Stories from the field

Stories collected by our field staff – real people with real stories.

How one mother’s determination helped her daughter go to university

What unites parents around the world is their dreams for their children – and just what they’re willing to do to see them fulfilled. In some places, that’s harder than most.

When Nozipho was born, her mother Mariah was on her own, a single mum with five other children to take care of.

That was in 1988. Due to a scarcity of transport in her part of Swaziland, Mariah had to give birth at home; there was no one to help her. Despite the difficulties, Mariah decided to call her last born Nozipho – meaning gift.

Mariah and her daughter Nozipho

Nozipho was a sweet little girl from the very beginning and everybody in the family loved her. She was very smart in school, topping other students year after year.

Amidst the hardship, Mariah was determined that her children should remain in school, even though there were times when the family went to sleep without eating food for days.

To cope, Mariah started farming, assisted by her six children who would weed and take care of the cotton plants until harvest time. With the money she received, Mariah made sure that there was food in the house, the children had clothes and their school fees were paid.

Nozipho and two of her siblings were also sponsored by World Vision which assisted the family – without the presence of World Vision in her community, Mariah would have struggled to keep her daughter in secondary school.

Nozipho certainly made the most of the opportunity. After graduating high school in 2004, Nozipho was accepted into university, where she embarked on a journalism and mass communications diploma. The Swazi government awarded her a scholarship for her three years of study. Now, Nozipho was able to support her mother.

During her first year at the university, Nozipho gave Mariah some of her government allowance to help buy wiring material for electricity installation. “It has been my wish to have electricity at home,” says Nozipho. Later, she was also able to give her mother money to plant maize so she could produce enough food for the family, as well as a 10,000 litre water tank.

Over the years, Mariah has benefited from various World Vision projects, using them to increase her skills – and help the local community. She remembers being taught how to make water harvesters using one bag of cement to help cope with times of low rainfall, a common problem in her area. With the skill she acquired, Mariah even assisted her neighbours and other people from other community to build water harvesters.

“I am always grateful to World Vision for the assistance that my family received over the years,” she says. As well as food rations and basics for the children, Mariah received a goat and fruit trees. In fact, the trees are doing so well, says Mariah that “every year they give fruits in abundance and we even sell some to our neighbours.”

Since Nozipho finished her post-secondary education, she has been working for a construction firm. With her salary, she is assisting her mother to take care of her six grandchildren who were left orphans after two of her children died.

As Nozipho looks to the future, she hopes to start her own consultancy firm. She is grateful to be able to take care of her ageing mother and her grandchildren.

This story was featured on worldvision.com.au

His sister’s keeper: Protecting kids from child sacrifice

by Kari Costanza

When my son, Nick was 6, he began taking a school bus to his babysitter’s house after school. Thinking of Nick walking a block down the hill to Barb’s house frightened me. Until then, he’d walked everywhere with his dad and me, usually holding our hands.

“Nick,” I told him sternly, “When you get off that bus, you cross the street and run to Barb’s house. Do not look right. Do not look left. Do not talk to anyone you see on the way. Just run.”

Those first few days Nick took the bus, I’d leave work and sneak up behind in my car just to make sure Nick followed directions. He did. He looked neither right nor left and ran like the dickens. My worries abated.

Those memories flooded back yesterday when I met 9-year-old David in Uganda. David and his family live in what’s referred to as the “heart of witchcraft” in Uganda.

Witchcraft is in plain sight here in Buikwe, a district east of the capital city, Kampala. Behind many homes are tin- or thatched-roofed huts. Inside are the tools of witchcraft—animal carcasses, shells from nearby Lake Victoria, and doves cooing softly, awaiting slaughter.

Like many in this lakeside community, David’s father, Paul, was a fisherman. His mother worked in gardens, often leaving her children home alone. Two years ago, David and his little sister, Sharon, were brushing their teeth under a coffee plant in the front yard. That’s when the strangers approached.

“Two men came here and started calling us,” says David. “I told Sharon to run. I ran.” He points down a path that leads to more homes. Sharon, a toddler, could not keep up. The men captured her, pressing chloroform to her face to silence her cries.

9-year-old David and his 4-year-old sister Sharon. (Photo: Jon Warren/World Vision)

Child sacrifice is an abomination. Abductors are middlemen between people desperate—for money, to bear children, or to rid their bodies of disease. Witchdoctors convince them that only a child’s body part, such as the head, the fingers, or the private parts, mixed with traditional medicine, will cure the problem. Ritual demands that the parts be removed while the child is still alive and conscious.

On the day we met David, we learned that 6-year-old Trevor was being buried in a nearby community. Trevor had gone missing the previous Friday. His body was found yesterday without his tongue or genitals. Trevor’s mom is a widow.

Abductors prey on vulnerable families, like Trevor’s, waiting until the child is alone to abduct them. Trevor was buried next to his father. As the grieving relatives departed, family friends leveled the cement over his small grave, encasing him in earth. Trevor was the second child in this area to be sacrificed this year.

World Vision’s Amber Alert-style program is taking on child sacrifice in Uganda. The program is ingenious in the way it has created a radical partnership between leaders of all faiths, law enforcement, local government, child protection committees, and traditional healers.

This diverse group has reached out with the message that stopping child sacrifice is everyone’s responsibility. Faith leaders have created a radio program that airs messages about child sacrifice, good parenting, and taking care of one’s neighbors. Betty Nandawula, a Catholic, and Umar Mukisa, a Muslim, co-host a live call-in program about family relationships, taking on topics such as domestic violence and parenting. The traditional healers have started their own radio program, trying to protect children and to ferret out the witchdoctors who kill them.

When a child is abducted, the community is ready. Villagers are taught to intervene, and, if that doesn’t work, to sound the alarm. Seventy-three villages are equipped with drums that beat out a special rhythm and megaphones that carry the sound across the miles. Motorcycles block off exit routes and logs are laid across pathways to stop the abductors.

The Amber Alert program uses drums to alert the community when a child goes missing. (Photo: Jon Warren/World Vision)

It works. Eight children have been saved this year from child sacrifice. When they were abducted, the community responded. Villagers began combing the green fields, searching for the children. The abductors, apparently frightened, dumped the children and fled.

That’s what happened to Sharon. When her brother, David, saw the men, he was afraid. He ran until he found a man with a cell phone. It was his neighbor, Chiwa.

“Chiwa knew what to do,” says Mary Nakibuka of the child protection committee. “He informed other members,” she says. “Another child protection committee member heard David screaming. He made a phone call to get the message on the megaphone. It said, ‘[Paul] Buka’s child has been abducted.’ Motorcycles blocked the highways. Because the megaphone was heard by the abductors, they dropped her.”

Sharon is safe. She’s 4 now. Family life has changed. Today the children go everywhere with their parents. Their father, Paul, no longer fishes but farms so that he can stay at home.

I asked David why he ran away from the men. He responded that his mother told him not to talk to strangers. I asked Mary later about David. “Why did he run? Do children know about child sacrifice?” She nodded. David knew exactly what could have happened.

Remembering how Nick would run from the bus stop to the babysitter’s home, and how I used to spy on him, made me consider the lengths parents go to protect their children. World Vision goes to the same efforts, helping parents in Uganda protect their children through the Amber Alert.

The project continues to expand. Next, it will create or strengthen youth clubs, teaching children to protect themselves against child sacrifice. The project will work with parents to provide safe spaces for their children to go while they work.

Honest communication is critical to changing social norms. Traditional healers will be encouraged to talk about their skills and denounce fake healers, who prey on children. Faith leaders, both Christian and Muslim, will help lead the efforts to stop this criminal act. The Amber Alert system will spread—being replicated in more communities.

It is too late for Trevor, whose mother will grieve for her lifetime, but the work World Vision is doing in Uganda will save other children—girls like Sharon whose life was saved by her brother and a community that knew exactly what to do.

This story was originally featured on blog.worldvision.org

Syria’s children – how conflict can harm brain development

By Alison Schafer
Senior Programme Advisor
Mental Health & Psychosocial Support
World Vision International

The Syria conflict has been raging for over six years. In times of war, children are among the most vulnerable groups. Even though most will survive the conflict physically, the immediate and long-term well-being of children remains a serious concern for humanitarian organisations, like World Vision.

Conflict situations commonly expose children to extremely stressful and terrifying events. World Vision has heard from children who have escaped Syria, speak about both witnessing and being victims of violence; losing parents and loved ones; and being displaced.

Children also tell us about the daily challenges they face living with those who love them, who are themselves dealing with personal experiences of war and displacement and unable to be as supportive or loving as they once were. These ongoing stresses can have strong and lasting effects on children’s socio-emotional well-being and their growing brains.

And a vast number of children have been impacted by this crisis: more than four million children in need in Syria, and more than one million child refugees now living in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan.

Research suggests that the physical consequences of conflict on a child’s brain development can have adverse and marked consequences – with the potential for permanent changes to the brain’s architecture. Without adequate intervention and the presence of protective and caring relationships, Syria’s war could have a lasting impact on children’s learning abilities, memory, social interactions, stress and fear responses, and the ability to control emotions. The experiences of Syria’s war-affected children could lead to a generation of children experiencing long-term mental health, social and economic problems.


“My grandchildren have never had a beautiful day in their lives,” says the grandmother of Fatima, 4. “The older girls barely talk, and when other children cry, they curl up with their hands to their ears and rock.” Photo by Jon Warren

Click here for more information on how to help these children cope with stress.

It is a common misconception that young children do not understand stressful or violent events and so are not as affected as adults. But their young minds process much more than is often credited.  World Vision has often observed this in children affected by crises: their developmental milestones can be delayed, their capacity for higher education attainment is jeopordised and their behaviour, emotional attachments and social environments are also impacted. Most often, crises induce severe and chronic stress among children.

Research shows that “toxic stress” – when the stress response system is activated over a prolonged period without the buffering presence of protective and caring relationships – leads to elevated levels of the cortisol stress hormones in the brain. This impacts the brain’s hippocampus and leads to children having learning difficulties, problems with short-term memory and difficulty controlling emotions.

Humanitarian organisations often see children exhibiting limited concentration, behavioural and emotional self-control in the remedial, recreation or education programmes they provide for children and adolescents.

During early childhood, the neural circuits of a child’s brain for responding to stress are particularly vulnerable to prolonged and elevated cortisol levels.  This can have permanent effects on a person’s ability to regulate stress and fear responses later in life and means they are more likely to develop anxiety, depression and a range of other mental, emotional and behavioural disorders. The long-term impacts aren’t limited to the brain. Research also shows a strong correlation between exposure to adverse childhood experiences and higher rates of heart, liver and lung disease in adulthood.

This evidence highlights the need for humanitarian agencies to go beyond delivering food, water and shelter and ensuring a child’s physical safety. Displaced children living in refugee camps, or in isolation from host communities, commonly face boredom, social exclusion and lack of stimulating activities or opportunities for play. On the surface, this may seem a minor concern. However, a lack of adequate stimulation can also be linked to significant neurological shifts in the developing brain.

In childhood, only the neurons and neural pathways that get used are strengthened in the brain, whereas those that are not used die out. The brain is like a muscle. It requires frequent repetitive use and stimulation – through environmental cues, relationships with family, social engagement and education. Neglect and under-stimulation of children affected by conflict can lead to severe impairments in the cognitive, physical and psychosocial development of the child, creating a lasting legacy of war.

This can lead to emotional, cognitive, and behavioural disorders, anxiety and depression, emotional and interpersonal difficulties, and significant learning difficulties.

World Vision prioritises setting up Child Friendly Spaces – safe places where children can play, learn, make friends, develop routines and be monitored for behavioural and emotional issues. The spaces are up and running in Lebanon and are hosting Syrian children.

Our research on Child Friendly Spaces for refugee children living in Ethiopia and Uganda found children participating in such programmes showed more sustained and consistent mental, social and emotional well-being than those refugee children who did not have such opportunities. The research highlights the importance of these spaces in minimizing long-term damage for children.

Children will then only have to deal with tolerable levels of stress – levels that don’t lead to lasting effects on the developing brain.

World Vision is responding to the Syria crisis. In addition to water, health and cash programmes, World Vision aims to scale up its children’s programming. In Lebanon and Jordan we are working to establish or delivering: child and adolescent friendly spaces for recreation and psychosocial support, remedial education initiatives, and maternal and child health programmes that can promote children’s support with their caregivers.

It takes a world to end violence against children! Click here to learn more about the fears and dreams of the Syrian children.

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!

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
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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.

“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

One goat, one chicken, one rooster: changing thousands of lives

When World Vision distributed hundreds of animals in Christine’s community in Uganda she thought she had missed out on an opportunity to improve life for her family.

Fortunately for Christine, there was another important part of this project that aimed to spread the benefits of raising animals to more and more families.

Each household that received a chicken, rooster and goat was asked to pass their first female offspring along to another family.

These acts of kindness would help countless more families to improve their livelihood and became the start of a pay-it-forward wave of change for this district in Uganda.

The livelihood project distributed one hen, rooster and goat to 600 households across the district as well as another 300 goats to other households and 40 male goats for communities to share.

Freddy Onguu, a livelihoods officer for the local project, explains that the idea of distributing animals is to improve the income and nutritional status of households in the district. “The project goal,” he explains, “is to enable families to meet their basic needs to live on a sustained basis.”

A gift from their neighbour
christine-goat
Christine’s family was grateful to receive the animals from their neighbor Korina after her livestock had their first female offspring.

A mother of five, Korina was crippled in 2008 and had found it hard to support her family. She received her chicken, rooster and goat in the first World Vision distribution.

Korina has already started to see the benefits of raising her animals. The goat and chickens are a source of nutritious food and she has sold some for extra money. This income has helped her to pay for school uniforms for her children.

Dreams of a bright future
Christine has sold the rooster Korina gave her, earning 35,000 shillings (RM43). Christine’s youngest son Tony, aged five, is happy that his mother has been able to use the income from their new animals to buy food including beans and sesame seeds. She has also bought school uniforms for Tony’s older siblings Fiona and Jimmy.

Christine dreams of a bright future with the income from their animals. “If the goats and chicken multiply, I would love to open up more land to cultivate,” says Christine.

When Christine too passes on the first offspring of her hen and goat another family will be able to earn a better income and enjoy better nutrition.

Story courtesy of World Vision Australia.

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.