Monthly Archives: March 2013

That Little Thing Called H20 // World Water Day

You guessed it, today is WORLD WATER DAY!

To be completely honest, when sitting down to write this blog (with a cup of coffee, made of water, of course)…I stared at my blank computer screen for a good 30 minutes. Despite the fact that water is important, I had nothing to say. I felt that anything I wrote would be redundant…I mean, there are so many water campaigns bombarding us on a daily basis. What else is left for me to say? What can I possibly write that will stand out from everything you’ve already heard?

But that’s exactly the point.

It doesn’t matter if it’s redundant. Water is important. In fact, it’s more than important. It’s a necessity. It’s crucial. It’s life-giving. It’s powerful. It can lead to beauty, healthy, growth and new life. It can also lead to destruction and death.

It is used for cooking, electricity, bathing, firefighting,………

People even write songs about it. Like this. And this.

It symbolizes peace, fluidity, and relaxation.

It covers 70% of our planet’s surface and makes up 70% of the adult body!

The United States uses about 346,000 million gallons of fresh water every day. (whoa)

It is a natural substance that I, without hesitation, consume gallons of on a daily basis.

Yet, there are humans, livestock, land, and crops that go without clean water, or any water at all, for months on end. Some go without clean water their entire lives.

Painting in Garissa, Kenya promoting drinking clean water.

Through my work with World Concern, I have been exposed to the painful effects that the lack of clean, accessible water can have on a community. I have heard countless stories of individuals who spend the majority of their waking hours traveling to water sources, only to find them contaminated. Their long journeys to and from a dirty water source often leave them without time to earn a living wage and properly care for their families. Kijoolu and Kiraposho are examples of such stories.

I have also heard countless stories of individuals who drink, wash, and cook from a Typhoid and Amoeba infested water source because it is the only option.

Dirty river in Garissa. Prior to World Concern's recent installation of water tanks, this was the community's only water source.

Dirty river in Garissa. Prior to World Concern’s recent installation of water tanks, this was the community’s only water source.

Washing in the dirty river.

Washing in the dirty river.

Contaminated water source in a village in Olkinyei, Kenya. Before the recent installation of a water pump, this was the option.

Contaminated water source in a village in Olkinyei, Kenya. Before the recent installation of a water pump, this was the only option.

Even living in Nairobi, a bustling city with plenty of water sources, I walk by individuals bathing in and drinking from the rancid, dark brown, murky river that runs through the city’s gutters and streets almost on a daily basis.

Garissa, Kenya

Garissa, Kenya

Okay – Yes I have to use a water filter and I don’t brush my teeth from the faucet, but I have no idea what it feels like to carry a 50 gallon jug of water on my back…daily. For miles on end. Sometimes multiple times a day.

Jerry can. Garissa, Kenya.

Empty Jerry can. Garissa, Kenya.

I also have no idea what it feels like to go a day without water (I am almost embarrassed to say this. I think I will do a water fast soon to experience a small sense of solidarity with our beneficiaries…). *

Here’s the good news. 

World Concern is doing our best to combat the lack of clean and accessible water for thousands of individuals around the world.

Currently, this is what we’re up to:

1. Partnering with communities to build their own water sources such as: deep wells, shallow wells, pumps, roof catchments, boreholes, berkads, water pans, and rainwater harvesting.

Water tank in Eastern Kenya

Water tank in Eastern Kenya

Water pan in Narok, Kenya.

Water pan in Narok, Kenya. Though it is not visible here, there is a large fence around the water pan to protect it from wild animals and contamination.

deep well in Chad

This picture was recently sent to me from Harako, Chad. These people are collecting clean water for the first time ever. I’m not kidding. Prior to a few weeks ago, the people of Harako had never had a reliable water source. They would gather water by digging into the sand with their hands. Because the majority of families have no pit latrines, the ground and water were unbelievably contaminated. World Concern sponsored the drilling of this deep well, which will produce 1,902 gallons of water per hour! This is also a great platform to teach hygiene and sanitation.

Another photo taken of the deep well in Harako, Chad. Photo cred: World Concern staff, Chad.

Another photo taken of the deep well in Harako, Chad. Photo cred: World Concern staff, Chad.

Berkad, Somalia

World Concern berkad in Somalia. Photo Cred: World Concern staff, Somalia.

pump, olkinyei

Pumping away in Olkinyei.

Large water tank. Garissa, Kenya.

Large water tank. Garissa, Kenya.

2. Educating communities about the importance of drinking, cleaning, and cooking with clean water. [Because many of the people we work with have never had access to clean water, they’ve never been aware of a life without consistent diarrhea and other uncomfortable waterborne diseases.] This includes the installation of latrines and hygiene education, also known as WASH (another acronym for ya!).

Fahad says, "We love clean drinking water!"

Fahad says, “We love clean drinking water!” Garissa, Kenya.

Gettin' after it. Thirsty, anyone?

Gettin’ after it. Thirsty, anyone?

Promoting hygiene. A hand washing tank outside of a World Concern pit latrine.

Promoting hygiene. A hand washing tank outside of a World Concern pit latrine.

VIP: Ventilated Imporved Pit Latrine.

VIP: Ventilated Improved Pit Latrine.

3. Partnering with communities to install water storage and rainwater catchments to be used for agricultural purposes.

Access to water means growing bananas!

Access to water means growing bananas!

If you’re reading this and feeling numb, don’t fret. In a sense, your numbness may be an affirmation that this news does not shock you – you are aware! Rather than feeling guilty about all of the clean water you can consume at any moment of the day, I encourage you to really consider how you can give clean water to just one other person. Start with one. One is huge. Progress from there.

Today, I also urge you to consider moving beyond awareness. Check out and donate to World Concern’s various water projects, pray, research, and spread the word. Maybe even go without a cup of water for a few hours.

Knowledge is power, but if it doesn’t move from our head to our hands, lives will not be changed.

 * Ironically enough, an hour after writing this post, I came down with a 12 hour flu. Needless to say, I had no more water in my system. I was super thankful to be near clean water sources during such an uncomfortable sickness.

Humanitarian Worker Initiation…The Language of Acronyms // So, What is an FSA?

Over the course of my last few blogs, you’ve probably heard me mention Financial Service Associations (FSAs) more than once.

FSAs are a significant piece of World Concern’s work. They embody and provide a clear example of our desire: to empower people to live a life of hope, opportunity, and dignity – with the goal that they will in turn empower those around them. To summarize: FSA’s ROCK.

If you haven’t heard of an FSA, you’ve most likely heard of a Village Bank. Let me break it down for you…

FSAs operate in un-banked rural communities who cannot afford the services provided by the mainstream financial institutions due to distance, infrastructure, economic capacity, and lack of knowledge. They run at the community level and are owned and managed by community members who buy shares.

FSAs are wholly owned by the shareholders who have voting rights and ultimate decision-making authority. [This is my favorite part.]

Meet Sogoo's FSA board.

Meet Sogoo’s FSA board members.

FSAs help alleviate poverty by providing individuals with a safe place to save their money (prior to joining an FSA, members often have no choice but to hide money in their thatch roofs – leaving them, and their savings, in an extremely vulnerable position).

FSAs offer cost effective and accessible financial services to the share owners (such as loans and a variety of micro-credit opportunities).

Inside the bank.

Inside the bank.

Rev. Jonathan, Chairman of FSA Sogoo, breaking down the organization.

Rev. Jonathan, Chairman of FSA Sogoo, breaking down the organization.

inside the bank

World Concern has over 9 FSAs in Kenya alone.

Rather than continuing to talk numbers (though very important, let’s be honest, they are not my forte), check out some of World Concern’s FSA beneficiaries in Sogoo, Kenya by viewing the video and photos below.

These are examples of the transforming impact of promoting community ownership and responsibility.

It’s an honor to introduce you to Alfred, his wife Lily, and their youngest son Gilbert. And their cows.

Alfred and Lily outside their home. They hope to take out another loan from FSA to build a permanent structure.

Alfred and Lily outside their tin-roof home. They plan to take out another loan from FSA to build a more permanent structure.

Gilbert, The youngest of the family. Nothing's stoppin this kid. Through FSA, he's been able to attend university. Once graduated, he plans to get a job and invest his money into FSA to ensure food security and a stable future for his family.

Gilbert, the last born in the family. Nothin’s stopping this kid. Because of FSA he’s been able to attend university in Nairobi. Once graduated, Gilbert plans to get a job and invest his money into his own FSA account. This way he will “ensure food security and a stable future” for his family.

Lily holding yogurt from one of the dairy cows she bought through an FSA loan. If you’ve never had Sogoo yogurt, you’re in for a sour & chunky surprise.

Alfred telling us about his cows (I may have stepped in multiple cow pies during this interview...).

Alfred telling us about his cows (I may have stepped in multiple cow pies during this interview…). He and Lily have also used an FSA loan to purchase a chicken coop.

Lily was so excited to share her milk and yogurt with the Sogoo FSA board members. I had the privilege of consuming one cup of each.

Lily was so excited to share her milk and yogurt with the Sogoo FSA board members. I had the privilege of consuming one cup of each.

Bottoms up!

Bottoms up!

Lily and Alfred's daughter-in-law, Helen, and her family. Helen is an active FSA board member. This lovely lady runs over three businesses and a family!

Lily and Alfred’s daughter-in-law, Helen, and her family. Helen is an active FSA board member. This lovely lady is a wife, mother of four, and runs over three businesses!

view from the home

Winnie, one of World Concern's project managers, leads an FSA meeting in the home.

Winnie, one of World Concern’s project managers, leads an FSA meeting in the family home.

This beautiful group of ladies is an FSA savings group. They pool their money together in order that each of them can start her own business. More to come later!

This beautiful group of ladies are members of a FSA savings group. They pool their money together and share with one another so that each woman has the opportunity to start her own business. More to come on them later!

Now a lil’ word from Alfred and Gilbert. And the cows…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jovia: Girl Meets Garden

It is 3 AM and somehow your body commands itself to waken. Groggily, you crawl off of your cot, stumble out of your hut, and walk into the darkness. You splash your face with water and brush your teeth in a nearby basin. Throwing on your school uniform, still dusty from yesterday as you had no time to wash it, you then slide your feet into your shoes, grab your unfinished school materials, and hopefully eat a piece of white bread or a banana before heading on your way...

Your feet hit the dirt path. The hour is so early that darkness covers the land, blanketing it in an eerily quiet state.  Besides the chirping of crickets, a slight breeze whipping through the tall grasses, and a random rustle from unknown creatures in nearby bushes, all you can hear is the sound of red dirt (you know it’s red from the many times you’ve walked it) crunching beneath your shoes. It feels like you were just here.

Half-awake, you silently walk the all-too-familiar 4.5 mile path. As if in a dream-like state, every pothole and tree stump memorized, you place one foot in front of the other. If only you were dreaming. Every day you must make this journey – 4.5 miles to school, 4.5 miles back home..

You muster enough energy to get through your lessons – even though by the time it is lunch, you have already been awake for almost half of a day. Eager to engage in your classes and excel among your schoolmates, you often find that your mind is foggy and overwhelmed by the work you know you will not have time to complete.

The school day ends and you head off down the same path from which you came – no time to stay and linger with friends, work on your studies, or play sports. You have 4.5 miles to walk and you must get home in time to assist your mother with the cleaning, cooking, and care-taking of your three younger siblings. Arriving home at 7 pm  you do your chores without complaint and collapse into bed. Exhausted from the day, you try to stay awake to catch up on school work, but you are tired, and you have to wake up and do it all again in less than six hours.

This is Jovia’s story.Jovia.

Like many other Maasai children, who live long distances from one another and from their schools, Jovia found she had little to no time to do her schoolwork, let alone get a full night’s rest. She was constantly falling behind – not because she was lazy, not because she didn’t try, not because she wasn’t smart enough, but because she literally didn’t have time.

By the age of 13, Jovia’s aunt noticed that she was clearly struggling. Her aunt recommended to Jovia’s mother that she attend a boarding school in Siyapei, Kenya. Siyapei Primary School offers scholarships to at-risk, vulnerable girls – Jovia’s aunt knew she would qualify.

Jovia was accepted to the school and in only one year her academics have significantly improved, “When I came here, I was not an average person, but nowadays I score highly because I get time to read and I have my own free time.” Because she no longer spends the hours she is not in school walking and taking care of her family, Jovia has been able to focus on her studies. She has also had the time and freedom to be a teenage girl – to play with her friends, read what she wants, explore new places, and learn skills of her choosing.

Siyapei Primary School's gorgeous facilities.

Siyapei Primary School’s gorgeous facilities.

One of these skills is gardening.

World Concern partners with Siyapei Primary School to run a kitchen garden (also known as a shamba) for the students. The garden serves to improve the student’s nutritional health as well as educate them about growing and cultivating a variety of fruits and vegetables.

gardengarden

Jovia is one of the 36 students who are members of Siyapei’s 4K Club – a popular club that is in charge of the care and keeping of the shamba. The members meet once a week to participate in the gardening of kale, cabbage, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, and melons.

According to Jovia, “We are the ones who have been taught how to maintain the garden.”

The patron of the school’s 4K Club, mentioned that “prior to the garden, the student’s diet was unbalanced – consisting of only maize and beans.” Many of the students were so accustomed to an unbalanced diet that the vegetables initially upset their stomachs. Now the students eat green vegetables every day; they are healthy and enjoy the variety. Speaking of the other students, Jovia said, “When they eat sokuma (kale) and cabbages, they are well.”

The Patron of Siyapei's 4K Club.

The Patron of Siyapei’s 4K Club.

In fact, the garden is proving to be so successful that the students are able grow more than enough produce to feed themselves. They sell the extra in the local market and use the money to retain the shamba and buy supplies for the girls (soap, towels, etc.). Siyapei’s teachers believe that the students will “know enough about gardening to create their own once they return home.”

Garden greenhouse.

Garden greenhouse.

Jovia seems to agree – “I like watering the plants…the vegetables…and digging…In the future I’d like to own a big farm. Then I’ll plant vegetables and wheat for my family members. I will sell them. And some I’ll take to the orphan children and children’s homes.”

Jovia showing off her gardening skills.

Jovia showing off her gardening skills.

Jovia still has one more year at Siyapei Primary. We hope and pray that she will have the support and drive to continue excelling in her education and spread her gardening skills along the way.

See Jovia’s story here!:

(I apologize if this video appears a bit wavy… minor technical difficulties in the uploading process…)

 

 

 

 

 

Hands, Feet, Heart, Backbone, Soul, Voice, Power…Women // imago Dei

Today is International Women’s Day. A day to acknowledge, celebrate, and reflect on 50% of the world’s population – the 50% who are all too often forgotten. Quite often (dare I say it), women are the hands, feet, heart, backbone, soul, voice, and power behind our working world. Naturally, being a woman, I feel passionate about the significance of today. Yet, I firmly believe that no matter your gender, you should also feel passionate about empowering and celebrating women around the world..

/// It’s a fact – we are all made in the image of Godimago Dei. We are all beautiful and deeply loved.///

When:  Friday 8 March 2013
Where: Everywhere
What:   International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is a national holiday.
The links and photos below speak for themselves. I encourage you to take a moment out of your day, even if it’s just a ten minute break at your desk, to soak in the beauty of these women, watch these well-made/informative videos, and read their stories.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Kiraposho carrying water.

“A Joyous Burden”:
This beautiful woman, Kiraposho, is a beneficiary of a shallow well installed by World Concern in Narok, Kenya. Prior to the well, this mother of ten would walk 4 miles (each way) to typhoid, poop, and animal infested water. Because she had no donkey, she could only carry one jerry can per day- in other words, she never had enough water to provide for her family. Because of the shallow well, she is now able to gather water multiple times a day and bring her children along for assistance. Not only is her family more healthy, but they now have more time to focus on finances and education.

Lietnhom farming

Beauty in the corn- Lietnhom, South Sudan. This stunning woman provides for her family by farming corn (as well as other crops) and selling them in local markets. She was able to expand her farm after receiving loans and seeds through World Concern.

2. Lily: Lily is a pastor, mother, wife, and vivacious woman. Here she is holding a jug of yogurt, a local drink, that came from one of her cows. This cow was purchased through a loan she received from becoming a member of a World Concern Financial Service Association in Narok, Kenya. Lily is able to save money from rearing her new livestock. She hopes to continue to do so in order to pay for the rest of her children's educations.

Lily is a pastor, mother, wife, and vivacious woman. Here she is holding a jug of yogurt, a local drink, that came from one of her cows. This cow was purchased through a loan she received from becoming a member of a World Concern Financial Service Association in Narok, Kenya. Lily is able to save money by rearing her livestock. She hopes to use the money to pay for the rest of her children’s educations.

 Highly, highly recommend you take 4 minutes to watch this documentary: Somalia: How women are rebuilding Mogadishu- video by The Guardian

Roselyne in Garissa

I had the pleasure of meeting Roselyne last summer when visiting World Concern’s projects in Garissa, Kenya. Roselyne is the Garissa manager, overseeing four male staff and traveling hours on bumpy dirt roads to visit beneficiaries multiple times a week. Her passion to serve is contagious.

1. Kijoolu: Kijoolu lives in a very rural area of Narok, Kenya. Like many people of the Maasai tribe, she lives on a large portion of land. The land is arid and resources are scarce. Because of this, Kijoolu used to have to travel a long distance to the nearest, dirty water pan. As it was the only water pan in the area, she would go between 1am and 5am in the morning to avoid crowds and competition. Going this late put Kijoolu in a vulnerable position. One time, while visiting the water pan, she found herself in close proximity to a lion. She had no option but to drop her water and slowly walk home. Kijoolu now travels a short distance to a borehole that was installed by World Concern. She is able to gather clean water without risk.

Kijoolu lives in a very rural area of Narok, Kenya. Like many people of the Maasai tribe, she lives on a large portion of land. The land is arid and resources are scarce. Because of this, Kijoolu used to have to travel miles to get to the nearest, dirty water pan. As it was the only water pan in the area, she would travel between 1am and 5am in the morning to avoid crowds and competition. Going this late put Kijoolu in a vulnerable position. One time, while visiting the water pan, she found herself in close proximity to a lion. She had no option but to drop her water and slowly walk home. Kijoolu now travels a short distance to a bore hole that was installed by World Concern. She is able to gather clean water without risk.

Kenyan woman you should know: WANGARI MAATHAI Wangari Maathai was the founder of the Green Belt Movement and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. She authored four books: The Green Belt Movement; Unbowed: A Memoir; The Challenge for Africa; and Replenishing the Earth.

Kenyan woman you should know:
Wangari Maathai was the founder of the Green Belt Movement and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. She authored four books: The Green Belt Movement; Unbowed: A Memoir; The Challenge for Africa; and Replenishing the Earth.

 

 

 

Jane

Jane is a member of World Concern’s FInancial Service Association bank in Naroosura, Kenya. She farms dairy cows and sells their milk in the local market, saving her money in the bank. Jane hopes to save enough money to send her four children to school so that they may “live a long and prosperous life.”

Head Teacher Jennifer

Meet Siyapei Primary School’s Headmaster, Jennifer. Jennifer is also the founder of the school’s kitchen garden program. Here students learn how to farm and are able to grow vegetables to eat and sell in the local market. Jennifer is passionate about taking in girls who come from vulnerable homes – many of whom were, or could have been, married off at a very young age (some as young as ten years old).

Mary

Mary is a mother of five and the owner of this bustling restaurant in Naroosura, Kenya. She uses her loans from the World Concern FSA bank to keep the restaurant stocked and her customers happy. Everyone knows Mary. Each day, after closing, Mary walks to the bank to deposit her earnings. She works diligently to provide for her family.

  4. Irene: Irene is a hardworking mother, wife, and very active member of one of World Concern's FSA's in Narok, Kenya. She is a part of a women's savings group. Each woman takes turns loaning to one another in order that they may each start a profitable business. Here is Irene farming her crops, planted with the money she was loaned through the group. This woman's optimism and joy are contagious. Before leaving her farm, she told me multiple times, "This is now your home. You are always welcome here. Please tell our story and pray for our children."

Irene is a hardworking mother, wife, and very active member of one of World Concern’s FSA’s in Narok, Kenya. She is a part of a women’s savings group. Each woman takes turns loaning to one another in order that they may each start a profitable business. Here is Irene farming her crops, planted with the money she was loaned through the group. This woman’s optimism and joy are contagious. Before leaving her farm, she told me multiple times, “This is now your home. You are always welcome here. Please tell our story and pray for our children.

Benane family

This mother lives with her eight children in a makeshift grass hut in an Internally Displaced Persons camp in Garissa, Kenya. After losing all of her livestock (literally hundreds of animals) in the recent drought, she walked hundreds of miles with her family in search of resources. Though food is scarce, water is lacking, and diseases are rampant, she carries on in order that her children may live. World Concern is working to empower this woman (and others in her community) with skills and education that will allow her to continue to live with dignity.

2. Grace: Grace is standing in the middle of her thriving salon in Narok, Kenya. She used the three loans she received through a World Concern FSA account to keep her business afloat and successful- Grace even has three employees. She uses the money from her salon to provide for her family of ten.

Grace is standing in the middle of her thriving salon in Narok, Kenya. She used the three loans she received through her World Concern FSA account to keep her business afloat and successful – Grace even has three employees. She uses the money from her salon to provide for her family of ten.

WATCH THIS!:

3. Behind the Duka: Remember Christine, the World Concern scholarship recipient? This is her beautiful mother working in her duka- one of her main sources of income. Though this mother never had the opportunity to receive an education, she works hard to make sure that each of her children complete school. So far, two of her daughters have gone all the way through secondary school and are in University. Her daughters teach her many things about finance and business, helping her to improve the success of her duka.

“Behind the Duka”:
Remember Christine, the World Concern scholarship recipient? This is her beautiful mother working in her duka- this shop is one of her main income sources. Though this mother never had the opportunity to receive an education, she works hard to make sure that each of her children complete school. So far, two of her daughters have gone all the way through secondary school and are in University. Her daughters teach her many things about finance and business, helping her to improve the success of her duka.

Bahtika at tea shop

Bahtika is in her late teens and already married. She runs this tea shop in Lietnhom, South Sudan to provide for her husband and child. She hopes to one day have the most successful tea shop in the market.

Maggie

This is Maggie. She is World Concern Africa’s head receptionist. I can honestly say I’ve never seen her without a smile. Prior to accepting the position with World Concern, Maggie endured a difficult period of unemployment- struggling to provide for her family on next to nothing. Maggie is a beautiful woman and a testament to trusting God in the midst of a storm. We are blessed to have her!

watch out for that girl quote

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Peace

In lieu of Kenya’s Presidential Elections. The first under the new constitution. March 4th, 2013. 

AMAZING PEACE

by Maya Angelou

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft.Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound.
We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war.But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, and comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.