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Every day of the year, World Vision works around the world to help refugees in need. On June 20, World Refugee Day, we highlight the plight of the 68.5 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes and the innovative ways we help them cope. Massive numbers of refugees have left Syria, Myanmar, South Sudan, Afghanistanthe Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Venezuela. More than half of the world’s refugees are children.

Through innovative responses to these crises, World Vision is investing in a better life today and a better future for refugees, especially children. Learn about the unique solutions World Vision implements in refugee camps.

Last Mile Mobile Solutions

Last Mile Mobile Solutions, developed by World Vision and now being used by more than a dozen other organizations, is revolutionizing how refugees and disaster survivors receive food, cash assistance, and relief supplies in their time of greatest need.

With this innovative software, aid workers quickly register beneficiaries and record their names, pictures, locations, and eligibility for assistance — all on a smartphone. Information is then transferred to a computer for verification and tracking. The same process that used to take four minutes now takes four seconds, shortening lines and getting essentials to families faster.

Overall, Last Mile Mobile Solutions improves the accuracy of remote data collection, helps manage aid recipients’ information, enables faster and fairer aid distributions, and delivers real-time reporting to aid workers.

Community kitchens

World Vision is privileged to provide not only life-saving interventions, but also innovative solutions that provide hope. Community kitchens equipped with gas stoves help refugee moms feed their families nutritious food without having to cut, carry, or buy firewood, and they also help avoid the dangers of open-fire cooking.

“We are also training them to cook nutritious food [and about] hygiene,” says Subash Chandranath, a World Vision staff member who works at a community kitchen in Bangladesh. “We teach how to cook the [food] properly — to wash [vegetables] first.”

But community kitchens are so much more than a safe place to cook. Through World Vision workshops, staff help women learn how to be leaders in their communities, empowering them to solve problems and make good decisions for their families.

Community kitchens also serve as gathering places where women can share concerns. “We have independence here,” says Muhcena, a Rohingya refugee who visits the kitchen daily.

Hand-washing stations with mirrors

Overcrowded conditions and limited access to water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities put refugees at high risk for communicable disease outbreaks, including diarrhea and hepatitis. Regular handwashing with soap greatly reduces the risk of disease.

Installing mirrors at hand-washing stations has been shown to increase handwashing among children and adults. Because most refugees don’t have mirrors in their simple shelters, they are drawn to the shiny surfaces. Placing them on the water barrels at hand-washing stations draws people — especially children — to the mirror, which reminds them to wash their hands.

“We all know how important it is to wash our hands to stay healthy, but for children like this in a refugee camp, it can make the difference between life or death,” says Rachel.

Solar-powered lights

Good lighting can help keep people safer in a refugee camp where there is no electricity. Nighttime can be particularly dangerous for women and children who must walk to outdoor latrines and wash areas after dark.

That’s why World Vision has installed solar-powered lights in places like the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

“When World Vision started working with these refugees, women told us, again and again, that they needed to feel safe at night using the bathroom and using bathing facilities,” says Response Director Rachel Wolff. “World Vision has installed solar-powered street lights across the camps, particularly where women need to bathe and use the bathroom so that anytime, day or night, girls and women feel safe.”

 

Kari Costanza, Heather Klinger, and Kathryn Reid of World Vision’s staff in the U.S. contributed to this article.

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Tornadoes can happen anywhere, packing furious winds and often leaving death and destruction in their path. But being aware and prepared can help ensure your family’s safety.

Here are the tornado facts you need to know to better understand how they work, what to do if you’re in a tornado’s path, and how you can help people affected by disasters in the United States.

What is a tornado?

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. A tornado is not always visible unless it forms a funnel made up of water droplets, dust, and debris. The average tornado travels 3.5 miles and can last from 10 seconds to more than an hour. The wind speeds of tornadoes are not officially measured, but the most powerful tornadoes are estimated to have gusts stronger than 200 mph.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

What is a tornado watch?

If an area is under a tornado watch, that means a tornado is possible and you should be prepared. You can prepare by reviewing and discussing your family emergency plans, checking supplies and your safe room, and being aware of any new weather alerts for your area. Weather forecasters typically issue a tornado watch for a broad area, like an entire county.

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What is a tornado warning?

If an area is under a tornado warning, that means a tornado is expected and you should act now and seek shelter. This means people have seen a tornado or radar has detected one in the area, and it poses a risk to life and property. If you don’t have a cellar or underground basement, move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Weather forecasters typically issue a tornado warning for a small area, like a city. Many cities across the U.S. have sirens that alert residents to a tornado warning.

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What causes a tornado?

A tornado forms when the wind within a storm system changes speed and direction. This creates a spinning effect, which is tipped vertically by an updraft through the thunderclouds. The deadliest tornadoes are produced by supercell thunderstorms — storms with a rotating updraft called a mesocyclone that forms an anvil-shaped cloud. Supercells can also bring damaging hail, severe winds, lighting, and floods. Certain theories suggest that tornadoes are caused by temperature changes, but some of the most destructive tornadoes began with minimal temperature changes.

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What is the Tornado Alley?

The southern plains of the central United States consistently experience a high frequency of tornadoes, earning the nickname, Tornado Alley. Here, tornadoes typically form in late spring and occasionally the early fall. The Tornado Alley runs from northern Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. These plains are more likely to form supercell thunderstorms, which often produce destructive tornadoes.

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What makes a tornado so destructive?

The intense high winds of a tornado — also called a twister — are powerful enough to knock over trees, flatten buildings, and destroy roads. But one of the major destructive forces of a tornado is the debris that turns into projectiles. Traveling through a populated area, the funnel of a tornado picks up and carries millions of small and large items, including trees, rocks, trucks, parts of houses, and broken glass. These missiles cause damage proportionate to their size and speed when blown into buildings or homes or when falling back to earth.

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What is the rating scale for tornadoes?

Since 2007, tornadoes are now rated on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with ratings from EF0 to EF5. It is nearly impossible to accurately measure the speed of a tornado, as any measurement device would be destroyed. The EF scale is determined based on an estimated 3-second gust of wind, which is calculated according to the degree of damage on 28 different damage indicators — from softwood trees to schools. For example, for a tornado to completely destroy a large shopping mall or a large section of the structure, the wind speed would be estimated at 204 miles per hour, with a range from 176 to 247, which would classify it as an EF5.

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What is an EF5?

An EF5 is the most powerful tornado, causing incredible damage with winds over 200 miles per hour. It is capable of destroying schools, large shopping malls, and causing permanent structural deformation to a 20-story building. It is rare, accounting for only 1% of all tornadoes — yet causing 37% of tornado-related fatalities. The National Weather Service maintains a list of all the EF5 tornadoes since 1950.

The two most recent EF5 tornadoes hit Moore and El Reno, Oklahoma, in 2013 and 2011, respectively. Each caused widespread loss of life and property damage.

The largest tornado ever recorded also hit El Reno on May 31, 2013, only 11 days after the historic twister in Moore. The 40-minute-long tornado was rated an EF3 but measured 2.6 miles across at its peak growth.

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How do I prepare for a tornado?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides guidelines to help you and your family prepare for and stay safe during and after a tornado. Its guide will help you and your community reduce risk when a twister does hit your area.

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How can I help people affected by disasters in the U.S.?

  • Pray for children and families impacted by disasters.
  • Give to provide life-saving aid and relief supplies to survivors of U.S. disasters like the devastating Moore tornado.
  • Volunteer to help World Vision respond to disasters or assist communities in the U.S. with disaster preparedness.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

 

Chris Huber and Andrea Peer of World Vision’s staff in the U.S. contributed to this article.

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Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 740,000 people from Myanmar have fled to Bangladesh because of extreme violence in northern Rakhine state on the country’s western Bay of Bengal coast. Most of the refugees identify as Rohingya, a Muslim minority ethnic group in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar. Flooding into camps near the town of Cox’s Bazar, they joined more than 200,000 people who fled to Bangladesh years earlier. About 55% of Rohingya refugees are children.

Aid agencies are struggling to adequately serve 1.2 million people who need assistance, including those in local communities. Many refugees brought little with them and are dependent on humanitarian aid for shelter, food, clothing, and healthcare. During the monsoon season from April to November, they faced floods and landslides while living in flimsy shelters, which made poor conditions even worse.

Bring hope to refugee children.

History of Rohingya refugees

1948: After Burma’s independence from British rule, a Muslim rebellion erupts in Rakhine state, with people demanding equal rights and an autonomous area. The rebellion is eventually defeated.

1962: Military rule begins in Burma.

1977 to 1978: Some 200,000 ethnic Muslims identifying as Rohingya flee to refugee camps in Bangladesh.

1982: A new citizenship law identifies 135 national ethnic groups, excluding the Rohingya — effectively rendering them stateless.

1989 to 1991: A military crackdown follows a popular uprising. Burma is renamed Myanmar. An additional 250,000 refugees flee to Bangladesh.

1992: The Myanmar and Bangladesh governments agree to repatriate refugees. Hundreds of thousands of people return to Myanmar over several years.

2003: Two of 20 refugee camps remain in Bangladesh. U.N. studies show widespread malnutrition in the camps.

2012: Religious violence flares in Rakhine, leaving many people homeless. More than 100,000 people flee to Malaysia.

2014: In Myanmar’s first census in 30 years, the Rohingya are still not included as an ethnic group.

2016: A military crackdown follows an attack on a border post in which police offers were killed. During the crackdown, about 87,000 people fled to Bangladesh.

2017: Fleeing Myanmar

  • August: Violence increases in Rakhine state among ethnic groups and Myanmar military forces, triggering a massive exodus of people to Bangladesh.
  • September: The U.N. refugee agency declares the Rohingya refugee crisis to be a major emergency and scales up its response.
  • October: More than 600,000 refugees have arrived in Bangladesh.
  • November: Myanmar and Bangladesh agree to start repatriating refugees within the next two months.

2018: Facing insecurity

  • January: The agreed start date for repatriation passes without action.
  • April: U.N. Security Council envoys visit Myanmar and Bangladesh to observe needs and conditions.
  • April through November: Monsoon and cyclone seasons increase hazards for refugees living in stick-and-bamboo tents in camps.
  • Mid-November: Repatriation was supposed to begin, according to a working group of Bangladesh and Myanmar government representatives. However, it has again been delayed.

2019: Continued uncertainty

  • January: Increased violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state led to an additional 4,500 people being displaced since December 2018, casting doubt on the feasibility of refugees returning anytime soon.

FAQs: What you need to know about Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Explore frequently asked questions about the Rohingya people, why they are fleeing Myanmar, and learn how you can help Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Fast facts: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees describes the Rohingya refugee crisis as “the most urgent refugee emergency in the world.” Here are the facts you need to know:

  • Of more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh camps and settlements, about 740,000 have arrived since August 2017.
  • About 1.2 million people — both refugees and local community members — need humanitarian aid because of the crisis.
  • The world’s largest, most densely populated refugee camp houses Rohingya refugees in the Kutupalong settlement near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
  • From April through November, heavy monsoon rains made life perilous for refugees in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh.
  • Myanmar and Bangladesh governments are negotiating terms for repatriation to Myanmar. In the meantime, children and their families are living in unhealthy, dangerous conditions with limited access to basic services.

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Who are the Rohingya? Why did they flee Myanmar?

The Rohingya people belong to a Muslim ethnic minority group of about 1 million people in Myanmar, which has a total population of 52 million. They live in the country’s northern Rakhine state that borders Bangladesh and India. The Rohingya were not among the 135 officially recognized ethnic groups included in Myanmar’s 2014 census. Essentially stateless, the Rohingya consider themselves under threat and without legal recourse.

Armed conflict between minority groups and government military forces has gone on for decades in Myanmar. It accelerated significantly in August 2017 in Rakhine state, causing more Rohingya people and others to flee. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres described the situation to the Security Council in September as “the world’s fastest-developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.”

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How can I help refugees from Myanmar?

Receiving humanitarian assistance is a life or death matter for Rohingya refugees, 55% of whom are children.

  • Pray for mothers, fathers, and children who struggle to survive as refugees.
  • Give to World Vision’s refugee children’s crisis fund to help provide for their needs.

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What are the refugees’ living conditions?

After fleeing violence in Myanmar, refugees have battled to survive seasonal monsoon rains and the continuing threat of cyclones. They’ve faced flooding, landslides, collapsed or damaged shelters, contaminated water overflowing latrines, and disease. Refugees are suffering from psychosocial conditions and physical illnesses that spread easily in overcrowded, unhygienic camps. With such a high concentration of people, any disease outbreak has the potential to kill thousands.

Diarrhea, acute jaundice syndrome, and respiratory infections are common in both adults and children. Acute watery diarrhea is especially dangerous in combination with malnutrition, which is rampant among the refugee population. Less than 3% of refugees were immunized in Myanmar, so they are highly vulnerable to preventable diseases such as measles and diphtheria.

Families receive basic food supplies from U.N. agencies and humanitarian organizations, and refugee families in Bangladesh need about 12,200 metric tons of food each month. Basic food distributions include rice, lentils, and oil. It is difficult to eat the same thing day in and day out, but families don’t have the money to buy fresh fruit and vegetables to supplement their diets.

Another reality of refugees’ living conditions is sexual violence. Almost every woman and girl in the Balukhali settlements, which include about 65% of the refugee population, is a witness or survivor of sexual violence. Hundreds of incidents are reported weekly. Women and girls need support for mental health as well as physical health and security.

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How are children affected by the refugee crisis?

Refugee children are at high risk of disease and malnutrition, physical harm, and violence. Here are some of the adverse conditions they face:

  • Lack of protection: Thousands of children are separated from their parents or primary caregivers. Both girls and boys face unsafe conditions as child laborers, most often gathering firewood or in domestic service. Extreme poverty makes them more vulnerable.
  • Disease outbreaks: The World Health Organization has reported outbreaks of measles, diphtheria, diarrhea, and respiratory infections among children younger than 5.
  • Malnutrition: Malnutrition among refugee children is at dangerous levels with fewer than 10% of children between 6 and 23 months old eating four of the seven food groups and three or more meals per day. A Bangladesh government and U.N. study reported that 37% of children ages 6 to 59 months suffer from chronic malnutrition or stunting. “Stunting means that children are under height for the age and may never catch up,” says Colleen Emary, a World Vision health and nutrition advisor. “Those who are acutely severely malnourished are also nearly 12% more likely to die than a healthy child if they catch an infection or disease.”
  • Gender-based violence: Girls are vulnerable to violence, especially as refugees from Myanmar have no legal status in Bangladesh. Many suffer from neglect, abuse, exploitation, or sexual violence and resort to negative methods of coping, including child labor and child marriage.
  • Lack of schooling: Refugees are not allowed to enroll in local education facilities. Child laborers, children with disabilities, girls, and children in women-headed households also face barriers to attending educational programs for refugees. About 98% of refugee children and adolescents aged 15 to 24 years are not accessing education.

For more information, read “Childhood Interrupted: Children’s Voices from the Rohingya Refugee Crisis,” a joint report from World Vision and other humanitarian organizations, based on consultation with children and mothers in Bangladesh refugee camps and host communities.

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How is World Vision responding to humanitarian needs in Myanmar and Bangladesh?

World Vision has served in Bangladesh since 1970. Early efforts mainly focused on disaster response following a cyclone in the coastal regions. Now, World Vision directly reaches about 5 million children and adults through sponsorship and other programs.

In Myanmar, World Vision began operations in 1991. Child-focused programs help families with health, livelihoods, education, and child protection, including reintegration support for trafficked returnees and released former child soldiers.

World Vision has served about 265,000 people in Bangladesh since the crisis began in September 2017:

  • 1,720 children benefit from protection activities each week.
  • 158,000 people were reached with clean water and sanitation facilities.
  • More than 30,000 children and mothers are receiving nutrition support.
  • More than 44,000 people have received upgraded shelter kits.
  • 150,000 people received necessary items, including hygiene kits, cooking equipment, baby supplies, and feminine hygiene products.
  • 22,500 people have taken part in cash-for-work programs.

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Chris Huber and Kathryn Reid of World Vision’s staff in the U.S. and Karen Homer of World Vision’s staff in Bangladesh contributed to this article.

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On May 4, 2019, thousands of participants around the globe united to walk or run in World Vision’s Global 6K for Water. Six kilometers is the average distance people in the developing world walk for water, which is often contaminated with life-threatening diseases.  

Each step by every participant — young and old — is bringing life-changing clean water closer to communities in need through the event registration fee 

Here are some of the highlights from this remarkable weekend.   

A new kind of bib

In Seattle, whole families participated together in the Global 6K, each member receiving a bib with the name and photo of a child on it. The child is available for sponsorship, which also helps fund clean water projects. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee) 

Finding your drive

“There’s children who do this every day for water, and it’s not even clean, says Gigi Stevens, who not only ran the Chicago 6K for Water but added on a 5K beforehand to run an 11K for her 11th birthday, which fell the next day. She surpassed her fundraising goal of $1,100 and raised $2,815 for clean water.   

“When I was running the 11 kilometers, I got tired, but it was worth it to bring clean water to more people,” says Gigi, who ran with their family friend, Ashley Peters (right). “There’s children who do this every day for water, and it’s not even clean.” (©2019 World Vision/photo by Andrea Peer) 

Challenging yourself and others

Khayriyyah Aleem, 75, celebrates the 2019 Global 6K for Water with Antioch Baptist Church at Burke Lake Park in Fairfax Station, Virginia, on April 27, 2019.  

This is the church’s third year, as well as Khayriyyah’s 

“Growing up in D.C. in a poor family, I know what it’s like to be without things,” Khayriyyah says. “There were hungry days. There were sad days. 

“God has blessed me, even though I am in this chair and I am legally blind.” 

Continuing what she’s done over the past few years, she raised $770 this year by asking people she knew for donations.  

“Just because you don’t have money, don’t mean you can’t get money,” she says. I don’t have money, but I go and ask people. So just because you don’t have money, don’t mean you can’t help.” (©2019 World Vision/photo by Heather Klinger) 

The jerrycan challenge

Brothers-in-law Solomon Kain (center) and Zach Trandom (right) are two fathers willing to go the extra mile for their children — and children around the world.  

Zach shares, “A big reason why we started doing [the Global 6K] is for our kids. To show them how hard families — and kids their own age — work for dirty water that only makes them sick and that we have the power to change their lives forever.” 

This is their second year carrying 20-liter, 44-pound jerrycans during the Global 6K in Seattle. 

Zach continues “We also want to show [our kids] that we’re willing to go to any length on their behalf.  If we had to take on this challenge every day just to make sure they had what they needed, we’d do it.” (©2019 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee) 

A birthday celebration

Amara Mohn (second from left in front) chose to spend her 13th birthday participating in the Global 6K for Water in Chicago, and she persuaded the rest of her family to join her.  

Her brother Carston (right) opted to carry a jerrycan the whole way. “About halfway through, it got really tough,” he says. “I started wondering why I signed up for this when I heard someone yell, ‘You’re not doing this for you, you’re doing it for someone else.’ And that motivated me the rest of the way. Thinking about how children do this every day makes my heart hurt. It’s a lot of weight physically and emotionally.”2019 World Vision/photo by Andrea Peer) 

Walking in her shoes

Like many mothers in developing countries, this father not only carried a jerrycan of water, but also his young baby strapped to his chest. He participated with Peninsula Community Center in Redwood City, California, where more than 400 people walked and ran, raising nearly $28,000. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Heather Klinger) 

Bridging generations

Truxton “Truck” Howick, 76, high-fives Jonathan Casanova, 1, as he and his mother, Tricia, walk the Global 6K for Water at Lake Sawyer Church in Black Diamond, Washington. The event drew more than 300 participants — about 100 more than last year and raised more than $21,000. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber) 

Finishing strong

A cacophony of cheers greets participants as they cross the finish line at the World Vision-hosted site in Seattle’s Gas Works Park. (©2019World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee) 

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Even though you may be on vacation, want to keep your mind from taking one? Here are some of our favorite books and movies to grow your faith, inspire your family, and expand your worldview this summer.

Non-fiction books

How-to books

  • The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam S. McHugh
  • The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home by Russell Moore
  • Don’t Settle for Safe: Embracing the Uncomfortable and Becoming Unstoppable by Sarah Jakes Roberts

Challenge my faith

  • Holy Is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present by Carolyn Weber
  • The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith

Real people

  • White Picket Fences: Turning Toward Love in a World Divided by Privilege by Amy Julia Becker / The reality of privilege is uncomfortable but needs to be talked about.
  • Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke

Fiction books

Tension 

  • No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert / What happens when a poor school district merges with a wealthier one?
  • Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse / A challenging story centered around race and class in 1960s Alabama.

Thriller

  • The Delusion by Laura Gallier / A suspenseful story that shows the reality of spiritual warfare.

Movies

Documentary

  • Summer in the Forest (Not Rated) / Four men beat the system and forge a friendship among the trees.

Build my faith

  • I Can Only Imagine (PG) / The story of MercyMe’s lead singer, Bart Millard, and how he came to write his powerful song that brings ultimate hope and forgiveness.

  • The Case for Christ (PG) / How does an atheist become a Christian? Lee Strobel’s story answers that question.

Inspire my family

  • Wonder (PG) / A boy with facial differences enters a mainstream school.

  • All Saints (PG) / A man decides to trade in his sales career to become a pastor.

Want more ideas?

Check out our summer book and movie guides from 2018 and 2017.

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Aysha and her husband, Ahmed, are raising six children in an informal tented settlement in Lebanon. Thirteen people share the two-room tent. She says the children are stressed, so they fight. They don’t leave the tent much. Outside is a crowded, unsafe environment, with no place to play.

Before they left Syria in 2013, airplanes bombed their neighborhood in Raqqa. The children were terrified. The family fled first to Damascus, the Syrian capital, and finally to Lebanon. They spent three days traveling by car and bus.

Ahmed is a construction worker, which is one of the few trades that refugees are allowed to work in. Yet day-to-day living is a discouraging struggle.

After years as a refugee, Aysha says she doesn’t expect a good future for her children. “We’re not capable of dreaming of the future,” she says. “My children were born and raised in a tent. There is no tomorrow for them.”

More than 6.2 million people are now internally displaced within Syria, and more than 5.7 million have fled to neighboring countries as refugees.

Syrians desperately hope for peace. Their children shouldn’t have to grow up in a war zone or as refugees. Join us in praying for the people of Syria who are in their ninth year of civil war and displacement.

Pray for life-saving assistance and newfound hope for Syrian refugees.

Syrian families have been uprooted from their homes by the fighting, displaced in their own country, or fleeing to neighboring countries for safety.

Many Syrians lived comfortable, middle-class lives before they left. But when families flee in the middle of bombings and other violence, they don’t have the luxury of taking all their possessions. They arrive at refugee camps lacking clothes, shoes, food, water, toiletries, blankets, and even their government-issued identification papers, which makes it even more challenging to get assistance. They have nothing to help them survive.

For Syrians who’ve fled their homes as refugees, it’s hard to make a life and a future for their children. They are far from home, with many living in tented settlements, camps, and abandoned buildings. They depend on aid. World Vision and other humanitarian organizations help by providing personal and household supplies, tents, hygiene kits, food, clean water, and sanitation facilities.  But the needs outstrip the funds.

God, You are the Great Provider. You see Syrians’ needs with a tender heart. Just as You sustained the Israelites in the desert and fed the 5,000 with just a few loaves and fish, bring the Syrians exactly what they need each day to survive. Comfort them as they struggle, and nourish their souls with renewed hope each morning. Guide them to places where they can find help and rest.

Pray for continued faith for the people of Syria.

There are many ancient Christian communities in this region going back to New Testament times. Saul was helped by Christians in Damascus after his encounter with the ascended Christ (Acts 9). These communities today have requested prayer that they may stay strong in faith.

Lord, we lift to You our brothers and sisters in Christ living in this region. Strengthen them with power through the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). And help them to endure and remain faithful, knowing that nothing can separate them from Your love.

Pray for children’s protection.

Syrian children face many safety and wellness issues. They’re especially susceptible to malnutrition, dehydration, and diarrheal diseases. Because of the Syrian health system’s deterioration, many have not been immunized or kept current on vaccinations, and outbreaks of measles and polio have occurred both in Syria and in refugee camps. Due to the nature of living in chaotic, overcrowded, and unfamiliar situations, children also are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation.

Many children also must work, which leaves them open to other dangers. Without income, parents may marry their daughters off as young as 13. World Vision operates Child-Friendly Spaces in Lebanon and Jordan. The spaces provide a safe place for children to learn, play, and process the emotions of what they have experienced. And World Vision staff members don’t hesitate to visit parents if their children don’t show up, providing accountability to ensure that kids are safe.

Jesus, You love the little children. Each Syrian child is precious to You. Protect their little bodies from dangerous diseases, and bring healing to those already sick. Keep away predatory adults who are looking to harm or profit from them. Bring loving adults to watch and nurture them as they survive the harsh realities in which they live.

Pray for education for Syrian children.

Many refugee families can’t afford rent, let alone school fees, uniforms, and books. If lucky enough to attend school, child refugees often find it difficult to enroll and participate in classes not in their native language. Meanwhile, millions of children in Syria can’t attend class because schools are in ruins, teachers are missing or deceased, and security is a concern. The education of an entire generation of Syrians is at risk.

Lord, our hearts ache for these little ones who can’t go to school. Provide resources to refugee families in miraculous ways so children can get an education. For those in Syrian schools, place Your hand of protection over them as they try to learn. Maintain the will and plans of adults who are working to help educate Syrian children inside the nation and elsewhere.

Pray that people worldwide will respond to this humanitarian crisis.

Now in its ninth year, the Syrian conflict and the chaos it has bred have become background noise to many people — even those who consider themselves compassionate. The political ramifications of the conflict keep many caring individuals at a comfortable distance. But there is an urgent need for donor governments to allocate funds to meet this humanitarian emergency, for churches to raise a cry of prayer and support for people in desperate circumstances, and for all of us to find a way to engage meaningfully for the sake of Syrian children and their families.

Eyad, a mechanical engineer turned aid worker, dodges airstrikes and organizes work crews to bring clean water to families in Syria. “You have no idea how hard it is for me to see my people living in tents,” he says. But Eyad refuses to give in to despair. What gives him hope is “seeing people from all over the world caring enough to help.”

Gracious Lord, awaken us to the needs of Syrian children and their mothers and fathers. Let us not grow weary in doing what is right and good in Your eyes. Remind us to engage on their behalf as we would if it were our own families who were suffering. Help us be advocates for peace in this troubled land and open our hearts and wallets to pray and give gifts to help.

“‘Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.’” —Exodus 22:21 (NIV)

 

Contributors: Denise C. Koenig and Kathryn Reid, World Vision staff.

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World Vision’s Global 6K for Water is a one-day event where people from all over the world walk or run 6 kilometers in their own neighborhoods to bring lasting clean water to children in need. Why a 6K? It’s the average round trip distance women and children in the developing world walk for water — water that is often contaminated with life-threatening diseases. Every step you take is one they won’t have to.

When you sign up to walk or run the 6K on Saturday, May 4, 2019, you’ll provide life-changing clean water to one person! We’ll then send you a race kit with everything you need to walk or run your 6K, including a unique race bib with the picture of a child receiving clean water from World Vision’s water projects, a T-shirt, and a medal. After the 6K, you can even continue the relationship with the child on your bib by becoming their sponsor.

Check out what people like you have to say about how easy and impactful it is to walk or run the Global 6K for Water:

Judy Carlson, 71, walked the 2017 Global 6K for Water at her own pace — slow and steady, using her cane for support. Six kilometers is the average distance people in the developing world walk for water. Judy walked her 6K for 6-year-old Bintou from Mali. Who will you walk for?
Judy Carlson, 71, uses her cane for support while walking the Global 6K for Water with her friend Debbie Torres, 61, in Portage, Indiana. Team World Vision Manager Steve Spear doubled back on his bike after finishing his 6K run to walk alongside them. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Heather Klinger)

Global 6K for Water: ‘If she can do it, you can totally do it’

By Heather Klinger
Published May 2, 2018

The excitement was palpable on May 6, 2017, for families in Portage, Indiana. It wasn’t only World Vision’s Global 6K for Water at Real Life Community Church; it was the local high school’s much-anticipated prom night.

Students and parents alike were excited to complete the Global 6K but also excited to get on to hair appointments, picking up corsages, and getting ready for the big dance. So about an hour-and-a-half after the 6K began that morning, pastors and volunteers started to close the course that about 75 people had completed to expedite the clean-up process.

When a family — which volunteers thought were the final participants — came around the corner to cheers and the banging of cowbells, instead of first celebrating, they shouted to the crowd that Judy and Debbie were still on the course behind them. Suddenly everyone was in motion once again to restore the course.

Meanwhile, 71-year-old Judy Carlson was walking the Global 6K at her own pace — slowly and steadily using her cane for support. On her race bib was Bintou, 6, from Mali. Read more >>

A woman kneels at the table after finishing a walk to bring clean water to people around the world. She is filling out a form to sponsor the child through World Vision.
Six months pregnant and having finished the 2017 Global 6K for Water in Seattle, Brittany Kukal kneels down to fill out a form to sponsor Innocent, a child in Malawi. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Andrea Peer)

Two children brought together by clean water and a mother’s love

By Phil Manzano
Published April 25, 2018

Brittany Kukal, 31, of Kirkland, Washington, kneeled down to fill out the form at the sponsorship table at last year’s Global 6K for Water at Gas Works Park in Seattle. She had been on her feet awhile having just finished a 6-kilometer loop and she was, after all, six months pregnant.

“I felt great. I felt empowered,” Brittany says. “I felt encouraged, and I felt like the Lord was really here today. It was wonderful.”

Around the globe, about 844 million people lack access to clean water, and people in the developing world walk an average of 6 kilometers to find water. Oftentimes, it’s women and children who make that walk, lugging heavy cans to bring back water that is likely impure and unsanitary.

A friend told Brittany about the Global 6K for Water last year and encouraged her to sign up. “I gave it a lot of thought, a lot of prayer. And being I’m six months pregnant, I thought it’s a great way to really engage and understand what these women and families go through,” she says.

And it was a way to make giving more personal, “to actually experience the walking and the process just makes it more real for you,” she says. Every $50 Global 6K for Water registration fee will provide clean water for one person.

But walking the 6K wasn’t without some concern, Brittany says; it was her first child and a high-risk pregnancy. But with her doctor’s approval and time spent praying, she moved full-speed ahead, wanting to empathize with mothers’ globally.

Brittany Kukal, with her medal and picture of her sponsored child after walking in the Global 6K for Water last year. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Andrea Peer)

As she walked, her race bib featured a boy from Malawi named Innocent. And it was Innocent she sponsored at the table that Saturday morning.

“I think as I bring my baby into the world and being able to provide for him — a lot of kids don’t get that,” she says. “I actually sponsored the kid I walked for today. That really means a lot to me because now we get to continue that relationship.”

Today, you could say that Brittany has two children: Leo, who was born after the Global 6K, is now 8 months old and Innocent in Malawi.

“I wanted to participate for all the right reasons,” she says. “It ended up being really good.”

Leo and Innocent are already linked in some way. “Honestly, I did it for my son,” Brittany says about sponsoring Innocent. “A lot of what I do now is for my son.” She shows Leo pictures of Innocent, and one day she hopes Leo will write to Innocent.

She will raise Leo alongside Innocent — who will open up not only other parts of the world to him but lessons in kindness and encouragement.

“If I can help another child in some way, it’ll set a good example for my son and also it helps me too — to feel more connected and to give me purpose,” she says.

Brittany has signed up to participate again in the Global 6K for Water May 19, 2018, at Gas Works Park — this time with little Leo in a stroller.

And she’s excited to be joining together with a group of mothers who are walking the Global 6K together.

We wanted a child for a long time, Brittany says. It changes your world and mindset. You really focus on what matters doing the 6K; it gives you an idea and glimpse into life.

Mom and 7-year-old daughter sitting together wearing World Vision Global 6K for Water shirts.
Kari and Kamryn Thackrey, of Flora, Illinois, participated in the 2017 Global 6K for Water to help bring clean water to people who need it. This year, they’re inspiring their community to join them to increase their impact. (©2017 Genesis Photos/photo by Sean Loftin)

7-year-old girl leads Illinois community’s Global 6K for Water

By Chris Huber
Published Feb. 15, 2018

Carrying a tea kettle, 5-year-old Cheru walks more than 6 kilometers with her siblings to dig for water in a dry riverbed in Kenya. The water often makes them sick, but they have no other choice. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

The last thing 7-year-old Kamryn Thackrey sees before she goes to bed each night is a photo of Cheru, a 5-year-old girl from northern Kenya, holding a tea kettle full of dirty water on her head. Cheru looks tired from walking 6 kilometers with her siblings to collect water for their family to use for cooking, drinking, and bathing.

The photo inspires Kamryn and reminds her to pray for Cheru: that she would get access to clean water and not have to walk so far for it.

Kamryn and her family participated in the Global 6K for Water last year in their hometown of Flora, Illinois. The second-grader and her little sister, Abigail, spearheaded their effort to raise $1,200. That’s enough to help provide clean water to 24 people like Cheru.

“I was excited that I got to help kids not have to walk so far and that they could have clean water,” Kamryn says. “And I liked walking with my mom and dad and sister and brother.”

Kamryn’s journey with Cheru began early last spring. One day, her mom, Kari, was sorting through the mail and about to toss out the World Vision magazine, when the cover photo caught Kamryn’s eye. “Who is this?!” Kamryn asked.

When Kari took her over to the couch to read it together, Cheru’s story brought Kamryn to tears. Cheru was 5 in the photo, the same age as Abigail.

“Kamryn started crying and I said, ‘what’s wrong?’” Kari recounts. “She said, ‘I can’t imagine Abigail having to walk that far for water. That would be scary.’”

So Kamryn decided to do something about it. She and her family signed up for the 2017 Global 6K for Water. This was the first time they had done anything like this, but they knew it was the right thing to do. As they began fundraising and planning the race course, Kamryn shared Cheru’s story with her class, friends, family members, and kids at her church. She and Abigail made promotional fliers and posted a video on Facebook. Supportive parents and affirming comments on social media helped motivate the sisters to keep sharing Cheru’s story.

“We were losing-our-minds excited when money kept coming in,” Kari says.

The family charted their own 6K course and invited another family to join them.

“We enjoyed being able to do it just on our own, rather than drive to a big event, but knowing we were part of something bigger,” Kari says.

Kamryn is planning to host a bigger Global 6K event in her community and raise more money for water this year. Kari says they hope to rally a few more of Flora’s 5,000 residents to participate. “I want to try and do a big one at my church,” Kamryn says.

She began promoting this one before Christmas.

“Once she sets her mind to something, there is no swaying her in a different direction,” Kari says. “From the moment she read the first magazine about Cheru, we as a family were sold.”

Kamryn has been praying expectantly for Cheru since last spring. She recently learned that Cheru and her community will be getting access to clean water this year.

“Awesome,” Kamryn says matter-of-factly. “We will walk for other kids now.”

8-year-old Luke Flowers used his birthday to give back by running World Vision's Global 6K for Water with his friends.
Not many 8-year-olds would use their birthday as an opportunity to give back, but last year, Luke ran World Vision’s 6K for Water with his friends. (©2017 Genesis Photo Agency/photo by Charlie Leight)

An 8-year-old spends his birthday running 6K for water

By Alissa Sandoval
Published March 23, 2017

Not many 8-year-olds would use their birthday as an opportunity to give back, but on March 19, 2016, Luke Flowers from Phoenix, Arizona did. Instead of the usual games and cake, his birthday party went the extra mile — an extra 3.7 miles, to be exact. He invited his entire school to join him in running the 6K for Water, and on race day, Luke and 10 of his best friends ran together and raised $1,755 for clean water in Africa.

“I decided to run because I thought it would be fun, and it was,” he says.

Luke encourages running the 6K with a group because not only is it more fun, but more runners equals more impact. He enjoys organizing friends and family to make a difference, and he loves knowing that this race will help change the lives of people who live without access to clean water.

Jessica Flowers, Luke’s mom, says Luke’s birthday was a way for him and other second graders to both celebrate and do something for others at the same time.

“This was a great way to introduce the kids to World Vision’s mission and give them a chance to give back,” she shared. “They were proud of themselves for running and proud of themselves for making a difference.

Malinda doesn’t love running, but “getting clean water to people who need it is life and death,” she says. That's why she runs the Global 6K for Water.
Malinda doesn’t love running, but “getting clean water to people who need it is life and death,” she says. That’s why she runs the Global 6K for Water.

Following God’s call to run 6K for clean water

By Kristy J. O’Hara-Glaspie
Published March 23, 2017

Malinda Fugate has known about World Vision “for what feels like a zillion years.” The 33-year-old from Torrance, California, has sponsored a child since 2003, and when she used to work for a radio station, she partnered with World Vision several times. But when she moved into children’s ministry work at her church, Faith Presbyterian, in 2015, her relationship with World Vision began to change.

“We worked on a project where our younger kids could be hands-on, and we thought a fundraiser for clean water could be good to show them about the need for water,” she says. “We said, ‘Let’s walk the distance many children walk and have them carry the water.’”

The first year they did the 6K for Water, more than 50 people participated at a local park, even though “it was hotter in L.A. than it was in Kenya,” Malinda says.

Last year, her church partnered with another church, and more than 70 people joined the event. The 6K sparked questions in the children who participated. “Kids started thinking outside of the box,” she says, asking questions about children living in poverty.

The event also pushed Malinda to new places as she dealt with the pain of her divorce. “This past year especially has been a rocky one,” Malinda says. “God and my friends convinced me to do a half marathon to raise money with Team World Vision, and that’s been transformative. It’s not just time with God, but it’s also the discipline of running.”

This year she plans to run in the Global 6K for Water and another half marathon. And though she doesn’t love running like some Team World Vision members, “the bottom line is, getting clean water to people who need it is life and death.”

“When God calls you to do something, not being obedient is way more scary than obediently running a bunch of miles every morning,” she says. “Whenever you’re serving God, he changes you. That’s how he works.”

Walk for water leads to Chicago woman’s healing

By Phil Manzano and Laura Blank
Published March 17, 2017

Iza Narciso had just completed World Vision’s 6K for water in Chicago last year — she was breathless, sweaty but full of joy: She had come full circle to get out of poverty.

Her post-race video interview captured a moment of profound healing for Iza, who grew up in Angola walking miles every day in search of water. Each step of the 6K in Chicago reminded her of her own struggle and the struggle of millions of women and children who walk for water.

“As a little girl, I was maybe 5, I would have to walk every single day to look for water. That was a reality for me,” Iza says. “I don’t remember how many miles, but I remember that we would try to find water wherever water was.”

When she found water, there were often crowds; people fought to fill their jugs before the source ran out. And walking back, while balancing a heavy jug on your head, other children would ask for water, “but you have to keep walking because your family is counting on you for this water.

“So you get home with a little bit of water,” Iza remembers, “and this water is just so precious. Every bit of it is counted.” She remembers long excruciating nights of going to sleep thirsty as her mother strictly rationed their water.

As young children, Iza and her sister fled civil war in Angola. A social worker at a refugee center in Belgium essentially adopted and raised them, she says. Iza came to the United States to study at Loyola University, receiving a degree in literature. She now owns a daycare in Chicago.

Last year, members of Team World Vision came to her church and spoke about the 6K for water event. Because of her past, she was intrigued and signed up. But she was unprepared for the emotional impact.

“All of those people, warming up early on a Saturday morning, getting ready to run 6K, 7, 8, 9. And emotionally my heart was getting bigger and bigger. I couldn’t really handle the emotions. I was trying to search — why am I feeling this way? Why is this becoming so overwhelming for me?

“And I realize, it was the meaning of what they were doing. Those people in Chicago were running for me. And I realized all this time I was in Africa suffering, didn’t have access to clean water; I realized I was not alone. That there was a team of people trying hard to get water to me. It just means so much because no child should go without water.”

It was a healing moment — healing from the trauma of seeking water as a child.

“It just really means a lot to me that all this time, I was never alone,” Iza says. “Even in suffering, I was never alone. It just illustrates what God says — even in suffering, I am with you. The Bible has become so real for me.”

She looks forward to the upcoming Global 6K for Water and has adapted the 6K for the toddlers at her daycare. The children dress in orange, use sippy cups at the water stations and run a lap around the park. Money raised at the event last year was used to sponsor children through World Vision.

“It was so touching because we explained to the kids why we’re doing it,” Iza says. “I remember a 4-year-old looking at me, and she said she was tired and she didn’t want to do this anymore. And I explained why we are running, and I explained to her the picture of Sophie, our sponsored child. And she said, ‘I will finish the race.’ And she ran to the finish line. And when her mom came to pick her up, she said, ‘Mommy! I ran for Sophie because she didn’t have water. I ran for her!”

Photos and videos of children in need of clean water haunt Iza.

“That was me. And it’s painful. It hurts not to have water.”

But the realization that the children walking miles for dirty water were not forgotten and people were walking, running, and doing what they could to care for them is healing the trauma of poverty.

“I just want to say thank you for doing it for me,” Iza says. “You’re allowing me to stay alive. I wish I could do more. But you’re not just helping the kids in Africa; you’re also psychologically helping the adults like me.

“And you’re helping us feel better. And you’re also helping us to see God really. It’s just so powerful. The fact that they are running, it’s so meaningful. I can’t help but say thank you.”

Kianna’s family walks 6K for water

By Kathryn Reid
Published March 17, 2017

California mom Kianna Lyons doesn’t take water for granted. But she’s not only concerned about the water shortages that have affected southern California where she lives. She has a heart for moms and children in sub-Saharan Africa who walk 6K (3.7 miles) daily to bring home dirty water, and she’s determined to do something about it.

Kianna has chosen to join World Vision’s Global 6K for Water. Like last year, she’ll walk with her husband and three children — ages 2, 5, and 7 — and other members of Highland Avenue Community Church of the Nazarene in Rancho Cucamonga.

“Clean water — this is something everyone should have,” says Kianna. She’s certain of that. When she first heard about the 6K at her church, she was less certain about participating.

“I’m not a runner at all!” she says. Kianna and her husband wondered if they would be expected to run. And what would they do with the kids? They were quickly reassured that runners, walkers, and stroller pushers are all welcome.

The family’s race kit included a bib with a picture of a child who needed clean water for each “racer” to wear. Maya and Owen, now 5 and 7, immediate “got it.”

“I bet he plays basketball,” said Owen about the boy whose picture they pinned on his shirt. Maya was determined to finish the course for the little girl whose picture she wore.

Kianna has kept the bibs because the 6K was such a great memory, she says.

“We could say … this is their name; this is what they look like. These are the people we hope we made a difference for. It’s like they are walking with you.”

It’s important to Kianna that her children understand what God has given them and give back. Her family has not always been able to do all she would like for others. Now it has become a top priority to her and her husband to model generosity for their children.

Walking the talk

Eighty people were expected for Highland Avenue Church’s first 6K, but even more joined the walk. Son Owen was quick out of the chute and confident of finishing strong.

But after about 4K, “everything began to break down,” Kianna says. Owen was flagging; Maya and other youngsters needed piggyback rides.

Kianna realized then what a powerful experience and a “teaching moment” the 6K could be.

She reminded Owen that while the 6K was a once-a-year event for him, other children walked that far every day for water. That’s when he remembered: They carried water; he carried nothing but the bib on his shirt.

“That’s why we’re doing this,” Kianna assured him, “so the kids don’t have to.”

This year Owen knows exactly why he’ll be walking the 6K.

“We’re walking for people who don’t have water,” he says. “It’s to raise money to get clean water and water fountains for kids. And if we keep doing it every year, there will be lots of clean water!”

Walking to build community

In their first 6K, Highland Avenue Church’s participants ranged from “babies in strollers to kids on shoulders, kids riding scooters and bikes, all the way up to a man in his 90s,” says Pastor Gabriel (Gabe) Martin.

Pastor Martin’s five kids — ages 3 to 13 — took part. Like Kianna, he embraced the opportunity to broaden their understanding of their place in the world.

He told them: “Not only do we have blessings in our lives, but we are responsible to make sure that other kids are blessed as well.”

Walking the 6K together was a blessing and a transformative experience for his church family as well. Congregation members who had only seen each other in the pews found time to talk. They met parents and kids from the preschool attached to the church.

“I can’t think of any better opportunity to engage our entire congregation and community in something that has a global impact,” says Pastor Martin. “It reminds us of the mission that we’re called to as part of the body of Christ.”

Says Kianna, “It really felt like we came together as a community.”

The Sibblies family from New York heard about the global water crisis and decided to do something about it — walk for water so others don't have to.
The Sibblies family — (from left) Winston, Shurawl, Matthew, and Sollande — near their home in Hopewell Junction, New York. (©2017 Genesis Photo Agency/photo by Christopher Capozziello)

Family feeds their souls by walking for water together

By Heather Klinger
Published March 15, 2017

The choice to walk a 6K was an easy one for Shurawl Sibblies. Part of the appeal was a family activity. A little bit was staying healthy. Then there was the faith motivation — wanting to serve people less fortunate.

The global water crisis is staggering. Worldwide, 663 million people live without access to clean water, and those in sub-Saharan Africa have it the worst. There, women and children spend a total of 20 million hours every day collecting water. They walk an average of 6 kilometers (about 3.7 miles) a day to fetch the water they need for drinking, cooking, bathing, and washing.

“I can’t imagine a child walking that long for water,” says Shurawl, the mother of two from Hopewell Junction, New York. “I had no idea the significance of that distance. It led us to think how privileged we are.”

So last year on a cold spring day, Shurawl walked and ran a 6K with her family — her husband, Winston; then-13-year-old daughter, Sollande; then-8-year-old son, Matthew; and her church community from Hopewell Reformed Church.

“It was fun to talk with people along the way, run with people along the way, and have our children participate,” Shurawl says. “People were out with their baby carriages and strollers, but there were also some avid, hardcore runners in our bunch.”

The 6K was right up Sollande’s alley; Matthew was more reluctant. But when Shurawl asked him, “Wouldn’t you like to help another child? Think of how much you have,” he agreed to join the rest of the family.

That’s the bonus appeal of the 6K for Shurawl — instilling good values in her kids, like thinking of others first and missional living.

After receiving their race bibs in the mail — each with a child’s name, age, and photo — the family prayed together for the children on their bibs.

Next came fundraising to provide clean water for kids and communities in need. “When I reached out to people to donate,” Shurawl says, “they were happy to give, and I was happy to give. I give where my heart is called.”

This year, Shurawl and her family are again signed up for the Global 6K for Water.

“It is something I would highly recommend,” Shurawl says. “It’s fun. It’s for a good cause. You’re giving, and you’re also receiving something in the process. Doing something good for others feeds your soul.”

Johgina Densmore has completed three 6K walks with World Vision to raise money for clean water for children in Africa. She hopes to double her team for this year's Global 6K for Water May 6, 2017.
Johgina Densmore has completed three 6K walks with World Vision to raise money for clean water for children in Africa. She hopes to double her 150-person team from last year in this year’s event on May 6. (Photo courtesy Johgina Densmore)

One woman creates a ripple in bringing clean water to impoverished communities

By Kristy J. O’Hara-Glaspie
Published Jan. 11, 2017

As Johgina Densmore walked along Lake Michigan on a bitter November day in 2014, 20-mph winds pelted the lake water at her, repeatedly stinging her face.

But the fierce winds would not deter her and her best friends from finishing their walk in Chicago. Too much was riding on them finishing — they were walking a 6K with World Vision to bring clean water to children and families in Africa who walk the same distance every day to get dirty, contaminated water.

“It was God who got me through those 20-mph winds on the lake,” 52-year-old Johgina says.

Despite not being a runner, when Johgina learned about the lack of access to clean water many families face, she signed up for the 6K event with Team World Vision to raise money to do something about it. And in two-and-a-half years since that race against the harsh winds, her first step has multiplied into thousands — all making a difference in the lives of children halfway across the world.

“My life has changed regarding water,” Johgina says. “I was ignorant to the lack of clean water. Just to think that there are kids that don’t have access to clean water, and the water they do have access to is dirty and contaminated, it’s made me more self-conscious. I try to share this as much as I can and share the awareness so others’ eyes can be opened too.”

Gathering friends

Johgina already was making an impact on a community in Kenya by sponsoring a child with World Vision. But when she first heard about the 6K in 2014, despite knowing the need so many faced in the world, because of her sponsorship she was shocked to learn how many people don’t have access to clean water.

“When the 6K came up, and they were talking about providing clean water to kids in Africa, I was like ‘What? Everybody has clean water!’” she says. “But in my naiveté, I didn’t know.”

She learned that her entry fee would help provide clean water for one person, and it inspired her to take the first step and join the event as a walker.

“I am not a runner. I am a zero runner. I walk, jog, walk — and my jog is just a little faster than my walk,” Johgina says with a laugh.

She convinced her best friend, who competes as a triathlete, to join too and walk with her on that cold November day. The two finished, feeling empowered.

Steps multiplying

Johgina’s steps began to multiply in 2015 when she shared what she’d learned about water with friends from church and work. They were inspired to join her in the 2015 6K — this time during a warmer month. That year, about 15 of her friends participated with her.

In 2016, Johgina felt God calling her to do even more, so she decided to captain a team and asked her pastor if they could announce it in church. Johgina says, “He had just a little bit of competition in his spirit, and he said, ‘This is what we’re doing, and we want to have the largest team — let’s sign up because of what this cause is; it’s phenomenal.’”

People stepped up, no matter their circumstances. One man didn’t even have proper shoes for the event, but she assured him he was going to be fine.

“He just really understood the value of walking the 6K,” she says. “We have to be able to do what the Bible tells us. Christ says, ‘I was in prison, and you came to see me, I was hungry, and you fed me, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.’ We have to live those Scriptures.”

On race day, Johgina and a team of more than 150 people walked and ran the Global 6K’s 3.7 miles together — a far cry from that first race she walked with just one friend along Lake Michigan. On race day, Johgina made an even bigger impact by deciding to sponsor another child: a little girl from Kenya named Dorcas, whose picture was on her race bib.

Creating ripples

This year, Johgina wants to multiply her steps even more. She’s praying to double her team for the 2017 Global 6K for Water on May 6, and she’s already recruiting family and friends to join her.

“You don’t have to be a runner to make an impact,” she tells them. “You can make an impact just by walking. If you jog, you jog. If you run, that’s great. You have to look at the bigger picture.

“This may sound cliché, but people need to know they can be the pebble that’s thrown across the water. People think a pebble can’t make an impact, but it creates ripples, and the 6K can do that. They have to see themselves creating ripples and giving back.”

Elisabeth Morton overcame being on a feeding tube to run the World Vision 6K for Water.
Elisabeth Morton overcame being on a feeding tube to run the World Vision 6K for Water. (©2015 Genesis Photos/photo by Matthew Bowie)

Once on a feeding tube, a Chicago woman runs 6K for clean water

By Kristy J. O’Hara-Glaspie
Published Oct. 25, 2015

Elisabeth Morton was one of the last to cross the finish line during the World Vision 6K for Water in Chicago last year, but she collapsed in joy anyway.

Nobody thought she could finish the race, which raised money for World Vision’s clean water work in Africa.

“I fell over in tears,” the 28-year-old says, “and it was a great feeling to know God gave me what I needed to cross.”

The run was about more than reaching the finish line for Elisabeth, who suffers from an unexplained health condition. Starting in 2012, Elisabeth couldn’t eat or drink without excruciating pain, and while her diet contained the fattiest foods possible, she lost half of her body weight. Doctors still haven’t figured out why.

Just before Christmas that year, she was attached to a feeding tube, which was replaced five times in 17 months. Throughout it all, Elisabeth’s faith radiated to the medical staff around her as she confidently prayed for God’s sustenance and healing.

God is bigger and has a plan. He just asks us to submit to him.—Elisabeth Morton

Miraculously, in May 2014, she had improved enough for doctors to remove the feeding tube. Slowly Elisabeth regained weight, but her ability to eat remained restricted. Nevertheless, when a friend at church invited Elisabeth to join the World Vision 6K for Water, she decided to run.

She started running that summer, at first one block. Then a second block. She slowly linked those blocks together, building stamina and raising pledges for clean water in Africa. By the time the November race day arrived, determination consumed her.

“I have clean water,” she says. “I have food, even though it hates me. [Some children] don’t. I want to give back.”

Despite 20-degree temperatures and extreme wind that sent Lake Michigan waves splashing runners as they raced, Elisabeth persevered. When she crossed the finish line, everyone was amazed.

Elisabeth is training to run the Chicago Marathon with Team World Vision and raise even more for clean water. Her medical condition hasn’t improved, but she still sees God’s goodness in her life.

“It’s a testimony that God is bigger and has a plan,” Elisabeth says. “He just asks us to submit to him. I learned a lot about having to rely fully on the Lord to keep you alive every day.”

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When you walk or run the Global 6K for Water, you provide life-changing clean water to one person! You can create even more impact by becoming a host site and gathering friends and family to walk and run with you. It’s easier than throwing a birthday party.

When you sign up to host a 6K on Saturday, May 4, 2019, we’ll equip you with online resources like a planning guide, marketing materials, and race day experience goodies including a start and finish banner, mile markers, and T-shirts, bibs, and medals for your participants.

Check out what people like you have to say about how easy and impactful it is to host the Global 6K for Water:

Global 6K for Water instills a vision in future leaders

By Laura Reinhardt
Published July 31, 2018

The partnership between Lake Center Christian School and World Vision started when students in the running club signed up for World Vision’s Global 6K for Water. When the day arrived last May, Ohio’s spring weather wasn’t exactly ideal — it was snowing. Despite the less-than-stellar conditions, 40 of the 50 participants who’d committed still showed up for the event.

Dannon Stock, who led the running club at that time, says those tough circumstances contributed to the students’ feelings of solidarity with children who have to walk 6 kilometers every day for water.

This year, the fifth-grade classes have embraced World Vision’s Global 6K for Water as the service-learning component in their school, which is about 30 minutes outside of Akron. Service to Christ is one of the school’s core values, and they look for unique ways to meet the needs of their immediate area as well as the global community. This event seemed tailor-made for them.

The students created soaps, hand sanitizer, and bracelets to raise money for their entrance fees and to donate to clean water efforts. The third-grade teachers wanted another activity for their classes to do for their service project. Again, World Vision provided the answer with the Matthew 25 ChallengeRead more >>

Delta Air Lines is again the official sponsor of World Vision's Global 6K for Water event in Seattle at Gas Works Park on May 19. Learn the story behind the partnership.
Tony Gonchar, Delta Air Lines’ vice president in Seattle, and Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., right, stand at the finish line of the 2017 Global 6K for Water holding jerry cans that people around the world use to gather water. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Andrea Peer)

Delta Air Lines, World Vision U.S. partner to provide clean water

By Phil Manzano
Published March 16, 2018

Walking or running a 6K is easy for Tony Gonchar, Delta Air Lines’ vice president in Seattle. But after World Vision’s 2017 Global 6K for Water, he had a new appreciation for the distance.

Six kilometers is the average distance that people who lack access to clean water walk each day to get water, often carrying heavy jugs or jerry cans filled with water on the return trip. And that’s what Tony did: carry a 5-gallon jerry can, filled with about 40 sloshing, awkward pounds of water, on a route around Gas Works Park in Seattle.

“I was here with my daughter and her boyfriend, so thankfully I had some moral support on this,” Tony says as he recovered at a tent at the event site. “I can tell you; I feel like I’m a pretty fit guy, but that was a very hard thing to do.”

Participants in last year’s Global 6K for Water in Seattle make their way along the course to raise money for clean water around the world. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Andrea Peer)

About 1,300 walkers and runners in Seattle and more than 28,000 people worldwide walked the Global 6K to raise money to provide clean water to people without access. Through World Vision’s work, one person gets clean water every 10 seconds.

“With every step, I was imagining what it’s like to do this barefoot,” he says. “What it’s like to do on dirt, in fear of your life, and to only — at the end of the journey — have a can full of dirty water that needs to be purified.

“It was an incredible experience. It provides an appreciation not only for the life that I have, but the appreciation that we might be able to do something about these poor conditions that people face around the world every day.”

Delta is again the official sponsor of the 2018 Global 6K for Water event in Seattle at Gas Works Park.

“We’ve been partners with World Vision as their preferred airlines supplier for the last five years,” Tony says. The 6K was attractive because it was an event calling for personal engagement — walk a mile in the shoes of people that really have a very difficult time in life trying just to get the things we take for granted, like clean water.

So Delta, Tony says, was happy to once again support the 6K event as part of its efforts to support the local community. In Seattle alone, Delta partners with more than 100 charities, and worldwide, Delta gives back 1 percent of its profits — about $40 million — to charitable organizations.

Last May, lugging the jerry can on the 6K route, Tony’s race bib featured an 11-year-old for whom he walked.

He says, “I can tell you, having walked with the jerry can, you have a real appreciation how difficult it could be just to get something that we turn the tap on and take for granted.

“We’re doing it in our track shoes and our Gor-Tex clothing, and it’s still a challenge. This event helps people understand the difficulty that other people around the world face in accessing basic necessities, and hopefully everybody walks away with a greater appreciation.”

A Tennessee church walked and ran for clean water last year. Now they’re making strides for the Global 6K for Water to become a community-wide event.
Pastor Ryan Krivsky pictured in the mission area of First Baptist Church in Columbia, Tennessee. He and 225 members of the church participated in the 2017 Global 6K for Water and plan to make it a bigger event this year. (©2017 Genesis Photo Agency/photo by David Mudd)

‘Because you walked this 6K today, a child doesn’t have to.’

By Chris Huber
Published Feb. 28, 2018

A small-town church in Tennessee is making a global impact.

“During a (church) service, I asked people to raise their hand if they wanted to change the world,” says Ryan Krivsky, worship pastor and Global 6K for Water host site leader. “I said, ‘You can because you can change someone else’s world.’ They can see that in [the Global 6K for Water]. They can see the change they’re making in one person’s world.”

Ryan says he was immediately excited about the idea when he got a flier in the mail. It was the perfect opportunity for the church to be on mission. First Baptist Church of Columbia hadn’t done something like this before. It sent a wave of excitement through the church.

For their first time doing this, Ryan says the church was deeply motivated, and they went all out: signing up for the race, enthusiastically raising money, and about 20 people volunteering to help with event logistics. Each participant’s $50 entrance fee provides clean water to one person. Runners and walkers can also choose to raise funds for water on a fundraising page or to sponsor the child pictured on their race bib.

“It wasn’t just, ‘Give to this general effort,’” Ryan says. “It was, ‘Oh, I’m giving to this person.’ That personalization is what really got my interest in it and what got a lot of people into it.”

Each time a person crossed the race’s finish line, Ryan and other volunteers put a medal around their neck, looked at them, and reminded them: “Because you walked this 6K today, a child doesn’t have to.” They referred to the child pictured on each participant’s race bib.

It was a powerful moment for Ryan and many others, he says.

Participants ranged in age from 6 all the way up to their 70s. It helped Ryan, the church, and the community cast a vision for a larger communitywide 6K event in 2018. He and last year’s participants have been promoting the Global 6K for Water in their community, and he’s planning to take the idea to the city council before this year’s event.

“You feel like you’re doing something,” he says. “You can see that difference in one person’s life.”

Columbia is known for its annual spring Mule Day festival. So Ryan wants to call his 6K host site the ‘Mule Town 6K.’

“It’s close-knit, and if you can get a community like that behind it, you could just exponentially grow what the impact is.”

A church runs and walks the Global 6k for Water to bring clean water to children around the world.
Lyndsey Watson, associate pastor at Cascade Covenant Church in North Bend, Washington, leads church members at the Global 6K for Water near Gas Works Park in Seattle in 2017. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Andrea Peer)

A Washington state church mobilizes to walk the Global 6K for Water

By Phil Manzano
Published Feb. 15, 2018

A couple of years ago, 20 members of Cascade Covenant Church in North Bend, Washington, joined Team World Vision to run and raise money to bring clean water to children around the world.

Then last year, about 70 people from the church joined the Global 6K for Water: young and old, walking or running to serve in a simple, but powerful way.

“It is such an easy way to have people put their faith in action,” Senior Pastor Dan Boehlje says. “We’re just one tiny little church here in Washington, but you multiply that across the United States, across the globe and that makes a big difference.”

A church runs and walks the Global 6k for Water to bring clean water to children around the world.
Pastor Dan Boehlje. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

Nestled in the shadow of the Cascades east of Seattle, the 6K has given Cascade Covenant a broader and deeper view of changing the world through the local congregation and community.

“It’s just show up and walk or run,” Dan says. “And it really does create its own momentum as people get excited for it because of what it means.”

Last year, about 1,300 people walked or ran the 6K course near Gas Works Park in Seattle. Worldwide, about 27,000 people walked or ran to raise awareness and money to solve the world’s water crisis.

“I want to thank you for coming,” World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns says. “I have met men and women who are 70 years old and have never taken a clean shower or a bath in their lives. I’ve seen little children who have never had a cup of clean water to drink in their lives. Those are the people you’re running for today. Just imagine living 70 years and never having access to clean water.”

On May 19 and 20, 2018, World Vision will again host the Global 6K for Water and Celebration Sunday with participants across the U.S. and around the world.

Why a 6K? Six kilometers, about 3.7 miles, is the average distance people — usually women and girls — walk to get water in the developing world. It’s not a leisurely stroll; it’s a difficult, frequently dangerous, and time-consuming journey. And the water is dirty.

Each participant wears a race bib with a picture of a child, representing one person who will get clean water. Every $50 registration fee goes toward providing clean water for one person.

Sharing the struggle for water with children

“It was always important to me to teach my kids to be grateful for what they had,” says Angela McCann, children’s pastor at Cascade Covenant. “And so as a mother, I just think this is such a great way to teach our kids to be thankful for something as simple as a clean glass of water that’s right out of the tap.”

Even for the children she pastors, the 6K is relevant and potentially life changing.

A church runs and walks the Global 6k for Water to bring clean water to children around the world.
Angela McCann, children’s pastor. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

The kids get it, she says. They understand what it means to have to go get water. They understand the effort to walk 6 kilometers and that kids their age do that every day around the world. Often, more than once a day.

“When we accept Jesus in our hearts, yes, we can follow God and be in heaven,” Angela says. “But there’s more to it. He’s still bringing light and healing to this world and we’re participants in that. So for me, this is faith in action. This is an application of bringing that light of Christ into the dark places of this world.”

Last year, one of her fifth graders asked his mom to text a picture of him crossing the Global 6K for Water finish line to  Angela.

“This is a fifth grader who is so excited that he got to be part of this,” Angela says. “I think of all the kids that were there from my congregation. What is this going to do for them when they’re in middle school? What is this going to do for them when they’re in college? How is this going to affect them and the people around them when they’re in high school and college? I just — that is what gives me chills.”

Impacting communities through child sponsorship

“Our whole goal is to engage our church in our community, in our world,” says Lyndsey Watson, an associate pastor at Cascade Covenant who has been the driving force behind the 6K at Cascade.

The experience of the 6K and sponsorship helps drive a deeper and more meaningful connection.

“Through sponsorship, you get to really engage in the conversation,” Lyndsey says. “We sponsor a little boy named Emmanuel, and he is awesome, and he’s growing. I get to see videos of him. I get to write emails to him. I get to write letters. My kids get to engage with that. We get to send him gifts in the mail and then hear from him, and that’s what makes it special.”

A church runs and walks the Global 6k for Water to bring clean water to children around the world.
The sponsorship booth on Global Sponsorship Sunday. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

Cascade’s denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, and World Vision partner to work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where the denomination has a long history of community development and relationship with the Congo Covenant Church. The children sponsored through World Vision at Cascade Covenant are from the same area of the Congo through a partnership called Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision.

“It’s not just that child; it’s that family, it’s that community we’re able to impact,” Lyndsey says. “I think people are able then to grasp a little bit more of what it means to actually come alongside these families in the Congo and see their lives transformed for the better.”

‘A tangible way to be the hands and feet of Jesus’

For Jaime Cole and her four children, ages 8 to 13, the Global 6K for Water was educational, allowing them to identify with children who walk for water.

“In our culture, it’s easy for us to forget how easy things are for us, like having water on a daily basis,” Jaime says. “And so doing the 6K was a good example, a physical reminder and example of what it would be like if we didn’t have that easy access and the ability to afford things like water on a regular, everyday basis.”

And while they had fun and learned something new, Jaime says the family wanted a more permanent bond with the children who walk for water, so they sponsored a child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“It’s a real tangible way to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” Jaime says. “We’re always looking for opportunities to do that with the family and to constantly remind ourselves that we have the ability with what we’ve been given to give back to others and to represent God’s love in that way.”

‘We’re all sponsored into God’s kingdom’

A church runs and walks the Global 6k for Water to bring clean water to children around the world.
Cascade Covenant Church in North Bend, Washington. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

Duane and Julie Duim have been longtime partners of World Vision, traveling to Zambia to meet their sponsored child, which Duane says was a life-changing moment. Participating in the Global 6K for Water was natural for their family of six.

“It went well,” Julie says. “They loved it, rallied behind it. They loved running for a purpose too. We had a great time.”

But the Duim family wanted to do more, so they sponsored one of the children on their race bibs that day — their fifth sponsored child through World Vision.

“You commonly get asked, why you would do something like this,” Duane says. “For our family, it’s been important to ask the question, not so much why are you doing but why not? Why would you not want to come in and be able to love others the way Christ loves us?

“We know that we’re all sponsored into God’s kingdom, and he calls us to do the same with his children. And we’re fortunate to be blessed in order that we can turn around and be a blessing to others. And this is just one small way to be able to do that.”

Oregon teacher cuts off hair to promote Global 6K for Water

By Chris Huber
Published Feb. 15, 2018

As teacher Tammy Belau sat with pigtails in a lone chair in the middle of the gym floor in front of 250 students, two eager middle-school boys flanked her wielding dull scissors and wide grins. Tammy quickly counted into the microphone — one, two, three — and the boys spent the next two minutes cutting off 10 inches of her hair.

This was the boys’ reward for finishing first in the Global 6K for Water last May. Tammy, a middle school math and high school finance teacher at Hosanna Christian School in Klamath Falls, Oregon, hosted the event to encourage the community to raise funds for World Vision to bring clean water to communities in the developing world. To add an extra layer of motivation, she pledged to donate an inch of hair for every 10 people registered if their school reached 100 participants.

“God gave me so much in Jesus, and I love to give. It is so rewarding to surprise people and give joy,” Tammy says. “I loved that I was able to sacrifice something as simple as my hair to motivate 100 people to make a difference.”

Her long, brown locks discovered their fate months earlier when Tammy heard about World Vision’s Global 6K for Water at a teachers’ conference. She was immediately drawn to the cause — partly because it sounded easy to do and partly because she knew the people of Klamath Falls would be keen to participate. So she signed up the school as a host site and started recruiting students, teachers, her kids, and community members.

Teacher sitting with students outside near race course where they participated in the Global 6K for Water in May 2017.
Tammy Belau (center) a teacher at Hosanna Christian School in Klamath Falls, Oregon, sits near part of the race course with some the students who participated in the 2017 Global 6K for Water. (©2017 Genesis Photos/photo by Ryan Hawk)

Getting buy-in was easy, Tammy says. She announced it in daily school emails and at weekly chapel gatherings with students and posted a bright orange and white sign in the hallway. In the lead-up to the 6K, she found encouragement and camaraderie in the community cultivated on the Global 6K leaders’ Facebook page set up to share photos and ideas among World Vision staff and host site coordinators around the world.

“Where I live, we have a lot of outdoor activities,” Tammy says. “I know people like to do short races. It’s very doable.”

They can sympathize with children who have to travel far from their home to get water. “The people of our community want to give,” she says. “We face droughts too.”

A few years ago, the water supply dried up in part of their county, so those residents had to drive to Klamath Falls to get bottled water to weather the drought.

Tammy is a doer and inspires others to be one too. But the implications of the cause didn’t fully engulf her until right before race day.

“The impact of this struck me when I was walking the course with my daughter beforehand and we passed a couple of drainage canals,” Tammy says. “It hit me that this is the water that those kids have to drink. My kids don’t have to drink this water. My kids flush the toilet with clean water.”

Seeing those ditches helped Tammy and her daughter grasp the reality of what children on their race bibs are up against. Understanding that reality is huge, she says.

Altogether, Tammy and her team raised about $4,000, which will bring clean water to 80 people. Tammy and her husband were also inspired to embed this cause deeper into their family ethos, so they sponsored the three children on their race bibs.

“Hair grows back, but even bigger is the impact I know I made to my own daughters as well as the entire school. Love comes with sacrifice, but it’s always worth it,” Tammy says. “God comes to us with a gift. We come with open hands, and then we need to turn and give. We can’t keep him to ourselves.”

All Shores Wesleyan Church in Michigan is again a host site for the Global 6K for Water on May 6, 2017. 6K is the average distance people in the developing world walk for water.
Jerilynn Spring listens to her husband, Thad (in orange), and Nick DeBone as they share a laugh at All Shores Wesleyan Church in Spring Lake, Michigan. (©2017 Genesis Photo Agency/photo by Todd McInturf)

Global 6K for Water: ‘Anybody can do it’

By Heather Klinger
Published Feb. 22, 2017

Nick DeBone is your typical runner.

He’s the 30-year-old dad you see running while pushing his kids in a stroller. Occasionally, his kids might jump out for a bit and join him, or they might be asking if it’s time to head home yet. He enjoys running, and he’s tackled a marathon and a few half-marathons. Nick could have easily run the 6K his church hosted that frigid Saturday morning in March 2016, but instead, he chose mostly to walk.

6K, a little more than 3.7 miles, is the average distance women and children in Africa walk for water that is often unsafe to drink. Nick alternatively walked and jogged that morning so he could get to know and encourage the people around him — members of his church congregation who were walking, jogging, and running this average distance for an extraordinary cause.

“It’s a great distance,” Nick says. “Anyone can walk that. It’s the biggest impact, I think, that $50 can make. … The idea of us not having clean water is insane. We don’t even understand that.”

As a host site, his church in Spring Lake, Michigan, helped everyone register, mapped out a course site, and hosted more than 40 participants, who each wore a race bib with the name, age, and a location of a child who would receive clean water.

“Honestly, a lot of times non-runners really have the biggest hearts for this mission,” says Nick. He organizes Team World Vision events — like the Global 6K for Water — with the All Shores Wesleyan Church outreach pastor, Thad Spring.

“The transformation that the 6K brings to you personally and those that you’re walking or running for is worth it,” Thad says. “I’ve watched children drink out of dirty streams where cows are standing in Zambia, watched children drink dirty water in Haiti, and seen pastors who are dying of cholera because of dirty water. So for me, there’s a personal touch and involvement.”

The transformation that the 6K brings to you personally and those that you’re walking or running for is worth it.—Thad Spring, outreach pastor at All Shores Wesleyan Church

But unlike Nick, Thad doesn’t think of himself as a runner.

“I’m 5’10”, 230 pounds. It takes me a while to get in shape and get going,” the 46-year-old says, laughing. “But I enjoy running and the running process. Anybody can do it. Old and young.”

All Shores — a two-campus church of about 1,200 — first participated in the 6K back in 2015 with three participants, including Nick, but one runner was sick and barely slept the night before.

“These people in Africa — it doesn’t matter what their night was like — they have to wake up to walk 6K for water anyway,” says Nick. “He had that thought process: They don’t get to skip out on a walk for water in a day because they aren’t feeling good, so I’m not going to.”

Then in 2016, their church became a 6K host site. The morning of the 6K, they had about 25 people signed up, but then families kept arriving, and they nearly doubled that amount when it came time to begin.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare well for the Global 6K for Water on May 6.
Pastor Thad Spring, 46, and his wife, Jerilynn Spring, 45, both of Muskegon, Michigan, run together on a path on their church grounds in January. They both ran in the Team World Vision Global 6K here in March 2016 and plan to participate again this year. (©2017 Genesis Photo Agency/photo by Todd McInturf)

“We had a lot of people with strollers who walked and ran. We had younger kids who could walk the entire distance,” Thad says. The family impact really struck a chord with their congregation.

This year, All Shores will collaborate with other local churches, expecting to more than double the number of participants from last year. And to heighten the experience, they’re offering water tanks for people to carry at the halfway point.

“I think about the age of kids and the women that do this,” Nick says. “They have to get [to a water source] and then come back with gallons of water. It makes it tangible and real.”

All Shores has raised about $50,000 for clean water over the past three years between the 6K events and running the Grand Rapids marathon and half marathon with Team World Vision. And now on Saturday mornings, their group of runners gathers for devotions, a running or fundraising tip, and a training run together.

“We’ve created a running group and community of people who are reaching out to their friends for Christ,” says Thad.

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Football in the United States, which reaches its high point each year during the Super Bowl, is the game the rest of the world calls American football. But for most of the world, football is soccer. In honor of both American football and the beautiful game — soccer — we celebrate young athletes around the world who play football.

All around the world boys and girls learn teamwork, coordination, and endurance by playing the world’s most popular sport — the game we in the U.S. call soccer and the rest of the world calls football. Friends are vital for May Phoo Ko, who lives in Myanmar. Football helps create a team spirit and helps her understand the power of teamwork. “My friends call me Thay Thay (meaning small) because I am so small. They love me very much,” says May Phoo Ko. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Khaing Min Htoo)

All around the world boys and girls learn teamwork, coordination, and endurance by playing the world’s most popular sport — the game we in the U.S. call soccer and the rest of the world calls football.Syrian refugee children cheer their friends on at one of two football pitches built by World Vision at Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. The small patch of green is a bright spot in the drab desert camp. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Christopher Lee)

Football around the world On a day when her community in Ethiopia celebrates a new water system built by World Vision, this girl receives another gift, too — a brand new soccer ball. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

All around the world, boys and girls play the world’s most popular sport — the game we in the U.S. call soccer and the rest of the world calls football. Grace Mukoma, 10, loves to play soccer at the World Vision Child-Friendly Space near his home in Central Kasai Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

All around the world boys and girls learn teamwork, coordination, and endurance by playing the world’s most popular sport — the game we in the U.S. call soccer and the rest of the world calls football. Girls at Santa Teresita Preschool in Guatemala play with a World Vision Gift Catalog soccer ball during their physical education class. Gift the gift of a soccer ball today! (©2015 World Vision/photo by Lindsey Minerva)

All around the world boys and girls learn teamwork, coordination, and endurance by playing the world’s most popular sport — the game we in the U.S. call soccer and the rest of the world calls football. Even with a homemade ball incorporating plastic bags and string, the game goes on in Rwanda. Find out how to make your own homemade soccer ball. (©2014 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

Four-year-old Richard plays with a homemade soccer ball in front of his family’s home in Zambia. His mother, Beatrice Moondo, carries Richard’s little sister, Innete. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

All around the world boys and girls learn teamwork, coordination, and endurance by playing the world’s most popular sport — the game we in the U.S. call soccer and the rest of the world calls football. Alassane, 9, loves playing football with his friend. “On days when I don’t have lessons after lunch, I go to play football with my friends for the whole afternoon,” he says. Alassane (in striped shirt) is a World Vision sponsored child in Senegal. (©2016 World Vision)

All around the world boys and girls learn teamwork, coordination, and endurance by playing the world’s most popular sport — the game we in the U.S. call soccer and the rest of the world calls football. Boys play soccer as the day’s light fades and the moon rises over Zambia. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

All around the world boys and girls learn teamwork, coordination, and endurance by playing the world’s most popular sport — the game we in the U.S. call soccer and the rest of the world calls football. Laotian primary school boys kick the soccer ball during a break from afternoon classes. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Khamphot Somphanthabansouk)

All around the world boys and girls learn teamwork, coordination, and endurance by playing the world’s most popular sport — the game we in the U.S. call soccer and the rest of the world calls football. Boys play a friendly football game on artificial turf in Soracachi, Bolivia. Soccer is a national obsession there. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee)

All around the world boys and girls learn teamwork, coordination, and endurance by playing the world’s most popular sport — the game we in the U.S. call soccer and the rest of the world calls football. Syrian refugee girls play soccer inside Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. It was 10-year-old Zaynab’s first day to play the game. “I was goalkeeper, and I loved it! I saved one goal. I made new friends today. I will come and play every day,” Zaynab says. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Suzy Sainovski)

All around the world boys and girls learn teamwork, coordination, and endurance by playing the world’s most popular sport — the game we in the U.S. call soccer and the rest of the world calls football. Steadied by his mother, Ani Chitemyan Razmik, 9, tosses a ball with his father at the family’s home in Armenia. Ani was born with infantile cerebral paralysis and was able to attend a World Vision-run summer camp, where he enjoyed “a holiday at least for a few days in his life,” says Ani’s mother, Marine. (©2009 World Vision)

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the second largest country in Africa, has been mired in conflict for decades. A country of paradoxes, it is a land rich in natural resources, but its people are among the poorest in the world.

While the DRC has vast amounts of oil, diamonds, gold, and other natural resources, a majority of the population — about 64 percent — is considered extremely poor and lives on less than $1.90 a day, according to World Bank estimates.

The country is fraught with political instability, armed clashes, and human rights violations. The latest conflict erupted in 2016 in the Kasai region, which includes five provinces in the center of the country. It is yet another instance of fighting between the military and splintered ethnic militias. Nationally, 2.1 million people were newly displaced in 2017 and 2018, making the DRC the African country with the highest number of internally displaced people — 4.5 million. About 7.7 million people lack adequate food, including more than 2 million children under 5 affected by severe acute malnutrition.

Ebola alert — Dec. 15, 2018: Ebola briefly broke out in May in northwestern DRC. Then the deadly virus resurfaced in August in the northeast, killing 313 of 531 people infected as of Dec. 15. This is the tenth outbreak of the deadly viral disease in the DRC since it was identified in the 1970s. Earlier outbreaks were quickly contained and didn’t spread beyond isolated rural communities. Now that an Ebola case has been confirmed in an urban area — the town of Beni —the World Health Organization and local partners have organized an all-out effort to vaccinate healthcare workers and hundreds of other people who may have been in contact with the virus.

History of the DRC

The people of the DRC have endured more than two decades of civil war, and conflict has claimed as many as 6 million lives.

16th century to late 19th century — Precolonial era

  • Chiefdoms and many ethnic groups dominated the large sub-Saharan region that is now the DRC.

1885 to 1960 — European colonization

  • King Leopold II of Belgium laid claim to what he called Congo Free State, which he ruled cruelly in a bid to extract natural resources.
  • In response to an international outcry, the Belgian state took it over in 1908, renaming it the Belgian Congo.

1960 — Independence and Congo crisis

  • A Congolese uprising led to independence in 1960. The Congo crisis was characterized by years of chaos, multiple coups, and insurgencies.
  • Patrice Lumumba became the first legally elected prime minister; less than a year later, he was assassinated.

1965 — President Mobutu Sese Seko

  • Mobutu — formerly Patrice Lumumba’s secretary of state for national defense — seized power in a bloodless coup and assumed the presidency, forming a totalitarian regime.
  • President Mobutu renamed the country to Zaire in 1971.

1996 to 1997 — First Congo war

  • President Mobutu Sese Seko was replaced by Laurent Kabila, a rebel leader, after a foreign invasion by Rwanda. Under the new president, the country’s name was restored to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

1997 to 2003 — Civil war

2003 to 2016 — Continued conflict

  • Armed conflict persisted in the East among dozens of rebel groups.
  • In 2006, the DRC held its first free elections in 40 years, electing Joseph Kabila as its president. Kabila had been appointed to the position after his father, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated.

2016 to 2018 — Shaky political ground

  • Turmoil in the East has flared up sporadically amid political volatility, displacing millions of people.
  • Fighting broke out in Grand Kasai, in the central region, between supporters of a traditional leader was killed by security forces.
  • National elections have been postponed multiple times after accusations of fraud in the 2011 polls. New elections have been scheduled for December 2018.

FAQs: What you need to know about the DRC conflict

Explore facts and FAQs about conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and learn how you can help affected children, families, and communities.

Fast facts: What is happening in the DRC?

  • About 12.8 million of 77 million people in the DRC need humanitarian assistance and protection, including 7 million people who are food insecure, an increase of 30 percent over the year before.
  • The most concerning problems include child malnutrition and outbreaks of cholera, measles, and yellow fever. The country reported 55,000 cholera cases and 1,000 deaths in 2017, as well as more than 42,000 cases of preventable measles.
  • More than 500,000 people from the DRC live in neighboring countries as refugees. They fled during years of violence and conflict between warring militias and rebel factions dating back to the 1960s.
  • More than 2 million people were newly displaced in 2017 and 2018.

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How can I help people in the DRC?

Sponsor a child: Help World Vision continue to provide life-saving assistance to children and communities in the DRC.

Pray: Pray for children and families caught up in violence in the DRC.

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How are conditions in the DRC affecting children?

UNICEF reports that 7 million children have been affected by the DRC conflict. Children are the main victims of violence, at risk of injury or death in combat, as many children have been recruited into armed groups as porters, combatants, or sex slaves. Children recently released from armed groups have expressed fear of returning home, saying they will not be accepted back into their families and communities.

In addition to food, shelter, and psychosocial support, children need opportunities for play and learning. In Kasai-Central province, 400 schools have been attacked and at least 260 were destroyed, depriving some 150,000 primary-school-age children of access to education.

Because of poverty and displacement, many children throughout the country are forced to work rather than attend school. Working in mines is common among children in the DRC, and it’s one of the most dangerous forms of child labor.

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What are the greatest needs of children and families in the DRC?

The greatest needs of children and families in the DRC are food aid and all aspects of child protection. Without reliable sources of food, families are cutting back consumption, and children are becoming malnourished. As many as 7.7 million people don’t have sufficient food. The U.N. children’s agency estimates that 2.2 million children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition, about 12 percent of the global caseload. This form of malnutrition means children are dying of hunger. With children vulnerable to violence and recruitment into armed groups, they need opportunities for education and strong support systems within their families and communities.

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What is World Vision doing to help people in the DRC?

World Vision has provided relief and development programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1984. Today, we are operating in 14 of 26 provinces. Our child-focused programming in protection, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, food aid, food security, peacebuilding efforts, and emergency relief reached almost 2.5 million people in 2015. World Vision is the World Food Program’s largest partner in the DRC, distributing food to nearly 1 million people.

In impoverished areas, families are unable to access education or healthcare opportunities for their children. World Vision has improved schools, adding new classrooms and desks, and provided teachers with training. Our programs have helped improve school attendance, literacy rates, and girls’ education. Healthcare initiatives last year focused on prenatal care for pregnant women and reaching children in remote areas with physical exams and vaccinations to prevent life-threatening childhood diseases.

Since World Vision’s response to the conflict in Kasai began in August 2017, our staff have reached more than 535,000 people with life-saving humanitarian assistance. That includes nearly 460,000 people who received food and cash, more than 46,000 young children and vulnerable adults in 126 health centers who received treatment or prevention consults for malnutrition, more than 22,000 children who benefited from Child-Friendly Spaces, and almost 27,000 students who benefited from classroom repairs, back-to-school kits, teacher training, and school-fee scholarships. Our response to the complex situation in the DRC will continue in 2019.

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Chris Huber and Kathryn Reid of World Vision’s staff in the U.S. contributed to this article.

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