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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.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

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.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

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.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

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.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

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.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

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

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World Vision’s photographers traveled around the world this year to tell stories of children and their families. They captured moments of struggle and moments of joy. Here are our favorite photos of 2018 and the stories behind them.

Kapinga, 13, lost her father to civil conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in that war, she lost her chance to attend school. Her life seems dark. But I love this portrait because there is light in her life too. She sings in her church choir, and every weekday she goes to a nearby World Vision Child-Friendly Space to play, learn, and laugh with her friends. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

When these Ugandan children at Kasubi Primary School greeted me with a traditional dance at their life skills club, I wanted to share all of the enthusiasm, color, and motion, but wondered how best to do that in a single image. This ground-level view allowed me to fill the image with the swirling skirts and dancing feet, which came close to capturing all that liveliness.

When these Ugandan children at Kasubi Primary School greeted me with a traditional dance at their life skills club, I wanted to share all of the enthusiasm, color, and motion but wondered how best to do that in a single image. This ground-level view allowed me to fill the image with the swirling skirts and dancing feet, which came close to capturing all that liveliness. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

Photographing second-grade teacher Margarita Romero and her students in Puerto Rico during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria was one of my favorite assignments in 2018. She was reviewing their lessons, which were designed by World Vision, about how to recover from disasters. This shows how much further our staff go to help people in disasters. We helped more than 116,000 Puerto Ricans with critical food and relief items, cash assistance, and child protection programs. Beyond these necessary supplies and programs, we also helped families build back better by training nearly 16,500 students, teachers, and church leaders across the island in disaster preparedness and community resilience. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

Photographing second-grade teacher Margarita Romero and her students in Puerto Rico during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria was one of my favorite assignments in 2018. She was reviewing their lessons, which were designed by World Vision, about how to recover from disasters. This shows how much further our staff go to help people in disasters. We helped more than 116,000 Puerto Ricans with critical food and relief items, cash assistance, and child protection programs. Beyond these necessary supplies and programs, we also helped families build back better by training nearly 16,500 students, teachers, and church leaders across the island in disaster preparedness and community resilience. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

While waiting for a group photo, 11-year-old Lightwell took the opportunity to read his book — something he sometimes chooses over eating. I glanced up and saw the golden afternoon sun lighting him so beautifully and was able to grab this quiet portrait of a boy from Zambia and his favorite pastime.

While waiting for a group photo, 11-year-old Lightwell took the opportunity to read his book — something he sometimes chooses over eating. I glanced up and saw the golden afternoon sun lighting him so beautifully and was able to grab this quiet portrait of a boy from Zambia and his favorite pastime. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

When children in West Pokot, Kenya, began to do handstands, World Vision water engineer Charles Kakiti, wearing his Global 6K for Water T-shirt, joined right in. He told me, “I know the struggle and stress on young children and women who carry water that ends up making them sick,” so he not only supervised the building of a clean water system for the village, but he also ran the Global 6K to personally raise money for clean water. I love how our staff around the world pour themselves into the lives of communities they serve.

When children in West Pokot, Kenya, began to do handstands, World Vision water engineer Charles Kakiti, wearing his Global 6K for Water T-shirt, joined right in. He told me, “I know the struggle and stress on young children and women who carry water that ends up making them sick,” so he not only supervised the building of a clean water system for the village, but he also ran the Global 6K to personally raise money for clean water. I love how our staff around the world pour themselves into the lives of the communities they serve. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

In April, John Harris helped his wife, LaDell, down the steps in front of their home along the shores of the Neches River near Vidor, Texas. She had slipped and hurt her arm while waiting days for floodwaters to clear from the porch steps. Their home was nearly destroyed by 15-foot floodwaters during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. World Vision and its local partner, Wings of Promise led by Pastor Skipper Sauls, helped the couple rebuild with new appliances, Sheetrock, furniture, insulation, light fixtures, and other materials. John and LaDell were able to enjoy their cozy rebuilt riverside home together for a few more months in 2018 before John lost his fight with cancer in August. “During the storm, we were sitting here, helpless,” LaDell says. “These people (Pastor Sauls, and other community members) have been our angels.”

In April, John Harris helped his wife, LaDell, down the steps in front of their home along the shores of the Neches River near Vidor, Texas. She had slipped and hurt her arm while waiting days for floodwaters to clear from the porch steps. Their home was nearly destroyed by 15-foot floodwaters during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. World Vision and its local partner, Wings of Promise led by Pastor Skipper Sauls, helped the couple rebuild with new appliances, Sheetrock, furniture, insulation, light fixtures, and other materials. John and LaDell were able to enjoy their cozy rebuilt riverside home together for a few more months in 2018 before John lost his fight with cancer in August. “During the storm, we were sitting here, helpless,” LaDell says. “These people (Pastor Sauls, and other community members) have been our angels.” (©2018 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

I'm most in my element when I'm blending into the background, able to studiously watch and capture the moments that naturally occur around me. One of these such moments that has stuck with me this year is that of a young boy named Linus scurrying in and out of the shadows, his own small frame creating a contrasting shadow to the light streaming through the skylights. He's racing to pick up two empty boxes at a time, each of which are larger than he is. He often drops one or both along the way and hurries to pick them back up — all to feed the machine that is a World Vision kit event. With the same frenzy, more than 200 people in the next room over and the outdoor courtyard of Menlo Church in California are assembling thousands of kits — including the 1 millionth World Vision kit. Amid the hustle and bustle, all I can do is take another moment in this calm-in-comparison back room, smile to myself, and click the shutter button.

I’m most in my element when I’m blending into the background, able to studiously watch and capture the moments that naturally occur around me. One of these such moments that has stuck with me this year is that of a young boy named Linus scurrying in and out of the shadows, his own small frame creating a contrasting shadow to the light streaming through the skylights. He’s racing to pick up two empty boxes at a time, each of which is larger than he is. He often drops one or both along the way and hurries to pick them back up — all to feed the machine that is a World Vision kit event. With the same frenzy, more than 200 people in the next room over and the outdoor courtyard of Menlo Church in California are assembling thousands of kits — including the 1 millionth World Vision kit. Amid the hustle and bustle, all I can do is take another moment in this calm-in-comparison back room, smile to myself, and click the shutter button. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Heather Klinger)

Say "ahhh" to get your deworming medicine! Twice a year in Uganda and around Africa, World Vision staff participate in Child Health Days, an innovative way to reach children with life-saving healthcare including immunizations, Vitamin A to prevent blindness and boost immunity, and deworming medicines, such as albendazole, that health volunteers pop right into children’s mouths to keep them from getting worms that will stunt their growth. I love how eager this girl was to stay healthy.

Say “ahhh” to get your deworming medicine! Twice a year in Uganda and around Africa, World Vision staff participate in Child Health Days, an innovative way to reach children with life-saving healthcare including immunizations, Vitamin A to prevent blindness and boost immunity, and deworming medicines, such as albendazole, that health volunteers pop right into children’s mouths to keep them from getting worms that will stunt their growth. I love how eager this girl was to stay healthy. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Fourteen-year-old Marie Ngalula waits in the entrance of a local health clinic, where her ill mother is a patient, in Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Marie is worried her mother is dying, but a health worker expresses a hope for recovery. Here in the U.S., we hear so little about the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The impact on children is heartbreaking to see. World Vision is providing Marie and many others with relief aid, clean water, and a place for to play and learn.

Fourteen-year-old Marie Ngalula waits in the entrance of a local health clinic, where her ill mother is a patient, in Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Marie is worried her mother is dying, but a health worker expresses a hope for recovery. Here in the U.S., we hear so little about the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The impact on children is heartbreaking to see. World Vision is providing Marie and many others with relief aid, clean water, and a place for to play and learn. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

A woman fetches water from Lake Albert, Uganda, in a fishing village where World Vision provides healthcare. On the opposite shore is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the midst of storm clouds, a brief shaft of sunlight breaks through.

A woman fetches water from Lake Albert, Uganda, in a fishing village where World Vision provides healthcare. On the opposite shore is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the midst of storm clouds, a brief shaft of sunlight breaks through. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Seven-year-old Debby enthusiastically participates at school. She’s able to be there thanks to child sponsorship. I loved hearing from one of the teachers how children at the school will brave the rainy season to get there. She says, “There’s a spirit of learning here.”

Seven-year-old Debby enthusiastically participates at school. She’s able to be there thanks to child sponsorship. I loved hearing from one of the teachers how children at the school will brave the rainy season to get there. She says, “There’s a spirit of learning here.” (©2018 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

A chance to play with friends — that’s what children who are forced to quit school and join the labor force say they miss the most. In Bangladesh, I met children who used to work in cracker factories and shrimp depots. Thanks to World Vision’s program, many of them have been removed from these hazardous jobs and have returned to school. I loved seeing these children have that playful opportunity.

A chance to play with friends — that’s what children who are forced to quit school and join the labor force say they miss the most. In Bangladesh, I met children who used to work in cracker factories and shrimp depots. Thanks to World Vision’s program, many of them have been removed from these hazardous jobs and have returned to school. I loved seeing these children have that playful opportunity. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

Nearly two years ago, I visited Bangladesh as World Vision started its project to prevent child labor. The Bengali name of the child protection project translates to “for a better life.” On this second trip in November 2018, lots of children have that better life thanks to World Vision’s work. I thought 13-year-old Shyamoli’s radiant smile and confidence conveyed the hope she now can have.

Nearly two years ago, I visited Bangladesh as World Vision started its project to prevent child labor. The Bengali name of the child protection project translates to “for a better life.” On this second trip in November 2018, lots of children have that better life thanks to World Vision’s work. I thought 13-year-old Shyamoli’s radiant smile and confidence conveyed the hope she now can have. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

Jennifer and Brandon Wilson peruse panels of photos of the 1,400 children sponsored in 2018 through World Vision’s Child Ambassador program at their annual conference near Seattle. When the nighttime dinner gathering began, I worried the low light would make it difficult to capture a meaningful moment. But as the volunteer child-sponsorship advocates searched the panels for children they helped sponsor, occasionally someone would recognize a child and smile or turn to their companion and point to the child. I realized this symbolizes a Child Ambassador’s heart, and in many ways, God’s heart for children. They care so deeply for each child’s well-being that they search them out from among the crowd and react with delight when they find them.

Jennifer and Brandon Wilson peruse panels of photos of the 1,400 children sponsored in 2018 through World Vision’s Child Ambassador program at their annual conference near Seattle. When the nighttime dinner gathering began, I worried the low light would make it difficult to capture a meaningful moment. But as the volunteer child-sponsorship advocates searched the panels for children they helped sponsor, occasionally someone would recognize a child and smile or turn to their companion and point to the child. I realized this symbolizes a Child Ambassador’s heart, and in many ways, God’s heart for children. They care so deeply for each child’s well-being that they search them out from among the crowd and react with delight when they find them. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

Tomas Gonzalez Cruz, 68, left, and his granddaughter, Kimberly Montalvo Gonzalez, 23, fill their family’s generator with gasoline by the light of a portable solar lamp behind their house near Utuado, Puerto Rico. Like many in rural areas, Tomas’ family lived without electricity and clean water for months after hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the island territory. Ultimately, they survived 11 months without power. The nearly 5 gallons of fuel per day allowed them to care for the two special needs adults and extended family living with them, but proved very costly. Tomas’ wife Ana moved me with her faith and determination in the midst of their struggle. “I was born here, grew up here, raised my kids here,” Ana says. “We’re also pastors. We have to stay and face the situation because so many others lost everything.”

Tomas Gonzalez Cruz, 68, left, and his granddaughter, Kimberly Montalvo Gonzalez, 23, fill their family’s generator with gasoline by the light of a portable solar lamp behind their house near Utuado, Puerto Rico. Like many in rural areas, Tomas’ family lived without electricity and clean water for months after hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the island territory. Ultimately, they survived 11 months without power. The nearly 5 gallons of fuel per day allowed them to care for the two special needs adults and extended family living with them, but proved very costly. Tomas’ wife Ana moved me with her faith and determination in the midst of their struggle. “I was born here, grew up here, raised my kids here,” Ana says. “We’re also pastors. We have to stay and face the situation because so many others lost everything.” (©2018 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

Students, including sponsored children, pray together during a meeting of the Bible club at Itumblule Primary School in Kalawa, Kenya. Here they sing, learn Bible verses, hear the Word of God, and plant and care for fruit trees. World Vision supports 40 such Bible clubs in Kalawa schools. Over and over again this year, all over the world, I've watched children deep in prayer, completely aware of how dependent they are on God. As Jesus said in Luke 18:16, the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Students, including sponsored children, pray together during a meeting of the Bible club at Itumblule Primary School in Kalawa, Kenya. Here they sing, learn Bible verses, hear the Word of God, and plant and care for fruit trees. World Vision supports 40 such Bible clubs in Kalawa schools. Over and over again this year, all over the world, I’ve watched children deep in prayer, completely aware of how dependent they are on God. As Jesus said in Luke 18:16, the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

This isn't the typical photo found in our yearly favorites, but this one in particular showcases a landmark moment for the staff of World Vision U.S. — the anointing of and prayer over our new president, Edgar Sandoval Sr., by President Emeritus Rich Stearns; John Crosby, chair of the search committee; and Joan Singleton, World Vision U.S. board chair. New presidents don't come like clockwork for World Vision; Edgar is only the sixth since Bob Pierce founded World Vision in 1950.

This isn’t the typical photo found in our yearly favorites, but this one in particular showcases a landmark moment for the staff of World Vision U.S. — the anointing of and prayer over our new president, Edgar Sandoval Sr., by President Emeritus Rich Stearns; John Crosby, chair of the search committee; and Joan Singleton, World Vision U.S. board chair. New presidents don’t come like clockwork for World Vision; Edgar is only the sixth since Bob Pierce founded World Vision in 1950. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Heather Klinger)

This was one of those rare moments when my lack of running speed paid off. Zambian children sprinted across the fields to get to the World Vision reading program. These three girls ran arm-in-arm and were so adorable, so I wanted to get their picture. Since I couldn’t catch up to them, I have lots of pictures of their backs. But then, they slowed down for a moment and two of the girls looked over their shoulders. Those glances welcomed me into their world.

This was one of those rare moments when my lack of running speed paid off. Zambian children sprinted across the fields to get to the World Vision reading program. These three girls ran arm-in-arm and were so adorable, so I wanted to get their picture. Since I couldn’t catch up to them, I have lots of pictures of their backs. But then, they slowed down for a moment and two of the girls looked over their shoulders. Those glances welcomed me into their world. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

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Why do people give? For some, it’s a sense of gratitude and finding the smallest acts of kindness that make a big difference. It can also be to improve the lives of others and even to improve one’s sense of self.

The reasons behind giving are personal and varied. That’s what World Vision learned in Seattle, where we interviewed several women and men on their reasons for giving. It was a busy day downtown and in Pike Place Market, the city’s landmark public market on the waterfront.

Reasons we heard for giving included feeling good, taking care of each other, giving because they are blessed, and returning the help they have received in the past.

Giving is also a topic for science. Find out what happens to your body when you give.

Studies have shown that giving often makes people feel some form of happiness and it has been demonstrated that happy people give more. But what kind of gift translates into the joy of giving?

World Vision worked with an algorithm studying 10 million tweets over a period of time to determine what emotions people feel when giving or receiving. Then researchers averaged the emotional scores for all the tweets (sorting by anger, joy, fear, sadness, and disgust). Their findings show a complex web of emotions when it comes to giving:

  • In order to feel good about giving, it involves us feeling sadness and empathy too.
  • Giving within your means and within your values makes you feel just as much joy as receiving something.
  • You don’t need to give everything you have in order to feel good about giving. The very gesture of goodwill is enough to bring positivity into our lives.

Whatever your reason is for giving, we want to thank you on behalf of the children and families you’re impacting!

You + World Vision’s local staff = help, hope, and love to people in nearly 100 countries.

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On Giving Tuesday 2017 — with a backdrop of farm animals juxtaposed against the Manhattan skyline — Jennifer Nettles shined as she talked about giving back with World Vision. The country superstar attended World Vision’s Give-back Gift Shop in New York City’s Bryant Park to encourage fans to give a gift matched by Thirty-One Gifts.

“I loved the chance to showcase the beautiful variety of gifts available,” Jennifer says. “There is something for everyone at every price point. Everyone can give a gift with meaning.”

This year, her Sugarland bandmate, Kristian Bush, will join her, and the Grammy-award winning duo is promoting child sponsorship and Giving Tuesday together. World Vision recently caught up with Sugarland to talk about Giving Tuesday and what has them excited for Christmas this year.

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

Jennifer Nettles: I always look forward to watching the magic of Christmas in my child’s eyes. He will be 6 in December, so he is prime age for all the magic.

Kristian Bush: I love being around my kids at Christmas. They are teenagers now and have started to embrace the holiday as something more than gifting. I am looking forward to being around them and hearing the way they see the world.

What’s one of your favorite family Christmas traditions, and why?

Jennifer: I always love that we take time to come together. Now that we all have our own families and children, it has become harder to make time to get together. Christmas is a time we can look forward to reconnecting.

Kristian: Pajamas! My mom used to buy us all matching pajamas when we were kids. She passed away when I was 30, and her friends used to continue the tradition after she passed and sent pajamas on Christmas Eve.

Sugarland group members Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush
(Photo courtesy of Sugarland)

How do you show God’s love to others, especially at Christmastime?

Kristian: Christmastime is a great deal of stress for many people, and a well-timed smile or a kind word can go a long way.

Jennifer: I believe the best gifts we can give each other are our time and open hearts to listen. Those are the most significant gifts we can give our loved ones but also those around us within our broader communities — especially people who may believe, worship, love, and live differently than we do. I believe that this is what God wants for us: to help each other. Listening to each other and learning about each other is the fastest way to compassion. I hope we all do more of that — during the holidays and beyond.

How would you encourage readers to love others this Christmas season?

Jennifer: The world can seem dark. Anytime that we can remind ourselves to shine brighter for each other, we should. Let’s try and bring some light to people this season.

Kristian: Shine brightly this season by helping someone you don’t know.

Giving Tuesday is one way to help people we don’t know. Why is Giving Tuesday important to you?

Jennifer: I think Giving Tuesday is actually what the holiday spirit is about. We often buy gifts for each other that don’t have much meaning and gifts that the other party may not even want. Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to honor your loved ones with a gift that has meaning and changes lives at the same time.

Kristian: Giving Tuesday makes sense to me in a season where we make consumerism so easy — that there can be an equal ease to charity and charitable giving.

Sugarland group members Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush
(Photo courtesy of Sugarland)

What are your favorite gifts in the World Vision Gift Catalog?

Jennifer: I always love the animals! It’s a great opportunity to get my own child engaged in meaningful giving. Most kids love animals, so they grab their attention and invite a wonderful way to teach about giving back and the world.

Kristian: I have always been impressed with the concept of a gift that keeps on giving, so I would pick water wells or livestock.

Why is it important to you to partner with World Vision?

Kristian: Our fans are a community of people that enjoy music that has a deeper meaning, and World Vision is a perfect partnership because the organization is driven by a deeper meaning.

Jennifer: I believe music is powerful and connects directly to the heart. I want our music and my art to connect with messages of love and compassion and inclusion. I hope people will listen and have their hearts opened by those messages.

What aspects of World Vision’s work are you most passionate about?

Jennifer: I love empowering women. By empowering women, we elevate whole families and communities. I love that World Vision gives people the opportunity to gift sustainable, economic empowerment to women around the world, especially during the holiday season.

Kristian: I love the connection between the sponsor and the sponsored child. The ability to directly effect change in another person’s life is precious, and World Vision’s ability to facilitate that is amazing.

 

Learn more about Sugarland’s #LoveBIGGER campaign.

This Giving Tuesday, Nov. 27, give a gift to World Vision, and Thirty-One Gifts will match your gift in product donation, up to $2 million.

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Sadie Robertson has had a busy year of speaking engagements, but as part of the “Duck Dynasty” family, she’s really looking forward to heading home for Christmas, which is a three-day festivity for the Robertsons.

“Our family is hilarious at Christmas,” Sadie says. “We have the most fun traditions!”

Sadie spoke with World Vision about why she’s excited for Christmas and why she’s partnering with us this Giving Tuesday.

What are you most looking forward to about Christmas this year?

I love Christmastime. Who doesn’t? Now that I don’t live at home, I feel like it’s even more special because it’s a time I get to spend with my incredible family. I think after this crazy year, Christmas is going to be the best yet by getting to be home.

How do you cut through the hustle and bustle of the season to experience God more deeply?

Christmas literally is God’s holiday, so to miss him at Christmas, you’re missing the true meaning. You have to know that every season, he is in it, and there is a new side of him to see. That keeps me expectantly seeking him.

Sadie Robertson of "Duck Dynasty"
(Photo courtesy of Sadie Robertson)

How would you encourage others to shine bright by showing God’s love this Christmas season?

I would encourage you to keep your eyes open to how you can be a blessing, and then take action based on what you see. See this Christmas season as a time to love others.

Why is it important to you to team up with World Vision for Giving Tuesday?

It is incredible for such a big group of people to intentionally give to people in need and for corporations to support. I love when there is unity for the better of the world in any capacity.

What aspects of World Vision’s work are you most passionate about and why?

Going on trips around the world, I see the need for help in the eyes of beautiful, passionate kids, and so I love to team up with anyone who is bringing hope to those little eyes. World Vision is beautiful, and I cannot wait to see many more kids sponsored with hope restored for their future. In order to make World Vision grow and kids all around the world have hope restored, we need each other.

This Giving Tuesday, Nov. 27, give a gift to World Vision, and Thirty-One Gifts will match your gift in product donation, up to $2 million.

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Does your sponsored child really get the letters and packages you send? The answer: Yes! We followed one package from Seattle to Colomi, Bolivia, to see what it looks like for a child on the receiving end.

 

Want to send a package to your sponsored child? Gifts must be mailed in a 6 inch by 9 inch envelope, so space counts. We asked our sponsorship experts how to maximize every inch. Consider including:

  • Stickers
  • Balloons
  • Regular and colored pencils (don’t forget the sharpener!)
  • Coloring books
  • Small puzzles
  • Notebooks or pads of paper
  • Bookmarks
  • Bandanas
  • Handmade items like small paintings or flat craft projects
  • Hair ribbons
  • Picture postcards of your hometown
  • Photos of you and your family

Please don’t include crayons (they’ll melt in transit), food, jewelry, money, or toys like fake spiders or snakes that could frighten young children.

A letter from you is a great finishing touch to add to your package! Not sure what to write about? Here are some ideas:

  • Describe your family and friends (first names, ages, tall/short, what they like)
  • Describe the city where you live
  • Explain your relationship with Jesus Christ
  • Your interests and favorites — Bible verses, colors, animals, subjects in school, sports, hobbies
  • Stories from your childhood and great memories
  • Recent holidays and how your family celebrated them
  • Tell your sponsored child why you’re thankful for them
  • Thank them if they’ve sent a letter or picture to you
  • Give genuine compliments (talents, accomplishments, etc.)
  • Ask about their hopes and dreams (what they want to be when they grow up)
  • Ask about what they’re learning in school
  • Ask about their favorite games and sports
  • Remind your sponsored child that you are praying for them

Find more information about where to send your letter or package to your sponsored child at My World Vision.

  1. Login with your account information.
  2. Click “visit my profile” beneath the sponsored child you’re trying to send it to.
  3. Click “send letter/package” and the instructions will pop up!

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A typical school day looks different in every country. Travel the globe with us in a single school day to see 10 places where World Vision’s education work helps children. Without schooling, children are at greater risk for exploitation, child marriage, and lower income later in life. World Vision works to eliminate barriers to education and partners alongside communities and local governments to improve the quality of education children receive.

Breakfast in Kenya

Early in the morning, Kamama drinks a steaming cup of hot tea prepared by her mother, Julia. She drinks it with her breakfast of chapatis, or flatbread, before heading off to school. Kamama, 5, is sponsored and lives in a community served by World Vision’s Mtelo water project in West Pokot County, Kenya. The gravity-fed water system has brought clean water to Kamama’s neighborhood, school, and health center. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren) 

Morning chores in Mongolia

Journey through a school day with kids around the worldAfter breakfast and before she heads to school, Anujin, 10, helps her parents in Altanbulag, Mongolia, by gathering wood. Chores are only part of Anujin’s day. She spends the majority of her time at school, but girls like her are often held back from their education due to responsibilities at home. As a sponsored child, Anujin and her family have benefited from World Vision’s agricultural training and water programs in Altanbulag — so Anujin is free to attend school every day. (©2013 World Vision/photo by Xenia Davis)

Bike to school in Cambodia

In 2015, just before Udom’s sponsorship came to an end, his sponsor sent him a special gift a bicycle! He now rides it daily on his 7-mile commute to high school in Cambodia. Udom was sponsored from 2003 to 2015 until World Vision closed its program in his much-strengthened community. But his sponsor left a lasting impression on his life. She encouraged him to study hard, and he took her advice to heart. “My education is very important because I don’t want to work at the rice field,” he says. “If I can be a well-educated person, I can have a good job with a good salary.” (©2015 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt) 

Number lesson in Rwanda

A little girl practices her numbers at a chalkboard in a primary school in Rwanda. With the help of donors and the Rwandan government, World Vision brought clean water to her school and community. A 6.8-kilometer pipeline was built. It benefits nearly 6,000 people across 14 villages, including 481 sponsored children.  (©2018 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren) 

Gardening classes in Nicaragua

World Vision staff member Victor Garcia inspects a squash plant with 4th- to 6th-grade kids at Ruben Dario School, Nicaragua. This school garden is used to teach children and parents how to grow healthy foods. They’ve planted carrots, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and more. “Recent studies have shown vegetables are not part of the normal diet [in this area],” Victor says. “We are trying to improve the diet habits in families in rural and urban areas.” (©2015 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee) 

Lunch in North Korea

Gwan, age 5, slurps his noodles during lunchtime at Yokchon Kindergarten, North Korea. He likes playtime at school best. World Vision provided the wheat flour to the noodle factory that makes these noodles. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Heidi Lenssen) 

Recess in China

Sponsored kids take a flying leap during a recess basketball match at their school in Yunnan Province, China. The basketball facilities, along with bikes and other toys, were provided by World Vision to encourage children to play and express themselves at school. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Ben Adams) 

Robotics club in Armenia

Anahit Harutyunyan, 16, smiles during a World Vision LEGO® robotics club lab in Amasia, Armenia. The LEGO robotics club was founded to raise interest and provide training and professional growth in the information technology sphere for rural youth. The class improves the self-esteem of vulnerable children as they learn to work through programming problems. It also helps to break down gender stereotypes as girls work alongside boys in the classroom. The club has 26 members who are learning programming and robotics skills at the free-of-charge club, thanks to funding from World Vision’s sponsors. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee) 

Bus ride home in Lebanon

Syrian refugee children head home to their tent settlement on the World Vision bus after a fun day at the ChildFriendly Space and early childhood education center in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. In war-torn places where children can’t attend school, World Vision sets up spaces for children to learn, play, and experience joy in the midst of uncertainty. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren) 

Homework in Bolivia

Rocio, 11, does her homework by candlelight in Colomi, Bolivia, where World Vision launched programming in 2010. She was sponsored in 2015. World Vision is helping her community by feeding malnourished children, improving access to clean water, providing vocational training, nutrition training, and supporting schools with training and materials. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee) 

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An estimated 21 million elementary school-aged children in Asia and the Pacific don’t attend school, according to UNESCO. Sometimes the main roadblock to education in developing countries isn’t a lack of teachers, books, or classrooms — it’s the trek from home to school. Follow these students on their journeys for education.

India: Desert trek

Sarvan, 10, is in sixth grade. Because there is no road to their village, Sarvan and his friends leave for school at 7 a.m. to beat the heat — the desert sand they walk on can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. They also must cross three barbed-wire fences on their journey. To break up the 90-minute walk home after school, the group usually stops to rest and play games. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Daniel Mung)

Cambodia: Pedal power

Chhav, age 11, lives in a remote Cambodian village. He wakes up at 5 a.m. every day to help his parents and little sisters with household chores and then hops on a bicycle — his youngest sister Sreyvang on the back — and rides 4 kilometers to school. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Soksetha Som)

Vietnam: Fording the stream

Linh and her classmates wade through one of several streams they’ll cross on their way to school. Though their walk is less than 2 miles, during Vietnam’s rainy season, the slopes and swift currents make the journey dangerous. (©2015 World Vision/photo by My Hang Tran)

Solomon Islands: Cruising along

Early in the morning in the Solomon Islands, a father rows his children to school in a wooden canoe then returns home to work on his farm. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Langi Pitia)

Philippines: Going the distance

It takes 8-year-old Jenel two hours of crossing deep streams, walking through sugarcane fields, and hiking up a steep incline to reach his school in Moises Padilla every morning. What keeps him going despite his sometimes-perilous journey? “My father said that going to school will give me a better future,” Jenel says. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Mong Jimenez)

Myanmar: All aboard

Aye Aye (center) and her friends make their way to school on foot, by boat, by truck, or a combination of the three, depending on the season. After a 30-minute walk to the river, they hop aboard a wooden skiff steered by Aye Aye’s father for the hour-long ride to school. After dropping off the young students, he heads to work as a fisherman. “I love riding the boat with my friends,” says Aye Aye. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Khaing Min Htoo)

Indonesia: Saddle up

Atop their horse, brothers Arnolance, 14, and Alvin, 10, navigate two rivers and narrow forest paths without the help of stirrups or a saddle. The horse has made the two-hour round-trip journey to school with Arnolance since the teenager was in third grade. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Rena Tanjung)

Bangladesh: On stilts

The sun sets on another school day, and Opi, 9, is almost home. “I feel afraid when I have to cross this rickety bamboo bridge,” she says. Sometimes an adult will help, but she often walks alone. The mile-long walk to school is a means to an end for Opi. “In the future, I want to be a doctor and start a clinic in our area and serve people,” she says. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Shabir Hussain)

India: Mountain hike

Twelve-year-old Suhani and her friends walk along a narrow path, nestled against a steep mountainside in remote northern India each day on their way to and from school. It takes them 30 minutes each time. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Jim Wungramyao Kasom)

Philippines: Catching a ride

Children in Bukidnon catch a ride home from school on a sugarcane truck that saves them from a 3- to 4-kilometer walk under the hot sun. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Crislyn Felisilda)

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Hurricane Irma hit Florida as a Category 4 storm the morning of Sept. 10, 2017, ripping off roofs, flooding coastal cities, and knocking out power to more than 6.8 million people. By Sept. 11, Irma weakened significantly to a tropical storm as it powered north toward Georgia and Alabama. At 11 p.m. later that day, it weakened further to a tropical depression, and by Sept. 13, it had dissipated over western Tennessee.

The storm and its aftermath have killed at least 38 in the Caribbean, 34 in Florida, three in Georgia, four in South Carolina, and one in North CarolinaIrma is the fifth-costliest hurricane to hit the mainland United States, causing an estimated $50 billion in damage, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Most of Florida and Georgia are feeling the brunt of Tropical Storm Irma's 65-mph winds and torrential rains. (©2017 photo courtesy of NOAA)
Most of Florida and Georgia felt the brunt of Tropical Storm Irma’s 65-mph winds and torrential rains Sept. 11. (©2017 photo courtesy of NOAA)

FAQs: What you need to know about Hurricane Irma

Explore frequently asked questions about Hurricane Irma, and learn how you can help.

How did Hurricane Irma develop?

Hurricane Irma began Aug. 30 near the Cape Verde Islands. It was the ninth named storm and fourth hurricane of the 2017 storm season.

Irma developed from a tropical wave that developed off the West African coast two days earlier. It rapidly strengthened into a Category 2 storm within 24 hours. Irma’s intensity fluctuated in the days to follow and on Sept. 4 became a Category 4 hurricane.

A day later on Sept. 5, it grew to Category 5 strength. Irma wrought catastrophe in Barbuda and parts of the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti each experienced flooding and heavy damage in some areas, but the storm left much less destruction than expected.

Hurricane Irma downgraded to a Category 4 Sept. 8 but maintained winds around 150 mph. The threshold for a Category 5 is 157 mph. Irma made landfall over mainland Florida early Sept. 10 as a Category 4 hurricane. From there, it weakened significantly to a tropical storm Sept. 11 as it powered north toward Georgia and Alabama. At 11 p.m. later that day, it weakened further to a tropical depression, and by Sept. 13, it had dissipated over western Tennessee.

Hurricane Jose was on Irma’s tail but weakened to a Category 1 storm before stalling out at sea.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

Why is Hurricane Irma a big deal?

Irma is the fifth-costliest hurricane to hit the mainland United States and caused an estimated $50 billion in damage, according to the National Hurricane Center. At one point, Hurricane Irma was the strongest hurricane the National Hurricane Center has ever recorded in the Atlantic outside of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It was moving as a Category 5 storm, which means it had sustained wind speeds greater than 157 mph. Category 5 storms cause catastrophic damage when they make landfall. Irma hit the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane and then the mainland as a Category 3.

Hurricane Matthew hit the southern part of Haiti as a Category 4 storm Oct. 4, 2016, and the country still hasn’t fully recovered from that devastating system. Projections had it hitting Haiti hard, but the country was spared from severe devastation.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

Where did Hurricane Irma hit?

The storm tracked northwest through the Caribbean, along Florida’s west coast and into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, eventually dissipating over Tennessee. Here’s a timeline of Hurricane Irma’s path:

Wednesday, Sept. 6:
  • Hit Antigua and Barbuda just before 2 a.m. Half of the 100,000 residents of Antigua and Barbuda have had their homes destroyed or heavily damaged.
  • Hit St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Kitts, and Nevis around 8 a.m.
  • Hit British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico 2 p.m. The governor of Puerto Rico said electricity was restored to 144,000 homes in the days following.
Damage in the wake of Hurricane Irma in the Dominican Republic wasn't as bad as predicted. (©2017 World Vision)
Damage in the wake of Hurricane Irma in the Dominican Republic wasn’t as bad as predicted. (©2017 World Vision)
Thursday, Sept. 7:
  • Dominican Republic: The storm sustained its Category 5 strength, with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, but the Dominican Republic avoided a direct hit as it skirted just off its northern coast around 11 a.m. local time.
  • Haiti: Haiti was hit but didn’t experience nearly as much impact as expected.
  • Turks and Caicos: Irma hit late Thursday and extensive damage is being reported.

 

Friday, Sept. 8:
  • Cuba and the Bahamas: Irma hit as a Category 5 around noon Eastern time.
Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9 and 10:
  • Hurricane Irma pummeled the Florida Keys late Saturday into Sunday as a Category 4 and hit the Florida mainland as a Category 3 storm around 1 p.m. Eastern time Sunday.
A car drives through a still-flooded area of a neighborhood in Immokalee, Fla. Sept. 13. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee)
A car drives through a still-flooded area of a neighborhood in Immokalee, Florida, Sept. 13. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee)
Monday, Sept. 11:
Tuesday, Sept. 12:
Wednesday, Sept. 13:

BACK TO QUESTIONS

When did Hurricane Irma hit Florida?

Hurricane Irma made landfall over the southern Florida mainland around 1 p.m. local time Sunday, Sept. 10 as a Category 3 storm, packing winds of more than 110 miles per hour. It roared its way north, overwhelming the entire state with heavy rains and fierce winds.

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How much damage did Hurricane Irma cause?

The damage estimate from Hurricane Irma is up to $100 billion. Hurricane Matthew’s damages last year were about $15 billion. Hurricane Harvey hit the U.S. Aug. 25 as a Category 4 storm, and experts are estimating up to $180 billion in damages. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 killed 55 people and caused more than $20 billion in damage across the U.S. and the Bahamas.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

How has World Vision responded?

In the immediate aftermath, World Vision sent semitrucks full of relief supplies to several church partners in Immokalee, Fort Myers, and the Florida Keys. We were able to reach more than 18,000 people in some of the hardest-hit areas with food, water, hygiene supplies, and other items. About 400 affected families also received $500 gift cards so they could purchase items they needed most, including materials to repair their homes.

 

Thanks to generous donors and corporate partners, we were able to keep our warehouses around the country well-stocked to quickly respond to hurricane Irma, Harvey, and Maria simultaneously. Our team was also able to deliver generators to local partners, including churches that needed power to serve hot meals to storm survivors. While the relief phase has moved toward rebuilding, we have committed to providing regular supplies shipments to a church partner in Immokalee to ensure their community is supported through the difficult recovery.

World Vision staff are working to help respond to downed trees and damage in the Dominican Republic following Hurricane Irma. Destruction in the wake of Hurricane Irma in the Dominican Republic wasn't as bad as predicted. (©2017 World Vision)
World Vision staff are working to help respond to downed trees and damage in the Dominican Republic following Hurricane Irma. Destruction in the wake of Hurricane Irma in the Dominican Republic wasn’t as bad as predicted. (©2017 World Vision)

World Vision staff in Haiti and the Dominican Republic also responded to damage in their countries, although they avoided the more severe effects felt in other parts of the Caribbean.

Dozens of people were stranded after the Couime River levels rose to dangerous levels, flooding local roads in Rodé, Haiti. (©2017 World Vision)
Dozens of people were stranded after the Couime River levels rose to dangerous levels, flooding local roads in Rodé, Haiti. (©2017 World Vision)

BACK TO QUESTIONS

How can I help Hurricane Irma survivors?

You can help World Vision continue responding to disasters like Hurricane Irma around the world.

  • Give: Donate to World Vision’s disaster relief fund.
  • Pray: Join us in praying for World Vision staff and responders as they help families recover and rebuild: Almighty Father, we ask for Your mercy on those hit hard by Hurricane Irma. In the midst of their struggle to recover, give them patience, peace, and hope that life will get better soon.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

 

Chris Huber, Heather Klinger, and Kristy J. O’Hara of World Vision’s staff in the U.S. contributed to this article.

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When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas Aug. 25, 2017, as a Category 4 hurricane, it became the country’s first major — Category 3 or higher — hurricane since Wilma hit Florida in October 2005 and the first major hurricane to strike southern Texas since Celia in 1970. It kicked off a historically destructive 2017 storm season for the Caribbean and the southern U.S.

Causing about $125 billion in damage, Harvey ranks as the second-most costly hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 1900. Hurricanes Irma and Maria followed within a month of Harvey, affecting Florida, Puerto Rico, and much of the Caribbean, respectively causing $65 billion and $90 billion in damages.

“This is going to be a massive, massive cleanup process,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott told “Good Morning America” Sept. 1, about a week after Harvey hit. “People need to understand this is not going to be a short-term project. This is going to be a multi-year project for Texas to be able to dig out of this catastrophe.”

FAQs: What you need to know about Hurricane Harvey, and learn how you can help

Explore frequently asked questions about Hurricane Harvey, and learn how you can help.

How did Hurricane Harvey develop?

Harvey began Aug. 17 as a slow-moving tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, originating from a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa on Aug. 13. Tropical Storm Harvey hit the Windward Islands Aug. 18, then weakened to a tropical wave Aug. 19.

Tropical Depression Harvey reformed Aug. 23. It grew into a Category 1 hurricane with 80-mph winds Aug. 24 and continued to gain strength as it churned toward Texas. The National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm to a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds up to 130 mph Aug. 25.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

Where and when did Harvey make landfall?

Harvey first made landfall over San Jose Island and then near Rockport, in south-central Texas, late Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, threatening millions of residents with 130-mph winds, heavy rains, and a massive storm surge that swamped coastal areas. It stalled around southern Texas for days as a weakening hurricane, producing catastrophic flash and river flooding. Harvey then downgraded to a tropical storm Aug. 26.

By Aug. 27, winds died down to as much as 40 mph, but the storm dumped a year’s-worth of rain in less than a week on Houston and much of southeastern Texas.

By Aug. 29, two flood-control reservoirs had breached, increasing water levels throughout the Houston area.

Harvey made its third and final landfall Aug. 30 near Port Arthur, Texas, and Cameron, Louisiana, bringing widespread flooding. While authorities and first responders handled as many as 10,000 rescue missions around Houston, at least 30,000 people fled to temporary shelters.

Tropical Storm Harvey was then downgraded to a tropical depression late Aug. 30, but it continued to dump massive amounts of rain on parts of eastern Texas, Louisiana, and southern Arkansas. Still alive a week after making landfall, Harvey caused abnormally high rainfall and 35-mph winds, while traveling northeast through Tennessee and Kentucky before dissipating.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

Hurricane Harvey made landfall late Friday night as a Category 4 storm. (©2017 courtesy of NOAA)
Hurricane Harvey made landfall late Friday, Aug. 25, over Rockport, Texas, as a Category 4 storm. (©2017 courtesy of NOAA)

How much damage did Harvey cause?

Causing about $125 billion in damage, Harvey ranks as the second-most costly hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 1900. Adjusting for inflation, only $160-billion Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused more damage than Harvey.

Hurricanes Rita and Wilma also hit in 2005 and rank among the top 10 costliest storms. While Superstorm Sandy in 2012 was one of the most destructive and costly in U.S. history, it hit the eastern seaboard as a Category 2 storm. Hurricane Matthew in late 2016 had been downgraded to a Category 1 by the time it made landfall on the East Coast.

“The geographic area and the population affected by this horrific hurricane and flooding … is far larger than the population and geographic area of Katrina,” Abbott said on “Fox News Sunday.”

After Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, the federal government spent about $160 billion after adjusting for inflation. Sandy inflicted more than $70 billion in damages in 2012, and Matthew cost the U.S. about $10.3 billion in 2016.

With Harvey, an estimated 13 million people were affected, nearly 135,000 homes damaged or destroyed in the historic flooding, and up to a million cars were wrecked.  The death toll is at 88.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits after the storm also jumped to a more than two-year high amid a surge in applications from Texas. Several dozen schools remained closed more than a month into the school year, pending repairs from the flooding.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

How bad was the flooding after Harvey?

The storm dumped more than 27 trillion gallons of rain over Texas, making Harvey the wettest Atlantic hurricane ever measured. Some parts of Houston received more than 50 inches of rainfall — so much that the National Weather Service had to update the colors it uses on its weather charts to properly account for it. With one-third of Houston completely flooded, the weight of the water also sank the city temporarily by two centimeters (almost an inch), according to a California geophysicist.

All of the soggy drywall, flooring, furniture, clothing and toys trashed in the clean-up effort adds up to an estimated 8 million cubic yards of garbage in Houston alone, enough to fill up the Texans’ football stadium two times over.

View satellite image of neighborhoods in Texas before and after the flooding.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

How long will it take to recover?

Texas state and local officials prioritized garbage cleanup in the months immediately after the storm, but overall recovery was slowed as resources were diverted toward Florida because of Hurricane Irma, and then Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands because of Hurricane Maria.

Since many residents lived outside the flood plain, most people affected were uninsured. Many families are struggling to get back on their feet and rebuild their homes, depending on whatever federal and local help they can get.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

How is World Vision responding?

In the immediate aftermath, our team engaged with 60 church partners and other community organizations in the affected areas to mobilize resourced from around the country. In the first three months after Harvey, we provided emergency relief supplies to about 100,000 people. World Vision has delivered 70 truckloads of supplies to partners in Houston, Corpus Christi, and Lake Charles.

Storm survivors received supplies including tents, pillows, sleeping bags, coolers, food kits, pet food, personal hygiene items, women’s toiletry kits, school supplies, toys, socks, clothes, diapers, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and latex gloves.

Getting supplies from World Vision to pass on to shelters and people in need is “a huge blessing to this community,” said Dan Worrell, operations minister for Houston Northwest Baptist Church which received one of the first truckloads of supplies from the Grand Prairie warehouse. “We’re able to distribute in a level greater than we did previously.”

 

Multiple trucks loaded with supplies have been delivered to Faith Memorial Baptist Church on Houston’s east side. “We’re glad we can set up a more localized site for our community. We’re grateful for World Vision partnering with us,” said Pastor Andrew Johnson.

Shipments contain everything from sleeping bags and tarps to diapers and Women’s Hope Kits — totes donated by Thirty-One Gifts and filled with toiletries. “Our heart in who we are is giving back and empowering women, and Hope Kits do that,” said Jill Rhea, a Dallas independent director for Thirty-One Gifts, a direct-seller of totes, purses, and accessories. “They provide hope and dignity.”

One local partner, Ecclesia Church, donated a 50,000-square-foot warehouse for World Vision to use as a central distribution hub through most of 2018. This allows us to pre-position and distribute emergency supplies more quickly and efficiently. And, as families begin repairing and rebuilding their homes, our stock of building materials on-site allows people to come and shop for what they need. We have provided construction materials and other supplies to an additional 93,000 people since the warehouse opened.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

How can I help Hurricane Harvey survivors?

BACK TO QUESTIONS

 

Chris Huber, Heather Klinger, and Kristy J. O’Hara of World Vision’s staff in the U.S. contributed to this article.

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