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“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.”

CatS
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

How to use technology to be kind

By Heather Klinger
World Vision US

Let’s flip the switch on cyberbullying and instead focus on how to use technology to be kind. Can you help kindness go viral? October is National Bullying Prevention Month. We’ve collected some tools to help you keep your kids safe online and make their online world a kinder place, because building a better world for children is what we do.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31

Five random acts of kindness using technology
1. Spread honey: “Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” – Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)  Write a public compliment on someone else’s social media post, video, or blog. Let them know what you appreciate or admire about them.

2. Share good news: Be intentional about sharing something inspiring this week, instead of letting social media be overrun with disasters in the news or the latest public controversy.

3. Connect: Skype with a relative or friend that lives far away. Focus on listening well. Ask them how they’re really doing and how you can pray for them.

4. Give a virtual hug: Show someone you are thinking of them. Send an ecard with an encouraging message.

5. Change the world: No matter how old your kids are, they can spread generosity that changes the world — and themselves.

Need scientific reasons for your random acts of kindness? Studies show that doing kind things for others actually makes us feel even better about ourselves – it releases serotonin in your brain.

Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
Bullying and cyberbullying aren’t fun topics to talk about with your kids. So what’s one easy lesson you can teach them about how they interact with others? Have them ask themselves these three questions before they say something:  Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? The simple reminder to think before you speak is very powerful.

How World Vision tackles bullying
bully
World Vision is empowering students in China to call on their local communities to put an end to violence and bullying. As part of World Vision’s “Zero Violence, Zero Bullying” activity, students learn what to do when they face violence and bullying. Then they trace their hands on a poster for others to sign as a commitment to support each other.

Resources on bullying and cyberbullying:
– Bullying can happen anywhere and to anyone. Help stop bullying at school, online, and in the community.
– Being a parent is tough enough. Keeping up with what your kids are doing online is another challenge. The Cyberbullying Research Center has materials and strategies to help you protect your children.
– Find out how you and your kids can get involved in National Bullying Prevention Month.

Story courtesy of World Vision US.

5 tips to becoming a life-changing letter writer

By Kay Yoke

In our age, letter writing seems old-fashioned. But, for Maya, Kay’s old-school traditional letter-writing transformed her life.

Here are Kay’s simple tips on being a letter-writer.

1. Schedule a time to write. Put a reminder on your calendar. Sponsored children often write back when they receive a letter from their sponsor.

2. Find a place to write: your kitchen table, or attic office where you will not be distracted.

3. Keep it simple and short. Write as if you’re writing to your niece, nephew, or grandchild.

4. Make it special. Including a simple and inexpensive gift is a great way to show you are thinking of your child. *Note* Send gifts that fit into an A4 sized envelope, taking into consideration weight, tax and delivery costs.

5. Make your letter heartfelt: encourage, praise, love, and pray.

Click here for our letter writing guide to help you to communicate with your sponsored child.

Story from worldvisionmagazine.org

World Vision, building a community savings culture

By Mike Puia
Communications Officer
World Vision International Solomon Islands

John He’ai is a young father from Siwapo Village in South Malaita. Married with five children, John is in his mid-30s and has lived most of his life in the village.

He earns a living by selling fish and mud crabs, using the cash he earns to buy basic items needed for life in the village.

Life is good but like others in his community, John has found it challenging to meet family commitments such as school fees, the cost of transport to send family members to the nearest clinic, and meeting community obligations such as funeral expenses.

“Our interest in savings started when we heard stories from nearby villages about the benefit of their savings club. They said it helped to pay for school fees and medical expenses,” recalls John.

Today, not only is John a member of a savings club, he is the chairman of his community’s saving group, the Rauimamu Savings Club.

“Before joining the savings club, I would keep all my family’s money at home. But it didn’t work out. We ended up spending the money on anything that came up. I would spend it on alcohol.

“These days I’m not interested in alcohol. I now have a habit of wanting to save,” says John

Whenever he makes a bit of cash, selling fish and mud crabs, John makes a point of setting a portion of it aside; to be deposited into his savings club account.

His savings club meets every two weeks and John is conscious of the days and time, as arriving late or missing a meeting will incur a fine.

Since joining the club, John has attended several training sessions organized by World Vision to help villagers manage their personal finance, as well as strengthen the role of committee members.

Heai

John He’ai (in the middle, holding on to the blue folder) with the savings group members from Siwapo village, who are members of the Rauimamu savings club.

Joining the group has made John feel secure. “The savings group helps me to keep my money safe and ready for emergencies. The only time I touch what I save is when I get a loan to make a big purchase,” John says.

Living so far from a commercial centre means that John doesn’t have access to a bank. Even if he did have a bank account, the trip alone would cost him the equivalent of a month’s fish sale.

“For us the Rauimamu savings group is our bank,” says John, proudly.

A savings culture

Since 2011, World Vision Solomon Islands with the support of the Australian Government has worked to improve the economic conditions and livelihood of 15 communities in Small Malaita through the Community Economic Development (CED) Project.

The creation of savings clubs has been a key part of the project and in 2015 World Vision partnered with the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme to increase the spread of savings clubs beyond Small Malaita, and into South Malaita.

In early 2016, a mid-term evaluation of the CED project reported that the savings club scheme was an “outstanding success” in Small Malaita.

The evaluation on the 15 communities, found that before the start of the project only 17% of parents were able to save money. By 2016, at the time of the evaluation, the figure had increased to 97% of parents.

Between January and June 2016 the cumulative value of savings groups reached SBD$110,173 (RM625,66).

The evaluation found that 32% of respondents also took part in World Vision’s financial training, which helped savings clubs members to manage finances.

To support savings clubs the project a number of Village Savings Agents were identified and trained.

One of the unintended benefits of savings club highlighted by the evaluation has been the dominant role of women in the savings clubs, of those representing households 52% are women in comparison to 42% of men and 6% of youth.

Story from wvi.org

Top 5 myths of Child Sponsorship

myth
By Rachael Boyer
World Vision US

When you were little, did you believe you could change the world? I did. I wanted to be part of the amazing work God is doing in the world. If you’re reading this, chances are you feel the same tug in your heart to help those in poverty and make a difference. But you may have some questions about the most effective way to do it.
Well, I invite you to take a fresh look at the most powerful way to fight poverty.

1.Myth: It’s an old-fashioned, outdated way of doing development work.
Truth: Child sponsorship is local, sustainable, and organic.
Those words are trendy now, but we’ve been taking this approach since the 70’s. We have local staff members who know the culture, customs, and community. Our agriculture programs promote organic farming. Sustainability and self-sufficiency are fundamental. It’s our goal to leave the community. Author and blogger Rachel Held Evans thought sponsorship was old fashioned too—until she saw our work in the field herself, and came away with a fresh perspective.

2.Myth: It’s not a “real” child. A hundred other people probably get a photo of the same child.
Truth: Each child in our sponsorship programs is matched with one sponsor.
With World Vision, you are the only sponsor for your sponsored child. They’re real children with real stories. You can get to know your sponsored child through letters and photos, packages, and email. You can even visit your sponsored child and see how your donation is helping transform their community. Here’s a story of a sponsor who did, and found that her sponsored child exists.

3.Myth: It won’t really make a difference.
Truth: It makes all the difference.
Sponsoring a child is even more powerful and life changing than you could have imagined. Former sponsored children have grown up to become doctors, teachers, pastors, farmers, social workers, engineers, business leaders, political leaders, and even Olympic athletes! But most of all, they grow up seeing the transformative power of God’s love through the actions of World Vision staff and the encouragement of their sponsors. Read some of their inspiring stories. God is at work in communities around the world. We’re joining him where the action is, and together, we’re bringing his kingdom – a kingdom where there is no sickness, or pain, or injustice.

Plus, on a practical level, giving a sustaining donation every month allows non-profits to budget and plan ahead. This means we can make a long-term investment in communities, instead of spending more time and money fundraising.

4.Myth: It’s just a temporary handout that will create dependencies.
Truth: Self-sufficiency is our primary goal for child sponsorship communities.
Let me tell you a story about the Chikwina-Mpamba community that I visited in Malawi. World Vision had been in the community for over 15 years, and by the time I visited in 2010, community members were proudly leading the programs, owned the office building, and were training other neighboring communities!

This community is a model of self-sufficiency. And this is not an isolated case. It’s how we do development work. We come along-side children, families, and communities. We listen to them, make an action plan together, facilitate them executing that plan, monitor progress together, make adjustments as needed, and celebrate success together.

If you want to get technical, learn more about our community development model.

5.Myth: My monthly donation goes straight to the child’s family.
Truth: Actually, because we believe the best way to change a child’s life is to help change the community they live in, we pool monthly sponsorship donations.
By combining your monthly gift with the gifts of other sponsors, corporate product donations, grants, and major gifts, we’re able to maximize the impact of your donation so each $1 you donate brings more than $1 in impact.

This way we can partner with communities to improve schools, clinics, water quality and sanitation, job training and opportunities for parents, and agriculture practices and nutrition. These things benefit your sponsored child, their family, and their entire community for years to come with way more impact than a direct handout. Learn more about how World Vision child sponsorship works.

Over the years, my family has sponsored several children, and enjoyed the letters, photos, community reports, and feeling of connection. I have visited World Vision’s sponsorship projects in 5 countries, and been amazed at the transformation I’ve seen. That’s why I keep working here. Child sponsorship works, and we are making a lasting difference.  We really are changing the world.

Story courtesy of World Vision US.

The gift of a buffalo restored this family

by Heather Klinger
World Vision US

Thirty-two-year-old Renu got married at the age of 14. After the sudden disappearance of her husband, Renu found herself in a hopeless situation — raising their three children alone and picking up scattered pieces of her broken family.

Embarking on the difficult journey of single parenthood, she resorted to extending her arms to anyone willing to loan her money to keep her children alive. Bit by bit, it stripped Renu of her dignity and pride.

“I lived in fear,” she says. “Where would I go with my kids? How would I raise them alone?”

Then Renu received one of 600 buffaloes distributed in her community as part of World Vision’s economic development program.

“The World Vision staff heard my story of struggle when no one paid attention,” Renu says. “They gave me a Chuja (buffalo) so that I could take care of my children’s well-being.”

Renu

The day mummy got Chuja Muna (buffalo) home I saw a smile on her face. Chuja was our precious gift when we had nothing,” says 10-year-old Vishal, Renu’s second son. “My sickness was because we didn’t have nutritious food to eat. Once Chuja came, we could afford good food. She brought me healing. I love Chuja Muna because she helped us stay in school.” (©2015 World Vision/photo by Annila Harris)

At first, Renu gave the milk to her children because they had been deprived of nutritious food. Then she started to sell the milk to buy vegetables, oil, and spices from the market. Next she bought new clothes for her children. And World Vision provided corrugated galvanized iron sheets to replace their hay roof.

“Joy had returned in our house,” says Renu.

Soon after, she started to wish for her husband’s return. She vividly remembers the day he called her after years of absence. At first she says she felt relieved he was still alive, then angry. But she says she knew she wanted her husband to come home.

“I felt I had let down my family, and I feared they wouldn’t accept me back,” 36-year-old Devinder says. He explains that he got the courage to call her when he heard how well his wife was taking care of their kids with the income from selling Chuja’s milk. “Her confidence gave me hope that nothing was impossible.”

“Chuja Muna brought him back,” Renu says. “She is our treasure. She glued all the scattered pieces of our family back together. All broken relationships — that of a father and his children, a husband and wife, a mother and her children — were restored again. Chuja is part of our family.”

You too can give the gift of farm animals to help a struggling family piece their life back together : Gift farm animals

Story courtesy of World Vision US.

Magical moments in the kitchen

by Laura Reinhardt
World Vision US

Cooking with your grandmother, sharing a meal with family—these are some of the special moments we look forward to during the Christmas season, or remember fondly from past holidays.

For 9-year-old Rosemary, the magic of cooking and eating together is a big part of her dream to become a chef!

See what’s making Rosemary’s dream possible.
***

When I was a little girl, the Christmas season meant a trip from our Midwest home to my grandmother’s house in North Carolina. That was such a special time for me. She always kept a jar of Hershey kisses in her kitchen, which she called silver bells. And best of all, she let me help her with holiday baking.

I would pull a chair up to the kitchen counter and watch the magic as she creamed the Crisco and sugar. Then she added the eggs. Sometimes she even let me crack one. And then there were the dry ingredients to be carefully measured, sifted, and poured into the sugar mixture.

She taught me that in making cakes, once the wet and dry ingredients were added together I needed to be very quiet to prevent the cake from falling. Or maybe she just used that as an excuse for a little peace and quiet. I was a very talkative child.

Cookies were my favorite, though. I loved dropping dough by the teaspoon onto the cookie sheet. I might’ve snuck a few of those, though I’m sure I wasn’t as stealthy as I thought.

And then best of all, she let me lick the beaters and the bowl. I’m pretty sure that was my main motivation to help her bake!

One Christmas, I had the crazy idea to melt wax and pour the liquid into cookie cutters to create ornaments. My grandmother didn’t hesitate. She pulled old candles out of drawers and melted them down. And they weren’t even that bad as ornaments.

But to a child, having an adult who took my ideas seriously and believed in me—that meant the world to me. Her faith made me think that I could dream big.

This year, I got to witness that same special bond between a young Zambian girl, Rosemary, and her grandmother, Patricia.

Rosemary longs to be a chef. “I dream in my heart,” she says. Patricia fuels that dream by encouraging Rosemary to cook for her extended family.

Rosemary

Rosemary’s specialty is nshima—a corn porridge that’s a staple in Zambia. Watching the process reminded me of those holidays in my grandmother’s kitchen.

Patricia pulls the pot from the rack. It’s a special pot that fits 9-year-old Rosemary’s petite frame. Rosemary gets water from a tap near the family’s home and sets the filled pot on the wood fire.

Once the water boils, she adds finely ground corn flour and immediately begins stirring. That’s important to prevent any lumps from forming. Rosemary stirs while the porridge is still runny, but as it thickens, Patricia takes over with her work-strengthened hands. They sing together—their voices rising in harmony—filled with the joy of being together.

Then Patricia pulls out a little salt and adds it to the nshima.

This is significant because not so long ago, Patricia and her husband, Danford, couldn’t afford even this most basic staple.

They struggled just to feed their family. Patricia and Danford both came from impoverished families, and their own followed the same path. Their grandchildren, like Rosemary, were destined to continue in poverty.

But life changed with a gift of just five goats from World Vision’s Gift Catalog.

“Goats actually change everything,” Patricia says. “Goats give health to a family. Goats give education to a family. Goats bring food to a family.”

Rosemary2

Before the goats, Danford and Patricia took any sort of work they could find to provide meager amounts of food. But it wasn’t enough.

Patricia also used to walk a couple of hours just to get clean water, which took her away from her children.

When Rosemary’s father, Justine, was a boy, he had to leave school. He couldn’t concentrate because of his hunger. But today, he sees more hope for Rosemary.

The goats came just in time for her.

They’re multiplying rapidly, so by the time Rosemary enters secondary school, there will be plenty of goats to sell to pay for her education.

World Vision’s child sponsorship came to Rosemary’s community not long after the goats. Because of sponsorship, her school has brand new latrines. Her family also got new mosquito nets, helping to reduce malaria.

And Rosemary won’t have to miss or be late for school because of getting water. Child sponsorship brought clean water to just steps away from her grandparents’ home!

All of this combined means she won’t have to give up on her dream.

And what’s her dream? She imagines herself working in a kitchen—preparing nshima for dozens and dozens of guests instead of only her family.

Rosemary is free to imagine this future because of the gift of goats, her sponsor, and her grandmother’s nourishment of that goal. Just like how my grandmother fed both my body and soul during those magical moments in her kitchen.

And after all, isn’t that a big part of the Christmas season—a child’s beautiful dreams? Consider giving Gifts of Hope here: https://www.worldvision.com.my/goh-catalogue

Story courtesy of World Vision US.

Rwanda: 20+ years after genocide

Callixte
After Callixte was part of a group that killed Andrew’s wife’s entire family, Andrew turned him in to the authorities. Callixte was imprisoned. And yet, after going through training in peace and reconciliation, the two men have been able to become as close as brothers again. (©2013 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

In April 1994, when Rwanda erupted into violence, neighbor turned on neighbor, family turned on family, and love turned to hate. The genocide turned friends, like Andrew and Callixte, into enemies. Rwanda was as ruined as any spot on earth — 800,000 people were brutally slaughtered in 100 days. How could the country ever overcome such hatred and horror? It would take a miracle.

World Vision began relief and development work in war-ravaged Rwanda in 1994. In 1996, when thousands of families began to return to their villages in Rwanda, World Vision started a reconciliation and peacebuilding department. Hostility slowly yielded to faith and forgiveness, restoring communities and relationships like that of Andrew and Callixte. Though they are now friends again, Andrew and Callixte endured a long road to healing.

“The process of forgiveness involves expressing how you feel and saying, ‘Now I want peace in my heart; please forgive me. I don’t want to keep connected to the bad memories of when you did evil to me. I don’t want to be a prisoner of my pain,” says World Vision’s Josephine Munyeli, who has worked in Rwanda’s peace and reconciliation programs for two decades. “When the memories come, I don’t want to be devastated by them. I want to be able to sleep.”

World Vision developed a reconciliation model that endures today: a two-week program of sharing intensely personal memories of the genocide, learning new tools to manage deeply painful emotions, and embarking on a path to forgiveness. The approach has been replicated all over the country and embraced by the government. Read more

Story courtesy of World Vision US.

Unusual angels: Gift Catalogue chickens a family’s saving grace

By Laura Reinhardt, WVUS

“He’s a town boy.”
That’s how World Vision Zambia communicator Agatha Mali describes 4-year-old Chansa Dibula.

She means that his life is easier than many other children in rural southern Zambia. He’s not malnourished. He’s physically healthy. He doesn’t have to walk for miles to gather water. His family has reliable income so that when he’s old enough, he’ll be able to attend school. They’ll have the money for the fees, uniforms, and school supplies.

That’s still a few years away. Right now he’s content to spend his days at the home of his maternal grandmother, Esnart Sianchwale. He loves hopping around on one foot across the family compound. Sometimes he’ll play soccer with his uncle, 9-year-old Resheal, who’s more like a brother to him. Life is good for these two boys.

But Esnart, who is also Resheal’s mother, remembers a time when they only had hunger and heartache.

‘The story turned upside down’
Esnart’s first husband died in 1999, leaving her to care for her children and elderly mother. He was the family’s breadwinner so his death meant disaster for the family.

“When he died, the story turned upside down,” says Esnart’s 18-year-old son, Bee. “It was easy to notice the difference. I used to wear nice clothes. I used to eat every day.”

Both Bee and his older brother, Under, excelled in their studies, but without food to fortify them, they faltered. “I would lose concentration in school. I wouldn’t want to be with my friends because I was hungry,” says Under, now 25. He dropped out of school in grade 10 and never returned.

Bee also struggled in school. “My performance was being affected. I couldn’t concentrate,” he says. He had to repeat sixth grade because he missed a full term. “It was hard to cope with hunger.”

When Esnart found piecework, she earned just a bit of mealie meal — ground corn used as a staple in Zambia. Sometimes that was all they would eat for a day, and many times they had no food.

Esnart’s own struggles with hunger were nothing compared to the guilt and anguish she felt over watching her children suffer. The children came to her and said, “’Mommy, we are hungry. We need food.’” She sometimes ran away from them into the bush just to sit alone with her grief. “Why are my children going through all this? What am I going to do? Am I going to manage to take them out of this situation? Am I going to be able to see them reach their potential?”

esnart
The answer to the last two questions seemed to be ‘no.’ Esnart remarried in 2003 and hoped that things would improve, but frequent fights between husband and wife meant no return to the better days of her first marriage. A few years later, Esnart became deathly ill. Her husband didn’t take care of her, so she took her children and returned to her home village.

Esnart recovered from her mysterious illness. She had her HIV status checked but thankfully tested negative. A few visits from her husband and attempts at reconciliation left Esnart pregnant with her youngest child, Resheal. Ultimately her marriage failed, but things did begin to look up for Esnart’s family. It came in the most unlikely of forms — chickens.

Gift Catalogue chickens bring hope
Through World Vision’s Gift Catalogue, she received four chickens and one rooster.

Owen Sikuneta, World Vision’s Community Development Worker in the area, comes from this area. He knows of his neighbors’ struggles. One of the families who stood out as having special need was Esnart’s. So when it came time to choose families to receive the chickens, he knew he would recommend her.

Before the chickens arrived, Esnart received training on best practices in building a chicken coop. She hesitated to begin because she didn’t dare to hope for a better future.

“Please make sure you’re going to do this. We are telling the truth” Owen told her. “These chickens are going to be a stepping stone to move your family from one level to another.” So Esnart got busy building the chicken coop.

“My heart was ignited with so much joy,” says Esnart. When the chickens arrived, she named them.

“I gave them names because those chickens were a gift,” she says. “I had a special relationship with those chickens.” She wanted to be able to call them and have them respond to those names.

Esnart learned about livestock management from World Vision. Experts educated her about the right foods to feed her chickens so they would produce more eggs, multiply, and thrive.

And thrive they did! From five, within a year Esnart’s animals numbered 200 roosters, 124 chickens, and eight baby chicks.

“God was so good. He made the chickens reproduce very fast, as though he was looking forward to reducing our hunger,” says Bee.

In fact, when World Vision gathered all the chicken recipients together to evaluate, Esnart’s chickens from the Gift Catalogue had reproduced the most. World Vision gave her more wire for her chicken coop to accommodate her expanded brood.

When Resheal was only a tiny boy, he developed a knack for knowing which hens were ready to lay eggs. He discovered their roosting hiding places. Then Esnart would come across him with eggs boiling in a pot. He smiles shyly as she tells this story.

esnart2
To this day, his favorite food is eggs with beans.

Prospering despite hard times
“The chickens have been a foundation,” says Esnart. “Without these chickens, my family would have been wallowing in poverty.”

At that time, the chickens acted as a sort of savings bank for Esnart and her family. She began selling chickens to local restaurants. Through those sales, Esnart bought turkeys and cattle along with seeds and fertilizer to increase the size of her garden.

Esnart’s family used to do all the work by hand and couldn’t grow enough food to feed even themselves. Owning cattle means they can plow their field so they’ve been able to expand the size of their crop. That means Esnart can feed her family and even have crops left over to sell.

World Vision’s Owen says, “I feel good to see my community have three meals. I don’t like seeing them suffering.”

Most mornings, Esnart works in one of two fields filled with maize, mbambara nuts, and cowpeas. When school is out, Resheal joins her.

“As a result of all these things put together, we are food secure despite that we are experiencing drought now. Hunger is a thing of the past now because we do not depend on maize alone for our survival,” says Esnart. “World Vision already laid a foundation for us, which has made it possible for us to survive even when times are hard, as the case is now.”

Much of Zambia depends on Sinazongwe’s Lake Kariba for its hydroelectric power. With the water levels receding, many parts of the country face rolling blackouts to try to conserve electricity.

kariba
Picture of Lake Kariba from zambezitraveller.com

El Nino has led to drought across southern Africa, causing crops to fail and people in southern Zambia to face hunger. Thanks to the chicken savings banks and the work that World Vision had done to train farmers on drought-resistant crops, many of the families within World Vision’s Area Development Projects (ADPs) aren’t feeling the pangs of hunger.

A better life through education and child sponsorship
Esnart wants her children and grandchildren to have access to a better future. “I chose to educate my children because I wanted them to live a better life later in the future, not a difficult life, like what I had myself,” she says.

The animals allow her to keep Resheal and Bee in school, something she couldn’t do for Under. The young man tested well in exams and wanted to be a doctor. Sadly, that’s a lost opportunity for Under.

Leaving school early meant that he didn’t learn to speak English. In Zambia, the more profitable jobs require fluent English. That means lost income potential for Under. He yearns to be setting an example for his younger brothers. “I should’ve been supporting my siblings,” he says. “My siblings were supposed to look up to me.”

Bee and Resheal both dream of being doctors, so perhaps Under has been more of an influence on his brothers than he knows.

One thing that’s certain, Chansa looks up to Resheal. They spend much of their free time together when Resheal isn’t at school. (Zambian children attend school for three months, followed a month off throughout the year.) When they’re not playing, sometimes Resheal brings Chansa with him to get water from a nearby borehole. What Chansa really wants to do is go with Resheal when he herds the goats. But Resheals tells him that he’s too young and needs to wait a little while longer.

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The goats arrived a couple of years ago for Resheal — also coming through World Vision’s Gift Catalogue. He feels so responsible for them that sometimes he’ll skip lunch out in the field because he worries that something might happen to them. When he first got the goats, he put them inside their pen and says, “I spent time gazing at them. ”Like the chickens, the goats multiplied. Now they have more than 30 goats.

The animals aren’t the only benefit World Vision has offered to Esnart’s family. Bee, Resheal, and Chansa all have sponsors in the US. Bee’s and Resheal’s sponsors have written letters, encouraging both boys to pursue their studies — advice they take to heart.

Resheal’s sponsor sent him clothing. Bee’s sponsor donated extra gifts, which allowed Bee to reroof his room and also to buy a wooden bed — the first bed he’s ever owned. Bee says, “If we meet or see each other, mostly I would want to thank him so much from the bottom of my heart because he has done so much to help me.”

Esnart considers the sponsors to be friends of her sons and grandson.

Starting to save
In 2011, World Vision began savings groups in the community.  These groups helped to change the mindset of people in Zambian rural communities.

Owen, the community development worker, explains that it used to be if someone had small amounts of money such as 2 or 5 kwacha (RM0.90 – RM2.20), they would just go spend it, because they couldn’t see the value of saving such a small amount.

World Vision explained that the tiny amount, when saved in a savings group, could result in earnings of up to 20 kwacha (RM8.80). That’s a sizeable sum of money in these rural communities.

These savings then are available to members to borrow. They’re encouraged to take loans because the interest on repaid loans increases everyone’s earnings. Each group sets their loan repayment period to between 6 months and a year. They also determine interest rates, although most groups tend to set it to around 10%.  Owen says he’s seen lots of changes as a result of the savings groups in his zone. Some women have been able to build new homes or shops. They’ve paid school fees for their children, bought livestock, and bought nutritious food for their family.

“The savings groups have proved to be [one of] the best of World Vision’s interventions,” he says. “No group has stopped. They’re opening new ones all the time.”

Esnart embraced the savings groups. She’s even become a trainer, which means she visits savings groups around the country, teaching them about the process.

Esnart dreams big about her own future. She’s started a small business selling fish from Lake Kariba. She plans to borrow money from the savings group to expand her that business by buying a refrigerator in which to store the fish. She now owns property in town now and just needs to build on the land. Then she’ll rent out the homes when she’s finished. She’s always seeking to diversify so she’s not dependent on one thing to support her family.

The savings group has also opened up higher education opportunities for her children. Owen says, “Bee is now at a boarding [high] school. On her own, she could not have managed.”

Zambia recently passed new legislation requiring elected government officials to have completed their education at least through twelfth grade. Owen says proudly that now people in his community can be part of governing their own country because education has become more accessible, thanks in part to World Vision’s work in communities like Sinazongwe.

Neither Resheal nor Chansa seems interested in politics at this point in their lives, but it’s great to know that the option is open should they decide to pursue a future in government.

Resheal is already starting to work on his medical skills. When his elderly grandmother stepped on a thorn, he tenderly pulled it from her gnarled foot. It was good practice for the 9-year-old doctor in waiting.

“I want to be treating people. I want people to live a healthy life and I would want to take people out of their old life,” he says, his megawatt smile lighting up his whole face.

Esnart knows that due to the foundation laid by the Gift Catalogue chickens and the ongoing support of sponsorship and the savings groups, she’ll have the money she needs to support his education.

“He will help the nation as a whole,” she says. “My dream [for Resheal] is that he would have a fruitful future; that he would have a productive future.” She wants him to be self-sufficient, but also willing and able to help others in need.

A loving example
Helping others is so important to Esnart that she’s already instilled it in her children and will do so to her grandchildren. She knows the ramifications of desperate poverty.

She understands the physical and psychological effects it imprints on people.

Most of the people in southern Zambia belong to the Tongan tribe. Tongans measure worth by the number of animals owned. “In the past, when I lacked all these things, nobody could even walk to my home,” says Esnart. “They shunned me because I was poor.”

Now many people in need come to her. Esnart refuses to turn them away. If someone asks for a chicken to feed their family, she gives it to them free of charge.

Her faith enables her to forgive. “I need to show them an example of how they need to live,” Esnart says. “God is using me, not just for my well-being, but also for the well-being of others.”

Her example has taken root. Bee says, “One friend came and said he did not have a blanket. I did not deny him one because I realized problems need to be shared. So, I gave him a blanket. They say the hand that gives is blessed.” Shortly thereafter, World Vision provided Bee with another blanket.

Chansa and Resheal are learning these same lessons in generosity, but thankfully they haven’t learned the hard lessons of want. These boys don’t have to wonder where whether a meal is coming. They won’t feel hunger gnawing at them as they struggle to learn.

Instead, they will be free to grow to their full potential, and that’s an overwhelming desire for any parent.

Through the gifts of chickens, goats, and sponsorship, Esnart’s faith has grown. “It has made me realize that God came like sending his own angel to come before me,” says Esnart. “Those years I spent struggling and praying, he heard me and answered by sending that angel.”

Who would have ever believed an angel taking on the form of a chicken?

To learn more about World Vision’s gift catalogue, please go to https://www.worldvision.com.my/goh-catalogue Or to learn about how sponsoring a child is the start of a miracle for children and communities living in poverty, do click here, https://www.worldvision.com.my/what-is-child-sponsorship

Story courtesy of World Vision US.

The year of forgetting myself.

By Edmond Lee, Communications

The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.
Proverbs 11:25 (The Message Bible)

As another year winds down and we look forward to the Christmas season (and the holidays!), it’s worth taking some time to reflect on the year gone by.

Geopolitical upheavals, financial uncertainties, war and tragedies… 2016 has been a long, eventful, and often tumultuous year. It can be easy to give in to pessimism when we turn on the news and see, for example, the latest updates on the civil war tearing Syria violently apart. Some days, one can feel a deep frustration with the world. And when you combine that with the pressures of daily life, it can feel like too much to bear. I’ve been there.

And yet, 2016 has been instructive in teaching me the value of looking beyond myself.  As a writer with World Vision, I know that every word I type makes an impact for the people we serve. If I can convince just one person to sponsor a child or give to a worthy cause through my writing, that could make all the difference for a child and a community trapped in poverty.

On certain days, that responsibility can be overwhelming. But on others, it energises me. It forces me to power through and discover creative energies I didn’t know I had. Sometimes my writing falls short of its potential (apologies to my long-suffering editor) but on good days I turn out something authentic that can move hearts! Most importantly, focusing on the needs of someone else helps me to forget myself, if just for a moment.

So as we look towards 2017 and the new uncertainties it may bring, maybe that’s one lesson we can take with us: When all we have to think about are our own fears and insecurities (which we often feed for no reason), the world can drag us down.  But when we can channel our energies into serving those who suffer, the light of hope we bring into their world may just light up ours as well.

May the light and joy of Christmas surround you this Christmas, and here’s to a very bright 2017.