LWR’s Blog http://blog.lwr.org Sustainable development. Lasting promise. Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:00:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 What are Sand Dams, and how do they help? http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/what-are-sand-dams-and-how-do-they-help/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/what-are-sand-dams-and-how-do-they-help/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00:27 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5427

WHAT is a Sand Dam?

A sand dam is a reinforced cement wall built across a seasonal (flows after major rainfall, then dries up again) sandy river.

The dams are built by securing one or two long concrete barriers across river beds, and by placing a pipe under these barriers.

When it rains, the water carries sand downstream, depositing it against the concrete wall. Eventually, the area behind the wall becomes filled with this sand.

At the end of the rainy season, water remains trapped in this piled-up sand. This water gradually drains into the pipe and can be collected using a basic hand pump or simply by digging into the base of the dam.

WHY Sand Dams?

(Why not some “cooler” 21st century technology?)

  • Because sand dams are cheap
  • Because sand dams are easy to build.
  • Because sand dams require very little maintenance.
  • Because sand dams have no operational cost- once a dam is built, all you need is rain.
  • Sand dams are the easiest and most cost-efficient method of water conservation in water scarce environments.

HOW Do Sand Dams Help?

  • They provide a year-long local water source for communities that would otherwise suffer from water shortage.
  • They reduce the time spent collecting water and thus increase the time available to invest in working on the farms.
  • The significant reduction in the time required to collect water affords the opportunity and energy for farmers to invest in learning more sustainable innovative farming techniques.
  • Sand Dams provide access to water, which is crucial to the production of a secure and diverse supply of food, even during periods of drought.
  • Improved nutrition has a positive influence on the general health of the community.
  • Food security means farmers have surpluses that can be sold at local markets, enabling the transition from subsistence to income generation.
  • When families generate income and feel their growing independence and financial security, they are able to see their potential for a future outside of poverty.

Sand Dams are an incredible example of the huge impact small projects can have!

See for yourself how sand dams are helping farmers in Kenya’s Makueni County:

Read more about the WATER project and other LWR initiatives in Kenya

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What is “food security”? And how does it differ from “hunger”? http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/what-is-food-security/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/what-is-food-security/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 19:05:38 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5420

“Food security” is a term that used all the time by people who work in the world of relief and development. But what does the term mean? Is it simply the opposite of hunger?

Officially, food security exists “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life” [source].

Food security is actually broader and more holistic than simply having enough to eat. It involves four important aspects: availability, access, use and stability.

Availability of Food

The first aspect of food security is probably the most obvious to most people. Is there enough food?

It’s also often the simplest aspect to solve, at least where there are short-term needs. Over decades, we’ve gotten used to seeing images of parachuting food dropping from the planes or being unloaded from trucks during famines.

two women harvesting vegetables

Tapi John (l) and Anna Moinde (r) harvest green peppers in their fields in Makueni County, Kenya. They are able irrigate and farm successfully in this arid area thanks to LWR’s WATER (Watershed Approach to Enhance Resilience) program. Photo by Jake Lyell

But helping communities have enough food over the long-term, in sustainable, lasting ways can be much more difficult.

Access and Affordability

Aside from having enough food, people need access to that food. It needs to be affordable to them. While there might be plenty of food to adequately feed everyone in a particular region, poverty, policies and other individual and systemic factors lower access to that food.

Woman carrying basket of eggplants

Mina Devi harvests eggplant in her garden in Banka District, India. Photograph by Jake Lyell

Helping people grow their own food is one important way to help them have easy access to healthy, sustaining food.

Use

How is food used (or utilized) by households, or individual bodies? Where does the food come from? Was it stored well enough along its delivery route? Is it prepared in a clean environment and properly cooked so that it’s safe to eat? Is it nutritious?

two boys stand in front of new ecological bathroom

Two boys in the Pencaloma community in Peru stand in front of their new ecological bathroom. The project includes water taps and a water system to provide 50 to 5 families with potable water 24 hours a day.

People’s own health also affects food use. If they have intestinal parasites, for example, they may not be able to absorb many of the nutritional benefits of the food they eat. That’s why access to healthcare can also play an important role in addressing food security.

Stability

Food doesn’t last forever. Will it last throughout winter, or throughout the dry season? When wars erupt, how does that affect how much food people can access?

Having a stable, year-round supply of adequate, nutritious food is extremely important.

How can you help improve food security?

Food security is one of Lutheran World Relief’s core programs.

We help increase the availability of safe and nutritious food by investing in agricultural production. In turn, farmers have more food for their own families as well as increased incomes to buy food on the market. We also work to develop nutrition-sensitive programs, so that increased agricultural production does not come at the expense of nutrition.

You can help by making a contribution to LWR, or purchase an LWR Gift for someone on your Christmas list this season.

Read in depth information about LWR’s approach to food security through agriculture.

Hen and Chicks, from LWR Gifts

Give a Hen and Chicks this Christmas

For a woman in Sri Lanka or El Salvador, a farm hen and chicks means eggs to eat, eggs to sell and chicks to grow a flock. Empower one woman and give the gift that keeps on giving… independence, sustainability and success. »Learn more

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A few degrees make a big difference for Nepal citrus farmers http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/a-few-degrees-make-a-big-difference-for-nepal-citrus-farmers/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/a-few-degrees-make-a-big-difference-for-nepal-citrus-farmers/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 20:22:33 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5406

We’ve probably all had this experience. You make a purchase of beautiful, fresh produce with every intention to use it at the peak of its glory. Then, some weeks later, after life has happened, you stumble upon your neglected piece of fruit or vegetable and realize that it’s been called home. Indeed, preserving fresh food is a challenge for many of us.

Citrus farmers in Nepal’s Nawalparasi District had a similar challenge. They grow small fruits that are locally called suntala and resemble mandarin oranges. The problem is, that everyone harvests at the same time. Simple supply and demand economics tell us that this means they won’t receive the best price for their fruit if they sell at that time. Without proper storage facilities – which most farmers didn’t have – the fruit would go bad and they wouldn’t be able to sell it at all.

For a sustainble solution to this problem, Lutheran World Relief and its local partner turned to what some of you may consider an old idea.

Zero-Energy Cold Storage

Together we helped farmers in the Nawalparasi District, as well as two other districts, build what are called Zero-Energy cold storage units. That sounds highly technical but the concept is pretty simple, and is based on the idea of a traditional cellar. (By the way, please leave a comment if you remember what a cellar is, and especially if you have personal experience with one – we have a friendly wager going on in our offices!)

Zero Energy cold storage unit

The units are built so that the interior wall is actually a double wall. Between the two walls there is a layer of gravel and sand. The perimeter of the roof is lined with water pipes. When the water is turned on, it drips down into the sand, which retains the moisture and brings the temperature inside the building down by just a few degrees.

It’s this small temperature change that makes a big difference. Amazingly, fruit stored in Zero-Energy units stays fresh for additional three to five months, allowing farmers to sell it well after the harvest period, garnering more profit.

RS9499_SAHAMATI Vist 210

Zero Energy cold storage units are one part of an overall project that is helping 13 farmer groups in three districts in Nepal. Lalbahadar Saru (pictured above) takes part in our project. He’s been able to store some of his crops in the storage unit. He’s also received seedlings to plant, along with training on how to preserve the value of his fruit post-harvest and on marketing his fruit so that it sells for the best price.

So while you can’t go back and reclaim produce of the past, you can rest assured that your partnership with LWR is helping farmers to preserve crops, earn income and build better futures. That sort of makes it all better, yes?

Thank you for your support!

Fruit Tree Seedlings

Buy Fruit Tree Seedlings for Farmers Like This

Fruit trees don’t just flower. They provide income, shade and biodiversity. For a farmer struggling to make ends meet in Latin America, Asia or Africa, a grove of fruit trees can mean better food for the family and more income. Help a farmer bloom this year.

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Growth in Impact: What’s ahead for Lutheran World Relief http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/growth-in-impact/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/growth-in-impact/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 15:45:40 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5399

As of October 1, LWR embarked on its new fiscal year. Whether it’s a new job, a school year, a new fiscal year, or a new calendar year, new beginnings are times of both reflection and action, of asking questions and seeking answers. Since I joined LWR in July, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, asking a lot of questions, doing a lot of listening, and, yes, putting some things in motion.

We are living in tumultuous times. Reading the news every day keeps at the front of my mind the stark reality that so many of the world’s problems – even those that seem to be solely political – stem from economic insecurity. I firmly believe that the more organizations like LWR can do to help stabilize the economic life of the world’s poor, the safer the world will become.

As I read LWR’s Mission, Vision and Values, I was particularly struck by the language in the “innovation” value: “our goals are so compelling, and suffering so pervasive, that we are unsatisfied with the status quo.” As I have talked with staff at all levels of the organization, I have seen that LWR staff truly do espouse this value: they are unsatisfied with the status quo; they are eager to use their formidable intelligence, talent and abilities to make a positive difference in the world.

Using this as my guide, I have identified what I see as LWR’s “Burning Imperative” for the next few years: Growth in Impact. Because the needs of the world are so great, I believe LWR is called to do more. And to grow our impact, I believe we need to focus on a few key areas. I have asked departments to plan around four themes that, through my conversations with staff, I believe will help us take LWR to the next level: Partnerships, Innovation, Efficiency, and Influence.

Partnerships

The needs of the world are so great that we recognize it is impossible for one organization, one government, or even one sector to address them alone. We need to work in partnership in order to have an impact in the world, and one key way to do this is to leverage others’ resources in support of our work. LWR is blessed with a long legacy of strong partnerships, both in the field and in the U.S., but in order to reach our growth goals, we need to be open to new types of partnerships and new ways of working. One of my key goals as CEO will be strengthening existing partnerships and identifying new partners.

We certainly can’t take for granted our longest-standing partners and those most critical to our identity as an organization: the Lutherans who — through their church bodies, congregations, and individual gifts — provide the majority of our funding. Investing in relationship-building with Lutheran church bodies, congregations and individuals will continue to be a priority for LWR.

Longer term, we will need to generate more resources overall, from a variety of sources. This means taking advantage of the funds available from the U.S. government for relief and development; building relationships with foundations; and seeking new partnerships in the private sector.

Innovation

The Foundation Strategy Group recently published a sobering report, “Ahead of the Curve: Insights for the International NGO of the Future.” One of the insights of that report is the importance of evolution and innovation, lest we as a sector become outdated and ultimately fail the very people we exist to serve.

We must think creatively about how we do development, how we relate with our supporters, and how we manage our work internally. Business as usual and the old ways of working are no longer an option in today’s rapidly changing world, and the opportunities afforded by new technologies and other innovations are ushering in an exciting new era.

Efficiency

In addition to building efficiency through innovation and technology, I want to see LWR increasing scale in our work. The infrastructure to design and implement a $1 million project is not so different from the infrastructure to design and manage a $100,000 project. With scale comes greater efficiency in program delivery and the ability to help more people.

As we grow, we will need to find efficiencies in all areas of our work.

Influence

In addition to increasing our funding and reaching more people through our programs, a key way that we can have greater impact in the world is through thought leadership. We can and should help to shape the debate on topics like development funding priorities, the intersection of relief and development, and the nexus of global security, economics and politics. We can and should highlight our innovative work so that our peers might learn from it, as a way to improve our collective impact on reducing poverty and suffering in the world.

Lutherans have a tendency toward modesty; but we can’t let our modesty stand in the way of helping those in need.

Conclusion

Each of these areas is inter-related. Influence leads to public recognition, which leads to more partnerships, which leads to greater funding. Innovation through technology and program design leads to influence, which attracts partnerships. Efficiency and scale position us to manage larger grants, which can support more innovation and also attract more funding partners. If implemented correctly, it becomes a virtuous cycle that makes the most of our assets, challenges us to stretch ourselves, and ultimately, reach more of the poor and suffering people in the world to help them lift themselves out of poverty, care for their families, and achieve full human flourishing.

I recognize that this approach is not without risk. Innovation and experimentation can lead to great successes, but there will inevitably be failures along the way as we test new partnerships, new approaches, and new systems. We have historically been a fairly conservative organization when it comes to risk. I believe that we need to take a few chances, and I appreciate your support as I push LWR to broaden its horizons.

Which leads me back to where we started: the suffering in the world is so great, and the need so pervasive, that we, who have been blessed with so much, cannot be satisfied with the good work we have done. We need to push ourselves to our very limits to bring hope, help and opportunities that will change the course of generations of the lives of families living in poverty around the world.

“If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward you needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be.” Deuteronomy 15:7-8

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Join the Health Kit Hoedown with this Illinois Church http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/join-the-health-kit-hoedown-with-this-illinois-church/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/join-the-health-kit-hoedown-with-this-illinois-church/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 13:47:46 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5394 Last week we received a fun link in our inbox to this original song from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Northbrook, Illinois. Janet Fisher told us:

Our high school youth group at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Northbrook Illinois wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the video used to promote/educate our congregation about the LWR Personal Care kits. I was honored to present this video in a mission moment at this year’s Metro Chicago ELCA Synod Assembly.

Since 2008, Gloria Dei has annually taken a small step in standing with those in need of the very basics. Each year young and old gather with neighbors and friends to build Personal Care Kits in partnership with Lutheran World Relief. We are grateful to Thrivent and to the members and friends of Gloria Dei who financially sponsor the supplies for the kits.

In April, with many hands and great joy, we built 1200 kits in under an hour. At the end we prayed that God would bless the work of our hands, and bless the lives of the people who would receive the kits. This missional ministry is not only a tangible action, but also opens us up to other possibilities that God will give us to serve and to grow in solidarity with our sisters and brothers around the world.

Watch the Health Kit Hoedown

Reading this via email? Watch the video on YouTube

Are you up for a hoedown?

Upload your own video to YouTube and share it with us! You can tweet the link to @LuthWorldRelief or email connect@lwr.org to share it with us. We’ll share any of the videos on our Twitter account, so be sure to follow us there!

Learn more about LWR Personal Care Kits

The very simple gesture of giving a Personal Care Kit can give someone the encouragement to start anew, starting with a bath. You can share God’s grace and love by providing that simple comfort.

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Why LWR School Kits Make a Difference http://blog.lwr.org/2014/09/why-lwr-school-kits-make-a-difference/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/09/why-lwr-school-kits-make-a-difference/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:29:20 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5382

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) states that access to education is a basic human right.

Every girl and boy in every country is entitled to [education]. Quality education is critical to development both of societies and of individuals, and it helps pave the way to a successful and productive future. When all children have access to a quality education rooted in human rights and gender equality, it creates a ripple effect of opportunity that influences generations to come.

In places where education is not affordable or accessible to all, many families are forced by their economic realities to choose which of their children go to school. Most often, though the decision is difficult, the oldest male child is the one who has the opportunity. That means that essentially half of that community’s or country’s population does not have the means to explore and reach their potential as productive and active members of society.

The Multiplier Effect

But educating girls has what UNICEF calls a “multiplier effect.” Girls who go to and stay in school are less likely to marry very young. They tend to be able to contribute more equally to family income, and have fewer children, whom they can more easily care for and invest in. Educated women prioritize nutrition, health care, and yes, education for their families. Their investments and decisions impact not only their own families but the community as a whole, helping break the chains of chronic poverty.

In Nicaragua, children are so committed to going to school and learning that they will choose to go to class even if they have nothing more than the clothes they are wearing. Imagine trying to learn all that is presented in a classroom without pencils, pens, or notebooks! In other parts of the world, when a family cannot afford school supplies, their children do not even have the option to go to class.

A young girl in the Philippines smiles and hugs her new school kit.

A young girl in the Philippines smiles and hugs her new School Kit.

Why School Kits Make a Difference

Providing simple tools such as those found in LWR School Kits helps those families have one less difficult decision to make. Thanks to your generosity, in 2013 alone, LWR was able to distribute 261,580 School Kits to communities in 16 different countries. Some went to countries like Burkina Faso, where families struggle with ongoing drought and the resulting income and nutritional deficits. Others went to countries such as Jordan, where thousands of Syrian citizens fled in an effort to escape the violence and conflict at home. And still others went to the Philippines, where schools and communities were destroyed after Typhoon Haiyan struck last November.

And yet we still didn’t have enough of these precious Kits to meet all the requests we received from our partners. As the school year ramps up in earnest here in the United States, I invite you to be part of something simple that is changing the world, one student, one school, one community at a time.

Tracker Map

Track your Quilts & Kits

You can now log on to our Quilt & Kit Tracker and print out a special barcode to put on your shipment of Quilts & Kits. That way, you and your congregation can track your gifts as they reach those in need all around the world. Learn More»

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Coffee with a Conscience; or What is Fair Trade? http://blog.lwr.org/2014/09/coffee-with-a-conscience-or-what-is-fair-trade/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/09/coffee-with-a-conscience-or-what-is-fair-trade/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:00:56 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5368

In the 18th century the Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus, renamed the cocoa tree giving it the Greek name Theobroma Cacao, which literally means ‘food of the Gods’. Throughout its history, whether as a cocoa drinking chocolate or confectionery treat, chocolate has always been much sought after.

But few people think about the lengthy labor-intensive process that raw cocoa beans undergo before they become chocolate. Exploitative work hours, low pay, appalling working conditions — these are the harsh realities many producers in developing countries face as a result of our focus on profit. The human links of the supply chain are hidden from us when we shop.

Cocoa farmers in Ghana

Cocoa farmers in Ghana

But fortunately, many people are waking up to the shocking unfairness of international trade and demanding a better deal for the people who do the ‘dirty work’ for us.

And that is how Fair Trade was born.

Fair Trade is a response to inequities in the global market.
Fair Trade means producers are given a fair share of the financial benefits that result from the commodities they produce.
Fair Trade means producers receive more money to support their families and gain financial security.
Fair Trade means long-term contracts, so that producers are able to invest in improvements to their businesses (better equipment, more land) and their communities (gain access to health facilities, build schools).

BUT

Fair Trade is so much more than just a system of international commerce.

It is a commitment to treating all people as worthy of justice and care.
It is a challenge to consumerism.
It is pledge to promote mutual respect, standing with farmers.
It is a vision of a world where fairness and sustainable development are at the heart of trade.
It is an idea that shows how a successful business can also put people first.

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Can I afford to support Fair Trade?

One obvious problem is that fairly traded goods can cost more. Fair Trade goods will always be a little more expensive than the cheapest non-fairly traded versions of the same product. But even though the price of a Fair Trade chocolate bar is often only negligibly higher than the cost of conventional, there are many people — especially those with low incomes — who cannot afford to pay the difference. But remember that Fair Trade foods like coffee and tea make up only a small part of the average weekly shopping budget and thus won’t noticeably impact your food allowance.

Achieving truly fair trade means seeing the world from an entirely different perspective — through the lens of kindness, justice, and grace. After all, Fair Trade is not about paying 60 cents more for your coffee; it’s about caring for your “neighbors,” even when they’re on the other side of the world.

LWR Coffee and Chocolate

Learn more about Fair Trade Coffee and Chocolate with LWR, and order some for your home or your congregation!

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These summer campers did more than just sing and swim http://blog.lwr.org/2014/09/summer-campers/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/09/summer-campers/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 10:00:13 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5354

Over the summer Lutheran camps across the country opened their doors to youth for fun, activity and learning about God’s creation.

As a part of many summer camp programs, children and youth get to take part in a service opportunity. This summer, Lutheran World Relief offered small grants to 12 camps to help make LWR Quilts and Kits.

Nawakwa, Biglerville, Pa.

Camp Nawakwa made this great video, showing how they got involved:

Reading this via e-mail? Watch this video on YouTube

»Learn more about Camp Nawakwa

Kirchenwald, Colebrook, Pa.

For more than 30 years Kirchenwald, a Lutheran camping center in Colebrook, Pa., has offered young people the opportunity to connect with one another and God’s creation through weekly camp programs.

This year the camp engaged its approximately 500 campers in making LWR School Kits. “I think it’s a great activity for camp,” says camp director Zach Weiss. “We tried to make it experiential so that the kids were involved in all the steps — from purchasing the items to assembling the final Kits.”

The camp sent notices to campers ahead of time asking them to bring donations of School Kit items. During the camp week, youth brought their items to the mid-week service as their offering and counselors organized groups to assemble Kits. Staff at Kirchenwald used their camp grant to cover the cost of the drawstring book bags in which all other Kit items are enclosed.

Over the course of their summer program, campers at Kirchenwald assembled 138 Kits. Weiss plans to keep campers and their families updated by using the LWR Quilt & Kit Tracker to send updates on where the Kits will go.

“I like the fact that I can send this information to campers after they leave,” says Weiss. “What you do at camp shouldn’t just stay at camp!”

»Learn more about Kirchenwald and the Lutheran Camping Corporation of Central Pennsylvania

Lutherlyn, Butler, Pa.

Quilts have long been a part of the social fabric at Camp Lutherlyn. The year-round outdoor ministry partners with the Woodland Quilters, a geographically diverse, but committed, group that meets once a week, year-round. Most of the quilts the Woodland Quilters make go up for auction to support the camp. This summer, the group spent time with the campers, engaging them in making LWR Mission Quilts.

campers and volunteers gather around an LWR Mission Quilt

Campers at Lutherlyn made Mission Quilts as part of an intergenerational activity with partners from the Woodland Quilters

“This was a great intergenerational activity, for both the campers and the quilters,” says Deb Roberts, the assistant director of Lutherlyn.

Each Tuesday members of Woodland Quilters offered quilting as an afternoon project for campers, who took part in all aspects of the quilt-making process: from cutting and sewing to piecing and tying!

Roberts said the project fit in perfectly with the camp’s summer theme of “Living Together. “To have a project that took the kids outside themselves and gave them a tangible way to see how they connect with others is awesome,” says Roberts.

By the end of the seven-week summer camp session, youth helped make 18 LWR Mission Quilts. Roberts plans to keep campers updated on the Quilts’ destination through their Facebook Page and the LWR Quilt & Kit Tracker.

“This was a great experience for everyone at our camp.”

»Learn more about Camp Lutherlyn

Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, Baltimore, Md.

The kids at the day camp run by Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Baltimore, Md. have been learning a lot this summer about what it means to be a good neighbor.

Camp director Lance Cooper and staff fill the summer days of 25 children — ages 5 through 11 — with songs, Bible lessons and service projects, including assembling LWR School Kits.

Two girls gather around a pile of LWR School Kits

Kids at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church assembled LWR School Kits for students overseas.

Cooper says he was excited to work with the kids on School Kits because he wanted them to learn the importance of education around the world. “In many parts of the world education is a luxury,” says Cooper. “I wanted the children to understand that and to take this opportunity to help fellow children be able to go to school.”

The children — many of whom live in the surrounding neighborhood — enjoyed assembling the Kits. Six year-old Lanaya made four Kits and says, “I didn’t know some kids don’t get to go to school. I liked making the kits to help them.”

»Learn more about Amazing Grace Lutheran Church

Ox Lake, Amery, WI

On the day that LWR staff visited the approximately 40 campers enjoying their camp week at Ox Lake, they were decorating squares that would be sewn into LWR Quilts.

A young man named Jonathan was drawing the word “strength” on his square and when asked why he chose the word he said, “it gives me hope for other people, when they think about their strength and that they can persevere because they have strength.”

Camp director Megan Benzschawel says that making LWR Quilts fit in perfectly with the camp’s curriculum and programs, both of which include service projects.

campers work on tying together squares for a Mission Quilt

Campers at Ox Lake Bible Camp decorated squares that were sewn into LWR Mission Quilts

The camp also worked to ensure the children knew why they were sewing Quilts and what the Quilts would be used for. When Ellie, a camper, was asked what she hopes the Quilt she’s helping to make will do for the person who receives it, she says, “I hope they feel comforted and that they feel that they’re not alone in the world, that they have a purpose, because everyone else is looking out for them. I think sometimes people feel forgotten about but then once they get something from someone then they feel recognized.”

»Learn more about Ox Lake Bible Camp

Good Earth Village, Spring Valley, Minn.

The children at Good Earth Village are a young bunch — ranging from third to fifth graders — but what they lack in age they made up for in enthusiasm for making LWR School Kits.

a girl holds up a backpack she decorated

Campers at Good Earth Village decorated backpacks that were part of LWR School Kits, sent to students overseas.

After visiting with our staff, kids set out to decorate the drawstring backpacks into which the school supplies would go. Most children chose to share something of themselves in their decorations. One camper, Lauren, colored a rainbow on her square because she likes colorful things. Another camper shared that she’d gone through rough times so she wrote positive words like “friendship” in hopes that it would let another child know they are not alone.

Kristen Twitchell, the director of leadership ministries at Good Earth, shared she was happy to receive a camp grant and that assembling School Kits fit in well with the theme of that camp day, which was “Engage the World.”

Around 200 campers helped assemble 232 School Kits over five weeks. Twitchell and staff report the children enjoyed the activity and the connections they were making with others around the world.

“I told the children that the backpack they held in their hands would be held by a child on the other side of the world. In that way, it was almost as if they were holding hands. It was a great experience for the children.”

»Learn more about Good Earth Village

Thank you to all who participated!

We want to offer a huge thanks to all the camps and campers who made LWR Quilts and Kits for their overseas neighbors. Here are some of the other camps who participated:

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This man experienced all-consuming hunger. Here’s how we’re ensuring he doesn’t have to again. http://blog.lwr.org/2014/09/hunger-and-water-in-kenya/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/09/hunger-and-water-in-kenya/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 10:00:47 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5341

“Hunger is like this: if you’re hungry, you can’t sleep at night. If you have hunger, you can’t plan ahead for your life. You can’t think about anything except the hunger that you have. Hunger. It creates conflict in the family, and can tear it apart. We used to be so hungry.”

Just three years ago, Sevu and his family were barely surviving as subsistence farmers in Kenya. This area was severely affected by the drought that swept across the Horn of Africa in 2009.

You have made a major difference in Sevu’s life.

You have helped. Here’s how:


Reading this via e-mail? Click here to watch the video on YouTube

LWR’s Watershed Approach to Enhanced Resilience

How does the project work that helped Sevu and others in his community? The following video explains a little more in-depth just how Lutheran World Relief provides lasting solutions in Kenya.


Reading this via e-mail? Click here to watch the video on YouTube

THANK YOU

Thank you to everyone who donated to the East Africa Drought over the past few years. We raised over $1 million to help families like Sevu’s. You make a difference!

Want to learn more about LWR’s work in Kenya? »Read more at LWR In Depth

Want to learn more about how LWR provide water for agriculture? »Read more at LWR In Depth

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A Better BOGO http://blog.lwr.org/2014/08/a-better-bogo/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/08/a-better-bogo/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 20:07:58 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5331

If you are like me, you’ve spent the better part of the month of August preparing kids to go back to school. There’s no shortage of things to do. There are school supplies to buy, new schedules to learn, lunches to pack, carpools to work out and — for my two daughters at least — new uniforms to procure. In searching for the best deals, I’ve come to know (and become wildly ecstatic at the sight of) a new acronym: BOGO.

Of course, this acronym means “buy one, get one” and usually stores offer these deals during busy shopping seasons like the back-to-school season. Some are buy one, get one free. More often, I find, the deals are buy one, get one half off.

Today I’d like to challenge you to consider a new meaning for BOGO: Buy One, Give One.

In Need of School Kits

Lutheran World Relief is currently in need of School Kits to send to children living in poverty around the world. These Kits contain simple items – pencils, erasers, notebooks, a backpack – that can make a huge difference in a child’s ability to go to school.

Children who received school kits line up to show them off outside a primary school in the Philippines.

Children who received school kits line up to show them off outside a primary school in the Philippines. LWR is currently in need of additional School Kits to send around the world.

After Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, LWR sent School Kits as part of our emergency response. In post-disaster situations, School Kits can be especially helpful because parents are devoting every available resource to providing basic needs and recovery. Providing School Kits is a way we can help children continue to go to school and help ease some of their families’ financial burdens.

Rochimlyn looks at her School Kit

Rochimlyn, Grade 5, looks through her School Kit from LWR.

Buy One, Give One

I know many of you have done the bulk of your back-to-school shopping, but while things are still on sale, encourage your congregation to hold a School Kit collection and assembly. Then, while you’re out picking up those last few items, buy one and give one to a child in need.

Thank you for your support, prayers and caring for people in need around the world.

School Kit

Learn more about LWR School Kits

To learn more about what goes into LWR School Kits and how to set up an assembly, check our website. And click here to read about all the places School Kits go. If you have any questions, give us a call! We’re happy to help.

»Learn more

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5 things you may not know about cocoa http://blog.lwr.org/2014/08/5-things-you-may-not-know-about-cocoa/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/08/5-things-you-may-not-know-about-cocoa/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:00:18 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5321

Chocolate. It’s almost a food group unto itself. Whether you are personally a fan or not, you probably know someone who absolutely loves a rich, delicious piece of chocolate from time to time.

That love of chocolate helps spur the global demand for cocoa — a $110 billion per year industry.

Think you know all there is to know about this lucrative crop? Read on! You may learn something new. Then share your thoughts in the comments.

1. Cocoa and chocolate are two very different things.

In fact cocoa starts out looking like this.

broken open cacao pod

A farmer breaks open a cacao (cocoa) pod. Each pod contains 30 to 50 large seeds (beans), surrounded by a white pulp. The seeds are dried and roasted to produce chocolate.

That’s not a cocoa bean but a cocoa pod. It grows at the base of the cocoa tree. In a good year, a cocoa tree can produce 20 -30 pods, each of which contains between 20-50 almond sized cocoa beans.

From there cocoa beans go through many steps before they even arrive to a chocolate maker. Beans must be fermented and dried, tested for quality and then, finally, processed into chocolate. In fact, here’s a cool infographic about the steps a cocoa bean goes through to become chocolate.

This infographic shows how cocoa gets produced, from smallholder farmers to consumers.

This infographic shows how cocoa gets produced, from smallholder farmers to consumers. Image by CocoaBarometer.org

LWR works in Africa, Latin America and Asia to help smallholder farmers grow and sell quality cocoa to improve their incomes and lives.

2. Most of the world’s cocoa is produced in Africa.

While Europe and the U.S. are top chocolate-making regions, most of the world’s cocoa is grown in Africa. And within Africa, more than half — about 59 percent — is grown in West Africa, especially in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

3. It takes five years after planting cocoa seedlings for trees to grow cocoa beans.

In many ways, growing cocoa is an investment — for farmers and for organizations like LWR who work with cocoa producers.

Cocoa can also be a tricky crop to produce. It takes a mixture of the right climate, proper plant placement and shading and good agricultural practices to grow thriving cocoa trees.

For these reasons, Mario Isabel Taicigue wasn’t so sure about growing cocoa on his farm in Nicaragua. But as a part of the local LWR cocoa project, he decided to give it a try. Now he’s growing cocoa and may even plant more. He’s also learned to grow other crops for income, so the wait time on cocoa harvesting is more manageable.

Cocoa farmer Mario Isabel Taicigue on his farm near Rio San Juan. He first started growing cocoa in 2007. "It has been a big help for our income," he says.

Cocoa farmer Mario Isabel Taicigue on his farm near Rio San Juan. He first started growing cocoa in 2007. “It has been a big help for our income,” he says.

Through all his efforts Mario is growing so much more than cocoa on his farm. He’s planting a legacy to pass down to his children and grandchildren.

4. Many of the world’s cocoa producers have never tasted chocolate themselves.

When cocoa leaves the hands of the average cocoa farmer, it does so as a cocoa bean with several steps to becoming what we know and love as chocolate.

Women in Peru sort cocoa beans. Photo by Olaf Hammelburg, for LWR

Watch a video of cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast tasting chocolate for the first time. Photo by Olaf Hammelburg, for LWR

The steps — from cocoa bean to chocolate bar — make up the cocoa value chain. LWR works with cocoa cooperatives to participate in more parts of the cocoa value chain such as drying and fermenting beans, grinding them and, in places like Nicaragua, the families of some cocoa farmers have even come together to make chocolate.

The more steps of the cocoa value chain farmers are involved in, the more valuable their cocoa becomes. By helping farmers and cooperatives tap into the cocoa value chain, we can help farmers earn better incomes to support their families.

5. Despite cocoa being a lucrative – and growing – industry, many cocoa producers live in poverty.

Traditionally, most chocolate is produced by smallholder farmers and then sold at markets to middle-men, who go on to sell the cocoa large-scale buyers. Unfortunately this means most cocoa farmers see only a fraction of the total income earned from cocoa beans and the resulting products.

That’s one reason LWR promotes Fair Trade Chocolate as a better alternative to support smallholder cocoa farmers. Through the Fair Trade system, farmers work in cooperatives and are paid a fair price for their cocoa. They also receive what are called “social premiums” — additional money cooperatives use to make vital improvements to their communities, like maintaining schools, providing healthcare and installing wells.

 

Learn more about Fair Trade and Lutheran World Relief

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Three ways LWR is helping unaccompanied minors http://blog.lwr.org/2014/08/three-ways-lwr-is-helping-unaccompanied-minors/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/08/three-ways-lwr-is-helping-unaccompanied-minors/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:20:27 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5300

More than 50,000 children have arrived at the U.S./Mexico border alone so far this year. Nearly 40,000 women and children have arrived as families.[source] All have endured an incredibly dangerous journey to escape violence and despair in Central America. Current efforts to expedite their deportation place their safety and well-being in jeopardy.

While this issue is playing out along the U.S. border, this issue also underlines the long-term challenge facing so many in Central America and elsewhere who struggle to cope with economic marginalization, changing weather patterns, grinding poverty and the violence endemic in these states.

As LWR President Daniel Speckhard recently pointed out,  poverty created the environment for these situations to escalate. While the children at the border have very immediate needs, it’s also important to address the root causes of this problem.

Here are three ways LWR is committed to helping in Central America:

1. Providing for children and families

LWR is working with national governments, organizations and church bodies in El Salvador and Honduras, such as Lutheran World Federation and the Lutheran Church of El Salvador. Together we’ll work to provide shelter, material needs, protection and psychosocial support for children and families returned to these countries from the U.S and Mexico.

2. Working with pastors to support returning children

After their long and arduous journeys, children who are returned will need extra support to be able to cope. As a part of our work with the Lutheran Church in El Salvador, we’ll provide training for pastors on best practices to support unaccompanied minors who are returned. The training will also help pastors work to prevent children from migrating alone in the future.

3. Long-term solutions to poverty

LWR’s work in Central America to advance rural development provides lasting solutions that address the economic causes that push people to migrate to the United States.

For example, in Honduras, LWR helps farmers diversify agricultural production, improve on-farm processing and storage, and strengthen local food markets. This helps strengthen their livelihoods, earn enough money to support their families and help them remain in their homes.

In El Salvador, LWR is working to address development challenges for poor and at-risk families. Among other activities, our local partner helps those families leverage credit. We are also engaging youth social risk assessment programs and working with two youth associations to increase their civic engagement.

#452666038 / gettyimages.com

You can help

Lutheran World Relief works alongside partners and communities in El Salvador and Honduras, addressing the root causes of poverty with long-term, sustainable development projects.

In addition to that work, LWR has dedicated approximately $100,000 (50k per country) to help ensure that the needs of unaccompanied children returning to these countries are met.

You can help support this work with a gift to LWR’s Central America Unaccompanied Children fund. Your gifts will not only help carry out the activities outlined above, but will help us respond to any emerging needs that may arise.

You can also help by keeping all the children traveling to the borders in your prayers, along with their families and all the people who work to ensure their protection.

Thank you!

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The crisis in Gaza: how LWR is responding http://blog.lwr.org/2014/08/the-crisis-in-gaza-how-lwr-is-responding/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/08/the-crisis-in-gaza-how-lwr-is-responding/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 16:55:21 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5289

There have been many times over the past six years that I have given thanks that I get to be part of the work of Lutheran World Relief.

Most recently, I felt that way because of what is going on in Gaza. Like me, you’ve probably seen it play out on the news. Rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians led to an outbreak of violence in the Gaza Strip and surrounding Israeli neighborhoods. Beginning July 17th, the Israeli Defense Forces launched a ground offensive in Gaza to proactively defend Israel from missiles being launched from Gaza.

With horror, I listened (and watched and read on the internet) as the death toll continued to rise. As of this writing, 1,845 Palestinians (including at least 1,354 civilians, of whom 415 are children and 214 are women). In addition, 67 Israelis have been killed (64 soldiers, two civilians and one foreign national). There are 187,000 people who remain displaced and in United Nations RWA shelters and 65,000 people have had their homes destroyed or damaged beyond repair. [source]

But what strikes the deepest chord with me about this crisis, is the toll it’s taking on children in the area. UN-OCHA reports that there are 373,000 children in need of psycho-social support and hearing the daily news reports it’s not hard to imagine why.

As a mother, this makes me especially thankful for the work of Lutheran World Relief and for people like you who support its mission. With your help, we are responding in two important ways.

A truck is unloaded during a distribution of Quilts and Kits in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.

A truck is unloaded during a distribution of Quilts and Kits in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.

We are sending Quilts and Kits

We are sending LWR Quilts and Kits to the area. In fact, we just received word from our warehouses that a shipment of Mission Quilts is headed that way. Quilts are especially helpful to displaced families. They provide warmth, can be used for bedding and are also a tangible symbol that people around the world care.

You can help by donating (or continuing to donate) LWR Quilts and Kits. By keeping our warehouses stocked, you allow us to respond to emerging situations while fulfilling existing requests of partners around the world. If you’d like to check the progress of the Gaza Quilt shipment, you can check out our Quilt & Kit Tracking Map.

A fallen sign in Gaza for the  "Near East Council of Churches Committee for Refugee Work"

A fallen sign in Gaza for the “Near East Council of Churches Committee for Refugee Work.” Photo courtesy of NECC/DSPR

We are partnering with local organizations

We are supporting the response on the ground, carried out by our partners in the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and organizations working together to respond to needs around the world.

One of our partners, The Department of Service to the Palestine Refugees of the Near East Council of Churches (NECC/DSPR), runs three clinics in the area. One sustained damage recently, but the other two are currently up and running. DSPR has also been distributing food and water in the area. Another partner, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), has also been distributing food and is making plans to provide shelter for people who have been displaced.

How you can help

You can make sure we continue to be able to support responses like this with a gift to LWR. Your cash donations will support the response of our partners in the ACT Alliance.

As I write this, Gaza is entering a second day of ceasefire as Palestinian and Israeli representatives prepare to go to Egypt for talks. Please join us in praying for the people of Gaza, for those participating in the talks and for a sustainable end to the violence in the region.

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Five ways Lutherans are fighting Ebola in West Africa http://blog.lwr.org/2014/08/5-ways-lutherans-are-fighting-ebola-in-west-africa/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/08/5-ways-lutherans-are-fighting-ebola-in-west-africa/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 17:02:27 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5278

As of August 1, 2014, there have been 1,603 reported cases of the Ebola virus in West Africa and 887 people have died. [source]

This outbreak has gained international news coverage as it has spread. Many people are asking what can be done to help prevent this deadly disease from spreading any further, and what we can do to help those affected.

In Martin Luther’s time, people across Europe were also suffering from an outbreak of their own: a second pandemic of the Black Plague. Large portions of the population died. And many Christians asked themselves how — and if — they should respond. To answer that question, in 1517 Luther wrote a letter titled “Whether one may flee from a deadly plague,” demonstrating the importance of caring for our neighbors.

We must and owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils also. If his house is on fire, love compels me to run and help him extinguish the flames. If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help. If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can. If there are others to do it, I am released. If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself for doing so. (LW 43:119-38)

Although grace (justification by grace through faith) is central to Lutheran theology, loving one’s neighbor is the natural and necessary response to grace. Lutherans around the world continue to live this response.

Here are five ways that Lutherans are responding to the Ebola outbreak:

1. Lutherans are Treating Ebola Patients

Timely treatment is essential to containing the spread of Ebola and helping people who have already been infected. Two Lutheran hospitals in Liberia — Curran and Phebe — are treating patients who have contracted Ebola.

Lutherans around the world support this treatment through partnerships in the Lutheran World Federation and the ACT Alliance.

Medical Equipment drying in the sun in West Africa

Medical Equipment drying in the sun in West Africa. Credit: ©EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser, on Flickr.com, CC-BY-ND

2. Lutherans in the U.S. are Sending Protection Equipment

Health care workers are at great risk of contracting Ebola from the patients who come into their care. To help ensure their safety — and prevent further spread of Ebola — protection equipment is essential.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is partnering with the Lutheran Church in Liberia and Global Health Ministries to send five pallets of Personal Protection Equipment to Curran and Phebe hospitals.

3. Lutherans are Training Healthcare Professionals

With Ebola, time is of the essence. Seeking treatment immediately after experiencing the early symptoms greatly increases a person’s chances of recovery.

Lutheran World Relief is partnering with IMA World Health and the Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL) to conduct a training on the prevention of Ebola for healthcare workers in Liberia.

Through this training, health care providers were trained as trainers — to ensure that health workers have accurate information to share with their communities about the nature of Ebola, its symptoms and the importance of timely treatment. So far, 25 care providers have been trained. In turn, they will go on to train other staff in their respective health centers.

Health workers in West Africa carrying a full tarp

Photo credit: ©EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser, on Flickr.com, CC-BY-ND

4. Lutherans are Raising Awareness in Communities

It is also essential for there to be consistent messages about Ebola circulating within communities.

As a part of LWR’s partnership with IMA and CHAL, we are also training community health volunteers. These are members of the community who will also get the word out about Ebola.

By supporting LWR, Lutherans are helping to reach out with information by other means as well, such as posters and flyers with information about Ebola, its symptoms and the importance of treatment.

5. Lutherans are working with religious and community leaders

One thing that is hampering Ebola prevention and treatment efforts is that there is a lot of information about the outbreak and some of it is conflicting.

Lutheran World Relief, in partnership with IMA and CHAL, is also working with local religious and community leaders, training them to reach out into communities to give vital information so people can stay safe. LWR believes working with local partners and leaders is important because they know their own communities and can help get the word out to help families protect themselves and seek out treatment.

UPDATE – August 8, 2014: Lutheran World Relief thanks The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod for helping to expand our efforts to reach more people through training to help combat the spread of Ebola. 

Lutheran World Relief works with local partners to provide lasting solutions to poverty.

Our staff and partners in the countries where we work know the local languages, traditions and customs necessary to provide appropriate solutions. And they have access to the knowledge and expertise of their colleagues in other countries around the world.

»Read more about LWR’s work around the world

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Cocoa farmers taste chocolate for the very first time (video) http://blog.lwr.org/2014/07/cocoa-farmers-taste-chocolate-for-the-very-first-time-video/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/07/cocoa-farmers-taste-chocolate-for-the-very-first-time-video/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 21:24:58 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5272

The first time I visited Nicaragua — one of the major coffee-producing countries in Central America and a focus of Ground Up: The LWR Coffee and Cocoa Initiative — I was perplexed that the only coffee we had to drink was prepackaged instant coffee. Nowhere in sight were the beautifully bistre roasted beans of the Sister’s Blend coffee I had grown accustomed to.

I quickly learned that the high quality coffee beans grown by the farmers I met were too valuable to keep in their own community. And although there was a concerted effort underway to encourage and enable local Nicaraguans to consume their own coffee, most of them relied on highly processed instant coffee for their own mornings.

I was reminded of this fact when I ran across the following video. This time, instead of coffee, it’s chocolate. An Ivory Coast-based news crew, Metropolis TV, brought chocolate bars to the farmers who make their living growing cocoa beans. These farmers admit they don’t really know what happens to the beans. They have never tasted chocolate before.

Reading this via email? Click here to watch the video on YouTube

While this may be an extreme example, it is certainly true that many of the products we take for granted in the United States are luxuries to the people who grow and produce them.

This isn’t just about chocolate; it’s about food security

This isn’t just about whether or not farmers can afford to purchase high-quality chocolate or coffee. It’s about the access and availability of safe, nutritious food in general (a term we call food security).

Lutheran World Relief works with farmers across Africa, Latin America and Asia to improve their incomes, and therefore their food security.

So next time you bite into a bar of delicious, Fair Trade chocolate, think about where that chocolate comes from. Give thanks for the hands that grew it. And enjoy.

Ground Up: The LWR Coffee and Cocoa Initiative
The global coffee and cocoa markets are worth more than $175 billion per year combined. But small-scale producers capture just a fraction of that value. With expertise developed over decades, LWR brings a unique perspective and skill set to improve producers’ lives, from the ground up.

Read more about Ground Up: The LWR coffee and cocoa initiative.

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How smartphones are improving farming in Uganda http://blog.lwr.org/2014/07/how-smartphones-are-improving-farming-in-uganda/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/07/how-smartphones-are-improving-farming-in-uganda/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:58:41 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5256

Guest post by David Fuerst, LWR’s Senior Director for Philanthropic Engagement

“This phone has changed my life!”

That’s what Bernard Magombe told me when I recently sat down with him on a visit to an LWR coffee project in Bumweru, Uganda.

To be honest, I had mixed reactions to his proclamation. I think of my smartphone as both a blessing and a barrier. It’s a blessing in the convenience and entertainment it provides. It’s a barrier because of how all-consuming these powerful devices can be.

Needless to say, I was intrigued by Bernard’s insistence that his phone changed his life.

Bernard is a young man, just 26 years old. When he graduated from school he was given a small acreage of land in the lush, rolling foothills of Mt. Elgon. This small plot of land came with some wily coffee trees that produced very little coffee. And when they did, the quality was very poor. In fact, many of Bernard’s neighbors cut down their coffee trees to use as firewood.

He and his family — his wife and their three-year-old son and five-month-old daughter — rely on the income from their farm for income. Clearly coffee wasn’t meeting their needs.

But that all began to change, Bernard insisted, because of a smartphone.

The difference a phone can make

When Bernard’s community joined the Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative, he was selected to serve as a Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) — a member of the community equipped with a smartphone to share information with fellow farmers, like weather forecasts, market pricing, composting and crop disease identification and treatment.

Anyone with a farming background knows how important information can be. Even with the right information, you must make decisions in an environment where the outcome is uncertain. My own memories of growing up on a Nebraska farm are peppered with my father’s quest to obtain the best information, consult with his fellow farmers and make a decision that we hoped would yield a bumper crop.

Up until recently, Bernard and his fellow farmers lacked even the most basic information they could use to make good decisions for their farmers. With Bernard’s new role as a CKW, and equipped with his smartphone, farmers have access to many types of information — and the possibilities for more are endless.

SONY DSC

Now each morning Bernard gets up, tends to his own farm and at about 10 a.m. he “hits the road” by foot. His goal is to visit at least 4-5 farmers each day. When he visits, he finds out what questions or problems they are having and uses his smartphone to get information and answers.

“I want to be a modern farmer and a leader”

Where Bernard used to struggle to even produce coffee on his farm, he’s now growing better crops using the information he gets from training and his smartphone. His fellow farmers are also seeing improvements. This new-found information is also inspiring farmers in Bumweru to look to the future.

“I want to be a modern farmer and a leader in my community” says Bernard.

Seeing the smile on Bernard’s face, hearing the pride in his voice as he told me about how he can now support his family, I must say I was convinced. A smartphone really had changed his life!

And you can help change even more lives with your support of Lutheran World Relief. Your gifts make a lasting difference in the lives of people coping with poverty around the world. Thank you for your support!

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I don’t like coffee, but I do like this… http://blog.lwr.org/2014/07/i-dont-like-coffee-but-i-do-like-this/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/07/i-dont-like-coffee-but-i-do-like-this/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 20:23:28 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5248

I have a secret – I’m not a coffee drinker.

Despite months of working on LWR’s coffee programming in Asia—including Temu Kupi, an international coffee forum LWR hosted with Green Mountain Coffee and Fair Trade USA—I got away without drinking any coffee.  It’s not that I don’t support the farmers who participate in our programs or the partnerships LWR is building with everyone from producers to international coffee corporations – it’s just…I don’t like the taste!

While my secret is out on coffee, I also want to share another secret – I love chocolate.

This is not as much of a secret as anyone who knows me knows that there is not a type of chocolate that I don’t like.  So, several months ago when LWR launched Ground Up: The Lutheran World Relief Coffee and Cocoa Initiative, I was very excited to get more involved in our programming around cocoa.

While LWR has a number of cocoa projects around the world, particularly in Latin America, the organization is in the process of expanding our cocoa work in Asia.

Helping Farmers in the Philippines

Currently, working with communities in the Philippines that are vulnerable to the impacts of typhoons, flooding and landslides, LWR is partnering with the Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao to increase the income of 930 farmers—reaching approximately 4,650 people—whose livelihoods were affected by 2012’s Typhoon Bopha.

In the past, these farmers were primarily dependent on traditional methods of coconut and banana farming, but all of this changed when Typhoon Bopha hit.

Now, with support from LWR, farmers are adopting diversified cacao-based farming systems, learning new on-farm skills in cacao-based farming and adopting improved post-harvest handling and management techniques to receive higher prices for their crops.

Sharing our expertise and learning from others

In addition to programming, LWR is building its reputation as a leader in both coffee and cocoa programming internationally. In May, LWR’s country directors for the Philippines and Indonesia attended an international cocoa conference in Indonesia where regional players in cocoa gathered to discuss how to empower smallholder producers for a sustainable cocoa industry. Femia Baldeo from LWR Philippines and Paul Drossou from LWR Indonesia represented LWR at the event and shared information with those working in cocoa throughout the region about LWR’s expanding work in cocoa in the region.

Nande Grace stands in front of cocoa drying facility

Nande Grace is a cocoa farmer in Laja, Indonesia. Here, she shows off the cocoa drying facility that LWR helped her community build.

Following the conference, I wanted to share some reflections from Femia on the future of cocoa production for farmers that LWR is supporting in the Philippines and around the world:

“To create a better life for cocoa farmers, there’s a need to invest in the capacity building of these farmers – not only in cocoa production but also in empowering the farmers to be a part of a sustainable cocoa industry for their country as a whole.

Just as in other regions where LWR works, cocoa production has a great income potential for farmers living in poverty in the Philippines and throughout Asia. With the increasing demand for cocoa worldwide, production from LWR-supported cocoa farmers in the Philippines can help meet this need.”

While coffee may not be my beverage of choice, I am excited to share with you the work that LWR is doing with both cocoa and coffee farmers around the world.  Using expertise developed over decades, LWR brings a unique perspective and skill set the international cocoa and coffee conversation as we support sustainable coffee and cocoa production that also meets farmers’ needs. Through our work, LWR is addressing market barriers, limited access to credit, lack of technical skills and other difficulties small-scale farmers face.

With your help, we are currently reaching more than 42,000 farmers directly through our coffee and cocoa programming and, in the coming months and years, we hope to reach thousands more.

Now that I’ve shared my secret coffee and cocoa secrets, what are yours?

Ground Up: The LWR Coffee and Cocoa Initiative
The global coffee and cocoa markets are worth more than $175 billion per year combined. But smallholder producers capture just a fraction of that value. With expertise developed over decades, LWR brings a unique perspective and skill set to improve producers’ lives, from the ground up.

Read more about Ground Up: The LWR coffee and cocoa initiative.

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Is it okay for people who have experienced a disaster to be “happy”? http://blog.lwr.org/2014/06/is-it-okay-for-people-who-have-experienced-a-disaster-to-be-happy/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/06/is-it-okay-for-people-who-have-experienced-a-disaster-to-be-happy/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 17:46:32 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5235

Lutheran pastor and writer Travis Scholl recently wrote a column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asking, “Is it okay for a Christian to be ‘happy’?” In it, he reflects on Pharrell William’s “irresistibly infectious song, ‘Happy’.”

I sometimes end up being around folks who have a severe mistrust of “happiness.” …At the heart of their mistrust is a certain iconoclastic pragmatism about what constitutes happiness and where happiness can lead. Happiness is fleeting. Happiness deceives. Happiness can come from bad sources. Usually they then juxtapose “happiness” with “joy,” asserting that joy is more certain, more real, more durable.

Scholl goes on to affirm the difference between joy and happiness, but makes the point that “if your joy has more anger in it than happiness, it isn’t joy you’re feeling.”

And this is true even in the midst of sadness and suffering. There is something so irrepressible about true joy that its undercurrents lift up even the worst predicaments of our existence. This is why the Apostle Paul could write, in one of his greatest strings of thought, “Not only that, but we rejoicein our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…” (Romans 5:3-5a). There is a certain underlying, but nonetheless confident, jubilation in Paul’s voice. I suspect he wrote it with at least a smile on his face.

This column made me think of a YouTube video that made the rounds a few months ago. Visual artist Quentin Musset traveled around areas of the Philippines that had been hit by Typhoon Haiyan. This is what he captured:

Reading this via e-mail, or a mobile device? Watch the video on YouTube»

This video of Filipinos who experienced Typhoon Haiyan dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” received mixed reviews.

Some people loved it:

YouTube comments that read "What do you do when you have just survived a disaster? You celebrate amongst the ruins!" "That needs to get more views! Thanks for sharing!" and "Despite all of our hardships, we still find a reason to smile, sing, and dance. One of the coolest things about our people."

But others had a more critical reaction:

While the intention of the video is good, I fear that showcasing "happy" survivors creates this false and complacent feeling that everything is okay or heading towards it. It's not, the government still has much to do and answer for. This "happy" Filipino mentality is what the corrupt politicians take advantage of all the time, with every tragedy we "seem" to bounce back and they never get heat for long.

All People are Human Beings of Dignity and Worth

At Lutheran World Relief, we have always attempted to demonstrate the full dignity of the people with whom we work. We have long avoided using “poverty porn” to raise funds, and believe that “All people are made in the image of God (Imago Dei, Genesis 1:26, James 3:9) and are human beings of dignity and worth.” (LWR’s “Calling” Value.)

I think that dignity means showing the full breadth of human experience, from joy and happiness to sorrow and grief. I happen to enjoy the video above. To me it demonstrates the strength of the human spirit.

It’s something I witnessed firsthand when I visited the Philippines, and is one way people around the world deal with hardship.

That dignity and work is why we introduced you to Leonida, and the work she and others are doing to help their own community.

Reading this via e-mail, or a mobile device? Watch the video on YouTube»

What do you think?

We want to know what you think. Is it okay for people who have experienced a disaster to be “happy”?

Does portraying them as “happy” in photos or videos enhance, or detract from, their dignity as human beings?

How do we do at portraying the full dignity and worth of people? How could we do better?

Please leave your comments below!

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Why the ELCA and LWR Are Proud to Work Together in the Philippines http://blog.lwr.org/2014/06/why-the-elca-and-lwr-are-proud-to-work-together-in-the-philippines/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/06/why-the-elca-and-lwr-are-proud-to-work-together-in-the-philippines/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 11:00:26 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5228

Guest post by the Rev. Rafael Malpica-Padilla, executive director of Global Mission for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

At the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), we are grateful for our long, historical relationship with Lutheran World Relief and for our mutual commitment to companionship in mission. The strength of this relationship, and the effectiveness of LWR’s initial relief work in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, have led the ELCA to provide LWR with a second grant of $1 million to support the next phase of work: rehabilitation and assistance to re-establish the livelihoods of those who lost so much.

The ELCA’s first gift of $1 million last November enabled LWR to immediately go to affected areas to participate with a network of disaster-response agencies, including the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and other ecumenical partners engaged in relief and development work.

Bulletin Insert for Congregations

Download a Bulletin Insert to use in your congregation. Click on the image above, or right-click and choose “Save Link As…”

Lutheran Disaster Response and ELCA Global Mission-Diakonia have a long history of uniting the gifts and resources of the ELCA’s faithful members, congregations and synods with the on-the-ground experience in disaster relief and development work of partners like LWR. Through this partnership, the church is present in the community, there for its neighbors when disaster strikes, and still there to help people rebuild their lives long after others have gone.

Touching people’s lives for the flourishing of human community is the moral imperative that shapes the ELCA’s global relief and development work. We are deeply committed to creating significant impact in the lives of people and communities. Through LWR, the ELCA is extending its reach to provide sufficient and sustainable livelihoods for all.

Thank you, ELCA members, congregations and synods for your generosity. Thank you, LWR, for being there to extend our hands to the people of the Philippines.

The Rev. Rafael Malpica-Padilla, D.D.
Executive Director, Global Mission
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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How Leaf Rust is Affecting Coffee Farmers in Central America http://blog.lwr.org/2014/05/leaf-rust-2/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/05/leaf-rust-2/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 16:27:39 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5221

If you’ve been paying attention to the news the last couple of days, you might have seen something about coffee rust, or roya, a coffee plant disease that’s devastating coffee crops in Central America.

While organizations like LWR have been aware of – and working to combat – roya for a long while, it’s been generating some buzz lately because USAID this week announced a research partnership with Texas A&M University focused on combating the disease. Mainstream media like CBS News, the Associated Press, the New York Times and NPR’s Marketplace have picked up the story.

What is roya?

Roya affects the leaves of coffee plants, eventually causing them fall off, which ultimately kills the tree. Because a lot of the specialty coffees that Americans love come from Central America, the story of roya is of economic interest here. Put simply, it’s a classic supply-and-demand issue: because of roya infection, the supply of quality coffee becomes more limited. But our desire for fancy lattes isn’t affected at all – so when demand outpaces supply, prices go up. And you could soon be paying a little more for your cup of joe.

But that’s not the full story. And kudos to those news outlets for telling the other side of the story as well: the story of the farmers.

Roya affects farmers and their families

I was in Nicaragua last month, visiting with coffee farmers who’ve been working with LWR. They told me about roya’s crippling effect on their family income.

Juan Francisco Aguilar told me that last year, his family harvested 655 pounds of coffee from their farm, which is their primary source of income for the year. This year’s harvest – thanks to a roya infection that wiped out three quarters of their plants – was just 129 ½ pounds.

Idalia Orellana holding a leaf that shows leaf rust

Idalia Orellana is a coffee farmer in Honduras. Her crops have been affected by roya, or leaf rust, which has affected her ability to pay for her son’s school fees.

“We were expecting better income, but we got just 25% of what we made last year,” he said.

Erik Morales has seen a lot of roya in his work with SOPPEXCCA, a Nicaraguan coffee cooperative and longtime LWR partner.

“The tree dies and the farmer has to eliminate the plant and start over. When they start over, it takes three years to produce again and this is difficult for the family,” he says. “That is a hardship, how to manage during that time when they are rebuilding the farm.”

SOPPEXCCA staff estimate that over the last two years, they have processed about 35-40% less coffee annually than in previous years, due to roya.

There are things farmers can do to protect their plants – applying fungicides, planting roya-resistant varieties of coffee – and LWR is helping farmers take these steps through our work with SOPPEXCCA and other coffee partners in Latin America. But in addition, we’re also doing things like helping coffee farmers diversify their crops, so they are no longer solely dependent on coffee as a source of income. It’s a holistic approach, one that addresses farmers’ needs both today and for the future.

I’m happy that roya is finally getting the attention it deserves. I hope that farmers like Juan Francisco and his family won’t ever have another year as bad as this one.

Read more about LWR’s work with Coffee

LWR has a long history of working with small-scale coffee farmers. We work to maximize the profitability of their business through increased quantity and improved quality of coffee harvests.

Continue Reading»

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How Far Out is “the Future”? Different Perspectives from Burkina Faso http://blog.lwr.org/2014/05/how-far-out-is-the-future-different-perspectives-from-burkina-faso/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/05/how-far-out-is-the-future-different-perspectives-from-burkina-faso/#comments Tue, 20 May 2014 14:54:01 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5208

When you read the word “future,” what comes to mind? 10 years? 20 years? 50 years?

While visiting with women in Burkina Faso last week, I gained a new perspective about how different people view that word.

I met with women in the village of Piaga, a village of approximately 1,239 people in a country with a life expectancy teetering at 53 years old and an average annual household income of $510.

Habbanaye: The Goats That Keep on Giving

Noali Timbende, a small-statured woman with a loud, booming voice, told us about how — with the support of LWR — the women in her village have recently come together as a group to improve their situation through a system called habbanaye: a system that involves raising, selling and passing along goats to increase a family’s income.

When the project began, Piaga women identified the village’s 50 poorest women, and then of those 50, the 12 most vulnerable. The poorest of the poor.

“We have just started and we’ll grow,” Noali proclaimed. “But we started with the women who were most in need of the support, most impoverished.”

With the support of LWR, the women’s group provided two female goats and one male to each of those 12 women. They also received training on how to care for and breed the goats. Once these livestock produce offspring, each woman will bring one female and one male back to the group to be distributed to the next woman on the list. They have just started, but they plan to distribute goats to all members of the women’s group. It’ll take time.

As we went around the village, women shyly but eagerly showed us their goats, glowing about how quickly the goats got pregnant, or showing off the newborn kids.

However, when I asked about their hopes and dreams for the future, they couldn’t think beyond a year or two, when they might have a larger herd of goats, with an increased income from the sale of the goats.

After thanking the women, we loaded into the cars and bounced down the bumpy road to visit another project in a city called Fada N’Gourma.

When LWR is No Longer Needed

This second project is one we’ve talked about before, where LWR supported a women-led dairy. Because the women of the dairy were doing so well, LWR and the women of Fada N’Gourma decided that they could operate on their own, without our support.

Two women holding packets of yogurt

Women from Fada N’Gourma show off the yogurt that is produced at their dairy. Their dairy was started with the help of LWR, but has become self-sufficient.

As we sat in the courtyard of the dairy, one of the women working there, Penuma Maiga, told us about how far the women had come and how much difference this dairy had made in their lives.

Prior to the project, the women working at the dairy kept all of their records in a book and had no backup generator to keep the milk and yogurt chilled when the power would go out. But with the support of LWR, they have received computer training, so all of their records are now computerized. They have a generator, which kicks on automatically when the power goes out, so there is no risk to the quality of their product.

Expressions of Gratitude

Penuma Maiga has a message to supporters like you.

“We want to thank you. You’ve helped us. You’ve helped our husbands. The women in this dairy are able to afford school fees for their children. The whole family’s needs are taken care of, all because of the support of LWR.”

Penuma Maiga and another woman show off the computer in their dairy's office.

Penuma Maiga (left) stands in front of the office computer at Fada N’Gourma. She feels very grateful for the support of LWR and people like you.

As I sat there under the tree, inhaling the fresh, honest smell of a dairy, I was struck by the sense of future that the women of the dairy had. The future was no longer a matter of months or, at most, a year. The future meant many, many years into the future. It was limitless. And it was evident in the confidence and strength that radiated from these women.

My greatest hope for the women of Piaga, the women just starting out raising goats, is that they soon have a similar sense of future as the women of the dairy have. That as their goats multiply and reap benefits, their dreams for the future do.

Goat from LWR Gifts

Help Pass On the Gift of a Goat

In parts of the world where food supply is precarious, a hearty goat can survive, giving milk that nourishes and sells. $100 is all it takes.

Buy a goat for a family like this»

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Notes from Nicaragua: Experiencing the Hospitality of Farmers http://blog.lwr.org/2014/05/notes-from-nicaragua-experiencing-the-hospitality-of-farmers/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/05/notes-from-nicaragua-experiencing-the-hospitality-of-farmers/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 15:23:43 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5201

Driving through the mountains of Nicaragua and looking out over the valleys, I don’t feel all that far away from the pine-filled mountains and valleys of western North Carolina that I once called home. In Nicaragua, unfortunately, deforestation is affecting the beautiful pine trees and harming small-scale farmers. Fortunately, many of those small-scale farmers are helping to reverse the deforestation by planting organic shade-grown coffee, revitalizing God’s good creation in this region.

Along with ten students from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., I’ve traveled from the town of El Castillo along the Río San Juan, to the higher elevations of Jinotega, and then down to San Ramon to meet LWR’s partners and see their work. Every step along the way we are greeted with a depth of hospitality that also reminds me of home.

The Hospitality of Food and Information

In order to reach the cocoa farm of Ruben Dario, we were greeted with a rope swing across the river. After all had safely landed, we traversed through cocoa and banana trees with more fruit than any of us could eat as. Ruben showed us how he has learned to diversify his crops so that he can produce higher quality cocoa. As a member of a farmer’s cooperative, COOPROCAFUC (LWR’s partner), Ruben has strengthened the income for his family and created a more sustainable farm to leave behind for his son, a point he made to our group often and with pride.

“At Ruben’s farm we knew that he wanted to answer any question we had for him,” said Concordia student Torie Jones, explaining how welcoming Ruben was. “He told us, ‘If you have any questions I will work to find an answer for you.’ ”

The Hospitality of Latrines

When we reached to home of Maria Catalina we had been traveling on bumpy roads for a while. Many in our group needed to use the little girl’s and boy’s room. This might not be the initial thing you want to ask the first time you arrive at someone’s house. But showing off their latrine was a source of pride for Maria’s family. Constructed during an LWR project their latrine provides safe sanitation and is connected to a biodigestion container that converts the waste into energy for the home.

“The welcome we received at Maria’s was physical,” said Tori Hansen. “From the bathroom, to the oatmeal drink she provided us all, to the bananas.”

The Hospitality of Students

Anyone’s first day at a new school can feel intimidating. So the loud “¡Bienvenidos!” was a welcome sound as our group arrived at La Corona School. These students participated in a Safe School project funded by LWR, where they learned to recognize environmental dangers like flooding rivers and earthquakes, and how to react safely. High school students who make up the school’s new first aid brigade put on a demonstration with the Concordia students as their test subjects. Not only did we feel welcome at La Corona, but we felt safe as well.
a Concordia College student takes part in a demonstration of Safe Schools
Hanna Loeffler-Kemp reflected that “the students’ desire to have us be part of their presentation gave us a more hands-on way of understanding the safe schools project. Their professionalism and pride was awesome to see!”

As our time in Nicaragua begins to wrap up we still have a few more communities to visit. I know this outpouring of hospitality will continue to meet us wherever we are. But I am most excited about the fact that these Concordia College students will bring this hospitality back to the United States, to their families, friends and campus. They will bring back stories, pictures and a vision for lasting solutions to poverty and sustainable development. This vision includes cocoa and coffee farmers. This vision includes school children. This vision includes communities with improved access to water. This vision all of the ways God is calling them. This vision includes you. I invite you enjoy their hospitality and hear the vision they have to share.

Learn more about LWR’s Work in Nicaragua

Read about the various farmers and projects you can support. Read about our approach to providing lasting solutions and sustainable development.

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Celebrating World Malaria Day & LWR’s Work in Mali http://blog.lwr.org/2014/04/celebrating-world-malaria-day/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/04/celebrating-world-malaria-day/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:44:57 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5190

This Friday, April 25, is World Malaria Day, a day to bring special attention to this preventable, treatable disease.

As part of the commemoration of World Malaria Day, we’re excited to announce that Tim McCully, LWR’s vice president of international programs, will be speaking at a special event at Johns Hopkins University. He joins Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President’s Malaria Initiative, William Moss of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, and others to talk about how faith-based organizations, government agencies, and the private sector have all come together in the global fight against malaria.

Increasing awareness of malaria

One great example of this partnership is LWR’s malaria work in Mali, West Africa. Through a partnership with USAID, LWR has reached over 680,000 people in Mali with messages that build awareness about malaria prevention and treatment.

Because of these messages, we have found that:

  • 99% of children under five are now sleeping under long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (up from 27-31% in 2006).
  • 99% of pregnant women are now sleeping under nets (up from 31-40% in 2006).

These two statistics in particular are incredibly important, as pregnant women and young children are the most susceptible to malaria.

woman talking to health care worker in clinic

Thanks to her community’s health solidarity fund, Faty Konta was able to access life-saving health care. These funds help local communities pool and manage their savings in order to subsidize care for malaria treatment. (Photo by Ollivier Girard, for LWR)

And not only is awareness about bed nets higher, but we’ve been able to provide care to over 1,700 people affected by malaria through an innovative partnership.

Innovative funding for health care

We partner with local community-based organizations to establish special funds (“Community Health Solidarity Funds”) that are funded by the community members themselves. These funds can then be used to pay benefits for their own malaria care.

Before our project began, less than 11% of young children who had a fever received malaria treatment. Now, 91% do.

Not putting our lamp under a bushel

We’re proud of this work. We’re proud to be making a difference.

And we’re proud that on Friday we’ll have the chance to publicly show off the lamp that we too often hide under a bushel!

Do you live in the Baltimore area, or know someone who does?

Come to the World Malaria Day event! Register online now»

Learn more about the Lutheran Malaria Initiative

Want to learn more, or get involved in the global fight against malaria? Go to our website»

$10 can provide one family with a treated bed net and education on its use.

$50 can cover the cost of malaria prevention messages on local radio stations in Africa.

$100 can help train a health care worker to diagnose and treat malaria.

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Good Friday is a Good Time for Lament http://blog.lwr.org/2014/04/good-friday-is-a-good-time-for-lament/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/04/good-friday-is-a-good-time-for-lament/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 11:00:13 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5181

O Lord, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in your presence, let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry. -Psalm 88: 1-2

There are times in life when all one can do is to cry out. Those times when the broken reality of our world comes crashing in. When life seems too thin, too close to breaking. Praise is a distant memory of some lost time.

In times like these, we lament. And lament can be healthy, honest, cathartic. It is part of faith and our Lenten tradition. Even Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Knowing that the Bible leaves room for despair is comforting. Faith is not dependent on happy feelings, nor positive events. Faith is not dependent on praise. That’s part of the comfort of Psalm 88, once referred to as “the darkest, saddest of all the Psalms.” It is the only Psalm of lament that does not end in praise, concluding “darkness is my closest friend” (NIV).

The good news in the midst of lament is that the cross is not the end. God has not abandoned us. Nothing “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” writes Paul. “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” is Jesus’ Easter promise.

When disasters like Typhoon Haiyan strike, throwing communities into despair, we live out God’s lasting promise on behalf of victims. Though darkness may be their closest friend, God’s love empowers us to love. We stand with them, holding them in faith. We are strong, until they can find their strength. We work, we pray, we praise, so that the darkness does not have the final word. We love, because God first loved us. Thanks be to God!

LWR Special Reports

This devotional was originally published in the March 2014 issue of LWR Special Reports. View additional articles, videos, and other bonus content at lwr.org/specialreports

 

Read More»

 

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Ambassador Daniel V. Speckhard Named President and CEO http://blog.lwr.org/2014/04/ambassador-daniel-v-speckhard-named-president-and-ceo/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/04/ambassador-daniel-v-speckhard-named-president-and-ceo/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 14:10:21 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5174

We are pleased to announce that Ambassador Daniel V. Speckhard, of McLean, Va., will be the next president and CEO of Lutheran World Relief, effective July 1.

Currently a senior advisor at Palantir Technologies and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Speckhard has served in various high-level diplomatic roles in both Republican and Democratic administrations. Most recently, he was U.S. ambassador to Greece from 2007 to 2010.

He has also served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, deputy assistant secretary general for political affairs at NATO, and the U.S. ambassador to Belarus. Earlier in his career he was an expert on foreign assistance programs and the challenges facing countries in transition. He speaks Russian and French and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Atlantic Council.

“It is a privilege to welcome Daniel Speckhard as LWR’s president and CEO,” said Gloria Edwards, LWR’s board chair. “He is a strong leader who has a deep passion for this work and a compelling vision for the future. The board looks forward to working with him to continue to grow the organization, connect with U.S. Lutherans, and reach even more people in need.”

Read the entire press release»

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