LWR’s Blog http://blog.lwr.org Sustainable development. Lasting promise. Mon, 12 Jan 2015 12:00:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Five Years Later: The Haiti Earthquake in Pictures http://blog.lwr.org/2015/01/five-years-later-the-haiti-earthquake-in-pictures/ http://blog.lwr.org/2015/01/five-years-later-the-haiti-earthquake-in-pictures/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 12:00:50 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5592

Monday, January 12 marks the five-year anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti. It’s painful to recall. The poorest country in this hemisphere, Haiti was the country least able to handle such a shocking event.

Even before the earthquake, the majority of Haitians faced decades of problems, most of which begin and end in extreme poverty. Poor health and malnutrition, a lack of work opportunities, government corruption and the devastation of Haiti’s natural resources have left few options.

Through partner organizations, LWR has been working in Haiti since 1997 to attack the vicious cycle of poverty there. Scroll down to see just a bit of what LWR has done (not an exhaustive list), and what we continue to do to provide lasting solutions to poverty, injustice and human suffering.

The earthquake caused massive devastation

A man walks past destroyed buildings in the historic Grand Rue section of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, six weeks after the earthquake.
A man walks past destroyed buildings in the historic Grand Rue section of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, six weeks after the earthquake. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst, for LWR)

Nearly 2.3 million people were displaced

A woman and her family live in a tent community on a soccer field in Jacmel, Haiti.

A woman and her family live in a tent community on a soccer field in Jacmel, Haiti. LWR supported cash-for-work programs, latrine-building for sanitation, and basic medical monitoring and treatment training in communities of displaced people. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst for LWR)


You increased Health & Hygiene

Cholera prevention training near Leogane, Haiti

Right after the quake, an outbreak of cholera — a potentially fatal intestinal infection — swept across Haiti. The students at Christo Roi de Corail school, just outside Leogane, had not yet been affected by the outbreak. Still, LWR and partners aimed to make sure families knew how to stay safe. Good hygiene is key to staying healthy. That’s why, along with a Personal Care Kit distribution, LWR offered students and their families cholera prevention training. (Photo by Allison Shelley, for LWR)

LWR and our partners built latrines for over 10,000 families, provided health & hygiene training for 10,253 family members, and distributed chlorine, aquatabs and water storage solutions to 2,156 families.

People stand in line to fill containers with potable water at the Sainte Therese tent encampment in the Petionville section of Port-au-Prince
(Photo by Jonathon Ernst, for LWR)

You provided Cash for Work

workers in Leongane, Haiti, pass a bucket down a line

People affected by the earthquake were given cash for doing jobs like soil conservation, road repair, and building water filters and community latrines. (Photo by Allison Shelley, for LWR)

People who participated in the cash-for-work programs said it was a great savior for them. With the money they received, they bought basic food items and some of them purchased seeds to build up their garden.


You helped distribute tools and seeds to farmers

woman holding bucket of freshly picked tomatoes

Soamen Jose is a star tomato farmer. In the aftermath of the earthquake, LWR provided farmers like Soamen tools, seeds and cuttings of plants for agriculture, such as sweet potatoes, beans, cassava, and plantains (among others).

LWR also distributed goats and poultry to farmers who could breed them and pass on the gift to others in their community.

You Helped Provide Quilts and Kits

Youth campers show the Personal Care Kits they made to send to Haiti

Lutherans around the United States made Quilts and Kits to send to Haiti. The campers at Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries made 32,000 Personal Care Kits to send to Haiti throughout the summer of 2010.

Claudette Gaston shows the Mission Quilt she received from Lutheran World Relief

Claudette Gaston shows the Mission Quilt she received from Lutheran World Relief. (Leogane, Haiti)

Lasting Solutions: Coffee and Cocoa

coffee farmers in northern Haiti

Until the early 1980s, Haiti was among the largest exporters of coffee in the world.
In the five years since the earthquake, LWR is investing in coffee farmers, strengthening their ability to earn a sustainable living.

Annelle Papillon sits at her desk

Annelle Papillon is the manager of the local coffee cooperative. She’s been doing this job for 4 years, watching the farmers gain more knowledge and better crops.

A cocoa farmer in northern Haiti fills a bag with dried cocoa beans

As interest in Haiti’s fine flavor cocoa grows, farmers’ ability to capitalize on growing demand for it is hampered by low productivity, inadequate post-harvest processing that lowers bean quality, and limited capacity of farmer cooperatives to leverage finance and stronger market linkages for members.

Cocoa farmers stand among their crops in northern Haiti

LWR is training cocoa farmers in practices that sustainably increase yields and cocoa quality, and strengthen farmers’ connection to markets and each other for coordinated business practices.

Want to learn more?

Want to learn more about LWR’s continuing work to provide lasting solutions to poverty in Haiti? Visit LWR In Depth to read about our ongoing projects there.

Statistics:Haiti Earthquake | ReliefWeb

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The Indian Ocean Tsunami: 10 Years Later http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/the-indian-ocean-tsunami-10-years-later/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/the-indian-ocean-tsunami-10-years-later/#comments Fri, 26 Dec 2014 12:00:04 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5582

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami that swept through Asia, forever changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. In total, 227,898 people were killed or were missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa. The tsunami caused more casualties than any other in recorded history.

In the days and weeks following the catastrophe, there was an outpouring of support and commitment from Lutherans who put their faith into action by supporting the mission and ministry of Lutheran World Relief.

Individuals and congregations generously contributed more than $19 MILLION IN PRIVATE DONATIONS TO LWR. This overwhelming generosity — unprecedented in LWR’s history — allowed us to provide life-saving aid to communities and commit to the long-term recovery of the region during the past decade. Your commitment enabled us to provide survivors with tools, knowledge, and resources to not only rebuild their lives but become stronger and more resilient communities.

We are pleased to report on the tremendous inroads made over the last 10 years, all thanks to your support. This work required significant engagement with our trusted local partners and local authorities, as well as — and perhaps most important — at the grassroots level, with communities themselves having the most influential voices. On behalf of all of us at LWR and those we serve, thank you for your continued generosity.

Download the 10-Year Report

Tsunami 10-Year Report

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The 5 Best Videos of 2014 http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/the-5-best-videos-of-2014/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/the-5-best-videos-of-2014/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:00:22 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5575

2014 was a busy year! From the first phases of our response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to increasing work with coffee and cocoa farmers throughout the world, we’ve captured quite a bit of it on video.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Putting cash in the hands of typhoon victims

Watching Leonida’s smile as she helps her community and gets some much needed cash in her hands, it’s hard not to smile myself.

Your coffee will never taste the same

…after you meet Atandi, a farmer in Western Kenya.

These cocoa farmers have been through a lot

On the border of Peru and Colombia, many of these farmers were forced to plant coca, for cocaine. Helping them find alternatives has been more than life-changing.

When water is hard to come by

Sevu knows what hunger feels like. It’s all-consuming. So helping his community capture water that can be used to grow crops is truly transformative.

Enhanced Resilience = Lasting Impact

Finally, go more in-depth on LWR’s Watershed Approach to Enhanced Resilience (WATER) project in one of Kenya’s driest regions. Learn how this project is helping families like Sevu’s.

Which videos did you enjoy the most? What has the greatest impact? Leave your comments below!

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What are We Waiting For? (A Reflection on Advent) http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/what-are-we-waiting-for/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/what-are-we-waiting-for/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 12:00:59 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5557

Advent. Season of waiting. Season of hope. Season of peace.

Maybe. I’m not sure about that last one. Maybe even the last two. It’s hard work these days to align our minds, bodies and spirits with the deeper themes of this brief season of the liturgical year in the midst of so much noise, hustle and bustle, striving for the best deal and staying up late to bake 12 dozen perfect cookies for the cookie swap.

Not to mention all that’s happening in the world around us, from our families and communities to our country and world. No one needs me to list it all out – we’ve seen the news stories and talked with our neighbors and engaged in (or avoided) the heated discussions on social media.

In this world that seems perpetually to be spinning out of control, I take such solace in the practices of Advent: the lighting of the wreath at mealtimes and worship services, mid-week evening vespers, daily reflections. Most of the time, I do a decent job striking a balance of knowing what’s happening in the world and figuring out my role without becoming (too) overwhelmed or (too) despairing or (too) exhausted.

This Advent is slightly different for me. My husband and I are expecting our first child in February. Waiting has taken on a bit of a new dimension for us! So it won’t come as a surprise that the music that is resonating with me this season relates to several adaptations on Mary’s Song, the Magnificat: that beautiful, haunting, strong piece of prose articulated by a young, unwed, pregnant woman when greeted by her also pregnant cousin, Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56). Her words and heart have clearly moved us through the ages, inspiring countless musical adaptations.

My soon-to-be mother’s heart aligns with the powerful themes of the song as set to a traditional Irish tune by Rory Cooney called Canticle of the Turning. In my hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the hymn is actually placed not in the Advent or Christmas sections, but in the Justice and Peace sections. And no wonder – Mary’s Song is about God turning the world on its head.

When we were first pregnant, I was talking with my mom about some of my hopes and fears. Among them, whether it is the right thing to do to bring an innocent child into a world so broken and seemingly spinning off its axis. Her wise response was, “that is the question raised by every generation.” Brokenness and out-of-controllness are not new. Long before Mary, God’s people cried out from places of danger, despair, hunger, and confusion. And perhaps one way that God answers our pleas over the years is through people who, out of hearts that long for change, bravely raise a new generation in the face of all the brokenness who have energy and spirits and ideas that help shape the world and heal some of that very same brokenness.

In the words of the hymn, “halls of power” and “fortress tower” will crumble. “Every tyrant” will be torn from his or her throne. “Every mouth” will be fed. No exceptions. Our souls “cry out with a joyful shout that” God is truly great. Surrounded by brokenness and despair, God’s promises and presence give us hope while we wait, not with lethargy, but with purpose. For “the world is about to turn!”

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An Update on Hagupit http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/an-update-on-hagupit/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/an-update-on-hagupit/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 18:53:37 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5568

Adapted from LWR’s most recent Hagupit Situation Report. View the full Situation Report on LWR In Depth.

Typhoon Hagupit made its way through the Philippines this week, sparing much of the damage we initially feared. As Hagupit moved westward, it weakened substantially and has since been downgraded to a tropical depression. At this point, the Philippines national weather agency has lifted all public storm warnings.

The most substantial damage was to shelter, infrastructure, and agriculture, especially in Eastern and Western Samar and Masbate. However, there is still a possible storm surge and extensive flooding in northern and western Samar. And many small island communities (barangays) have not yet been reached and the total extent of the damage and casualties is not yet known.

Maryland relief workers assessing Typhoon Hagupit

Maryland relief workers assessing Typhoon Hagupit. Lutheran World Relief crews surveying damage. WBAL TV

Initial Assessments

The good news is that, as of Tuesday evening, most of the 716,600 people in evacuation centers have reportedly returned home.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture has reported substantial damage to fisheries, livestock, corn and rice production, and aquaculture. Initial assessments are in the $22 million range covering 55,000 hectares. An assessment of coconut farms is ongoing and expected by the end of the week. Much of the Visayas Region continues to be without power and mobile communications. Some shops and markets are reportedly closed, especially in Masbate. Many roads in the heavily affected areas are impassable due to landslides and flooding. Some rivers are reported to be as much as five meters above normal.

LWR’s Actions and Next Steps

LWR is assessing the damage in areas where we currently have active projects, and is leading the ACT Alliance assessment in Northern Cebu. We expect to complete the assessments by the end of the week.

LWR’s Anticipated Response

LWR will provide additional financial support to the 20,000 beneficiaries involved in livelihood recovery after Typhoon Haiyan, which focuses on primary livelihood recovery and diversified livelihoods. We will also place a special focus on fisherfolk communities and vulnerable coconut farmers impacted by both Haiyan and Hagupit.

LWR is on standby for provision of non-food items and shelter kits if needed and requested by the government.

How You Can Help

You can help by giving a cash donation to LWR’s Typhoon Hagupit Fund. When you donate to LWR, you can rest assured your dollars are used wisely. Read more about the impact of your donation.

Donate Now

Please PRAY for the people of the Philippines, our staff, and our partners.

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LWR Prepares for Typhoon Hagupit http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/lwr-prepares-for-typhoon-hagupit/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/12/lwr-prepares-for-typhoon-hagupit/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 19:33:27 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5562

LWR is monitoring Super Typhoon Hagupit as it heads toward the Philippines this weekend. Current reports indicate that it’s heading toward a similar path as Typhoon Haiyan did 13 months ago. This means it may head across LWR’s project areas in Northern Cebu and Leyte.

We don’t yet know what the damage or impact of this storm will be; it’s projected to make landfall this weekend. We are monitoring the situation and will be in contact with more information as we know it.

LWR commits initial investment

At this point LWR has committed $50,000 to 4 program areas:

  1. A cash-for-work program that will inject needed investments into local communities.
  2. Preparing and positioning shelter repair kit materials for affected families, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Philippines.
  3. Identifying centers to transfer cash to affected people for non-food items (NFIs).
  4. Exploring additional quality and accountability trainings for local and international aid organizations, in partnership with Church World Service (CWS).

In addition, two of our local partners, Tambuyog and KAMPHIL, are involved in community evacuations and government preparation activities in Northern Cebu and Leyte.

Notes from the Ground

Joanne Fairley, LWR’s regional director for Asia & the Middle East, and Femia Baldeo, LWR’s country director in the Philippines sent the following notes:

  • This storm seems to be headed toward our current project areas.  Because we have been actively working in these communities, there is a high level of awareness about the coming storm and potential damage, but there is also a lot fear. They know that damage could be done, they know the impact this could have, and they know what it’s like to have to leave their homes and wait in evacuation centers.
  • Because Typhoon Haiyan hit just one year ago, communities haven’t completely recovered yet. Houses are not completely finished and they are certainly not yet typhoon-proof. As described in the 1-year report, our livelihoods projects have just started and are going to take some time. This storm could have major impact on those projects where we’re working with communities to restore their primary livelihoods (fishing and coconut farming) as well as help them build up secondary livelihood options to diversify their incomes.
  • But, there is a silver lining in all of this.  Because of the work LWR and other NGOs put into building relationships with local governments, there is an amazing sense of preparation and calm around this emergency. So much prep work has gone into helping communities prepare for such emergencies that, compared to the frenzy before Typhoon Haiyan, most people are feeling better prepared for Typhoon Hagupit.

How You Can Help

You can help by giving a cash donation to LWR’s Typhoon Hagupit Fund. When you donate to LWR, you can rest assured your dollars are used wisely. Read more about the impact of your donation.

Donate Now

Please PRAY for the people of the Philippines, our staff, and our partners.

God of mercy,

When Elijah experienced a great and strong wind on Mount Horeb, you were not in the wind. When Elijah felt the tremors of an earthquake and the heat of a fire, you were not in those, either.

As the wind and rains whip through the Philippine islands, let your gentle whisper, your sound of sheer silence, come to the aid of your people.

Give shelter to those who need it. Give comfort to the distressed.

And give us eyes to see our Filipino neighbors, that we may respond with wisdom and mercy to their deepest needs.

You are our rock and our salvation, the one who gives us life. We ask all of this in the name of our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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#ThanksgivingTag: Show a friend you’re thankful http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/thanksgivingtag/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/thanksgivingtag/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 20:42:52 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5538

One of LWR’s core values is gratitude. It marks the way we relate to one another and to all creation. As Thanksgiving approaches, we want to show that gratitude through a game: Thanksgiving Tag.

How to play Thanksgiving Tag

The rules are incredibly simple.

  1. Share the image above,
  2. tag a person you’re thankful for, and
  3. include the hashtag #ThanksgivingTag

Repeat as often as desired. We recommend making this a practice of gratitude every day between now and Thanksgiving.

What happens if you get tagged?

You’re it! It’s your turn to tag someone you are thankful for.

You can also leave a comment below and let us know who you’re giving thanks for today.

Who is LWR thankful for?

Here are just a few of the people and organizations we’re giving thanks for this year:

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Three Lessons I Learned Spending a Day with Potato Farmers in Peru http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/three-lessons-i-learned-spending-a-day-with-potato-farmers-in-peru/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/three-lessons-i-learned-spending-a-day-with-potato-farmers-in-peru/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 12:30:29 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5456

Dr. Louise P. Evenson is a member of the Lutheran World Relief board of directors. Recently, she traveled to Peru with LWR president Daniel Speckhard and Senior Director for Latin America Programs, Carolyn Barker-Villena.

The title of this blog post is something of a misnomer. I learned far more than three things on my trip! But I will say that these three things will stay with me a long time and make me even more thankful for the work Lutheran World Relief is doing around the world.

So come with me…and visit with potato farmers in Peru and learn how your support is truly changing lives!

Lesson #1: When LWR says they work in remote rural communities, they are not kidding!

After arriving in Lima and meeting Pedro Veliz and Eduardo Contreras, LWR’s Andean Regional Representative and Country Director for Peru, respectively, we traveled four hours by car along the coast of Peru. Along the way we passed many corporate farms that grew things like corn and avocados. Then, after making a left turn we began to ascend.

Our journey took us up a single-lane, curvy mountain road with no guard rail, but the landscape was breathtaking. Four hours after that we arrived in the town of Castrovirreyna.

Daisy and her family

With support from LWR, Daisy and her family grow native varieties of potatoes to eat and sell. Learn more about Daisy at lwr.org/Daisy.

This area was once the site of much conflict, forcing some families to leave their land behind and seek safety. Now many of them are coming back. Lutheran World Relief is working with potato farmers in this region to help re-establish native potato varieties to eat and sell for income. In fact, you’ve probably already met at least two people benefitting from this project – Juan and Daisy.

Lesson #2: LWR truly does works with small-holder farmers.

The second thing that was affirmed for me on this trip is that when LWR says they work with small-holder farmers, they mean it. Most families plant on land that is less than one hectare (about 2.5 acres). Yet, as I witnessed, LWR is helping them to make a living from their land.

On the day of our visit, we traveled to the village of Cocha, to accompany Daisy and her family as they went about the business of potato farming. Part of the tradition of the region is to have a planting ceremony. So we listened as the family explained how they’d received training to be able to pick out the best potatoes to use for seedlings. And we watched as they decorated oxen with flowers – as is the local tradition – before they plowed a furrow in the ground to plant the seedlings.

Decorated oxen

One local tradition is to decorate oxen with flowers before they plow the land.

As I watched I was inspired by the pride with which Daisy’s family speaks of their farm. I could tell that, to them, this was more than a piece of land, more than a home even. To them, it was a legacy they were passing onto their children. And it’s a legacy my husband, Paul, and I now share. During the ceremony we were named “godparents” of the family’s potato fields. We are praying for a bumper crop!

Lesson #3: The blessings we create through this work are both reciprocal and immeasurable

At the end of the day’s festivities, there was a festive meal, called a Pachamanca. To prepare for it, early that morning while we were still trekking to get there, members of the community dug a hole deep into the ground and filled it with timbers. In the hole they placed rocks which heat up over the fire. Once the rocks were warm enough, chicken, alpaca meat, whole lima bean pods, pots of cheese and potatoes were laid on top and then covered with grass and dirt to roast in this earthen oven. More on that in a moment.

After we attended the potato planting ceremony, we went to see how LWR has worked with the community to improve their irrigation. They’ve built small reservoirs to capture the rain and spring water, which is then fed into large scale sprinkler systems that cover over 60 hectares. Clearly, this intervention is working. Immediately around me I saw green, verdant fields amongst a backdrop of bleak ones.

Louise Paul with decorated alpaca

Louise and her husband Paul stand with ana llama that has been decorated for a community celebration.

By the time we were done visiting the irrigation site, the food had roasted to perfection and it was time to celebrate.   The entire community came out to Daisy’s family home. As I ate and joined in fellowship with the community, I saw so many blessings playing out before my eyes.

I heard farmers talking with pride about their land and crops. The land here is rough. As we traveled I saw farmers breaking up rocky dirt with axes. But many farmers here were talking about organic farming and how they wanted to grow their potatoes organically.

I saw children who were attending school. During the day we were greeted by a group of students who sang us a song. Two children in particular struck me – two girls – who were playing the drums, leading the entire school in song. This school had also received toothbrushes and toothpaste from LWR as part of the Quilt and Kit ministry. The children showed us with pride how they brush their teeth every day at school.

Kids using toothbrushes

School children demonstrate how they brush their teeth with toothbrushes contained in LWR Personal Care Kits.

And I also saw a connection. I grew up on a farm and I’ve seen first-hand that all farmers are dependent on sun and rain for their livelihood. To see that our support of Lutheran World Relief helps people in small, rural communities like Cocha live better lives is not only a blessing to them, but a blessing to me and to all of us.

I’d like to thank the staff of LWR – especially Pedro, Eduardo and staff at CEDINCO, our partner organization – along with Daisy and all the people we met for their hospitality. I also want to thank you for your prayers and support of Lutheran World Relief. Through this trip I saw first-hand that our investment in these communities does so much more than I ever imagined possible.

Learn more about LWR’s work in Peru.

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One Year Later: Typhoon Haiyan in Pictures http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/one-year-later-typhoon-haiyan-in-pictures/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/one-year-later-typhoon-haiyan-in-pictures/#comments Sat, 08 Nov 2014 11:00:34 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5521

November 8 marks the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The storm was one of the strongest to make landfall in recorded history. 16 million people were affected, 4 million people were displaced and 6,300 people died because of the storm.

In response, Lutheran World Relief raised $9.7 million to meet the immediate relief and long-term recovery needs of affected populations. LWR is implementing a 2.5 year program that will support over 160,000 of the most vulnerable people affected by the typhoon. To date, LWR has reached nearly 149,000 people, or 69 percent of people targeted by LWR’s response.

Here is a slideshow that shows what LWR has been doing over the past year:

The First Year – LWR’s Response

During the past twelve months, LWR has been implementing projects in six sectors:

  1. Shelter,
  2. Cash Transfers through Cash-for-Work,
  3. Non-Food Items and Material Resources,
  4. Quality & Accountability,
  5. Early Recovery and Livelihood Rehabilitation, and
  6. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

These project areas were informed by needs assessments, coordination with other humanitarian actors and input from local partners, local government officials and affected populations.

In the next week, LWR will release a full report on our work over the past 12 months. We will update this blog post when new information is available.

Thank You

Thank you for all the wonderful support you’ve provided over the past year! Your gifts of time, money, and Quilts & Kits make a huge difference in the lives of the 149,000 people we’ve reached so far.

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We’re Proud to Introduce KindSight http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/introducing-kindsight/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/introducing-kindsight/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 12:00:31 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5471

LWR is proud to announce that we’ve launched a brand new, innovative way to give: KindSight.

KindSight is a new way to help end poverty around the world. Choose specific parts of LWR projects to support and then get updates, photos and stories about how you are helping people help themselves. Money isn’t the only way to help – you can also use your time and voice to make a difference!

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

Why choose KindSight?

It’s easy and fun for you to utilize your gifts of time, money and voice to help end poverty, injustice and human suffering around the world.

It brings you closer to the people you’re helping; you get to know exactly who, how and where your contributions are making a difference:

  • WHO: You get stories, photos, and video from the project being funded showing them exactly how you are making an impact.
  • WHERE: You not only choose the specific projects you want to support, you are also funding specific items in that project like seeds, wells or trainings.
  • HOW: Your profile has information about the amount of money you’ve given AND raised, how many people you’ve helped, and the items you have funded or raised money for.
woman crouching next to her vegetable garden

Urmila Devi is a farmer in India. She’s just one of the many women you can help in KindSight’s PRADAN Project.

How can you be involved?

Invest your TIME: Create an event. Set a goal. Help people help themselves.

  • VOLUNTEER: Volunteer in your community, then ask people to multiply your impact by donating to KindSight.
  • PLEDGE A DAY: Birthdays, holidays, weddings —ask your family and friends to celebrate you with a gift to KindSight instead of physical gifts.
  • BE CREATIVE: Run a marathon. Enter a pie eating contest. Get creative! Plan a unique and fun event to inspire people to help others.

Invest your MONEY: Decide where your money will help.

  • ONE TIME DONATION: Dig a well. Fund agricultural training. You fund what’s most important to you.
  • MONTHLY DONATIONS: Monthly donations provide steady funds to help improve lives.
  • CHALLENGE DONATION: Financial gifts go further by challenging family and friends to match your gifts.

Use your VOICE: Become a Social Ambassador and use your social networks to spread the word about the great work of KindSight, encouraging them to support your efforts and start their own.

Where does the money go?

KindSight is a project of Lutheran World Relief (LWR). All money raised through KindSight supports LWR’s work to create a world where each person, every community and all generations live in justice, dignity and peace.

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

Your contributions fund sustainable development projects overseas that are carried out by local partners who have the knowledge and expertise of their local communities. We focus on underserved rural communities, with a specific emphasis on improving livelihoods for small-scale farmers and ensuring sustainability by strengthening our partner’s capacity.

  • Your contributions enable us to provide financial, technical and monitoring support to help local partners carry out the project from beginning to end.
  • All the tools, trainings, and other items listed in a KindSight project are priced to reflect the full costs of:
    1. purchasing the item;
    2. providing expert staff to bring that item to the people who need it in a sustainable, appropriate way;
    3. any additional costs associated with that item or the project.

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How to Stop Ebola http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/how-to-stop-ebola/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/11/how-to-stop-ebola/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 16:53:36 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5458

Over the last several weeks, we have been getting daily, if not hourly updates on the spread of Ebola. More than 13,000 cases of Ebola have been diagnosed in West Africa and it is lapping our own shores. We can’t stop talking and wondering and worrying about our own safety, the safety of our families, the safety of our kids. We wonder how we can protect ourselves.

The answer is: by stopping the outbreak at its source. To beat Ebola, the healthcare and humanitarian sectors must be able to fly workers in and out of West Africa. We need to be able to treat those who are sick, care for our neighbors and educate those who are not on how they can protect themselves and stop the spread of the virus. Reducing access to the region or making it more difficult for volunteers to come home would only impede the ability to respond, and fuel the epidemic’s growth.

Martin Luther once wrote a letter to a pastor who had asked about the ethics of fleeing from the plague, which killed as much as half the population of Europe during the Middle Ages. In it he wrote:

No one should dare leave his neighbor unless there are others who will take care of the sick in their stead and nurse them. In such cases we must respect the word of Christ, “I was sick and you did not visit me…” According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.

Luther was clear: our neighbor needs us. And we need our neighbor.

And by neighbor I don’t just mean the people next door, or even in our own country. In this shrinking and interconnected world we increasingly need to realize that everyone is our neighbor. The people of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone – these are our neighbors.

Last week, President Obama recognized medical professionals who have recently returned home after working with Ebola patients in West Africa, fighting the virus on the front lines of the epidemic. “They do this for no other reason than their own sense of duty. Their sense of purpose. Their sense of serving a cause greater than themselves,” he said.

Many of these brave doctors, nurses and humanitarian aid workers are people of faith, and for them they are truly answering the call of Christ to help those who are sick and in need.

I know many of you are worried about the disease spreading here in the states and putting loved ones at risk.  It’s understandable. But we need to put our fear aside, trust God, and do all we can to support the brave people who are willing to go to help stop this horrible sickness at its source.  And in the end, this is also the best way to protect us here at home.

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Why Do We Bless, or Dedicate, Quilts? http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/why-do-we-bless-or-dedicate-quilts/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/why-do-we-bless-or-dedicate-quilts/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:50:14 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5445

In the LWR Quilters Group on Facebook – a place of 750 (and counting) dedicated Quilters and Kit-makers from across the US gather online – we’ve been having an interesting discussion. What’s the difference between a quilt “blessing” and a quilt “dedication?” And why do congregations do them before sending Quilts and Kits to LWR?

It’s a timely discussion. In the fall and the spring, folks across the country hold in-gatherings to collect Quilts and Kits and send them to LWR’s warehouses. For the last several weeks the page has been love-bombed by many, many pictures of Quilts and Kits laid out on pews, around altars and on communion rails. It’s fun to see all the beautiful patterns and fabrics, colorful bags and towels, all lovingly assembled by so many dedicated hands.

In the midst of the photos came a thoughtful question about why we do this. Why do we take the time to fold and present the Quilts? To stack Kits in pyramids? To add minutes to our services to talk about these gifts of fabric and thread, these gathered and bundled everyday items?

Quilts draped across the chancel of Grace Lutheran Church.

These Quilts, made at Grace Lutheran Church in State College, Pa., decorate the chancel with brightness and warmth.

We remember that God is with us

Some call it a blessing. Some a dedication. Some call it something completely different! But at the core, the goal is the same: to give thanks to God, and to lift up our neighbors near and far — whose hands have and will touch the gifts of LWR Quilts and Kits — in prayer.

In the end, our prayers don’t act like Scotchguard®, providing a magical barrier that keeps the Quilts and Kits safe. God doesn’t just show up at the moment the litany is read or prayer spoken. We are in relationship with a God with whom we live and breathe, who is with us in each moment of every day.

God is there as we remember to check for coupons for batting, in our creativity as we lay out fabric squares cut from donated cloth, as we shop the sales for school supplies and hunt online for the best towels at the best price. God is in our conversation as we work together, side by side, called to be part of something that is bigger than we are.

And God is at the warehouse. On the container ship. In the port. With the family in a refugee camp, or the child living in an orphanage, or the parents struggling to feed their children.

A Quilt drapled on the pulpit at Peace Lutheran Church in Corona, California.

Peace Lutheran Church in Corona, CA, prayed over 41 Quilts during their blessing in fall 2014. The quilters decorated the whole sanctuary – down to the pulpit and lectern – with Quilts!

We take time to give thanks

Several years ago, I went on a trip to monitor the distribution of Personal Care Kits in Haiti, a year after the terrible earthquake there. I was accompanied by Dave Coker, Executive Director of Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries (NLOM). We were there to follow up on a huge donation of Personal Care Kits – 32,000 to be exact – that NLOM campers assembled during their time at summer camp. As we wrapped up our trip, Dave said something that stays with me to this day. “When we were preparing for this trip, I think I had in my head that we would bring Jesus to Haiti. What I didn’t realize is that we would really meet him here.”

What does it do, in the end, to set aside time to bless, dedicate, pray over these Quilts and Kits?

It gives us an opportunity to express our thanks to God: thanks for generous donations of fabric and supplies, thanks for the people willing to give time and talent to put those things together into something useful, thanks for the truckers and ship crews who transport the finished Quilts and Kits across the country and around the world, thanks for partners on the other side of the ocean who take care to ensure that people get what they need, thanks for the hands that hold and cherish and use these gifts all over the world.

Jane Morries giving a children's sermon, surrounded by Quilts draping the pews.

Jane Morris Brown from St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Ithaca, OH, offers a children’s sermon on the day of the fall 2014 Quilt & Kit Blessing. The congregation completed 50 Personal Care Kits, 72 School Kits, 51 Quilts, and 25 Fabric Kits.

Celebrating God’s Gifts

This time of prayer is also a beautiful expression of the community of faith, acknowledging gifts and opening our hearts together to love our neighbors in the next pew and on the next continent, to remember them in their struggles and widen our family circle.

In this time, we can be intentional about celebrating with one another and with God, giver of all good gifts. Who better to celebrate these gifts of life and hope and healing? Gifts God calls us to give for the sake of the world, this world, a world God so loved and loves and will always love.

Whatever you call this holy ritual, it calls us to something bigger than ourselves, reminding us that we are part of God’s kingdom, bursting forth like so many bright Quilts into the world.

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How Mimes are Helping Youth in El Salvador http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/how-mimes-are-helping-youth-in-el-salvador/ http://blog.lwr.org/2014/10/how-mimes-are-helping-youth-in-el-salvador/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:10:14 +0000 http://blog.lwr.org/?p=5409

Even though it is a small town, Lolotique has big problems.

Not too long ago, the mayor was killed by gang members. Unfortunately in this area – located in the eastern part of El Salvador – death threats and gang extortions are not uncommon.

As a result, many youth see migration to the U.S. as one of the few viable options they have to escape the violence, poverty and lack of job opportunities. But there are also plenty of youth who are determined to stay – and who don’t want to turn to a life of crime to be able to do so.

So instead, they do this.

Three mimes from Grupo Juvenil Ajopet performing.

Photo Courtesy of Grupo Juvenil Ajopet


Considering the situation I just described it might be hard to imagine how a mime is helping to improve the situation. Let me explain.

One of LWR’s longtime partners, APSIES, has been working with youth groups in and around Lolotique for the past few years. Their goal is to support the courageous efforts of young people to combat the influence of the gangs in their neighborhoods. I had the chance to meet with some of these youth groups during a recent visit to El Salvador.

I sat at a table surrounded by kids ranging in age from 12 to 20 years old who told me of their hunger for hope and for opportunities to stay in their communities. Their youth groups have served as a powerful opportunity to band together and have a positive impact on their communities. As a part of their groups, youth have done things such as ensuring the quality of health services in local clinics by conducting health surveys. Each group has also established an income generating activity – which brings me back to the mimes.

Acting Out Their Future

Each youth group participates in a different income generating activity. Some are working on handcrafts. Others have started up photography and videography services. And one group, Grupo Juvenil Ajopet, is doing mime performances. They did one of their performances for us during my visit – an incredibly powerful depiction of the migration journey, all in mime.

I was taken aback by these kids’ level of maturity, especially considering the youngest of them was just 12 years old. When asked at the end why they chose that topic, they said they wanted to highlight the dangers and risks of migrating while also acknowledging that staying in their own communities also poses risks. Through their performance, they hoped to convey the statement that they’d rather face the risk of staying and building a better community for the future.

So while Lolotique and the nearby communities have big problems, they also have lots of promise. I was profoundly moved by the dedication of this group of kids, not only to their art but also to each other and to their communities. To me, their determination to stay in El Salvador, despite the odds being against them, is a true display of courage and faith.

This is one of the many reasons I am thankful for the commitment of our partner, APSIES. With your help, we’ve supported this organization for more than 10 years.

If you’d like to learn more about Grupo Juvenil Ajopet, visit their Facebook page. Thank you for your partnership in this work. With your support of LWR, you’ve made a difference in the lives of these youth!

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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 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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