Monthly Archives: August 2012

Kenya and South Sudan: A Photo Essay on Beauty, Pain, and Resilience

Last month, I traveled with four incredible individuals to World Concern’s project sites in Kenya and South Sudan. In order to see numerous projects and meet a variety of beneficiaries, the majority of our trip was spent in planes, cars, buses, and LandRovers (thanks God for these shock resistant vehicles- 99% of our journey involved jostling over hours of dirt roads). While in Kenya, we visited five or so villages (many of them Internally Displaced Peoples) in the Eastern part of the country. Due to the largest drought in the Horn of Africa in the last 60 years, these pastoralist communities have lost all of their livestock and are now living off of Red Cross Rations and minimal water soures. World Concern’s hope is to assist these people with the basic needs of survival (food and clean water) and then empower the people to sustain themselves. The following pictures will tell the stories of some of World Concern’s sustainable development projects. Moving beyond handouts.

South Sudan, the newest country in the world, is rich in resources, culture, and possibility. The majority of its population is starting their lives, and their country for that matter, from scratch. Many fled the country due to persecution and are now returning to begin their lives anew. Traveling through South Sudan, you can sense the excitement and sense of possibilty. Unfortuantely, the country has little to no infrastructure and many people are without any sort of job or educational training. The current World Concern field staff, various other NGO workers, and South Sudanese people will be the shapers and builders of this country that stands on the brink of an incredibly hopeful and successful future. Partner with me in sharing their stories!

These photos share the beauty, depravity, successes, and difficulties of the projects and people of World Concern. Though their circumstances, language, and environment are unfamiliar to us in the states, these are the stories of humans. Humans who have families, siblings, frustrations, joys- whose unique and valuable stories deserve to be heard.

Ad for drinking lean water in Balambala, Kenya

Jonathan Young (, Farrah (WC fieldworker staff) and Derek Sciba (WC Marketing and Donor Relations Director) talking logistics.

A beautiful woman in Balamabala. THE COLORS. stunning.

Getting into it.

Water Tank, Kenya.

Empty Jerrycan.

Barbed wire hospital compound. Saka, Kenya (stepped on a HUGE thorn here that went through my shoe- good thing we were at a hospital!)

One of the many vehicles that we traveled in- these things can endure most anything! (except when the battery dies every time we turn them off and we then have to repeatedly push start the engine..)

Apparently this was not an affective method of protection. Hospital. Saka, Kenya.

This man’s only source of income is a small stipend to do medical assessments for World Concern. On this day, he had just brought a man into the hospital by wheelbarrow. The man was seriously ill and believed to have Malaria. He hopes to one day have enough training to work at the hospital for a larger wage.

assessing for malnutrition.

A mother and her six children in their hut in Benane, Kenya (an IDP community). They walked over 200km after losing hundreds of livestock in the drought. This family is currently surviving off of Red Cross rations.

The family hut. Everyone sleeps and lives here.

The mother is worried about her son, who is continually drooling.

A common compound in Benane. The land is drought-ridden, thorn infested, and unforgiving.

School in Benane, Kenya. Check out the anatomy painting. Very informative.

Layin’ it all out there.

These children are now able to attend school because they no longer have to spend hours of their day traveling to water sources. They are also healthier due to accessibility to clean water.

Local water source. Benane, Kenya.

Yes, people drink this.

World Concern supported water harvesting in Benane, Kenya.

Garissa Staff doing their thing.

Jonathan and a Siqley village leader. Walking to the new farm. Kenya

Farmers in training. Sustainable work at its finest. Siqley, Kenya

The farmers (women were farming just behind them!). Note the orange henna beards.

Siqley mosque leader and his family. Planting a banana tree.

Beautiful girl in the Siqley village.

Latrine juxtaposition

World Concern water harvesting tank built by Siqley locals.

Self-explanatory (Eugene Cho. Founder of One Day’s Wages.

VIP! (ventilated improved pit latrine) Kenya

Confident Children out of Conflict (CCC). Juba, South Sudan

Culture clash

CCC kitchen

Lietnomh, South Sudan

Lietnomh World Concern Staff.

Family in Lietnomh. Farmers and beneficiaries of World Concern’s training and loan programs.

Check out that corn.

World Concern trained mechanic. Largest smile in Lietnomh, South Sudan

This man has opened a fish farm at the market because of a loan from World Concern. Lietnomh, South Sudan

Fish fat balls

fish farmer

World Concern loan recipient and member of one of many savings groups in Kuajok, South Sudan.

Derek at work. What a guy.

Kuajok, South Sudan

18 year old mother and Tea Shop owner in Kuajok. Bahtika was able to open her tea shop due to a loan from World Concern.

Bahtika and her shop

Kuajok farmer and recipient of World Concern loans.

For more information on the work I will be doing as World Concern’s Africa Communication Liaison, read this.

For information on how to become a monthly partner, click here.

Thanks for your continued support as I am still raising my budget. It is my goal to be living in the field by this November. In order to reach this goal, I need about $900 more a month. Sounds like a lot, but if only 18 people give $50 a month, the goal will be reached!

Asante Sana!, Kelly







Strange Words: A Conversation at the Lake


I am fairly certain that God just spoke to me through the voice of a 55+ year old man.

I know that his name is Alex. And I know that Alex came and sat down somewhat abnormally close to me while I was sitting (unknowingly in a pile of sap) under a tree at Greenlake, writing thank you notes to donors and people watching. Greenlake on a sunny day is the best place for people watching. Shortly after sitting down, Alex asked me if I was a writer. I responded by saying, “Well, yes, no, not really… I am writing thank you notes. But I like writing and I am going into journalism.” He then asked what type of journalism, and I described my work with World Concern. He then asked if World Concern was a Christian organization. I said, “yes”. Alex then moved a few feet closer, because our conversation was apparently just beginning.

Alex continued to ask me very difficult, but well thought out questions. He seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say- he was open to learning and listening. Without intending to, Alex taught me a great deal about listening to others.
Here’s the crazy part. After the sun began to set, we had already spent hours (which felt like mere minutes) talking about God, love, writing, and the work I will be doing in Africa. By this time, Alex seemed to know more about me, or what I perceive to be the vulnerable side of me, than some of my friends- maybe even more than I know of myself.

He asked me about my greatest fears and inhibitions- as a writer and as an individual moving to Africa for two years. I told him that I always love the idea of writing, and want to write, but struggle to make it happen. I have this internal dialogue of wanting to seclude myself inside and write all day, while also wanting to take part in life being lived outside. I also shared my fear of being alone, unknown, separate from my friends, and distanced by life experiences. For some reason, I felt absolutely comfortable opening up about my vulnerabilities with a complete stranger. In fact, there was no point in the conversation where I felt uncomfortable. I was confident in sharing my opinion, as well as sharing my weaknesses.

And boy did Alex speak into these weaknesses.

There is no doubt in my mind that God spoke to me through Alex today. Alex, a stranger. A screenplay writer. A gourmet chef. A teacher. A 55+ year old man. A lover of people and God.

Alex affirmed every fear, every anxiety, and every piece of me that I am critical of—- and he did this without me naming all of my fears/insecurities. I say none of this to put myself on a pedestal, because I was in disbelief as he was speaking, but Alex said that I have an extremely high level of consciousness, a balance of emotions, and a pure heart. He said that when he sees me, he sees love. He even said that when he sees me, he sees Jesus. Lord, thank you for this incredibly humbling affirmation.

Alex told me that he knows that I just want to love others, that I do not see strangers, and I try not to judge. Mind you, he is tearing up while saying some of these things and this is the first time he has met me. Alex is obviously a lover. A lover of God as well as every living creature on earth. He, deeply desires for all humans to live to their greatest God-given potential. To pursue their talents, desires, and God given abilities- because in His image, we are perfect.

You know when someone compliments you and it feels forced? Or maybe they just said your photos are beautiful because you are taking on the role of a photographer and it was the “right” thing to say? It did not feel like this from Alex. He wanted to affirm me, because he saw things in me that he believed needed to be spoken. He told me that he could see that I am pursuing my talents and desires, and that although friendships and relationships are important- it is good to remember that living into my heart’s callings and convictions is priority. My true friends will remain true- no matter the distance.

Alex also mentioned that spending time being angry, worried, and nervous is not how God intended us to live. He reminded me that these are a waste of thought space, because God desires good things for each and every one of our lives.

Alex was a Godsend. Though I am so ready to be living and working in Africa and I 100% believe in sustainable development- empowering others to transform communities and work ourselves out of a job- I needed to hear the words of this Greenlake stranger.

Lord, thank you for opening my eyes and ears to hear, and for the creative and beautiful ways in which you reveal your perfect, merciful, gracefilled, forgiving, sacrificial love to us. May your love- that is so much bigger than I ever give you credit for, continue to ruminate in me and exude through every pore on my body. Amen.

People have Friends.

During my time in South Sudan, during 25+ hours of bumpy dirt roads, I read the book Love Does by Bob Goff (shoutout to Courtney Jung). For those of you who haven’t heard of Bob, you should probably look him up. He is a loving, whimsical, creative, selfless, passionate, successful, go-getter. His book is a humbly inspiring compilation of his incredible (because he chooses to love incredibly) life experiences and lessons. In a chapter titled ‘Jailbreak’, Bob writes about the judicial work he is doing in Uganda. With the help of many other talented lawyers, Bob spends hours researching and putting consistent pressure on the Ugandan court system. Because of this, he and many others have assisted in freeing countless youth from prison. According to the Ugandan government, there is no money to give the teen prisoners a court hearing (mind you, many of their offenses are either false or petty crimes). Without Bob’s initiation, many of these Ugandan teens would be spending the rest of their lives in prison.

What I am trying to get at is, according to Bob, without showing up to the jails and building relationships with the convicts, none of this transformation would be happening. I was struck most by this line-

Organizations have programs. People have friends. Friends trump programs every time.

whoa. Reality check.

As a notorious planner (I recently upgraded to a Moleskin and it is rocking my world), I could spend days and lists organizing a program that will potentially ‘fix a problem’. And although programs are important, and organization are often necessary, friendship and relationship-building has got to be a priority. That’s what Jesus did, right?

I can’t recall ever reading of a time when he held meetings and came up with an indepth plan of how he would love others- he just showed up, grabbed people’s hands, and made friends.
He holds our unwashed and dirty hands and models how he wants us to pursue each other.

Spending time with World Concern fieldworkers the past couple weeks, I was crawling-in-my-skin excited to see that this is the way they operate.Yes, WC has programs and organized plans- these are necessary in order to assist a large number of people living in difficult circumstances and locations. But before these programs are put into place, the staff makes friends- they build relationships. Upon visiting a village, I was consistently impressed that the fieldworker staff knew the names and stories of the community members. I watched them ask people about their health, family, and needs as if they were catching up with an old friend.

This man is now a mechanic, and is teaching others, because of training he has received from his friends at World Concern.

During my second week in Africa, I traveled around the lush, newly established, underdeveloped, resource-rich, country of South Sudan. On our final day in the country, we visited a town called Kuajok. The population of Kuajok is majority returnees- those who have returned home post the war. In other words, they return to no home, no job, no livestock, etc.- they are starting from scratch.

Walking around one of the markets, we were able to meet

This beautiful 18-year old mother was able to open a tea shop because of World Concern’s rent-to-own program

many of World Concern’s rent-to-own* beneficiaries. These people run a variety of shops and businesses around the town. Let me tell you, Helen (a Kenyan who moved to South Sudan to work for World Concern) could have introduced us to every person in every shop. She wanted to show us each chair, tea pot, and cup that World Concern helped donate. She would have gladly introduced us to each beneficiary. And she is not even a local. Helen knows everyone in Kuajok because she is their friend.

In my opinion, development work doesn’t get much more genuine and beautiful than this.


*[rent-to-own: World Concern will rent out an item such as a sewing machine, cooking tools, ox plow, etc. for a few months until the renter is able to pay of the item and keep it for themself]

World Concern’s rent-to-own program also includes bikes.

Yes, this is a World Concern bike. Personalized would be an understatement.

If we don’t do it, who will?

Today I got an email from a lovely lady whom I traveled with last week in South Sudan. She told me this story about her time in the Addis Ababa airport:

I met an American family from Minneapolis who are going to be building an orphanage right outside of Kuajok. Of course, all I could think about was the sweet baby that was left in the market and the miracle it would be if there were an orphanage there. The husband and wife brough their 4 kids so they could make a family decision. The oldest daughter, a senior in high school, got violently sick. They were in a tent, outside of town by the river, pouring down rain- which we know about well- and the daughter is face first in the mud vomitting when a giant snake slithers by. The mom said she lost it and decided she would never go back and never put her kids in that place again… but the kids said, in the airport as we sat sipping coke, “But mom- we can’t base our decision on our own physical comfort. If we don’t do it, who will?”

I consider it an honor and privilege to be raising a significant budget in order to spend two years living in Africa. From the brief time I have spent in the field, I know that this will not be a life of physical, emotional, or spiritual comfort. Yet, I also know that I have been presented with the opportunity to be a voice for those who often have none.

If not me, who will?

If you are interested in partnering with the transforming work of World Concern, check out this link:

Corn and Dignity

I have never had to survive off of rations or any sort of relief.

There have always been at least a couple of edible food items in my cupboards and clean water running from an easily accessible faucet. And even if my cupboards happened to be bare, the store down the street probably has at least ten food items for a price I can afford- or there is a good chance my eccentric neighbors would be willing to feed me. Knowing my stomach, when I am hungry, I tend to want food right away. When I am thirsty, it is rare that I would turn down a free drink.

All this to say, I recognize that it is not fair for me to claim that I would prefer to be empowered rather than enabled. To be trained for a job or educated rather than relying on relief in order to live to see the next day. What I do know, is that empowering people is tranformative and sustaining.

Although World Concern (WC) offers relief assistance in areas of crisis (regions in which we have been rooted in the community for many years), at the core, WC wants to do more than enable people to just get by, never knowing what the next day will bring.

Farmer and Fish business owner after receiving a loan from World Concern to start his shop in the local market. He is now able to provide an income for his family and hopes to one day own a fish business. Mind you, those are fish fat balls in front of him. Not the most pleasant smelling interview I’ve ever had…

What if, rather than offering our skills to temporarily help people in the areas that they are hurting, we work to empower the people to help themselves?
Consider, instead of just delivering food to a hungry village, we also take time to employ locals to train the community to be farmers- to help them get established by assisting the community with purchasing tools and seed?

What if, instead of delivering clean water, we hire those in the community to build wells and educate them about the importance of water sanitation?

Though I cannot say for a fact, I believe I would much rather learn to fend for myself than rely on the assistance of others (which doesn’t always come) to provide for my family the rest of my life.

This is where sustainable solutions begin. Imagine the possibilities of transformation.

This is the heart of World Concern.

Woman in Lietnhom, South Sudan. World Concern has assisted her with tools to improve her farm and feed her family.

As I observed at every one of the project sites in Kenya, World Concern does more than walk into a community and say, “Hello. Here is what we think you need.” WC asks the people. The people of Siqley, the pastoralist community that I mentioned in my previous blog, were more than willing to share. This primarily Somali-Muslim village decided that they wanted to move from years of living as pastoralists to taking up agriculture. They had seen ways that other villages were surviving off of the land and thought, “We should try that!” In Somali culture, farming, especially for women, is a last resort. When we arrived on site, the land was being tilled and the women were working! Though they knew nothing about growing crops, or even where the corn they have eaten their entire lives comes from, everyone was ready to learn. This is a community empowered.

As they continue with their training and their seeds slowly grow into corn, peas, bananas, tomatoes, and other life-giving produce, the people of Siqley are looking forward to being able to feed themselves and eventually make an income selling produce in local markets. This is huge. These are skills that are lasting and transformative. Empowering gives people dignity, purpose, and hope.

One of the many VIP latrines funded by World Concern and built by the community.

Though the community is on the right path, World Concern does not want to stop at farming. It is the local staff’s goal to soon educate people about clean water, health and sanitation. This includes giving them the tools to build their own latrines and water tanks. The ultimate goal is to empower people to the point that World Concern is able to leave, and they will sustain as a holistically tranformed community on their own.

I was so excited to be able to visit this village the first week they began their training. I saw the joy, curiousity, and dignity in their eyes.

Try to think back on the first decent meal you cooked (no, cereal doesn’t count). Now multiple that proud feeling times the idea that you can now survive to see tomorrow. And maybe even the next day. Now extend that multiplication across the many villages and communities that World Concern works in around the world. Get the picture?

If you are interested in partnering monthly with World Concern, and the work I will be doing to share the stories of those they benefit, I’d love to have you join the team!


My general impressions of my time in the field thus far….

I am impressed.

After visiting several World Concern (WC) projects, I am evermore impressed by the work that WC is doing.

Farmers doing their thing in Siqley

Prior to the assistance of WC, this previously pastoralist community had never planted a single seed. Due to the drought, these people lost the majority of their livestock (as many as hundreds of animals) and have since been relying on food assistance and donations.
Due to their initiation, this longstanding pastoral community is now switching over to agriculture. This even includes the women

Siqley farmer and Mosque leader that I spent time interviewing.

(seriously friends, this is a huge deal in the Somali culture)! The Siqley community is able to see the value in taking on agriculture so that they can farm their own land provide for their immediate needs. They hope to one day cultivate enough produce that they can travel to local markets and bring home an outside income.

The work of the people of Siqley is clearly sustainable, involves every community member, focuses on holistic transformation, and breathes empowering life, courage, and hope into the community’s future.



I am impressed by the resiliance of the people whom World Concern serves.

Woman and her six children in their hut in Benane.

This mother lives in Benane, an Internal Displaced Person’s (IDP) camp in Eastern Kenya, with her six children and husband (who moves between her hut and his other wife’s). Like many others in Benane, due to the drought, her family lost all of their livestock. When she realized that they had no other option, this woman packed up her six young children and traveled hundreds of kilometers (yup, kilometers- I’m becoming truly African) in search of food and water

.This mother and all six children now live in this one bedroom hut- one hut among many in this crowded IDP camp. They have no privacy, no livestock, no sources of income, and are currently surviving on Red Cross rations and the food they are able to get from local vendors with a World Concern voucher. Despite the fact that they are hungry and this mother is unable to provide for her family, she still has hope for her children.
World Concern is working in Benane to establish latrines, clean water, medical assistance, and agricultural training for people such as this family. We desire to help instill a spirit of dignity in the lives of these beautiful people in order that they can view life beyond what they will eat the next day.


I am impressed by the WC fieldworkers.

As Derek Sciba, the Marketing Director at WC, often mentions, “They are [truly] World Concern’s heros.”

This is Roseylne. Roselyne manages the Garissa team. Roselyne is not only impressive because she is a woman in leadership, but because she knows everything about every project she oversees. I had the opportunity of visiting World Concern’s project sites around Garissa with Roselyne.It was a humbling experience watching her working with the people in communities- she knew most by name and took the time to speak to each of them. Like all of the others on her team, Roseylne sacrifices working long hours, away from her family, and driving many a bumpy road in order to live out her convictions to serve “the least of these” (Matthew 25).

Over my next few blogs, I will be highlighting and expanding on the reasons why I am increasingly impressed by World Concern. More importantly, I will be sharing more stories of the beneficiaries and their impressions.

THANK YOU for your continued prayers and support. They are felt. They are coveted. They are needed. Thus far, our team has remained safe and healthy. We feel overwhelmingly blessed to share with and learn from those that World Concern serves. I look forward to telling you more over the next few weeks.

Asante sana,