Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Three Years Later: An Aftermath of Hope

Today marks the anniversary of one of the world's largest natural disasters. It was on December 26, 2004, that an undersea earthquake triggered massive tidal waves that smashed ashore on multiple continents, killing more than 225,000 people in 11 countries and devastating thousands of miles of coastline with waves that reached up to 100 feet in height.

World Vision already had operations and immediately went to work in five of the hardest-hit countries: Indonesia (closest to the epicenter), Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, and Myanmar. It was the largest emergency relief operation in our 50-plus-year history.

While the scope of the disaster boggled the mind, the outpouring of compassion by a sympathetic world rivaled it. World Vision donors contributed nearly $380 million to tsunami relief operations, including $68 million contributed by private donors in the U.S. Some $347 million of the total amount raised went directly to relief needs in the field, with the balance supporting management and fund-raising operations.

Three years later, it is fair to ask: Did this effort make a difference? Did the outpouring of generosity substantially improve living conditions for the tsunami's survivors and lessen the chances of a similar disaster causing this kind of suffering again in the future?

To celebrate the recent closure of our relief program, World Vision's special Asia Tsunami Relief Team released a final report of the results of this effort. The report measured effectiveness on both objective and subjective levels.

Objectively, it pointed to the construction of more than 12,000 homes, 84 schools, 33 preschools, 27 health clinics, and 200 Child-Friendly Spaces — facilities where children can play, draw, sing, share their feelings, and begin to return to normalcy — as well as the provision of 20 ambulances, hundreds of hospital beds, and assisting more than 40,000 people with support and vocational training to get them back into paid work.

On a more subjective level, World Vision's relief work was heralded by a variety of independent organizations. The Fritz Institute — a non-profit organization that monitors the effectiveness of aid delivery — said World Vision was ranked highest by surveyed beneficiaries in Indonesia for the quality of its aid and the fairness of its distribution.

In India, World Vision shared the highest ranking with the central and state governments and a local organization — Social Need Education and Human Awareness. And in Thailand, TANGO International commended World Vision for its swift and enduring response and found that livelihoods in the organization's operational areas were now close to what they were before the tsunami struck.

And at the most subjective level, to understand the impact of the recovery effort you have to talk with tsunami survivors themselves. Murugesh (center child in the photo above) was only seven when the waves struck three years ago. His father died in the tsunami and the family's home was destroyed.

Murugesh, his three siblings, and his mother survived, but without a home to raise her children in the family's chances seemed slim.

What's more, Murugesh had serious physical disabilities.

However, bouyed with the resources provided by generous donors, World Vision was able to construct 40 apartment-style homes in the Hambantota district of southern Sri Lanka, specially designed to meet the special needs of children like Murugesh who have physical disabilities.

After her husband's death, his mother, Saraswathi, attempted to support her family by cooking and cleaning for others in her neighborhood. Because of her new home, however, she now is saving up to purchase a pushcart to sell her baked goods near the school her children attend.

"I have a kitchen now," she says proudly. "I have the freedom to do a lot more; it means everything to me that we have this house."

In addition to the new apartment complex, World Vision also has built a playground just outside Murugesh's front door. Like other children, Murugesh loves to spin on the merry-go-round and play games with his brothers and sisters. Previously, the family had to plan a monthly, all-day outing to a playground farther away. "Now I can watch Murugesh play with his brothers and sisters from my front door," says Saraswathi.

For Murugesh and his family, hope has been reborn in the aftermath of their darkest day.

(For more information on tsunami recovery, view our video updates or interactive page.)

This Will Get Your Goat!

If you (like me) sometimes wait until the day after Christmas to get started on your "last-minute" Christmas shopping, here is a great option for you.

World Vision's Gift Catalog offers lightning-fast delivery of an eCard (and slightly slower delivery of a postal card acknowledging your gift) for gifts purchased on behalf of a friend or loved one. These gifts are perfect for the "person who has everything" because they actually accomplish something great somewhere in the world, in the life of a person who doesn't have everything!

Your gift will also warm the heart of your friend of loved one ... which is a great thing not every gift can do ... even if they don't find out about it until the day after Christmas!

Check out this cool ABC News video, and consider this for your "last-minute" (i.e., day-after) Christmas shopping ...

Also, here's a great audio piece on NPR's "Morning Marketplace" about the Gift Catalog (sorry that it's a RealMedia link).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Are You Afraid of Christmas?

It sounds like a silly question ... but lately I've been wondering if people are afraid of Christmas.

I started thinking about it yesterday when my wife, who is employed by a local school district, informed me that the principal at her school had issued an edict: "No one will play Christmas carols in the office!"

Yes, he was serious.

Apparently the edict came down from the school district head office. No Christmas carols! Not even a mention of the word "Christmas." This is a winter holiday. School districts and other public entities now live in fear of certain organizations might sue them for not being "politically correct."

She was telling me this as we were driving with my aunt, a 50-year veteran missionary from the Republic of Niger, recently retired, to a major local holiday lights display. Two miles of lights arranged in fantastic displays ... touching on almost every topic and theme you can imagine related to the winter holiday, from Christmas trees and poinsettia, to elves, lots of elves; to Santa shooting gifts out of a cannon, to aliens in flying saucers, to reindeer leaping over cars, to heavy construction equipment building gingerbread houses, and even tanks and military hardware (we live near a major military base).

Almost everything you can imagine ... except the most obvious! At the end of the display, my aunt asked, "So ... where's the manger?"

Miles of Christmas lights, but ... no manger. No Mary, no Joseph, no shepherds, no magi. No Christ child. Someone is apparently very afraid of Christmas!

This morning, again, I read the real account of Christmas in Luke 2. I am going to repeat portions of it here -- just because I can. (No, I'm not afraid!)

And there were shepherds living in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

The shepherds were terrified -- and no wonder. The most unusual thing they had ever encountered before, out there in the fields at night, had been the occasional sheep-hungry bear or lion. Scary enough. But an Angel of the Lord, lighting up the heavens? A heavenly host shining forth the glory of God and singing his praises? Probably not in the job description of the average shepherd.

Someone else was terrified, too. Herod, the puppet of Rome, was the ultimate representative of the Powers That Be in that region. The magi told Herod they were looking for the prophesied Messiah, the ruler of Israel, born that very day in his region. Herod too was terrified -- but for a different reason.

The shepherds turned their terror to joy once they realized the implications of the fact that the God of the Universe chose to announce his Good News first and foremost to them. A favorite Christmas carol recounts:

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why these songs of happy cheer?
What great brightness did you see?
What glad tiding did you hear?

Herod, on the other hand, turned his terror to hate. In an attempt to kill the Christ of Christmas, he had all baby boys 2 years or younger murdered by his henchmen.

In a nutshell, these are the two extremes of human response to the fact that God enters human history and is about to do something unimaginably big. Joy ... and hate.

I often find myself asking simple-minded "Why?" questions in response to what I read in Scripture. Here are three:

Why shepherds?

Shepherds occupied the lower echelon of their society. They were the poor, the dispossessed. Why would anyone listen to a shepherd?

But God loves shepherds, and He loves the poor. Shepherds protect sheep, and God loves sheep! King David was a shepherd. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd."

God chose the lowest echelon of society to make his announcement that the King of the Universe had been born -- in an animal stable. Hmmm. His venue? The outskirts of a backwater town. He could have sent the angels to Herod's palace in Jerusalem. Or he could have woken up the entire town of Bethlehem. But he chose the outskirts. Why?

(By the way, did you ever wonder why the commotion in the sky above the shepherds -- which surely should have been visible and/or audible in Jerusalem proper -- didn't attract more attention in the town of Bethlehem? It's amazing to think that all those people simply slept through such a celestial event. But that seems to be the way it goes when God does something truly big -- most people just sleep right through it.)

Why fear?

It makes sense that the shepherds were afraid. But the angel said, "Do not fear." The poor have nothing to fear from God. The Savior was for them. His activity is in their favor. Their fear turned to rejoicing.

But the power structures of this world have much to fear. Because of his hatred, King Herod ended up in a spiral of self-destruction. Who mourned when he died? The world breathed a sigh of relief as Jesus, Mary and Joseph returned from their self-imposed exile in Egypt.

Why joy?

God is for the poor! He identifies with them. Jesus was born in a manger. The angels appeared to shepherds in the field. His Word to them was truly "Good news." It was unto them the Savior was born.

Jesus said he came to preach good news to the poor. The good news is: "Grace is the great leveler of the world's playing field. There's hope. There's forgiveness. There's freedom. I'm here for you!"

World Vision, as a ministry, exists to extend that message of "good news" to the poor. To be the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing hope, help, forgiveness, and freedom. We speak to power -- and they're not always happy about it. Those who would exploit the poor to strengthen their own position of power have much to fear from the Gospel. God is against them ... and He is for the poor!

We invite you to "join us in joy" this Christmas! Proclaim it from the rooftops. "God is for the poor!" Jesus, the Good Shepherd, came for us, the poor and broken! Hallelujah!

Friday, November 30, 2007

World AIDS Day 2007

Our "countdown clock" is now ticking away the final few minutes remaining before World AIDS Day 2007 is upon us. We hope you have learned from and been moved by our "World AIDS Day 2007 Countdown" site.

There is so much going on around the world to help bring attention to this global pandemic which orphans some 6,000 boys and girls every day. The only remaining question is, are we going to sit up and take notice?

And are we going to DO SOMETHING to help stem the tide of human suffering?

World Vision created this countdown site not merely to profile what others are doing in the battle against HIV and AIDS, but to encourage YOU to do something. God is calling each of us to play our part to help overcome this greatest global pandemic in human history.

Please click the "comments" link at the end of this post and let us know what you are doing this World AIDS Day to make a difference! (Also, if you took photos or video of an event near you and would like to share these with our readers, post it on YouTube or Flickr and let us know the link!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Youth Empowerment Summit - Slideshow

The legal fine print: "This conference was supported by and produced with funds from Award No. 2005-JL-FX-0142 awarded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice."

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Day 3: Wrapping Up and Moving Forward

The day began with a talk with Leslie, an 18-year-old woman from Chicago. She described the day before meeting with her state legislators. "They all met us in a humble and listening manner. Congressman Rush moved from behind his desk. He told us that he wasn't going to do all the talking." Leslie says that when she returns home she wants to treat her own community with more respect. She hopes to encourage other young people to get involved in advocacy too. She calls the past 15 weeks and the past few days in Washington D.C. "unforgettable. A once in a lifetime event. I've met people this week that I probably would've never met in my life."

Next up on the day's agenda was a choice of four workshops with topics including the environment and social justice, consensus building, oppression, and coalition building. The workshop on oppression—taught by one of the leaders from the Seattle group, Joseph Seia—offered a variety of exercises. One involved people crossing from one side of the room to the other when he read off a description that fit them: "Cross over if you're under 21; cross over if your parents didn't finish school; cross over if you think you're overweight." All these statements were followed by stereotypes or facts associated with this criteria. Joseph did this exercise to demonstrate that everyone is both oppressed and oppressor at some point in their lives.

After lunch, people boarded buses for sightseeing trips. Some chose to visit the Washington D.C. Zoo while others opted for museums and national monuments. People from different cities, who were strangers just two days ago, joked and laughed together like old friends.

The evening's program included a speech by Juan Pacheco, a World Vision employee who works with the Norther Virginia Community Mobilization Initiative. He described his journey from troubled teen to someone who now works with troubled teens. He encouraged the group to reach out to marginalized young people in their communities. "Put life into the things that you want to change", Juan urged the group. "Be the vehicle of hope for other young people in your community." "Change takes time," he told them—encouraging them to continue pushing forward with the work they have begun this past 15 weeks.

The group cheered enthusiastically for Juan's speech and gave him a standing ovation. One young woman was moved to tears as she thanked him. "Everything was a blessing. Just listening to them helps us to move on and continue in our community."

The feeling seems to be unanimous about the first Youth Empowerment Summit as well. As the young people now head for home, they realize that they have power to make a big difference and lasting impact in their cities, their states, and their world.

This conference was supported by and produced with funds from Award No. 2005-JL-FX-0142 awarded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Day 2: A Trip to Capitol Hill

The day began with role-playing. Each team met
an experienced policy advisor from World Vision who coached them and rehearsed with them in preparation for their visit to Capitol Hill.
Breanna, a member of the Chicago delegation, made her empassioned plea about teen violence during the role-playing. One staff member urged the youths to share personal stories, as these would have a greater impact on their listeners.

Each YES summit participant received a T-shirt specially made for the conference. The T-shirts were all made by the four-member Appalachia delegation. Here, Jewel, left, and Samantha, right (of the Washington, D.C., delegation), model the T-shirts.

Thus, the army in Y.E.S. T-shirts headed for Capitol Hill to let their voices be heard. On the way there, Casey, 14, and Rodney, 15, of the Appalachia delegation, shared that they were a bit nervous to meet their legislators, but also excited. Said Casey about the Youth Empowerment program: "It's a great opportunity to speak your voice and communicate." Rodney said that through the Youth Empowerment program, he sees that he has "a voice in making a difference."

The Albany, Ga., delegation rushed toward the Capitol building for the first meeting of the day with Georgia senator, Johnny Isakson. They discussed with him the importance of continuing funding for a teen abstinence education program.

All the teams had the opportunity to meet with at least one legislator from their state. The participants expressed that they had been heard and felt empowered through the process. Here, the Appalachia team approached Sen. Robert Byrd's office to discuss the problems in West Virginia of youth struggling with substance abuse and unemployment.

Sen. Norm Coleman listened attentively as a member of the Minneapolis/St. Paul team discussed the fact that youth in their area do not understand how much their own financial decisions affect their lives both in the present and future.

Presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton greeted members of New York's delegation.

Tacoma, Wash., team member Samuel discussed his team's recommendations with Sen. Patty Murray's assistant. The team wants the youth of Tacoma to be more involved in the city's lawmaking process. They proposed the creation of a Youth Advisory Board to be involved in such decisions.

The teams all had the opportunity to debrief on the day when they returned to the 4-H Conference grounds. "I felt like we were heard. They responded well," said one young woman. Laquasha, of the Chicago group, said, "They see youth from the inner city that care."

"I felt better about myself," said Rodney from Appalachia. "I was worried that they wouldn't hear my group. It was amazing."

The evening's finale came when the teams from New York, Albany, and Appalachia shared their media projects. The teams created these videos to showcase their communities--presenting the issues they are facing or what gives them hope. Each one met with thunderous applause. As the conference winds down tomorrow, each teen will have the opportunity to attend workshops in the morning. The afternoon is open for seeing many of the historic sites in Washington, D.C.

After today's events, the teams are making plans for the future. How can they keep building on the momentum they have gained over the past 15 weeks? That is the next step in their journey of advocacy.

This conference was supported by and produced with funds from Award No. 2005-JL-FX-0142 awarded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

World Vision's Youth Empowerment Summit Begins

In the sweltering heat of downtown Washington, D.C., in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, more than 40 teens boarded a bus to take them to World Vision's first Youth Empowerment Summit. Young people from New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Tacoma, were heading to Chevy Chase, Md., to the meet up with teams from Appalachia, Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Albany, Ga., and Washington, D.C.

High spirits prevailed as the bus made its way through D.C. neighborhoods. Paul Patu, leader of the Seattle delegation, tried to lead the bus in that perennial Seattle favorite, the Wave. The front of the bus, with the New York delegation, responded enthusiastically, but ironically, the back of the bus — filled with the Seattle and Tacoma delegations — did not join in. This was probably due to the fact that they had arrived at 8 a.m. after taking the red-eye flight from the Seattle/Tacoma airport.

At check-in, each youth participant received a gift bag, a folder with the schedule, and a map of Washington, D.C. Once they found their rooms, the first activity was dinner. Then they had some free time to relax and get to know one another better.

The Evening Program

The program kicked off with some light entertainment by DJ Cause and MC Effect. Then, to "break the ice," four staff members volunteered for a game similar to musical chairs. But when the music stopped, participants did not just lose their seat. Instead, Samantha, from the D.C. group, walked back and forth behind them with a cup of cold water, which she poured on the unfortunate staff person.

Finally, the evening's keynote speaker, Alexi Torres-Fleming, executive director of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice from the Bronx in New York, encouraged the youth: "You are too necessary for the world," she exhorted them, "[and] it's time for you to take your place as leaders.”

Looking Forward

Anel and Karas, both from the New York delegation, were inspired by Alexi's speech. They each pulled out several pages of key points they wanted to remember from what Alexi said, especially her comment: "God doesn't call the prepared. He prepares the called."

"I starred that," said Anel. "It really got to me that people are waiting for us."

She added that it gave her strength and hope when Alexi told them not to forget who they are. Karas said the speech made her realize that she "can't wait for someone else to come along."

Anel looks forward to being able to partner with teens from the other cities after this conference. "I want to come back next year," she said, "with 50 people! The more [people] we have, the more our communities are changing."

On June 28, it's on to the Capitol where each team will meet with its respective legislators and talk about issues in their own communities.

This conference was supported by and produced with funds from Award No. 2005-JL-FX-0142 awarded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

How Does Hope Show up in Your Community?

This question was put to more than 90 teenagers across the United States when they began World Vision's Youth Empowerment program 15 weeks ago. At the three-day Youth Empowerment Summit beginning today, each of the teams from nine cities across the United States will get the chance to answer.

"Youth being more active in the community overall is something that I'd like to see," says 20-year-old Samuel explaining why he wanted to be involved in World Vision's Youth Empowerment program. " To me, I felt that doing the YES summit would be a great way to be a part of our community in a different aspect and to be able to advocate for things that I believe should happen." One of those things he wants to happen includes young people having a bigger voice in the community.

Samuel first heard about the Youth Empowerment program through his volunteer work with Club Friday in Tacoma, Wash. When Deanna Neidlinger, a World Vision staff member told him about the program, he says, " I knew that was going to be fun. [I knew] I was going to learn a lot and I have."

A big part of the program for the Tacoma group has been discussing teens' interactions with the local businesses. Samuel sees the need for his group and other young people to be more active in community and city decision-making processes. The Youth Empowerment program provides tools in the lives of these teenagers to make this happen.

He currently works at a middle school in Tacoma, Wash. He helps run an after-school program and also acts as an assistant to teachers during the day. Samuel's answer to the question posed for each group's media project revolves around his work. "I see hope in the after-school programs concerning the kids and just giving them the attention that they need concerning academics."

He is excited for the visit to Washington D.C. Having never been, he looks forward to seeing some of the national monuments and meeting with other groups from all over the country. When his group returns to Tacoma, he looks for them to make an impact in the community. "I know that after we come back we're supposed to do something with the business leaders. I don't know what that's going to look like. I don't want to come back and say ok, cool that was a fun experience and go home and that'd be it. I want to do something where we [get] the kids involved."

Samuel says to people consider the Youth Empowerment program in the future, "If you believe you can change this community or you believe you're an important asset to your community, then this is something that you want to do."

Finally he thanks World Vision "Just for you guys supporting youth; just giving these kids—especially at Club Friday—a chance to talk about issues that they really feel in their heart. And to be able to give us a place—a forum—to be able to pursue that."

Ebony, an enthusiastic 14-year-old, exudes passion when she talks about World Vision's Youth Empowerment program. A fire burns in her to change the world. She calls it "the fire of God." She first learned about the program through her sister, Kanda, who works for World Vision. She says that she did not think much of the offer at first because as she says, "My teachers at school are like you should do stuff like that. But sometimes it's a little boring."

However, once she started the program she realized it was something special. "Oh my gosh, it is so great! It's just so super. I didn't know. We took out of it way more than I would expect. She describes Deanna Neidlinger, the leader of the program in Tacoma, Wash. as a great advocate for the teens in the program. "She knows we can do whatever we want to do and that's what she's all about!" Ebony says.

She continues on describing the team, "All the people that are in our youth program are just so amazing. They are so different—like we all come from different aspects [of life]." Part of the beauty of this program has been to encourage young from different walks of life to come together and learn from each other. They have spent 15 weeks in a safe environment in which to express their viewpoints and passions in a manner that makes it more likely they will be heard. The program gives them the tools so they can be their own advocates.

Of the upcoming conference, Ebony says, "D.C.'s going to be amazing! I just want to meet the other youths and see what they're like." Each group will meet with their state legislators while at the conference. Ebony confidently says that what she wants to tell them is, "Basically, to just reassure them that we're going to change the world."

She hopes that when the group returns from Washington D.C. that they will be able to bring everyone in the downtown Tacoma community together and come up with a plan of action that includes everyone. "[I want to] stop acting like we're three different tribes in the same neighborhood, you know," she says.

Ebony enthusiastically recommends the Youth Empowerment program. "I would tell anybody to do it. Anybody! Even if they think they're not leadership material. It doesn't matter. It's just so amazing!"

This conference was supported by and produced with funds from Award No. 2005-JL-FX-0142 awarded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How Does Hope Show up in Your Community?


"My group is amazing! All of us are really eager to go out and make a change," says Christopher, 16. "There's people in the group that feed the homeless. They are volunteering at shelters, trying to help children. You know, just helping out. This is just the beginning and we didn't have any help doing this. What can we do with World Vision and the whole city behind us to push us?"

Christopher can't say enough good things about World Vision's Youth Empowerment program, which he has been attending for the past 15 weeks. He recently sat down to talk about the program and his time with a group from Tacoma, Wash., as they prepared for their trip to the Washington, D.C., area.

At first, the group struggled to choose a topic. Christopher explains that they came up with their own unique solution: "We worked for two weeks to find one topic and we're like, OK, this isn't working. We finally came to the conclusion, why don't we just do them all? I mean, we do them all so well, and we love them, and we're so passionate." Each person got an opportunity to explain where they see hope.

"I'm with an amazing group of people. I love them. Each week is different," Christopher says, adding that the programs and topics they discuss bring them together and allow them to express their feelings in a safe environment. "No wondering, 'Will they be my friend next week?' or 'Will they be mad at me?' or 'Do they think I'm stupid?'" The Youth Empowerment program equipped Christopher and the team with tools to get their voices heard. "You can talk like a grown-up about topics and get your point across and be what you've got to be," he says.

Christopher first heard about the Youth Empowerment program through Club Friday. His mentor, Diana Young, also a World Vision employee, told him about an underage club in Tacoma that provided a safe environment for youth to mingle, listen to music, and dance. But, he says, it is more than just a club. It is a caring environment where the Youth Empowerment meetings have taken place for the past 15 weeks. It provides life tools — of which the Youth Empowerment program is a part — to youth. "That's part of my hope," Christopher says. "I want there to be a Club Friday in every city. It's a place to have fun, but it's also a place to get ready for the real world.

"They pretty much teach you how to fly," he says, adding with a laugh, "and then fly with you your first few days."


"I run an after-school program [in Auburn, Wash.] and I've worked there all year," says 19-year-old Natalie. "I like being involved with youth. So when I heard about [World Vision's Youth empowerment program] I wanted to get involved. I thought it would be interesting to meet people that do have a vision."

The interview for the program was a different type of interview for Natalie. She felt the staff asked really good questions such as what would you change in history if you could. Natalie answered that she would not want to change anything. "I think it all happened for a reason and we wouldn't be where we are today [without it happening]. Learning from it is more important."

The other question that stood out to her was what would you change in society right now. She explains that she has noticed that many people forget the United States as a potential mission field, instead focusing on Third World countries. "I think it's just an opportunity—there's so much youth and so much talent and people being neglected."

Her faith is a crucial aspect in her involvement in the program. "I think God puts you where you need to be. And I think if you have Jesus in your heart then he's going to use you wherever you are."

Natalie looks forward to meeting all the people from the other groups during the Summit. "I think it's kind of important to see where everyone's coming from. I think it'll be a really positive thing." She continues, "I think people will learn. I know that people are excited." Meeting the state legislators is another thing that Natalie looks forward to. "I think my only expectation of them," she says, "is for them to be really open and hear what we're saying."

When the summit in Washington D.C. concludes, Natalie hopes that the Tacoma group can "change some of the views that business owners and just some of the older community have about the youth. I think that their vision is really skewed," she says, then adds, "and for good reason. They're going off of facts that happened [in the past], but at the same to be able to say ok, well guess what, yeah that was a youth but there's also these youths too. They're all different. I mean look at us individuals instead of the category." She adds that the teens also need to look at the business owners as individuals.

"Putting yourself out there is really the hardest thing because I think that people just really stay in their comfort zone," Natalie says. "There's so many ways that you can touch people and change their lives. Love is a powerful weapon."

This conference was supported by and produced with funds from Award No. 2005-JL-FX-0142 awarded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Monday, June 25, 2007

How Does Hope Show up in Your Community?

This question was put to more than 90 teenagers across the United States when they began World Vision's Youth Empowerment program 15 weeks ago. At the three-day Youth Empowerment Summit beginning on June 27, 2007, each of the teams from nine cities across the United States will get the chance to answer.

Natalie, a 19-year-old participant from Tacoma, Wash. says, "Youth does care. We want to be heard." The Youth Empowerment program was designed to provide young people with the tools to enable them to be a voice for their communities.

For the past 15 weeks, each of the nine teams has learned about themselves, their team members, their city, and how they can make a difference. Now they will meet other teens from across the country and learn about their communities and the issues facing them.

At the conference, the youths will have the opportunity to discuss problems affecting their neighborhoods—such as teen violence—with their congressional representatives. They will learn from national speakers and workshop leaders about problems related to poverty and how they can be involved in the solution. Finally, they will have time to go sightseeing on Capitol Hill.

Daily coverage of this event—including interviews with participants and the day's activities—will be available on this site. Be sure to check the website often to see what is happening at this exciting event and to find out how hope is alive in communities across the United States.

This conference was supported by and produced with funds from Award No. 2005-JL-FX-0142 awarded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Make a Difference ... for One Child

Share Your Own Sponsorship Story: Click the "Comments" Link Below

For more videos or to sponsor a child:

One of the coolest things about World Vision isn't simply that the Christian humanitarian organization helps large numbers of people affected by disasters or humanitarian crises ... it's that we have created a way for people who care about those who are suffering to get connected to a single child who needs their help.

There are a number of ways we do this, but one of the most tried and true is called "child sponsorship." When sponsors find a child in a developing country to connect to, not only do they provide desperately needed financial support which resources a program, designed with full participation by community leaders to strategically meet the needs of that community's children, to provide things like healthcare, education, nutritious food, clean water and sanitation ... but they also create a one-to-one relationship with that child which benefits both the donor and the child (as well as her family and community). By praying for each other, communicating regularly via e-mail or postal mail, and even the occasional visit, for many this relationship has blossomed into a lifelong growing experience more precious than money.

Personally, my daughter Mandy and I saw the benefits of sponsorship firsthand when we visited Gracia, our sponsored child in the Congo, last summer. It was one of those life-changing experiences which neither of us will ever forget.

Our creative team here at World Vision has just developed a series of unique new videos highlighting the joys and benefits of child sponsorship. I have attached the very first one at the top of this blog entry. We are planning on launching it on our homepage later today ... but I wanted you to be the first to see it! I would appreciate you posting any comments you might have about this video.

And also be sure to share it with your friends. They can even go on YouTube and view it there, rate it, provide their comments or share it with their network of friends.

And, let them know about how fun and easy it is to sponsor a child on the World Vision Web site! You can search the online photo profiles of thousands of available children in dozens of developing world countries for that perfect child God has selected for you to connect with. (You can even search by birth date!)

Ever think the enormous problems of the world are too big to do anything about? Think again. You are just one person ... but you can make a difference in the life of a child who needs your help!


We invite you to share your own story about the joys of sponsorship on this blog. Please click the "comments" link below to send us your story or to read the stories shared by other sponsors.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

10 Years on the Web ... a Decade of Connecting to the Poor

Ten years ago this morning, I pressed a really scary big button. It was the button that made World Vision's United States Web site first go "live" on the World Wide Web at

World Vision's first home page boasted 12 links and focused on the famine in North Korea. Today's homepage has 212 links and is a gateway to nearly everything World Vision has to offer.

As an editor with the world's largest and oldest Christian relief and development organization, I had been working with a team of folks for more than a year to turn our first Web site from dream to reality. A massive famine in North Korea was in full swing, and this added just the sense of urgency we needed to actually get online, ahead of schedule. Our very first Web site brought photos and stories about this crisis in a little-understood part of the world, to the living rooms of average Americans who cared and who responded compassionately. We were astounded by the response.

Ten years later, I am taking a few moments for a deep breath and a little reflection. The North Korea famine was just one in a string of crises, where we were able to turn to our Internet presence for rapid dissemination of critical information. In many large emergencies (such as Hurricane Mitch which devasted Latin America in November of 1998, or the Asian Tsunami of December 26, 2004) our Web site has been our first line of communication with the world. Frequently we have been able to go live with critical information within two or three hours of the time a large emergency strikes.

One of the really exciting things about our work here with the internet is how it has accelerated exponentially during the past three years. Three years ago I wrote a presentation, celebrating the fact that during our first seven years we had more than 6 million visits to our Web site. I just rechecked that number last night, and during the subsequent three years, through today, we've had an additional 12+ million visits. Our traffic has quadrupled.

And recently we celebrated a landmark: our 100,000th child sponsored online on our Web site! Nonetheless our current rate of online sponsorship exceeds 30,000 children each year. It's entirely possible we could hit 200,000 childen sponsored, late next year.

In recent years, I have actually seen many of our metrics actually double.

But even that's not the most exciting thing. The most exciting thing, to me, is the way God is using World Vision's internet presence for good in the world, to make a significant impact on the dire poverty and disease that is still the #1 problem besetting the planet. People like you and me who can actually do something about these problems, working together, are being mobilized by World Vision's internet presence at unprecedented rates. For instance, online "opt-in" subscriptions to our e-mail and internet news and resources have increased sixty-fold during the past six years!

To me, the internet has always been merely a tool to demonstrate the amazing work that compassionate people are doing throughout the world to reach out to children and their families who are impoverished and hurting. And not only that, it is a tool to actually connect people who care, with people who need care.

And, 10 years in, I feel like we are barely scratching the surface. The potential for the internet to revolutionize the way we go about achieving our mission is phenomenal, and so far largely untapped.

Practically every meeting I have attended during the past 10 years, we end up sitting around the table and dreaming: "Wow, wouldn't it be cool if we could do this ..." or "Imagine, if we could use the internet to ..."

I am grateful to God that many of those dreams have come true on our Web site during the past 10 years. Most have not ... yet. But, Lord willing, they will!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

World Vision Congo Video

Several months ago on this blog it was my privilege to share stories about the summer week that my daughter Amanda and I were able to spend in the Democratic Republic of Congo with World Vision's amazing staff there.

It took awhile to finish, but I am pleased to present a little video that shows some of what we saw.

The video was shot on a Sony digital camera, uploaded to my Dell laptop and compiled using Adobe Premiere and Microsoft Movie Maker software.

In addition, it contains a sequence of still shots which have been animated by Adobe PhotoShop Elements 4.

Let me know what you think. Thanks for visiting. And don't forget about the children in the Congo who desperately need our help and prayers during this crucial period in their history!

- Larry Short (World Vision Web Editor)