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How three young boys survived South Sudan’s conflict alone

James*, Stephen and David look like any three brothers. They play Tumgbali – a game involving throwing small stones in the air and catching them – together, laughing. They like to play football together, they say, and going to school.

But these three boys, just 13, 12 and 8 years old, have already been through so much. Last year they fled South Sudan after their parents were killed in the ongoing conflict, and they arrived in Uganda alone.

It was a normal December day when the boys’ parents went to work spreading cassava seeds in the bush. The children could never have imagined that was the last time they would see them alive.

While they were gone, shots could be heard being fired near where their parents were working. A neighbour went to check on them, only to find their bodies shot dead. He took the boys in and looked after them, but when the killings intensified in January this year, he refused to flee.

James, only 13 years old, believed it was the best possible chance of survival for he and his brothers, so he decided they would go alone. They packed only one small bag each, and ran.

It’s impossible to imagine how hard that decision must have been for someone so young. To take responsibility for his brothers, while still just a child himself.

Thankfully, James and his brothers are now being cared for by a foster family, thanks to the help of World Vision. Another refugee family has taken them in – an unbelievable act of generosity.

And it’s generosity that characterises the response to this refugee crisis. From the refugee families themselves, to the hard work of NGO staff – many of whom have lived in tents in the camps for months on end – to the Ugandan government.

When they arrive across the border, each family is given vaccinations, food rations and a plot of land. They’re encouraged to settle, get jobs, plant food and send their kids to school, but they’re free to move on if they want to. There are no restrictions. Space has even been left in the settlements for refugees who get married and start a family, so they can have land of their own.

That generosity extends further still to host communities; we heard of Ugandans asking for more refugees even though it means sharing already scarce resources.

It’s the kind of radical kindness that offers hope for the future – and James can’t wait to make the world a better place; responding in kind to the generosity he’s been shown.

When he grows up, he wants to become President of South Sudan. With his smart shirt buttoned up all the way to his neck, it’s not hard to imagine.

He knows already what his first law will be: “I will tell everyone to cooperate with each other,” he says. “All people come here because of war. I want there to be no war when I become President.”

And his brothers? They’ll help him in his new role, James says. “It feels good for us to be together.”

Support children like James*, Stephen and David, who deserve the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to the South Sudan crisis relief.

Soccer for Syrians: Bringing football to the children of Azraq

Simple things like giving children a safe place to run around and express themselves makes a huge amount of difference to refugees living far from home. From the exhilaration of scoring a goal and working as a team, to the comfort of finding emotional support, children and staff share the ways they’re benefitting from the football pitches we’ve built in Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp…

13-year-old Shaima (centre) loves coming to the pitches to play football – something she’d never done until she came to Jordan.

“I like coming to the football pitches to meet friends. I like to play football and I come here every day, I’ll even be back in the evening later to play again!” she says.

It’s currently school holidays in Azraq. There is a long break from football from about 12pm to 4pm during the heat of the day, but then football sessions resume in the cooler evening. “I encourage the other girls to play football as it keeps us active.”

“I used to play for a famous football team in Syria called Al-Karamah. We got to the semi-finals in the Asian champions league in 2006,” says Akram. He has been in Jordan for two and a half years, coaching the boys’ teams and the older youth team.

“I was a kid once and I had football coaches and they were my idols. Now I have some experience and I can be a good example for these boys.”

“The best thing about being a coach is putting a smile on the children’s faces. This generation has been deprived of so many things. It’s a bit of compensation for them, to give them hope. The boys release their energy when they play football that could otherwise lead to aggression.”

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

11-year-old Yaman is from Damascus, Syria and has been in Azraq refugee camp for almost two years. Ever since the football pitches opened for business last November, they and Yaman have been inseperable.

“I’ve made a lot of friends playing football at the pitches. I love all my friends. My best friend is Yehia, he plays in another team.”

World Vision distributes juice and bars made from dates to children attending formal schools in Azraq camp, and they give children like Yaman energy to play football and to enjoy themselves.

“We’ve memorized the food pyramid. Eating good food is important. I know carrots strengthen your eyesight!”

Of Syrian refugees competing in the Olympics, Yaman says – “If they win gold we will be very proud. They are heroes and we are very proud of them.”

Raja is from Dar’a, Syria and has a two-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. She’s been living in Azraq camp for two years but has been a football coach in the camp for just two months.

“It’s beautiful for the girls to play football. I used to enjoy playing football back in Syria, and liked it more than any other game as a girl.”

“I enjoy teaching the girls. I feel like they are my children. The girls come and play and release their energy. Some girls come to the pitches feeling sad and release their energy and feel better”

For Raja, the football pitches not only bring children together, but also offer them a place of emotional support.

“The girls talk to me about their problems, they open up to me. I cry with them sometimes.”

12-year-old Omar originally came to Azraq from Damascus, Syria.

“It makes me happy that there is a place to play football in the camp and I’ve been playing on the pitches since they opened. I feel happy when I score a goal but I enjoy playing football and spending time here, even if we don’t win.”

As the crisis in Syria continues, an important part of our ongoing response is to support refugees who have sought safety in the surrounding region. In addition creating facilities at Azraq refugee camp, we’ve been providing remedial education for children, distributing food and water vouchers and running child friendly spaces to ensure vulnerable children get the support they need.

Support these children from Azraq, who deserve the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to the Syria crisis relief.

This grandma in Congo saves granddaughter through locally available malnutrition busters

Wednesday, December 21st 2016

Worried of her granddaughter’s health, 61-year old Seraphine Dana joins World Vision training for mothers and finds solution through locally available malnutrition busters.

Séraphine Ali was born three months and three weeks premature. Her mom died after delivering her after six months of pregnancy. She has a twin but she died at birth. Séraphine, now three months old, was frail and sickly. Under the care of her 61-year old Grandmother Seraphine Dana, feeding her was a struggle. “It was difficult to feed my granddaughter as healthy food suited for infants is extremely expensive,” said Seraphine Dana.

“I got concerned when my granddaughter started losing weight. I was worried of losing her after I lost her mother,” added Séraphine Dana. A widow, she is jobless and found it difficult to work and earn some money to support her family. “I used to earn selling water to get enough to provide for the needs of the house. Now I cannot leave her behind and nobody to take care of her,” she explained.

“I do not worry of Seraphine Ali any more. I have learned a lot for my family to survive”

To help address this nutrition deficiency in the community, World Vision works in association with community-based organizations to improve children’s health and increase those who can properly read, write and calculate at the end of their primary schooling. The Fondation Famille D’accueil (FOFAD) is one of the community-based organizations that World Vision supports. The organization takes care of 300 malnourished children in the community, along with their families. When Séraphine Dana learned about World Vision’s assistance, she decided to contact FOFAD to check the nutritional situation of her granddaughter and seek help.

Her resourcefulness paid off. Séraphine Dana got trained on preparing healthy food for infants and young children. She learned how find local ingredients that provided children with a balanced diet. She learned that “masuso” – a mix of corn, sugar and soya – can help maintain the health of her granddaughter. Together with Seraphine, 375 mothers also trained on preparing nutritious food for their children using local resources.

Gallery: How we’re tackling child malnutrition in DRC

Putting to use all the knowledge she learned, Séraphine Dana watched as her granddaughter started to grow up. “Now, my granddaughter is healthy. She gained weight from eating a mixture of corn, sugar and soya. All this I learned after the training by FOFAD supported by World Vision,” says Séraphine Dana.

“I do not worry of Seraphine Ali any more. I have learned a lot for my family to survive,” Séraphine Dana says. World Vision, through FOFAD, has provided the families to generate income through small livelihood projects made possible by the support of the savings group program.

According to Mbuta Mafuta, the National Nutrition Coordinator for Gemena, the levels of malnutrition in the area has several levels:

  • 9.5% acute
  • 47% chronic
  • 26% with weight insufficiency

Dr. Ngenda Chiza Phillipe, and epidemiologist and World Vision’s Health and Nutrition Advisor, says the main causes of the children’s health problems are related to under-nutrition and deficiencies in micro-nutrients.

Read or watch a video about the “grandmother-inclusive approach”

Support children like Séraphine Ali, who deserves the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to Health and Nutrition fund – through World Vision’s Gifts of Hope today!

A Kenya childhood: Growing up without clean water

By Samuel Irungu

Today, Sam Irungu works as a software engineer for World Vision USA. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Growing up in rural Kenya, Sam Irungu knew the daily struggle of collecting dirty water from the early age of 5. Today, he works as a software engineer for World Vision!

He attributes this change to God: an answer to his mother’s prayer to redeem the life of God’s children for a better tomorrow. Hear about his journey!

* * *

When you see children healthy: Love them, respect the greatness that lies within them, and wish them well. This is because you never know where they will land.

This is a true testament of my life’s journey that leaves even me wondering how on earth this came to be. But I call to mind that God has a plan for me — a plan for a better tomorrow that my mother used to pray for.

I grew up in Lower Subukia, a remote rural village in Kenya’s Rift Valley, brought up in an area that receives scarce rainfall because it is located on the leeward side of Mt. Kenya. Drought and famine frequently hit the locals of this land.

Traditionally, it is the responsibility of women and children to fetch water. Children from as early an age of 4 to 5 are trained using small containers on how to fetch and carry water. They would accompany adults in this noble mission. Fetching water is done early in the morning or late in the evening so that whoever is fetching the water is protected from the scorching sun. They can then have the remainder of the day to either till land or run other chores like cooking for the family, fetching firewood, or even looking after domestic animals such as goats, sheep, and cows.

Fetching water is a daily activity that would overly consume time depending on the water point. During dry spells, we would on some occasions go five miles one way. This would definitely take half of your day. By the time we were back home, our bodies were exhausted to engage in any other activity or house chores.

Growing up with my five siblings, we would — in turns during lunch time or evenings — go to the river with our animals so they could drink from these water points. My mum would ask me to carry water containers so we could bring some on our way back as a means to multi-task.

Returning to his previous home in Kenya in 2014, Sam draws water from a water well. (©2014 photo courtesy of Sam Irungu)

There were two ways in which we would carry water. The most common was where we would tie a rope to hang the 20-liter (5.28-gallon) containers on our back where the rope would go over our head. Or we would use commercial or homemade wheel barrows where we could push two or three 20-liter containers. This seemed an efficient method preferred by boys and men since it required enough energy to push the wheelbarrow uphill. Girls and women shied from this method and opted for the former.

However, the carrying water from the back or head had its own short comings. Girls and women often complained of backaches and headaches. I recall my sisters and I having impression marks on our forehead due to this daily repeated activity. This also would trigger migraines if we would place heavy water-loaded containers over our head. The method is dirty because of mud at the fetching point or dust as we walked home carrying them.

I remember growing up and being cautioned not to drown while drawing water. Bathing at the river, which is a health hazard, was the order of the day, or even washing clothes by the riverside.

I remember very well how many families had Saturdays dedicated as a day to wash personal clothes, especially school uniforms. It was the standard, especially for kids, to have a full body bath only once a week. Twice was uncommon or done by few adults who maybe had to work in offices. Washing the feet, head, and hands before going to sleep was a daily routine in many families. This was for two obvious reasons: to not soil beddings when going to sleep and also to prepare for school in the morning.

©2014 photo courtesy of Sam Irungu

My family was living this way when humanitarian organizations including World Vision started projects to find alternative ways of supplying water. They were funding boreholes and drilling wells or building water reservoirs from high mountain elevation points. This also involved laying out pipeline infrastructure to close water points for human and animal consumption.

Since some classrooms were not cemented and the elementary school had tree seedlings that needed to be watered, it was mandatory for all grade three classes to bring to school at least 3 liters of water to water school plants or to sprinkle in the dusty classrooms after sweeping. This was intended to mitigate jigger infection (a type of parasitic sand flea).

Taking water to school alongside your books was cumbersome. Any student who failed to oblige would be sent back home to bring double the amount. This was considered a violation of the rules.

I am forever thankful that through well-wishers and international organizations like World Vision, today boreholes and wells have been drilled near our neighborhood that reduced the amount of time we would spend in a day to get just 80 liters (21.13 gallons) of water for our households.

I grew up believing that this was the way of life. But after getting the opportunity to travel to the city when I was 10, I had a different experience and yearned for a better life than the one I had lived in the hot valley of Lower Subukia. My home was dusty and the scorching sun took a toll on our water resources.

Tragedy hit when I lost my mum and dad in my teenage years of 13 and 14, respectively, due to poor living conditions. This brought another variable into a hard livelihood equation that in some ways made me realize that for us to survive as a family, we needed a change of life. My older brothers sought employment in the cities. My sister dropped out of school to find a job in Nairobi. With the help of generous donors — the angels sent my way by God — I was able to go to boarding school.

When I took my final high school national exam, I earned an average grade of B+. So I qualified to join Maseno University, one of the major public universities in Kenya.

All my life, I dreamt that one day I would become a software engineer. I ended up majoring in education science, focusing on mathematics and computers, but never gave up on my dreams.

Using government funding through loans, I was able to meet my education expenses until I graduated with a bachelor’s in education science. After I graduated, I did two years as a high school computer teacher in Kenya, then headed out for further studies abroad at Eastern Oregon University.

Of course the rest is history after I landed here. My heart to give back and help others in the community I grew up in has been a very personal goal I am passionate about. This has contributed to why I am here at World Vision. The projects being undertaken to reach out to some of these communities are very personal to me.

Sam pumps water from the new kind of well that World Vision installs in communities after drilling for water. (©2014 photo courtesy of Sam Irungu)

On my recent trip back to Kenya, I witnessed a sustainable project by World Vision still being undertaken in my home area. Piped water and a reservoir have been mounted in major water points for clean water consumption by humans and animals. This has reshaped and redefined the way of life for communities.

I am always thrilled to see how lives can be turned. Without a decent way of living, no clean water, no education, or sustainable employment, my life was on a downhill path alongside my siblings’ and the fellow neighbors I grew up with.

I can only attribute this change to God above, having answered my mother’s prayer to redeem the life of his children for a better tomorrow. This is exactly what happened. Working here at World Vision is a true testament of the fervent prayers of an upright woman who had a strong faith of seeing and making a better tomorrow.

To God I give all the glory and honor he is due. He has proved faithful.

Support people like Sam, where World Vision focuses in long term sustainability of the community which elevates them from poverty. You can help turn a child’s life better and filled with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to World Vision’s Clean Water Fund today!

World Day against Trafficking in Persons

In the next hour, dozens of young people living in Myanmar and Cambodia will leave home with the promise of bright jobs in big cities that will open doors to a better life. Unfortunately, this dream is often a nightmare.

Upon arriving in a richer country, they’re forced to work jobs that are exploitative. They work long hours for little to no pay. They are forced to do tasks that are dangerous. And they are left to stay in places that are humiliating. Today, on World Day against Trafficking in Persons, we advocate against human trafficking as a crime that exploits women, children and men.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally.

 

Millions are trapped in jobs they were coerced or deceived into and which they cannot leave – primarily forced labour and sexual exploitation. Women and girls represent the greater share of forced labour victims, 11.4 million, or 55% of all trafficked in persons.

Here are the stories of trafficking survivors who compel us to continue our anti-trafficking work.

Phyu: Sold to become a bride

Phyu was 17 when she left school and decided to leave her home in Myanmar. A broker tricked her to work in China with promises of a good job.

When she arrived, a Chinese man paid $3,200 USD for her.

She was wed, beaten unconscious, tied and gagged before being found by police and returned to Myanmar.

After her return, World Vision helped her to attend sewing training and provided sewing machine to start her business. Now, Phyu is an advocate on trafficking and shares her experiences to educate other young women.

Pannha*: Smuggled into another country, jailed with her baby, forced to beg

(*Pannha’s name has been changed to protect her identity and safety.)

As a widow with a five-month old baby, Pannha trusted a relative when he offered her a job in Malaysia. Poor and hopeful to improve their living conditions, she accepted the offer.

Every day, she and her baby were dropped off early in the morning and brought home around midnight. Pannha and the baby worked over 10 hours a day. On some days, she was forced to beg on the streets.

“I did not deserve to fall in this trap, but unfortunately I did, and I had to endure this,” Panha says with upset face.

Although she worked hard hours, the money never came.

She was eventually arrested, thrown in jail and nearly had her baby taken from her. After revealing that she was cheated into this life, she was sent home to Cambodia.

Through World Vision, Pannha received counselling and was provided with basic living essentials: food, tools for farming and training. Now, she grows cabbage around the house with a few mango, coconut, pomelo and orange trees, and wishes to enjoy her future.

Suon: Labouring for pennies a day on a ship

In Cambodia, Suon owned plots of land but although he worked hard, the income he received wasn’t enough to support his family. He decided to work in Thailand and was told he would lift and move rice sacks.

Instead, he endured heavy lifting on Thai transport ships for 15 hours a day without a weekend. Suon worked hard, with the expectation of earning a lot of money to bring home to his wife and children.

One day, he asked permission from his manager to visit home and his wages. He was refused. Suon kept asking for the next few months but he was not allowed.

“I was afraid that I would not be allowed to come home forever,” adds Suon.

Suon was only allowed to return home after lying to his manager – “I told him [the site manager] a lie that my wife and child died, then he let me go home,” Suon says.

He returned home with only 1,100 baht ($34 USD).

Now, Suon reflects on his beautiful life with his wife and seven children. “I am happy to be at home working on a plot of land. What I enjoy the most is spending time with my children. I can take a rest as much as I want,” Suon says. World Vision provided the family with a water pump motor to increase their harvest and discusses with other men the dangers of trafficking.

You can help by signing up with World Vision child sponsorship programme where people like Phyu, Pannha and Suon has a second chance in life to live a full life. Click here to Sponsor A Child today!

Perseverance Is Her Story

By Michael Czobit

Yui near her home in Jatujak.

Yui’s university classes started at 8 in the morning and ended at 4 in the afternoon. Work started at 6. Sometimes, her shift would be just a few hours. Other times, Yui would be at the 7-Eleven until 2 a.m. Then in the morning, back to class. Depending on the day, she’d also make the time to take her grandmother to the hospital for hemodialysis, which was needed three times a week. “I was very tired,” Yui says. “I felt discouraged, depressed, stressed. But I didn’t lose hope.”

It’s February 2015, and I’m sitting at her home in the Jatujak community in Bangkok. Yui, 21, is actually a nickname. Her first name is Pairin. She tells me how she had found ways to cope. She’d read manga (Japanese comics), talk to friends and listen to rock music. “I am happy that you are here today,” she says. “I am glad that I can tell you my story, because telling you my story also encourages me. Telling you about my hardships, my pain, is relieving.”

She no longer works at the convenience store, and a few months earlier she finished her degree in finance and banking studies. Her reaction to earning her degree is understated. “Life as usual,” she says. But don’t be mistaken: Yui was happy. I could understand her anticlimactic reaction—she had worked so hard and still, there was more to do—but I disagreed with her assessment.

Yui had recently passed on a job at a bank and was now waiting to hear back about another in the finance department at a Thai brewery. She was hopeful about her prospects. Why she wanted one job over the other came down to two factors: location and hours, both favourable at the brewery, which would allow her to continue to care for her 70-year-old grandmother, Ampai.

Yui’s parents separated when she was born and she has lived with her grandmother ever since. Yui’s uncle, his partner and his daughter also live at the home. But caring for Ampai, who has struggled with several illnesses, including diabetes and failing kidneys, has mostly been Yui’s responsibility. Thankfully, her uncle has a job that covers the majority of Ampai’s medical expenses.

My own grandma had hemodialysis when I was young. My family took care of her; although it was a group effort, my mom did the majority of the care. The countless appointments and worries can be overwhelming. I always admired my mom at how she carried on during those years, and I knew that what Yui had managed, caring for her grandmother while attending university and keeping a job, required extraordinary effort. But I had no doubt about her strong feelings for Ampai. “I love my grandmother very much,” she says. “I don’t want to leave her by herself.”

While Yui grew up, Ampai was the family’s breadwinner. Yui’s grandfather died soon after she was born, and to support her, Ampai worked as a street sweeper. So yes, hard work runs in the family.

Yui and her grandmother at their home.

Also while growing up, Yui became sponsored by a Canadian through World Vision’s sponsorship project in Jatujak. Before her granddaughter’s sponsorship began in March 2006, when Yui was in Grade 7, Ampai wasn’t earning enough to buy Yui’s school supplies, uniforms and books. That changed, and in more ways than just materially speaking: Yui learned. She participated in educational field trips and day camps. She took part in leadership and health workshops, including one about HIV and AIDS that, too, changed her life.

It is never easy to speak with someone about health issues, and when I share personal information about someone or her family, I always ask for permission, which Yui gave me. In 2009, Yui’s father, Ampai’s son, learned he was HIV-positive. This news scared Yui. Her knowledge about the disease was limited and her father’s status strained their relationship. Two years later, in her first year of university, Yui attended an HIV and AIDS workshop held by World Vision. It was a revelation. “When I received the training, I learned how to live normally with my father, how to spend time together,” she says. Her fear went away and their relationship improved. She says she is now close with her father and that their bond has been renewed. (World Vision has also supported Yui’s father with medical assistance.)

In all her time as a sponsored child, Yui stayed committed to her education. She desires a job so she can support her grandmother, and she dreams of paying off a school loan and buying a home that sits on non-government-owned land. Through her sponsorship, which lasted into her first year of university, Yui, participated in a bachelor’s degree project that paid for her books, uniforms and some home expenses. “I want to thank the sponsor for giving me an education,” she tells me. But I know that as much as she has received, Yui has already matched, and in many ways surpassed, it in her own efforts.

In her last years of schooling before university, Yui had taken a vocational course in accounting where she learned about the stock market, which sparked her desire to earn a banking  degree. Just as she has never invested in the stock market looking for a quick buck, she earned her success with perseverance. Not easy to accomplish, and impossible not to admire.

This article was featured on worldvision.ca

Jhumri Biswal is a beauty with a vision for the disabled

By Impuri Ngayawon Shimray and the Media team, World Vision India

Out of 46 contestants from all over India, Jhumri Biswal, age 20 from Bhubaneswar, is one the 12 shortlisted finalists for the first ever Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired to be held at Mumbai in January 2017 by the National Association for the Blind (NAB).

Jhumri at her typewriter.

At the tender age of eight Jhumri was hit by a truck and sustained a head injury. The blow to the head lead to a breakage of an optical nerve and after a few days, Jhumri lost all sight. Once home, Jhumri was taken out of school, because she was “blind.” Jhumri was happy in the beginning because she could miss the drudgery of school, but soon realised that her classmates were moving on and were learning and experiencing new things. Blindness restricted her mobility and that affected her playtime, going out, hanging out with friends, and having fun. Sadness and depression started setting in and the feeling of being left out and always being dependent on others ate into her. Jhumri’s parents understood this and felt helpless.

A local health worker suggested Jhumri join the local school that taught blind children through Braille. This was a life-changing experience for Jhumri, because it gave her a channel to learn new things and grow. She continued to learn through the tactile writing system for two years, after which she returned to regular school to continue her education. Braille books were available for students till grade seven. But after that, she had to depend on an audio recorder and a Braille typewriter that she received from World Vision’s outreach program. Her sister would read the chapters from the book and Jhumri would make notes on the Braille typewriter. Her speed at typing also grew in these years.

With her interest in knowledge and the zest to learn more, Jhumri was motivated to participate in community activities, especially on the issues of rights of special children. She participated in World Vision India’s ‘Our Voice Assembly’, a platform for children with disabilities to come together to talk about the issues they face, learn their rights and entitlements, identify challenges; and advocate for themselves. Jhumri was part of many consultations of children with disabilities at the state and national level, where they came up with recommendations which were then sent to various political leaders. Jhumri is one of 2,300 children with disabilities that are part of ‘Our Voice Assemblies’ across 18 states in India.

Jhumri was later chosen to represent the voices of children with disabilities at the World Vision Triennial Council in Tanzania. In Tanzania, she highlighted the apathy of the current educational system towards disability — about 99% of children with disability don’t go to school because of a lack of study material, disabled-friendly spaces and trained teachers.

But these barriers did not stop Jhumri from continuing her education. She is pursuing her graduation (3rd year) at Ravenshaw University in Cuttack. In early 2016, she heard of the first ever Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired organised by the National Association for the Blind (NAB) and wanted to participate. She believes this contest will give her a platform to share her story and show others that disabilities need not be limiting.

Jhumri is looking forward to the finals in January 2017 and while she may win or not win, she is already a winner with a vision!

Perseverance Is Her Story

By Michael Czobit | Photography by Michelle Siu

Yui near her home in Jatujak.

A soon-to-be formerly sponsored child in Thailand earns a degree despite family illnesses

Yui’s university classes started at 8 in the morning and ended at 4 in the afternoon. Work started at 6. Sometimes, her shift would be just a few hours. Other times, Yui would be at the 7-Eleven until 2 a.m. Then in the morning, back to class. Depending on the day, she’d also make the time to take her grandmother to the hospital for hemodialysis, which was needed three times a week. “I was very tired,” Yui says. “I felt discouraged, depressed, stressed. But I didn’t lose hope.”

It’s February 2015, and I’m sitting at her home in the Jatujak community in Bangkok. Yui, 21, is actually a nickname. Her first name is Pairin. She tells me how she had found ways to cope. She’d read manga (Japanese comics), talk to friends and listen to rock music. “I am happy that you are here today,” she says. “I am glad that I can tell you my story, because telling you my story also encourages me. Telling you about my hardships, my pain, is relieving.”

She no longer works at the convenience store, and a few months earlier she finished her degree in finance and banking studies. Her reaction to earning her degree is understated. “Life as usual,” she says. But don’t be mistaken: Yui was happy. I could understand her anticlimactic reaction—she had worked so hard and still, there was more to do—but I disagreed with her assessment.

Yui had recently passed on a job at a bank and was now waiting to hear back about another in the finance department at a Thai brewery. She was hopeful about her prospects. Why she wanted one job over the other came down to two factors: location and hours, both favourable at the brewery, which would allow her to continue to care for her 70-year-old grandmother, Ampai.

Yui’s parents separated when she was born and she has lived with her grandmother ever since. Yui’s uncle, his partner and his daughter also live at the home. But caring for Ampai, who has struggled with several illnesses, including diabetes and failing kidneys, has mostly been Yui’s responsibility. Thankfully, her uncle has a job that covers the majority of Ampai’s medical expenses.

My own grandma had hemodialysis when I was young. My family took care of her; although it was a group effort, my mom did the majority of the care. The countless appointments and worries can be overwhelming. I always admired my mom at how she carried on during those years, and I knew that what Yui had managed, caring for her grandmother while attending university and keeping a job, required extraordinary effort. But I had no doubt about her strong feelings for Ampai. “I love my grandmother very much,” she says. “I don’t want to leave her by herself.”

While Yui grew up, Ampai was the family’s breadwinner. Yui’s grandfather died soon after she was born, and to support her, Ampai worked as a street sweeper. So yes, hard work runs in the family.

Yui and her grandmother at their home.

Also while growing up, Yui became sponsored by a Canadian through World Vision’s sponsorship project in Jatujak. Before her granddaughter’s sponsorship began in March 2006, when Yui was in Grade 7, Ampai wasn’t earning enough to buy Yui’s school supplies, uniforms and books. That changed, and in more ways than just materially speaking: Yui learned. She participated in educational field trips and day camps. She took part in leadership and health workshops, including one about HIV and AIDS that, too, changed her life.

It is never easy to speak with someone about health issues, and when I share personal information about someone or her family, I always ask for permission, which Yui gave me. In 2009, Yui’s father, Ampai’s son, learned he was HIV-positive. This news scared Yui. Her knowledge about the disease was limited and her father’s status strained their relationship. Two years later, in her first year of university, Yui attended an HIV and AIDS workshop held by World Vision. It was a revelation. “When I received the training, I learned how to live normally with my father, how to spend time together,” she says. Her fear went away and their relationship improved. She says she is now close with her father and that their bond has been renewed. (World Vision has also supported Yui’s father with medical assistance.)

In all her time as a sponsored child, Yui stayed committed to her education. She desires a job so she can support her grandmother, and she dreams of paying off a school loan and buying a home that sits on non-government-owned land. Through her sponsorship, which lasted into her first year of university, Yui, participated in a bachelor’s degree project that paid for her books, uniforms and some home expenses. “I want to thank the sponsor for giving me an education,” she tells me. But I know that as much as she has received, Yui has already matched, and in many ways surpassed, it in her own efforts.

In her last years of schooling before university, Yui had taken a vocational course in accounting where she learned about the stock market, which sparked her desire to earn a banking degree. Just as she has never invested in the stock market looking for a quick buck, she earned her success with perseverance. Not easy to accomplish, and impossible not to admire.

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2016 issue of Childview Chinese-English edition.

Support children like Yui, who deserves the opportunity to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and filled with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to World Vision’s Education Fund today!

Jhumri Biswal is a beauty with a vision for the disabled

By Impuri Ngayawon Shimray and the Media team, World Vision India

She is a finalist of the Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired, 2017

Out of 46 contestants from all over India, Jhumri Biswal, age 20 from Bhubaneswar, is one the 12 shortlisted finalists for the first ever Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired to be held at Mumbai in January 2017 by the National Association for the Blind (NAB).

At the tender age of eight Jhumri was hit by a truck and sustained a head injury. The blow to the head lead to a breakage of an optical nerve and after a few days, Jhumri lost all sight. Once home, Jhumri was taken out of school, because she was “blind.” Jhumri was happy in the beginning because she could miss the drudgery of school, but soon realised that her class mates were moving on and were learning and experiencing new things. Blindness restricted her mobility and that affected her playtime, going out, hanging out with friends, and having fun. Sadness and depression started setting in and the feeling of being left out and always being dependent on others ate into her. Jhumri’s parents understood this and felt helpless.

She believes this contest will give her a platform to share her story and show others that disabilities need not be limiting.

A local health worker suggested Jhumri join the local school that taught blind children through Braille. This was a life-changing experience for Jhumri, because it gave her a channel to learn new things and grow. She continued to learn through the tactile writing system for two years, after which she returned to regular school to continue her education. Braille books were available for students till grade seven. But after that, she had to depend on an audio recorder and a Braille typewriter that she received from World Vision’s outreach program. Her sister would read the chapters from the book and Jhumri would make notes on the Braille typewriter. Her speed at typing also grew in these years.

With her interest in knowledge and the zest to learn more, Jhumri was motivated to participate in community activities, especially on the issues of rights of special children. She participated in World Vision India’s “Our Voice Assembly,” a platform for children with disabilities to come together to talk about the issues they face, learn their rights and entitlements, identify challenges; and advocate for themselves. Jhumri was part of many consultations of children with disability at the state as well as national level, where they came up with recommendation, which were then sent to various political leaders. Jhumri is one of 2300 children with disabilities that are part of “Our Voice Assemblies” across 18 states in India.

Jhumri was later chosen to represent the voices of children with disability at the World Vision Triennial Council in Tanzania. In Tanzania, she highlighted the apathy of the current educational system towards disability—about 99% of children with disability don’t go to school because of lack of study material, disabled-friendly spaces and trained teachers.

But these barriers did not stop Jhumri from continuing her education. She is pursuing her graduation (3rd year) at Ravenshaw University in Cuttack. In early 2016, she heard of the first ever Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired organised by the National Association for the Blind (NAB) and wanted to participate. She believes this contest will give her a platform to share her story and show others that disabilities need not be limiting.

Jhumri is looking forward to the finals in January 2017 and while she may win or not win, she is already a winner with a vision!

This article by World Vision India originally appeared in the Huffington Post under the following:

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/world-vision-india/jhumri-biswal-is-a-beauty-with-a-vision-for-the-disabled/?utm_hp_ref=in-

Support children like Jhumri, who deserves the opportunity to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and filled with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to World Vision’s Education Fund today!

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.