May 2018

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After an extensive national search, World Vision U.S. has selected Edgar Sandoval to serve as its president and chief executive officer, effective Oct. 1.

Edgar, 53, has served as the organization’s chief operating officer for the past three years. He will succeed Rich Stearns, who will retire at the end of 2018.

“I am humbled by this opportunity to build on World Vision’s 68-year tradition of helping some of the world’s most vulnerable children,” says Edgar, who led a distinguished 20-year career at Procter & Gamble that culminated in an internationally acclaimed #LikeAGirl campaign to empower girls and women.

The Rev. John Crosby, search committee chair, says, “Selecting a new president is the most important decision we can make as a board. We clearly felt the Lord guiding us during the extensive and competitive search process.”

A journey and calling

Born in Los Angeles, Edgar grew up in Central and South America, where he first witnessed poverty. With $50 in his pocket, he returned alone to the U.S. at age 18. He worked minimum-wage jobs while pursuing an education that started with courses in English as a second language.

Edgar went on and graduated with honors from the Rutgers School of Engineering and earned his MBA at the Wharton School of Business.

Edgar spent 20 years in various leadership positions with Procter & Gamble, including marketing director of North America fabric care and vice president of North America marketing. In his last role as vice president and general manager of global feminine care, he made it his mission to advocate for girls and women around the world and help empower them to live life to their fullest potential.

Edgar says he and his wife, Leiza, felt a strong calling from God to join World Vision in 2015 and move with their four children to the Pacific Northwest. He regards having been selected as World Vision president, given his humble childhood, “an improbable miracle of God.” He says his travels with World Vision have magnified his feelings of empathy and compassion — creating a strong affinity with the children and families World Vision serves.

‘Collaborative and decisive leader’

World Vision U.S. President-elect Edgar Sandoval will begin his new role Oct. 1, 2018. He graduated from the Rutgers School of Engineering and earned his MBA at the Wharton School of Business.
World Vision U.S. President-elect Edgar Sandoval will begin his new role Oct. 1, 2018. (©2018 Genesis Photo Agency for World Vision)

As chief operating officer, Edgar deepened the World Vision U.S. leadership team, strengthened the World Vision brand, and leveraged the organization to execute its strategic plan.

“Edgar embodies World Vision’s core values and has demonstrated his commitment to the mission of World Vision since he joined three years ago,” says Joan Singleton, World Vision U.S. board chair. “He has a consistent track record of delivering financial growth and organizational health during his successful corporate career and most recently during his time at World Vision. We believe God has been preparing him to lead World Vision for such a time as this.”

All of this enabled Rich to invest more time in external affairs, including writing, public speaking, and partnership development.

“World Vision staff, management, and the board have been impressed with Edgar’s leadership in his role as COO,” says Rich. “He is a collaborative and decisive leader who brings a fresh perspective and a disciplined approach to the challenges and opportunities we face.”

We spoke with Edgar to hear more about his journey to this new role.

Q: What set you on your personal faith journey?

A: I was at a Promise Keepers conference in Dallas with a good friend and spiritual mentor. I had never attended such a large Christian meeting before. Walking into a stadium filled with 14,000 men singing felt unfamiliar at first. But it was a worship song that caused me to recommit my life. It was a song I’d never heard before, “Here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down, Here I am to say that you’re my God.” It was at that powerful moment I realized I had never bowed down to anyone. I recommitted my life to Christ and never looked back. He is my Savior and Lord.

Q: What was it like initially coming to World Vision?

A: My wife and I felt strongly called to serve at World Vision. When I joined, I didn’t know what the Lord had in store for me, only that it was where I was meant to go. God has blessed my family greatly through World Vision. We have collectively grown closer together, and each of us has grown closer to Jesus in ways we could not have imagined. It has been our complete honor to serve the Lord in this way.

Q: What have you learned from the children World Vision serves?

A: I’ve seen so many kids in the field, and what I see is optimism, is hope, is energy, despite the most challenging circumstances. I don’t know that I could survive a week in some of the places I’ve seen, but the kids, they are incredible. So, do their conditions break my heart? Yes. Do I want to change them? Yes. But the kids are ready — they are eager, they’re waiting for an opportunity. And that helps me to reignite. God breaks your heart not just to be sad, but to help you bring your very best to spur you to action for those children in need.

 Q: As you move into this new role, what will be your priorities?

A: My priorities will be to accelerate the impact of our work in the communities we serve with the faithful support of our donors and partners, to strengthen our fund-raising capabilities, and most importantly be a witness to the love of Jesus Christ in everything we do. These challenges and opportunities are both exciting and urgent.

 

Lauren Fisher of World Vision U.S. contributed to this story.

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Puerto Rico is devastated and struggling to recover after Hurricane Maria pummeled the island territory Sept. 20, 2017, as a Category 4 storm. As of April 4 — almost seven months since the storm hit — about 96 percent of residents on the island have had power restored, reports the U.S. Department of Energy. Still, roughly 62,000 people remain without power.

While the storm’s official death toll tallied 64 people, a new Harvard study published May 29 estimates that Maria and its aftermath is responsible for more than 4,600 deaths in Puerto Rico.

Between October 2017 and April 2018, World Vision reached 116,003 Puerto Ricans with critical food and relief items, cash assistance, disaster preparedness training, and child protection programs.

FAQs: What you need to know about Hurricane Maria

Explore frequently asked questions about Hurricane Maria, and learn how you can help families impacted by Hurricane Maria:

 

How did Hurricane Maria develop?

Less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma and a month after Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Maria hit numerous islands in the Caribbean.

It became a Category 3 storm Sept. 18 after doubling in strength in just 24 hours. Then it maintained its rapid growth, becoming a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 175 mph Sept. 19 after making its way through the Leeward Islands.

It smashed into the Caribbean island of Dominica, causing what Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit called “mind-boggling” devastation in a region already devastated by Hurricane Irma. Maria was the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in Dominica. “We have lost everything that money can buy, and that is a fact,” Prime Minister Skerrit said.

The French island of Martinique escaped Hurricane Maria largely unscathed, while the French island of Guadeloupe experienced widespread power outages.

Maria then directly hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 with 155-mph winds, making it the third-strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S. It was even stronger than Hurricane Irma when it roared into the Florida Keys Sept. 10.

Maria — the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years — destroyed homes, roads, and bridges; knocked out power across the entire island; and triggered heavy flooding. Residents have lived through food and water shortages, water-related disease outbreaks, generators running out of fuel, hospitals and schools closed due to extensive damage, and in the immediate aftermath, lack of access to the banking system.

Maria also hit the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Turks and Caicos, causing widespread flooding.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

At its peak, Hurricane Maria was a devastating Category 5 with 175 mph winds.
At its peak, Hurricane Maria was a devastating Category 5 with 175-mph winds. (Photo courtesy of NOAA)

 

Did Hurricane Maria hit the U.S.?

The U.S. mainland was spared the wrath of Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Jose, which followed a similar path before fizzling out in the open ocean.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

 

How many people died after Hurricane Maria?

Hurricane Maria left 64 people dead in Puerto Rico, officially, but it could be more than 4,600 due to complications in the post-storm recovery, according to a new Harvard University study. There were additional storm-related fatalities on the island of Dominica.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

 

How much damage did Hurricane Maria cause?

An arial view shows flooding in Palo Verde, Montecristi province, Dominican Republic from Sept. 23, 2017. Palo Verde is rice plantation area, vulnerable for flooding. (©2017 World Vision)
An aerial view shows flooding in Palo Verde, Montecristi province, the Dominican Republic from Sept. 23. Palo Verde is a rice plantation area vulnerable to flooding. (©2017 World Vision)

Puerto Rican authorities have requested $94 billion to cover damages from Hurricane Maria. Congress approved $5 billion in the fall of 2017 as part of an overall federal aid package of more than $36 billion allotted for hurricanes Maria, Harvey, and Irma.

The island’s entire population of 3.4 million people has been affected by Hurricane Maria.

“Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from this,” said Felix Delgado, mayor of the northern coastal city of Catano. Currently, Puerto Ricans lack sustainable sources of food, power, and income. Many residents have fled their precarious circumstances altogether to settle in mainland U.S. states. Hospitals and other public buildings also remain badly damaged. The two main elements of Puerto Rico’s economy, agriculture and tourism, have been devastated by the storm.

Maria also caused widespread flooding in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

 

How did World Vision respond to Hurricane Maria?

World Vision initiated its response in Puerto Rico supported by a global rapid response team. Due to the scale of the need in Puerto Rico, we deployed two teams to connect with local partners and networks, including Urban Strategies and the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. Working with local partners strengthened our program implementation in Puerto Rico.

On Oct. 2, 2017, the initial response team began conducting assessments and providing local partners with support logistics near San Juan and in a hard-hit area on the central-eastern side of the island to make way for food and supplies distributions and cash programming.

World Vision’s direct response to Hurricane Maria phased out in April 2018. Our staff in Puerto Rico handed off responsibilities to newly trained community leaders, many who have served on the leading edge of our response since the storm hit. World Vision staff in the Dominican Republic also worked to help thousands of families displaced by the storm in the Miches and Santa Cruz El Seibo areas. Most lost everything due to flooding in the wake of Maria. There, we distributed hygiene kits and food kits.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

 

How many people has World Vision helped after Hurricane Maria?

Between October 2017 and April 2018, World Vision reached 116,003 Puerto Ricans with critical food and relief items, cash assistance, disaster preparedness training, and child protection programs. That’s 38,668 households, mostly in and around Utuado, Morovis, Orocovis, and Patillas.

Hurricane survivors received food, water, hygiene kits, tarps, diapers, flood clean-up kits, and other household necessities like candles and solar lamps. We also provided Family-Friendly Spaces, where parents and children receive counseling and care to help them cope with their post-hurricane situation Our efforts to help Puerto Ricans build back better included training 16,420 students, teachers, and church leaders in disaster risk reduction, community resilience, and first responder best practices.

In addition, a World Vision corporate partner donated 150 household water filtration systems and three mobile filtration systems. Each mobile filter can process up to 10 gallons of water per minute, providing clean water for up to 25,000 people each day. Our staff in Puerto Rico are working with the University of Puerto Rico and local governments to provide clean water to the most vulnerable residents.

Agustin Hernandez and his neighbors in Consejo, a small secluded town in the mountains near Utuado, were cut off for 10 days after Maria triggered massive mudslides that covered the road connecting them to the outside world.

“It was hard,” Agustin said Oct. 10 while standing in a small church parking lot watching neighbors collect food, water, and essential supplies from World Vision workers. “People were desperate and didn’t know if help was coming.”

Agustin was among the first to seek help when the bulldozer finally punched through the mountain of mud and debris, making the road passable. Normally a half-hour drive, the journey to Utuado took two hours, as they maneuvered through damaged or landslide-covered roads.

As the relief effort began to unfold in the days and weeks after the storm, some agencies’ attempts to help Consejo failed, Agustin said. For example, when a helicopter dropped a pallet of water in this parking lot, the bottles broke when they hit the ground. With municipal water systems offline, many Puerto Ricans still do not have running water at home.

Soon after the storm, World Vision and Calvary Church in Utuado teamed up to reach families in the most remote, hardest-hit areas of Puerto Rico. They are currently providing water, food, tarps, hygiene supplies, and other essentials to those who need it most — like Agustin and his neighbors in Consejo.

“This is a relief for everybody,” Agustin said. “You guys are the first. The first meals, water, and tarps we got, we got from you guys.”

BACK TO QUESTIONS

 

How can I help Hurricane Maria survivors?

  • Give: Helpi World Vision respond to emergencies around the world by donating to World Vision’s disaster relief fund.
  • Pray: Join us in praying for survivors as they try to rebuild their lives: Almighty Father, we ask for Your mercy on those still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Protect people. Guide aid workers and government leaders as they work to help those in need.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

 

Contributors: Chris Huber, Heather Klinger, and Kristy J. O’Hara, World Vision staff

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More than half of the world’s children experience some form of violence every year. World Vision protects children and looks out
 for their well-being by ensuring communities and faith leaders 
are actively working to identify 
and support children in need; advocating for children’s rights; and providing for immediate needs, such as emergency shelter and essential care.

Here are some of the ways we provide child protection around the world.

Phone operators field crisis calls at the National Authority for Children, Government of Mongolia. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Mongolia

Children seek help
 through national hotline

World Vision Mongolia, working with the National Authority for Children and the country’s major mobile carrier, Mobicom, set up a 24/7 national hotline to report abuse of children. In addition, a national advertising campaign publicizes the phone number, especially to children. The Mongolian government set up a call center, and they soon realized they needed to help the helpers — so they offered stress management training to 108 operators who take the calls and respond to stories of abuse.

Uganda

Alerting communities to thwart child sacrifice

World Vision’s Amber Alert-style program has created
 a profound partnership between leaders of all faiths,
 law enforcement, local government, child-protection committees, and traditional healers. When a child is abducted, communities are ready. Villagers are taught to intervene, and, if that doesn’t work, to sound the alarm. Seventy-three villages are equipped with drums and megaphones. Motorcycles block off exit routes, and people lay logs across pathways to stop the abductors. Faith leaders and traditional healers have also created radio programs that air messages about child sacrifice, good parenting, and taking care of one’s neighbors.

India

Fighting child marriage and child sex-trafficking

Poverty, lack of education, poor gender relations, and dysfunctional families make children in India vulnerable. Here, World Vision sets up community-managed Child-Friendly Learning and Recreation Centers to give children safe places to learn and play. We also form MenCare groups that educate and equip men on the inherent value of women and girls. Transformed attitudes in men are crucial not only to decrease the demand for prostitution but also the supply of children to traffickers. Communities with MenCare groups are seeing reduced instances of child marriage too. In addition, World Vision’s Girl Power groups teach adolescent girls about personal safety.

A group of boys who work in automobile shops around the city of Khulna, Bangladesh, are now able to attend World Vision’s Child-Friendly Learning and Recreation Cente­r. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

Bangladesh

Combating child labor

Nearly 1.7 million children 
ages 5 to 17 in Bangladesh 
are engaged in illegal child labor. World Vision focuses on encouraging the withdrawal of children from labor, increasing children’s access to school, improving parents’ incomes, and training older children for jobs that are legal and have decent earning potential. A key intervention is the formation of Child-Friendly Learning and Recreation Centers, which provide
 children at risk of child labor
 or already engaged in labor with childhood education and help in transitioning to public primary school.

World Vision will work with more than 700 children formerly associated with various armed groups in South Sudan. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Lisi Emmanuel Alex)

South Sudan

Caring for freed 
child soldiers

Protecting children in fragile contexts like war-torn South Sudan is complicated but critical. In February 2018, armed groups released hundreds of children they had recruited to fight or work domestically to support the ongoing conflict. World Vision staff were the child soldiers’ first line of care. Now, staff and qualified social workers are walking the journey to recovery with the children and adolescents to counsel and comfort them, reunite them with their families, if possible, and reintegrate them into society with social and educational opportunities and vocational training.

Through sponsorship and a World Vision parenting class, Paulina and her husband, Gaspar, have learned valuable parenting skills, their relationship has improved, and domestic violence has stopped. (©2013 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

Guatemala

Reducing violence and unsafe migration

Although violence related to gangs and drugs is a prominent issue in Central America, the primary form of violence in Guatemala is within the family. Nearly one-quarter of the unaccompanied minors who migrate to the U.S. from Guatemala reported that they suffered violence from their guardians and caregivers. World Vision seeks to reduce the number of people who are victims of violence by 20 percent by 2022. To do this, we form community-based committees to create safe environments for children to live, learn, and play. We also work with faith leaders and local governments to develop migration prevention plans. We support individual children and their families through scholarships, skills training, connecting them with trustworthy community networks, and other social services.

Third-grade student Crolina, 9, plays a starring role in her school’s anti-bullying workshop skit. She is also a sponsored child. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee)

Dominican Republic

Eliminating bullying

Children who are abused physically and verbally at home may carry out the same behaviors at school by hitting their friends, playing violently, and acting out in the classroom. In the Dominican Republic, World Vision trains school staff in programs to eliminate violence against children, including techniques to help teachers lead anti-bullying efforts.

Volodya Nersesyan, 27, and his wife Astghik Aleyan, 27, play outside with their 4-year-old daughter, Hasmik. Part of what Volodya and Astghik have learned in World Vision’s “Caring for Equality” program is the importance of spending more time being actively engaged with their daughter. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

Armenia

Countering prenatal sex-selection trend

Child protection must begin when babies are in the womb. Because of a deeply rooted cultural preference for sons in Armenia, an estimated 1,400 girls are not born every year. For a country as small as Armenia — with a population of about 3 million and just over 40,000 babies born annually — this is a significant number. As a result, Armenia is among the top three countries with the most highly skewed sex ratios at birth. World Vision is striving to create an environment in which girls and boys are valued equally. Our work focuses on ending gender-based violence, including prenatal sex selection and intimate partner violence. In group discussions, youth and couples learn about the prevalence of prenatal sex selection and how to strengthen their family relationships. We partner with the Armenian Church and advocate with the government to adopt policies that support gender equality and the prevention of gender-based violence, including prenatal sex selection. We have also launched media campaigns and trained journalists to educate the public on these issues.

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UPDATE: May 23, 2018

World Vision has been responding to the East Africa hunger crisis for the past year, reaching more than 3.5 million people facing food insecurity with clean water, food and nutrition support, healthcare, and more.

Now, while droughts have made it difficult for farmers and herders to produce crops and feed livestock, excessive spring rains are causing flash floods across drought-stricken areas, washing away crops and shelters.

Children are among the most affected, with their health and development drastically impacted. More than 15 million children in East Africa are struggling to get enough to eat while floods increase the risk of cholera and other water-related diseases for people living in temporary shelters with poor sanitation.

South Sudan, Somalia, and Ethiopia could be facing famine or catastrophic levels of food insecurity in various parts of their countries over the next few months. Turkana, Kenya, which had been monstrously impacted by drought last year, is one of the most affected by the flooding today.

This stunning blog post from exactly one year ago this week was our first glimpse into the crisis. A year later, millions have been helped, but millions more remain in need.

*     *     *

May 24, 2017

The East Africa hunger crisis is monstrous: affecting 25 million people and showing up in ways our writer and photographer team have never before seen.

Today, our writer — Kari Costanza — gives you a first-hand snapshot of five ways that hunger is changing the lives of people in Turkana, Kenya.

*     *     *

I started covering hunger stories for World Vision in 2005 in Niger and Angola, which were then ranked second and third among countries where children were most likely to die before the age of 5. The next year, I traveled to Kenya to cover a drought that led to a severe food crisis. In 2009, to see what hunger felt like, I lived with a family that was surviving on emergency food rations. Two years after that, I was back in Kenya to cover the Horn of Africa food crisis.

I thought I’d seen it all.

But on my trip last month to Turkana, in northwest Kenya, there were signs of hunger that I’ve never seen. When I heard that Stephen O’Brien — the United Nations’ under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs — had declared this current crisis the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, I was not surprised.

This hunger crisis is a monster.

We began in a village called Nanaam, dry and dusty and strewn with the bones of dead livestock. Ironically, Nanaam means water, but the villagers had renamed their village Ngikwasinyen, or “dry sand.”

The villagers were despondent. With no food left to eat, men such as Nalet were hunting animals that thrive during a drought in a pastoralist area — scavengers like hyenas and vultures. The mothers had learned to cook hyena, roasting it on a spit. The children hated it and said it tasted vile. Naroo, 9, told me: “Hyena is bitter. When we eat it, it gives us diarrhea. But it’s the only food on the table.”

A first-hand look at signs of hunger in Turkana, Kenya, and how the East Africa food crisis is changing the lives of people there.
Lopeto, 12, holds the dried stomach of a hyena, which the community has started to eat because of the drought. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Across the dusty path, a family was mourning the death of their last cow, sitting next to the giant animal, and preparing to skin and eat it. Nearby, with no milk, a mother and her children were trying to suck the marrow from the bones of donkeys killed by the drought. I asked them why they were doing that.

“Hunger,” replied the mother.

Traveling south on a road more sand than pavement, we came upon a macabre memorial. Instead of a tree-lined pathway, the road was lined with the bodies of dead animals. “See us,” they seemed to cry.

A first-hand look at signs of hunger in Turkana, Kenya, and how the East Africa food crisis is changing the lives of people there.
The carcasses of dead animals line the road between Lodwar and Lokori in south Turkana, a cry for help from those who live there. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

The people of one village made their point crystal clear. Fifty women held high the animals that had died in their village, one woman boosting a donkey carcass over her head, to sing us a song of death.

“We are dying. We are dying,” they sang. “Our animals are all dead, and we are next.”

A first-hand look at signs of hunger in Turkana, Kenya, and how the East Africa food crisis is changing the lives of people there.
Women hold high the animals that had died in their village, singing a song of death. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

And finally, after reporting stories in 35 countries over two decades for World Vision, I met a baby with my name: Kari. I asked her mother what her name meant and she replied, “Someone who almost died.” Kari was born six months ago as the drought began to kill all the livestock and threaten human lives as well. “I named her for the situation,” Kari’s mother told me.

A first-hand look at signs of hunger in Turkana, Kenya, and how the East Africa food crisis is changing the lives of people there.
Magdalene named her baby girl Kari because of their situation: someone who almost died. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Meeting Kari was the last straw. I had to do something about it. World Vision is trying to raise $110 million to help 2.7 million hungry people in East Africa with food, water, and medicine, as well as through child sponsorship. They’ve told me their stories. They’ve put a name to this monster. My name. Kari.

I saw Nalet the day after he went off the look for vultures and hyenas. He came back empty-handed and exhausted. “We have no water, food, or medicines,” he told me. “If you don’t take care of these children, they will die.”

And they will. So we must.


Join us in taking care of the children of Kenya and other hungry places in East Africa. Thanks to grants, your gift will multiple 7X in impact to provide emergency food, clean water, and more to children and families fighting for their lives.

Make a long-term impact in a child’s life: sponsor a child in Kenya today!

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World Vision’s 2018 Global 6K for Water united thousands of people to bring clean water to people in need May 19, including one 12-year-old girl who declared it a “life-changing” day.

“There are children my own age who don’t have access to clean water like I do,” says Zoe Potesta, 12, of Seattle. Sporting pigtails and two orange strips across her cheeks, she waited for the race to start at Gas Works Park. “This race changes the life of another child and in doing so, it changes me. I’ve read the Long Walk to Water too, and I’ll do this again to make changes we need to do good. To do this is life-changing.”

Zoe was among more than 48,000 participants worldwide who laced up for the Global 6K for Water May 19. Races were held in 1,075 locations in 16 countries, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, and Australia.

Overall, more than 63,000 people received clean water through the 2018 Global 6K for Water.

Going the distance with heart and muscles

Across the United States, children, parents, couples, and teams wearing vibrant orange T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Global 6K for Water,” streamed out in celebration with orange wigs, tutus, and balloons.

“It’s an important event for families,” says Zoe’s grandmother, Libby McVoy, of Auburn, Washington. “We get clean water from our taps, and I wanted my grandchildren to understand what it means to other children who have to carry that burden and weight on their shoulders to get water.”

Zoe’s 10-year-old sister, Bianca, took her grandmother’s sentiment to heart and carried a gallon on her hip. “I’m here today to help people who are less fortunate and understand what it feels like to carry water for such a long distance.”

Going the distance with a plastic jug filled with water was challenging for Bianca, who joined more than 1,200 other participants at Gas Works Park. Six kilometers (about 3.7 miles) is the average distance that people, usually women and girls, in the developing world walk for water — water often contaminated with life-threatening diseases.

Each day, more than 800 children under age 5 die from diarrhea caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene. The number of people without access to clean water, however, is shrinking, as World Vision provides a new person with clean water every 10 seconds. Today, 89 percent of the global population has access to clean water.

Tears welled in Luz Maria Insignares’ eyes as she signed up to sponsor a 6-year-old in Mauritania. The former Miami resident recently moved to Seattle. “I just remembered my mother in that very moment,” Luz Maria says. “She has always instilled in me the importance of giving to those less fortunate because when we’ve had nothing, the Lord always provided. I wanted to give not expecting anything in return. I just imagined for a moment all the smiles and joy it would bring this little girl, and that alone fills me up to know that maybe one day she will, too, grow and help someone in return. That excited me because I know that we are God’s hands and feet on this Earth, and when we feel that tug, we just have to remember to answer the call.”

Chicago’s commitment runs deep

In Chicago, drizzle and cloudy skies didn’t stop the more than 1,000 participants who gathered at Montrose Park. For Mark and Andrea Wittig, the race was more than another run. It was personal; they’ve been running together since they were engaged more than a decade ago.

“I told her on the first date, ‘I’ll never run a marathon,’” says Mark. Andrea added, “Eighteen months later, he ran the marathon with me.”

Now more than 11 years later with a family that has blossomed to include three children, Andrea and Mark think about their middle son, Josh, as they pass the miles and markers to the 6K’s end. Josh was adopted from Uganda when he was 3 years old. When they brought him home, he had giardia, a common parasite for children exposed to unsafe water. “He lived the reality of not having clean water,” Andrea says.

It was also a family affair for HOH Water Technology, a corporate partner for the 6K. The Chicago-based water treatment company is an American success story, celebrating 50 years and three generations of family ownership. They had more than 100 staff members come out to run and walk for clean water, including current president Tom Hutchison and his son Reid, who walked with a hefty jerry can.

“We say our mission is to save water locally and change lives globally,” Tom says. And, he added it’s a chance for team building. “Monday through Friday life can be hard and chaotic. This is a chance not to think about the pressures of work, but instead to think, ‘Hey, we’re making a difference in the world.’”

Kindergarten teacher Beatrice Hall was also looking at the ways thinking globally can help locally. She brought 40 students from Alex Haley Elementary. The school is located on the south side of Chicago in an area with high poverty levels. For all of the students, it was their first time doing a charity walk.

“We’re trying to get the kids to fight for and believe in something. I tell them, ‘You can do anything; you can be anything,’ and this is part of it — showing them they can make a difference globally,” Beatrice says.

Participants ranged from first-timers like the students from Alex Haley Elementary to experienced racers like Tyrone Wheeler who has run multiple marathons with Team World Vision. With his headphones, sports sunglasses, and runners’ build, his joy for the sport was clear as he scanned the crowd.

“It’s beautiful seeing people out and running,” says Tyrone. When asked about advice for new runners, he adds, “Run your race. Have fun. Embrace it.”

It’s advice Alicia Joseph took to heart. She stood out in the crowd in a tiara, veil, and wedding bouquet. “If we’re going to have a walk on the day of the royal wedding, … you’ve got to,” she says laughing.

Altogether the Chicago event raised enough money to bring clean water to more than 1,700 children in the developing world. Some participants, like the Zavala family of Chicago, went one step further — sponsoring the child on their 9-year-old son Isaiah’s bib. His mother, Jenica, says,“We want him to know that love and the love that we have for him, we should give to others as well because the Lord loves everyone.”

Other voices from the 2018 Global 6K for Water:

  • “Running this event was a big deal for me,” says Simon Gezai, 14, of Mill Creek, Washington. “It was into the first half mile that I realized who I was running on behalf of. As soon as I saw the little face I ran even harder. We take so much for granted and being able to raise awareness was my first step forward.”
  • “This is a worthwhile community event in which each participant leaves with a greater understanding of the water issues facing children and their families,” says Lisa Anderson, a member of Cascade Covenant Church in North Bend, Washington.
  • “This year, it’s me and my nephew, but I believe being here for this event will encourage more of my family to participate next year so we can reach more people in our efforts to bring water to families,” says Lisa O’Neill of Redmond, Washington, who pushed a stroller with her young nephew.
  • “This is a great way to get our family involved in a cause that changes lives and the world,” says April Lam of Mill Creek, Washington.

 

Contributor: Lauren Fisher, World Vision staff

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