I recently had the opportunity to tour the United States headquarters of World Vision, near Tacoma, Washington. World Vision ( www.worldvision.org ) is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Their brochure states "Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God's unconditional love for all people. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender."
I started sponsoring a child through World Vision almost a decade ago. Her name is Stacy, and she lives in the village of Katito, Kenya. Just as the trees at World Vision headquarters seem to be growing taller and taller, so I have seen Stacy progress from looking like a scared little three-year-old, into a tall and beautiful young woman. I receive a color photo of her at least annually, along with a progress report to tell me how she is doing in school. (There are photos of Stacy in a blog I published previously, which can be found in the October 7, 2009 article called "Step into Africa".)
This bronze sculpture entitled "Jesus, The Bread of Life" is near the front door of the headquarters building, and depicts the compassion that Jesus had for little children. The plaque beside it states that it symbolizes the worldwide holistic ministry of World Vision.
World Vision was founded by Bob Pierce. Bob Pierce is also the founder of Samaritan's Purse, which tells you right away that he was a remarkable man. His daughter, Marilee Pierce Dunker ( www.marileepiercedunker.com ), has published a biography about his life, entitled Man of Vision, and is a frequent speaker at churches, women's events and missions conferences.
The monthly donations that I have sent in as a child sponsor, are part of a World Vision ADP, known as the Katito Area Development Programme. This photo shows an artist's rendition of the World Vision process for reducing poverty, which is usually spread out over a ten-year period. The main components of development include WATER, HEALTH, FOOD AND AGRICULTURE, EDUCATION, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND CHRISTIAN IMPACT.
One of the photos that Stacy sent me from Katito, Kenya, was a photo of her pumping water from a station similar to the one recreated here in the Visitor's center. Her photo was intended to show that her village now has a reliable and clean source of water, due to the intervention of the World Vision ADP. My tour guide suggested this photo of me pumping water, so that I can mail it to Stacy. (Child sponsors have the assistance of World Vision in communicating with their overseas child, through greeting cards mailed to them on their birthday, Christmas, and Easter. We are encouraged to include a photo of ourselves with each card. I remember one of the greeting cards I mailed Stacy in Kenya in 2010, included a photo of my new daughter-in-law, who is also named Stacy. I thought she would like to know that I now have TWO special people in my life with that lovely name! During this past year, as a positive example of improving economic development in the Katito community, I have been able to send email messages to Stacy, which are relayed to her through the the ADP office.
With my background as a Registered Dietitian, I have been schooled in the importance of good nutrition for everyone, especially those living in poverty in third world countries. That is why I am delighted that World Vision does more than just supply a sack of grain to a village. They have an active, strategic plan for improving available food to every family by providing greenhouses for the community of Katito to grow tomatoes and other vegetables.
It has been gratifying to see how Stacy has progressed in her writing skills. Her last letter to me was especially revealing as she wrote out a long list of her favorite activities and a picture she had drawn. There were also examples of what she was learning in arithmetic, including a few errors, that reminded me of arithmetic errors I have made in trying to subtract and add numbers in my check register.
In the village of Katito, steady progress is being made to reducing the poverty level. What started out as 70% was recently down to 42.7%.
One of the ways that World Vision works to improve the health of a community . For example, this photo shows me standing under one of the mosquito nets that are supplied in areas where malaria is an ever-present threat to the health and well-being of youngsters. The simple practice of encircling the sleeping quarters of a family with such a low-tech (and comparatively inexpensive) device, has made great strides in reducing the incidence of mosquito-born illnesses.
This photo shows yet another aspect of World Vision aid. They supply temporary emergency housing and supplies, to people who have been displaced due to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or earthquakes.
Projects in the U.S. and certain other countries include giving a school bag of supplies for needy students. I noticed on the World Vision Bulletin Board that several corporations in the Tacoma area had taken on the task of assembling school packs as their act of community service.
Since access to adequate healthcare is so limited in third world countries, World Vision is addressing this problem by training and equipping locals to be mobile caregivers, that can travel from village to village by bicycle, supplying assistance to remote locations. In the village of Katito, where Stacy lives, the epidemic of HIV and AIDs has resulted in an increased number of child headed households. World Vision's ADP has supported 26 child headed households with entrepreneurial skills training. They also supplied startup kits to start small scale businesses to support the siblings.
In addition to touring the Visitor Center, my guide also took me upstairs to the work areas of the World Vision employees that make all these efforts succeed.
Since World Vision has more than one million donors across America, and has projects in over 100 countries, you can assume that the logistics of this is enormous. My guide told me that the familiar cubicle-style arrangement of their employees has resulted in the most effective use of available funds. In recent years, World Vision overhead rate has averaged between 11 and 15 percent. They are audited annually by an independent accounting firm and adhere strictly to the guidelines of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and they are also a member of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
The toy Wal*Mart trucks were in the cubicle of the World Vision employee who works with corporations as partners with World Vision in their humanitarian efforts. Since Wal*Mart is headquartered in my home state of Arkansas, and I am a stock holder in that company, I was glad to be reminded that World Vision is one of the charities that the world's largest retailer supports. They have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to World Vision through the WalMart Foundation ( www.walmartfoundation.org ).
My tour guide also pointed out the Heart to Heart dolls and Toms Shoes, that donate a portion of their profits to World Vision.
I had the special blessing of visiting World Vision headquarters on a Wednesday, which is the day of their weekly chapel service, and I was invited to participate in it. This photo shows Richard Stearns, President of World Vision U.S., welcoming the large gathering of employees that had assembled.
The chapel service had an international theme, and was led by a vocalist from Peru, and band members from other Latin American countries. We sang familiar hymns in both English and Spanish.
World Vision has partnered with several churches in my home town, to bring an exhibit (via 18-wheeler truck and trailer) called "Step into Africa". I wrote about our town's experience with this most worthwhile project in the October 7, 2009, article mentioned previously. Several folks in our area have been to Katito, Kenya, and have helped raise awareness of the needs of these people, who live on the other side of the world. One of the ways we've raised awareness is the annual White River Marathon for Kenya (www.whiterivermarathon.com). There is also a blog posted on November 21, 2009, that tells a bit more about this annual fitness promotion. This year's event is scheduled for Saturday, November 17. The verse in I Corinthians 9:26 that says "I do not run like a man running aimlessly..." is especially true of the White River Marathon for Kenya. I have been blessed to be able to walk the 5K part of the event since its beginning, and if all goes well, 2012 will be my ninth year to participate! Knowing that I am walking for such a good cause (all proceeds go to World Vision) will give me MILES OF SMILES! Tricia