearful, Mohamed, 2, seldom ventures from his family’s tent without holding tightly to his cousin Malak’s hand. Both his parents died in Syria. For the past five months, he’s lived with 13 aunts, uncles, and cousins in a homemade tent in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

World Vision’s work in Syria

– Food assistance
– Primary healthcare in health facilities and mobile clinics
– Medical and nutritional aid for women and children
– Baby care kits for displaced families
– Water and sanitation services
– Child protection outreach to communities
– Psychosocial care and play for children

Why are Syrians leaving their homes?
Violence: Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, as many as 386,000 people have been killed, including nearly 14,000 children, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The war has become more deadly since foreign powers joined the conflict.
Collapsed infrastructure: Within Syria, 95 percent of people lack adequate healthcare, 70 percent lack regular access to clean water. Half the children are out of school. The economy is shattered and four-fifths of the population lives in poverty.
Children in danger and distress: Syrian children — the nation’s hope for a better future — have lost loved ones, suffered injuries, missed years of schooling, and witnessed unspeakable violence and brutality. Warring parties forcibly recruit children to serve as fighters, human shields, and in support roles, according to the U.S. State Department.

Most refugees from Syria are still in the region. They’ve fled violence and sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Around 10% are taking the dangerous journey to Europe.

refumap
Most refugees from Syria are still in the region. They’ve fled violence and sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Around 10 percent are taking the dangerous journey to Europe. (©2016 World Vision)

How does the war in Syria affect children?
Read about how the war is affecting Syria’s children in a special report from World Vision magazine, “Syria Crisis and the Scars of War.
– Children are susceptible to malnutrition and diseases brought on by poor sanitation, including diarrheal diseases like cholera. Cold weather increases the risk of pneumonia and
other respiratory infections.
– Many refugee children have to work to support their families. Often they labor in dangerous or demeaning circumstances for little pay.
– Children are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation in unfamiliar and overcrowded conditions. Without adequate income to support their families and fearful of their
daughters being molested, parents — especially single mothers — may opt to arrange marriage for girls, some as young as 13.
– Between 2 million and 3 million Syrian children are not attending school. The U.N. children’s agency says the war reversed 10 years of progress in education for Syrian children.

What are the refugees’ greatest needs?
– Syrians fleeing conflict need all the basics to sustain their lives: food, clothing, health assistance, shelter, and household and hygiene items.
– They need reliable supplies of clean water, as well as sanitation facilities.
– Children need a safe environment and a chance to play and go to school.
– Adults need employment options in case of long-term displacement.
– Prayer: Learn how you can pray for Syrian refugees. Join with others as we pray for refugees.
– Compassion: Read this article in Christianity Today by World Vision President Rich Stearns about treating refugees with the compassion of Christ.

SyAli
Ali, 13 sells tissues on the Damascus highway so his family can pay rent. Ali works to support the family and doesn’t attend school. He tries to be a tough guy, but sometimes he cries when people on the street say ugly things to him.  (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

How is World Vision helping refugees and others affected by the Syrian refugee crisis?
Since the Syria crisis began in 2011, World Vision has helped more than 2 million people in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Learn more about how World Vision responds to emergencies with short-term relief and long-term recovery.
Syria: Food aid, health assistance, hygiene support, baby care kits, water and sanitation, shelter repair kits, and winterization supplies.
Iraq: Food aid, health services, water and sanitation, baby kits, stoves and other winter supplies; for children: education and recreation, programming for life skills, peace building, and resilience.
Jordan and Lebanon: Personal and household supplies, clean water and sanitation, education and recreation, Child-Friendly Spaces and child protection training for adults, winter kits, and psychosocial support for children.

Reporting from Brian Jonson and Patricia Mouamar, World Vision communications staff in Lebanon and Jordan, and Chris Huber, Kathryn Reid, and Denise C. Koenig from World Vision U.S.

Help children and families fleeing the violence in Syria

Saved from early marriage by a goat

By Laura Reinhardt

Newly married, Saviour Dene had a big problem. Her new husband would not accept her daughter from a previous relationship as his child.

He told Saviour that he’d married her, but not her daughter.

Saviour did not know what to do so she talked to World Vision community development worker, Seth Siamugande.

“If I had power, I would swallow my daughter so she is no longer there,” Saviour told Seth. “It’s a big burden.”

Seth knew exactly what to do. He took the little girl, Modester, under his wing. That was 2007. Today Modester is 18 and still Seth’s favorite.

“She is one of the children that I have on my heart,” he says. “That child has gone through tough moments.”

I am their mother
Children living in rural areas in southern Zambia face a thorny path. Education isn’t a given. Nor is food. Being an orphan limits access to these even more.

Modester considers herself a single orphan — meaning she has one living parent —though Seth says she rarely sees her mother anymore. Now Modester lives with her 80-year-old grandmother, Noria.

In addition to being rejected by her family, Modester faced hunger. Sometimes she ate only one meal a day. She envied neighbors who had three meals. Sometimes when they had nothing, Modester would go into the bush to find wild okra, which fills up empty bellies, but doesn’t offer much nutritional value.

Grandmother Noria is raising Modester’s cousin, Evelyn, along with two mentally and physically disabled grandchildren—Sydney and Junior. It’s too much for such an elderly woman so Modester has assumed a lot of the parenting responsibilities for her younger cousins. A girl who grew up practically motherless now has three charges of her own.

“I am their mother,” she says, now that Noria has left to care for a sick relative leaving the younger children in Modester’s care.

ModEve
Modester and Evelyn holding a baby goat.

“She helps us with the preparation of our food. Also she draws water for us,” says 9-year-old Evelyn. Modester spends time helping Evelyn with her homework.

Modester says, “I encourage her to go to school and study. Sometimes I get a piece of paper and we do a bit of solving mathematics.”

Evelyn wants to be a teacher. She looks up to her cousin. She appreciates the hard work the teen does for herself and her cousins, but she also admires Modester’s education.

It’s an education made possible partially by the gift of a goat.

Goats: A gift that lasts
What a difference a single goat makes. It’s offered her a path forward toward higher education. “Without the goats, I might have been married,” she says.

In the Sinazongwe Area Development Program, World Vision offered a gift of a goat to orphans or especially vulnerable children. Modester qualified and when she was in the second grade, she received that gift.  It didn’t take long for that single goat to reproduce. Her herd expanded to 12 goats.

As the goats multiplied, so did Modester’s hopes.

“Goats gave me hope because I started to dream of who I wanted to be and I have seen that dream come to pass,” says Modester. Her dreams include being a nurse because she likes helping others.

Modester sold a few goats at a time, always being careful to keep a couple of the animals in reserve for emergencies. Some went to pay people to work in their fields so the family had enough food to eat. Some went toward clothing for the children in the family. Some paid for her education needs.

Goats are part of the equation and child sponsorship is another. Modester appreciates how supportive the staff has been, especially Seth. They’ve provided for both the family’s physical needs as well as her education. Seth is always there with advice about things like school and boys and sometimes even a little pocket money,

“World Vision staff kept encouraging me to work hard in school and to remain focused,” she says.

And focus she did. Modester just completed university-level exams. The results were astounding. Modester, a girl whose family threw her away, is one of the top students in all of Zambia. That’s very unusual for a youth from a small, rural community.

Faith strengthened by World Vision
The staff also nurtures the spiritual growth of all the children in the project. Seth started a Good News Club and Bible study for the sponsored children when he came to Sinazongwe ADP. Through Seth, Modester learned more about God’s love for her and her faith grew.

She now has a father who will never abandon her.

She always goes to God with her needs. She knows that He answers prayers because: “Whenever I prayed asking God for something, it happened and among those whom God used to respond to my needs is World Vision and the staff.”

Her faith and prayers are being put to the test as she prepares for university. These school costs are too great even with the assistance of the goats.  So she hopes for either a scholarship or someone to help pay for the university fees.

A university degree will bring her closer to her dream — one that goes beyond becoming a nurse.

“I think when I have enough money I [will] think of helping orphans,” says Modester. “That’s important because I’ve felt what being an orphan is. It’s very hard.”

But things that are difficult won’t stop this determined young lady — not with Seth, a herd of goats, and the love of a faithful Father leading her on.

They can do anything; they just need a believer.

Sponsor a child today
Give a gift

Story courtesy of World Vision US.

Return on investment

By Collins Kaumba
World Vision Zambia

Yule
Yule Mwewa with his wife, Mirriam, and their two children, Natasha and Emmanuel.

Yule Mwewa’s list of accomplishments could make any Ivy League graduate envious. Valedictorian. Successful entrepreneur and business owner. Certified accountant. Board member of a major nongovernmental organization.

But none of those would have been possible for the 33-yearold Zambian without another distinction: “All this is because I was once a sponsored child,” says Yule.

The spark of sponsorship
The sixth of eight children growing up in Kawimbe, a rural town in northern Zambia, Yule was one of the first children sponsored when World Vision started working in his village. The support was timely, as “survival was extremely hard,” says Yule. “[My parents] could not even afford to provide basic meals for us.”

His sponsor, Kay Mason from Arkansas, supported Yule through primary and secondary school with uniforms and school fees. Her sponsorship was the spark he needed to excel.

“World Vision’s sponsorship motivated me to work even harder,” says Yule — and his hard work produced results. Yule graduated from high school at the top of his class, ensuring automatic admittance to the University of Zambia.

But that didn’t mean he could afford tuition. Refusing to give up, he started a small business to earn money for college and instead enrolled in an accounting program at Chingola School of Accountancy in 2002.

Three years later, Yule’s parents desperately needed financial help to send his younger siblings to school. Armed with a new accounting degree, he headed to Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city.

“By God’s grace, I got my first job with an audit firm,” he says. Soon he was able to help his family with school expenses. Two years later, Yule became the accountant for World Vision’s Mwinilunga area development project.

Sponsorship served as a catalyst for my career,” he says, “and with the experience I got as an auditor from my first job, I felt that I needed to serve at World Vision and contribute to its success.”

Family cornerstone
Today, Yule’s position as a finance and administration manager in the government’s science and technology ministry enables him to provide for his wife of nine years, Mirriam, and their two children, Emmanuel, 7, and Natasha, 3.

Yule’s other distinctions far outweigh his professional accomplishments. As a husband, father, brother, and son, he sees himself as the cornerstone for his family. He built new houses for his parents and family members, financed his siblings’ educations, and runs several small businesses that generate extra income to help others.

“God’s grace is so sufficient in my life. I believe that I am a channel of blessing to others. What I have received, freely I should give,” says Yule. “I have chosen to share what I have with others, just as my sponsor demonstrated to me through World Vision.”

Though he takes pride in what he has attained, Yule is quick to point to God’s goodness as the source of his accomplishments. And his sponsor, Kay, says she “is pleased that Yule gives most of the credit for his success to God and that he has been active for God throughout [his life].”

Heavily involved in his church’s ministries, Yule is a spiritual leader and serves on the church board. He’s even pursuing a theology degree, not to become a pastor but “to know God more.”

Helping future generations with World Vision
The final merit on a long list of accomplishments is Yule’s role as a board member for World Vision in Zambia.

Serving the organization that served him when he desperately needed help has given Yule a unique perspective on sponsorship.

“The impact is enormous,” he says. “World Vision’s sponsorship program touches children’s lives to the detail. The sponsor out there may not know to what extent, but when you look at the details, children’s lives are changing.”

Without World Vision or Kay, Yule acknowledges he wouldn’t have been able to reach his full potential.

“Sometimes when you give, you do not know to what extent your contribution is going to impact lives. Just imagine for my life if World Vision did not give me the springboard — what would have happened?”

Yule is thankful that he will never know.

Story courtesy of World Vision US.

10 financial tips to help make the world a better place

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By Casey Slide
A guest blogger of World Vision US

Today’s guest blogger is Casey Slide, who writes about lifestyle topics on Money Crashers and is particularly passionate about personal finance. Here, she offers her thoughts on what can be accomplished simply by focusing on financial stewardship.

One of the most practical pieces of advice ever given on the subject of making a difference in the world came from none other than Mother Teresa when she said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

While we often believe it takes an ground-breaking discovery, a life-saving cure, or a million dollars to change the world, a simple evaluation of our finances can make an enormous difference. When you examine your finances and find ways to give money to worthwhile causes, you can embrace stewardship and a lifestyle of charitable giving.

Start by making a difference in yourself

1. Educate yourself
Before you can help others, you need to help yourself. Read books, read blogs, and learn how to get organized and make a budget. This puts you in a better position to pass along knowledge and to have money available to give.

2. Be honest with yourself
There are more important things in life than having a lot of money, but we often forget this principle. Build a spirit of giving and regularly remind yourself that the most important things in life can’t be bought. To begin making a change, take some time each week to think about how you can better yourself.

3. Establish a budget
Treat money management as a high priority in your life instead of an afterthought. Take the initiative to set up a budget and live by it, rather than going into debt and having to clean up the mess later. Simply put, the more aware you are of how much money you have coming in and how much is going out, the better able you’ll be to manage it and spend according to your priorities, such as charitable giving.
Effective money management helps you succeed and sets a positive example for others, such as your friends and family members who may need inspiration to manage money more wisely.

4. Save money in your everyday life
Look for ways to save money — because every ringgit saved is a ringgit that can be donated. Here are some ideas:

– Use coupons when you shop for groceries or compare prices before buying. We like the SmartShopper Malaysia Mobile App!
– Replace disposable items with reusable items. Like bring a container to take away food at your favourite chap fan shop instead
of using styrofoam packets!

– Start your own vegetable garden to save money at the grocery store. Grow herbs at your windowsill!
– Do it yourself instead of hiring a professional whenever you can. Or learn from YouTube!
– Utilize RM5+ stores for certain products. Like Daiso!
– Make your own household cleaners and homemade laundry detergents. Or buy from specialised shops so you can save on
          buying new bottles from the supermarket each time. Check out BYOB.

5. Save for retirement
Start a tax-advantaged retirement account so that not only will you be able to afford retirement, but so you are able to continue a lifestyle of giving. Contributing to an IRA, Roth IRA, or your company’s 401(k) is a very efficient way to save for your future, since you reduce your taxable income; it’s one of the first steps in preparing and planning for retirement. Furthermore, if you save enough, you may want to pass on your assests to charity at the end of your life.

Make a difference among your family and friends

6. Work as a team within your immediate family
Spouses often don’t discuss finances, and can find themselves on different pages when it comes to money. This may result in an overspending spouse or even financial infidelity.
Instead of avoiding talks about money, work as a team to discuss financial matters on a weekly basis. Furthermore, you may want to involve your kids in some of your financial activities, such as saving change to give to charity or choosing cost-effective meals and groceries.

7. Empower Family and Friends
When you see a friend or family member struggling financially, you may want to loan them money to pay their bills. However, it might be best to avoid lending money to friends or family members, because this could only make their problem worse. They may refuse to repay the loan or find themselves unable to repay. And when you loan people money, you enable their dependencies and poor financial choices.
Ultimately, loaning money can strain or sever a relationship. Instead, sit down with your friend or family member and discuss options to help them handle their finances.

Make a difference in your community and the world

8. Give money to a worthy cause
Give money to a worthwhile cause, and give with joy. Think about what you want to see changed in the world, and look for an organization that supports the cause. This helps you to become more enthusiastic and selfless about your giving. Also, stay connected to see the impact of your gifts — and if you give to an IRS-approved charity, you can deduct the monetary gift on your taxes. Or income tax deductible organisations in Malaysia.

9. Donate unwanted or unneeded possessions
If you cannot afford to give monetary donations, look for other ways to help. For example, you can donate clothing and household goods, ridding your home of clutter and simplifying your life. While you could sell your unwanted items, making the financial decision to forgo that profit makes the world a better place.

10. Get involved or volunteer with organizations
Involving yourself with a charitable organization can be difficult, but it’s also rewarding. You don’t have to give much of your time — perhaps only a few hours a month, or every other month. The key is if you have followed the first few tips and have your own finances under control, you’ll be less stressed and able to give more time and energy to community or world problems.

Regardless of how much time you can devote, giving your time and sharing your abilities really rounds out a true giving of yourself.

Additionally, this affords you a real glimpse into an organization that you support.

Story courtesy of World Vision US

“A chicken, so what!” — A skeptic converted

By Laura Reinhardt
World Vision US

Catherine Syasulwe heard that people attending World Vision’s livestock management training in Sinazongwe, Zambia, might receive animals through the Gift Catalogue, so she went to the meeting. But when the World Vision staff told all the trainees that they were getting chickens, she remembers thinking: “A chicken, so what! Can they do anything?”

Catherine continues to be surprised at how many ‘anythings’ just four Gift Catalogue chickens can produce.

A not-too-distant past of poverty
The year was 2006 and Catherine was just divorced from her husband. Pregnant with her son, Padrick and living with her parents Robert Syasulwe and Mary Phiri, the family struggled mightily.

They didn’t have enough food. They owned no animals, which meant they had no savings. Catherine didn’t know how she would provide for the baby on the way.

Then World Vision came with the offer for livestock management training. Just a year before, Catherine had watched both her parents receiving training in conservation farming from World Vision.

So Catherine was familiar with World Vision and recognized them as a trustworthy organization, but still, after the training she hoped for something more than four chickens.

“Something told me work hard, take care of [the chickens] using the skills you’ve been given,” she says. “I didn’t realize the potential in those chickens.” In a short time, the four chickens became 15, then 30.

Using the chickens, she purchased ducks, followed by goats, then pigs. The animals elevated her stature in the community. Before, when the family struggled, Catherine often heard people whispering about her when she walked by: “Look she’s already coming because she’s coming to beg.” The cruel words wounded her.

Thanks to the many animals she owns today, neighbors now desire her company. “Today if I am passing by, they will call me and say, ‘Can you come here?’”

Gift Catalogue chickens help a family to dream
In addition to her expanding menagerie, 33-year-old Catherine’s family hasn’t finished growing either. Four years ago she remarried and recently gave birth to 1-month-old Robert Syamwela.

Catherine can now dream extravagantly for her children. “I want my child to have a bright future through education,” she says. “[And] with the wealth that God has blessed us with right now, I won’t allow my son to miss the opportunity to finish his education.”

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That opportunity passed her by when she quit school in ninth grade because her parents couldn’t afford the costs. Thankfully Padrick looks to be on a strong school path. The shy boy likes his mathematics classes best and hopes to be a teacher when he grows up.

“Whatever he needs we’re able to provide,” Catherine says. “He goes to school filled up, not hungry.”

In fact no one in the family goes hungry. They eat plenty. Catherine laughs as she shows off her arm muscles.  People in the community refer to the family as giants because they eat so well.

Padrick also faces a more hopeful future thanks to a World Vision child sponsor in the US, who’s been sponsoring him for more than 7 years. “I am very happy because this child has a friend who thinks of him,” says Catherine about Padrick’s sponsor.

Safety nets through savings groups in Zambia
In 2009, World Vision introduced savings groups in Sinazongwe. Catherine and her mother, Mary both eagerly joined. They learned money management skills.

They and other group members borrowed money, paying it back within the 2-month time frame. This resulted in increased savings due to the interest payments on the loans. Those savings provided a safety net to Catherine’s formerly impoverished family.

The family used this money to invest in better seeds, farm equipment, solar panels, and a new business selling dried fish from nearby Lake Kariba. Now they have fresh sources of income that aren’t all dependent on the rains. That’s a good thing because El Nino is causing drought to plague southern Africa.

Catherine and Mary remain undaunted. They’re using the water-conserving farming techniques Mary learned back in 2005 for their fields and their home gardens. Since the home garden sits closer to the stream, it flourishes more than the fields, but both continue to produce healthy food for the family to eat and also to sell. In fact, they lean heavily on produce sales to provide for their family.

Catherine laughs when asked if her now bountiful life has affected her faith. “Right now I want to dance,” she says. “My faith has grown so much that I don’t even know the kind of dance that I can use for the Lord, just to show my joy for what he has done for me through this support.

She says it’s like God sent the Gift Catalogue chickens straight to her as a present just to change her path. She looks around at her healthy children, at her own health, at the garden and fields, at the animals roaming around the home and says, “All this would have not been possible without the chickens,” says Catherine.

And with that Catherine answers her question about whether or not a chicken can do anything.  In a word, Yes.

Story courtesy of World Vision US