Latest Posts

Planting a brighter future

By Xuan Thiem Le, World Vision Communications Officer, Vietnam

D410-0174-09-cropAting Ai with his cousins and a birthday greeting card he received from his Australian sponsor.

As a recent graduate of Quang Nam Forestry College in central Vietnam, Ating Ai, 22, speaks with passion about protecting woodlands and the natural environment.

His enthusiasm is not just a reflection of his academic studies. It arises out of painful firsthand experience of slash-and-burn farming techniques that kept his family desperately poor.

As a child, Ai camped out with his family on their plots of land in the hills around their home in the Dong Giang district of Quang Nam province.

“They cut trees in deep forests and burned them to plant more upland rice,” he recalls. “Unintentionally, they destroyed their forests and caused soil erosion.”

The primitive farming methods led to ever dwindling harvests. Although Ai’s father could sometimes supplement the family’s diet by trapping wild animals, they went hungry for three or four months every year.

To make matters worse, the desperate quest for food persuaded Ai’s parents to set their children working in the fields rather than sending them to school.

None of Ai’s three elder sisters completed more than two years of elementary education. For a long time it looked as though Ai might never enter a classroom at all.

Seed of Hope

The establishment of a World Vision development program brought dramatic changes for Ai, his family, and their community.

Ai was among the first children in his village to become a World Vision sponsored child.

One of the immediate benefits was Ai began receiving support to attend school at the ripe age of 9.

“I would have [remained] illiterate if my parents were not encouraged by teachers to send me to school when World Vision came to my village,” he says. “I still remember how joyful I was when I first came to my first class — although most of my classmates were several years younger than I.”

One of Ai’s most vivid childhood memories is running home to show his parents his certificate of merit after a stellar performance in his first year in school.

Further encouragement came from Ai’s Australian sponsor.

Ai still keeps and treasures the first letter he received from her. It was a card for his birthday — something that had never been celebrated before. The card was the first piece of correspondence Ai had received in his life.

“I still remember the strange joy when, for the first time in my life, I held in my hands such a beautiful greeting card,” he says.

Things began changing for Ai’s mom and dad, too. The World Vision development program taught local farmers improved agricultural techniques and animal husbandry.

As their agricultural yields grew and their fortunes improved, the family began raising cows and growing acacia trees to supply wood chips for the papermaking industry.

World Vision also supported villagers to set up a traditional community house is used for community meetings, harvest festival celebrations, and a place for children to play.

Ai helped carve and color designs on the building’s wooden beams.

“My favourite subject at school was arts. It helped me a lot to give a helping handing hand in decorating the house,” he says.

Future Growth

Ai’s mother died of liver cancer when he was 14; three years later Ai’s father succumbed to the same disease.

But by then Ai had sufficient resources to finish school and go on to higher education. As a college graduate, he hopes to secure a position as a forest ranger, preferably serving the community where he grew up.

Ai’s life experiences have given him a profound respect for those who reach out to help others.

As a youngster he wanted to become a soldier because he often saw them abandon their guard duties to help with the rice harvest or repair villagers’ homes.

“I still keep those caring images in my heart,” he says.

Today, he hopes many more children like him will find sponsors.

“I learned from my parents’ farm that plants grow strong from fertile soil,” he says. “I experienced through my life that my sponsor’s love and care fertilized my hope to shoot up to a brighter future.”

This story was featured in World Vision Magazine.

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.

Safe places to be children

By Edmond Lee

April 7 marks World Health Day. This year, the focus issue is depression, an illness characterised by persistent sadness which affects a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks or maintain healthy relationships. Many depressed people suffer feelings like worthlessness and guilt. In the most severe cases, depression can lead to self-harm and suicide.

Worst of all, depression can happen to anyone, including children.

Emergency situations can be a major source of mental health issues. The WHO estimates that 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety during humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflicts. For children, the trauma of being displaced and witnessing terrible things can leave scars that last into adulthood.

Whenever World Vision responds to an emergency, we are ready with food, water and other essentials. But we also recognise that fulfilling a child’s physical needs isn’t the end all be all; it is not enough for a child to be well-fed if they are suffering mentally and emotionally.

That is why we are always ready to give these children a place to heal.

Escaping the trauma of war

A World Vision staff member chats with a boy who was displaced by conflict near Mosul, Iraq. 

During the recent military operations in Mosul, Iraq, many fleeing children arrived at relief camps petrified, struggling to express themselves, and in some cases too terrified to speak. Years of brutal occupation and terrible violence had taken a toll on their mental health.

“Many children have been stuck in their homes while bombings, sniper fire, or chaos ruled around them. Others have witnessed the death of family members,” said Aaron Moore, World Vision’s programs manager in northern Iraq. “Our Child-Friendly Spaces provide a safe place for children to come to terms with the violence they’ve seen and just take time to play as children again,”

One little boy had seen his 15-year-old brother killed when they fled. When he came under World Vision’s care, he was too terrified to even speak.

“Thankfully, with the support of a trained World Vision psychologist, he was able to say his name by the end of the day. However, this is just the beginning of what could be years of specialist support, as children begin to rebuild their lives and regain a sense of normality.”

Many children don’t want to play when they first come to the camps. “However, after a few days at the Child-Friendly Space with our staff, they’re slowly beginning to regain confidence and a sense of hope for the future,” says Aaron.

Art therapy

One important coping mechanism for traumatised children is art.

Faras, 11, remembers happier days in Syria. Now the happiest thing in his life is coming to the Child-Friendly Space, so he draws the bus he rides.

At a Child-Friendly Space in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Syrian refugee children use art to express a wide range of feelings. When Faras, 11, draws a picture of his past in Syria, he sketches an idyllic landscape with a smiling sun, a rushing river, and a green field where he and his brother once looked after sheep. Habib, 9, uses a black crayon to outline a helicopter dropping bombs.

That’s appropriate, says Bassima, the supervisor, who is also a Syrian refugee. “We have a past that is both beautiful and ugly.”

Habib, 9, recalls a helicopter dropping bombs near his home. “The house is okay. The bombs exploded the neighbours’ house. I saw it; many were killed,”

Animators, the adults who lead activities for different age groups of refugee children, don’t ask them about their painful experiences and losses.

“We provide a peaceful place for them to feel their freedom. It’s a safe place for them to experience feelings and memories,” says Bassima.

Even as they help children come to terms with the past, the staff members attending to the children are also concerned for their present and future.  Huda, an animator, says “Every day there is something sad [the children hear] about relatives in Syria. They need support not to be overwhelmed by sadness.”

Ahmad, a classroom animator for a group of 10- to 12-year-olds, echoes this sentiment as he pantomimes raising an umbrella in a circle of 12 boys and girls. As they mimic his motions, he calls the Child-Friendly Space an “umbrella of comfort and safety over your head.” Indeed, this ‘umbrella’ may be the only thing stopping these children from being washed away by a flood of fear, anxiety and depression.

As for what lies ahead, “The future is very important to us, the future for these children,” says Huda. “If we create this peaceful place for them, we’ve done what we can do.” Indeed, for children of conflict, a little peace may be all they need.

If you would like to support Child-Friendly Spaces (and physical relief) for children in humanitarian emergencies, please make a contribution to our Emergency Relief Fund

The stories and pictures in this post were adapted from articles featured on the World Vision US website.

Archery allows sponsored child to take aim in right direction

By Somluck Khamsaen
World Vision Thailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to sponsor a child today!

Tips for raising children with tenderness

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Hug and kiss each day

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

Story by World Vision Dominican Republic

Top five ways to connect with your sponsored child

By Lindsey Minerva,
World Vision US

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

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










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

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

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

1. Write a letter.

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

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

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

2. Send photos.

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

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

3. Send a small gift.

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

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

4. Write an email.

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

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


5. Send a card.

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

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

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

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

Story by World Vision US.

Syria refugee crisis: Facts you need to know

Updated January 31, 2017
by World Vision US Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help children and families fleeing violence in Syria. Donate Now

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.

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.

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.

Modester and Evelyn holding a baby goat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She now has a father who will never abandon her.

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

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

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

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

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

They can do anything; they just need a believer.

Sponsor a child today
Give a gift

Story courtesy of World Vision US.

Return on investment

By Collins Kaumba
World Vision Zambia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yule is thankful that he will never know.

Story courtesy of World Vision US.

10 financial tips to help make the world a better place

By Casey Slide
A guest blogger of World Vision US

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

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

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

Start by making a difference in yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make a difference among your family and friends

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

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

Make a difference in your community and the world

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

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

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

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

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

Story courtesy of World Vision US