Thursday, 28 January 2010

Education is the key

In January 2009, World In Need opened a primary school in Soy near Eldoret in Northern Kenya. On the day it opened, there was one pupil.

A year later, there are 123 pupils and they are preparing to sit national exams, in which they hope to do well. Children who obtain high grades in these exams can attend elite secondary schools, giving them a head start in life.

A good education is one of the most precious gifts a child can receive. It leads to good career prospects, a reasonable salary and a decent standard of living. It can also benefit the entire community, resulting in skills that make life better for all.

However, education is not a gift that all children receive as a matter of course. It is estimated that 121 million children worldwide are denied the opportunity of an education, and with it, the chance of a hopeful future.

Throughout the developing world, many parents would love their children to go to school, but they cannot afford it. Even where schooling is supposedly free, money can be a problem, as illustrated by the situation in Kenya. Education in Government run schools here is free, in that a child does not have to pay to attend classes, but there are costs that can prevent attendance. For example, school uniform is compulsory and without it, children cannot join the class. The average cost of a uniform in Kenya is the equivalent of £3 ($5). Cheap when compared to costs in Britain or America, but far beyond the reach of a farm labourer in Soy, earning the equivalent of 50 pence (about 80 cents) a week.

Exams must also be paid for, and many schools insist on parents paying for these at the beginning of the year, before the child is allowed to join the school. If the parents cannot pay the child is excluded from class, remains uneducated and cannot hope to better their life chances.

World In Need helps children receive an education that would otherwise be denied them. Sponsors pay £20 ($30) monthly; often a small amount to them, but to a child in the developing world it means the difference between hope and hopelessness. The money not only pays their schooling costs, but in many cases also means the children do not have to go out to work to help with the family income.

For too many, the door to the future is locked. Education is the key. We want to give that key to everyone.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Never Again?

Holocaust Memorial Day is commemorated on 27th January, the anniversary of the liberation in 1945 of the largest Nazi concentration camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau. Every year, we are urged to remember what can happen when racism, prejudice and hate are allowed to grow.

The world stared in horror at the scenes in Auschwitz. We cried for the victims, raged at the perpetrators, swore it must never happen again. And it didn’t.

Until the next time.

Since 1945, there have been many genocides:

Bangladesh in 1971, where up to 3 million people were killed by Pakistan,

East Timor. Since 1975, a third of the population has been killed by the Indonesian army.

1.7 million people died in the killing fields of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, victims of the Khmer Rouge.

The Guatemalan army killed 200,000 Mayan men, women and children, many of them in “the silent holocaust” of 1981 to 1983.

In 1989, the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein gassed the town of Halabja, killing 5,000 people. It was widely known Iraq had carried out the attack, but many western countries chose to blame Iran instead. The officer responsible for the attack, Ali Hassam al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali”, was executed on January 25th 2010.

In Bosnia in 1993, 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered in the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica by Bosnian Serbs, while UN peace keeping troops stood by and did nothing.

800,000 Tutsis were killed in 100 days in 1994 by the Hutu in Rwanda. TV channels actively called for Hutus to rid the country of Tutsis. The UN commander on the ground asked for reinforcements. The request was denied and he was ordered to withdraw instead.

Darfur in the Sudan, where Government backed militias are systematically “removing” the indigenous people. Some 70,000 have died since 2004 and 1.5 million have been displaced. Although the world acknowledged it as genocide, arguing and political debate hinder efforts to stop it.

World In Need was formed in 1991 as a direct result of Halabja and the suffering of the Kurdish people in its aftermath. We began with an immunisation programme, and quickly added schemes for income generation before establishing a sponsorship programme that enables children to gain the education that can turn dreams into reality. Children who would once have missed school to watch sheep or labour in fields now have careers in medicine, teaching and engineering.

We work in 20 countries including some of those listed above. Through child sponsorship, schools, feeding programmes, income generating programmes, we aim to give hope to people who otherwise have none.

This year, the theme for the Holocaust Memorial Day is “A Legacy of Hope”. It’s a legacy every one of us should leave, and one that everybody should receive.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Cry of the raped.

In conflict zones throughout the world, rape is seen as a weapon of war. Girls as young as eight are violated by gangs of soldiers who see it as a way of punishing, humiliating and asserting their power. In the Congo in the last twelve years, as many as 200,000 women and girls have been gang raped. To date, just 27 soldiers have been brought to justice.

This poem is dedicated to the victims.

I hide in shadows,
No-one sees me in the darkest corners.
If I never meet your eyes
You will not see my shame.

I stay silent.
Head down, body folded, tiny in the shadows.
I can still hide my shame.

They came in packs,
Snarling, snapping, slavering at an easy prey.
Circled with excited yips
And tore me to shreds.
Clawed and pawed,
Howled with triumph at the moon,
Left me lying in a rutted field,
Innocence shed.

Oh Lord, why have you forsaken me?

Lord, they have hurt me.
Do you not see me in the darkest corners?
Am I hidden from your eyes,
Lost in my shame?

Childhood seeps from me
Tinged with maiden’s blood and school girl dreams.
Emptied of myself,
My rounding belly fills with shame.

Violated yet again
On the shudder of a new born’s cry.
He grows in the wreckage of my life
And suckles on my shame.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Hope for the future

In an article in the Washington Post:, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon writes about the hope he saw amidst the rubble in Haiti: people pulled alive from the ruins after days without food and water, hospitals functioning again when it seemed the earthquake had destroyed them totally. In the midst of the chaos, Haitians talk of their determination to rebuild their country, and make it a better place for them to live.

There are other signs of hope in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in the way that people from all over the world stopped what they were doing, put aside their differences and rushed to the small Caribbean island with one goal in mind - to help. Relations between the USA and Cuba may usually be frosty, but the needs of the Haitian people initiated a slight thaw. Teams from Iran work alongside teams from Israel. Poor countries such as Bangladesh stand side by side with rich countries such as the UK. Big countries like China and small ones like Luxembourg have done what they can to help.

The human race is a family. In a family, there are differences, squabbles, even fights. But when one member of the family is in trouble, those differences are cast aside and everyone rushes to help. The world response to the needs of Haiti have ably demonstrated that family unity, and the fact that so many reached out is hopeful in itself.

Big disasters like the earthquake in Haiti make news. We see the images, realise the immediate and dire need and race to the rescue. But Haiti is not the only place on earth where rescue is needed, and the Haitians are not the only people in need of hope.

All over the world, every single day, people suffer. Man made problems such as war or natural events such as drought, flood and landslide cause misery and hardship for millions. For many, the suffering and death is needless. For instance, 45,000 people will die today because they lack clean water - easily and cheaply provided in our modern world. Today, according to the UN, 19,000 children will die of hunger on a planet that grows enough to give each man, woman and child more than enough to eat. Lack of education, substandard housing, wages that keep workers in poverty, all preventable, and all shortening lives today.

At World In Need, we don't wait for the big disasters. We don't believe in waiting until the situation is all but hopeless before we offer help, and hope. Through child sponsorship and feeding programmes we endeavour to help the needy who haven't made the front pages. By encouraging self sustaining programmes like the women's carpet making co-operative in Afghanistan, we give people the chance to build lives for themselves.

The future is a smouldering ember. On its own it is nothing but a tiny glow. It gives neither light nor heat. It just is. But fan it with the wind of hope and feed it with the fuel of positive action and it will grow into a living flame that can empower us all.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Why do people die?

In June 2009, the UN published a Mortality Risk Index, listing the populations most at risk of death following earthquake, flood, tropical cyclone or landslide.

The list does not relate to the risk of one of these natural disasters occurring in a country, but to the likelihood that people will be killed. Some countries, such as Japan, suffer these things frequently but, thanks to their defence strategies, the risk of death is considerably lessened.

Of the 222 countries listed, Haiti, scene of such devastation this week, was ranked 35th most likely to suffer high mortality after such a disaster.

The country that topped the UN risk list was Bangladesh. Low lying and coastal, Bangladesh is constantly at risk from cyclones and floods, and death tolls in the thousands are not uncommon.

Like Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Bangladesh is rife with poverty. In a list compiled by the International Monetary Fund in 2008, it ranked as the 154th richest out of 181 countries. Haiti, with an average annual wage 36 times smaller than that of the USA, was 157th.

Poverty does seem to have a bearing on people’s chances of survival following natural disaster. In fact, of the top ten countries on the Mortality Risk Index, only one, China, was in the top fifty countries of the world when ranked by wealth.

This is hardly surprising. Poor countries cannot afford the defences needed to shield themselves from disaster. They also don’t have the infrastructure to cope with large scale casualties.

Japan, the 24th richest country in the world, is plagued by earthquakes. Though buildings shake, few fall. But such buildings are expensive, and countries such as Haiti, India and Bangladesh do not have the funds necessary to invest in them. Many homes in these countries are likely to be poorly constructed, without proper foundations, and often built in vulnerable locations such as on the sides of mountains, in coastal areas, even on giant rubbish tips. When disaster strikes, these dwellings collapse, and homes, possessions and lives are lost.

We cannot do much to prevent natural disasters occurring. We can however, attempt to minimise the suffering they cause. World In Need works in many at risk countries, including Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We sponsor children, enabling them to go to school and learn skills that will benefit their entire community as well as themselves, and we help people set up business co-operatives, enabling them to earn a living wage. In Afghanistan, we support a group of widows who make high quality carpets, which we export to Britain and sell on their behalf. In Sierra Leone, we have a feeding programme, ensuring children are given a nutritious meal each day, making them stronger, healthier and more able to withstand whatever life throws at them.

There will always be earthquakes, cyclones and floods. There don’t always have to be deaths.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Northern Uganda Part Two

Our earlier post talked about the children whose lives were devastated by the recently ended conflict in Northern Uganda. That post talked of the healing needed by those children forced to become soldiers.

However, not all the children who are suffering in the aftermath of the war are former combatants. Others who were orphaned because of the fighting are now struggling to look after younger brothers and sisters. They have to work, often at menial jobs, putting in long hours for a pittance in their attempts to care for their families.

While western children play and go to school and plan for their futures, many of their Ugandan counterparts are caught up in a spiral of hopelessness and despair. To feed their families they work. Education would improve their chances of a better paid job, but education costs money, and to get that money they need to work even longer hours, which means they don’t have time for the education, which means they can’t earn more.

World In Need finds sponsors for the children. It costs £20 (about $30) a month to sponsor a child. This money can be paid by one sponsor or split between two, or even a group of people working together. School classes sponsor children, as do Sunday schools, women’s groups, businesses and churches.

We believe that education is essential in the fight against poverty, which is why we make it a condition of sponsorship that the sponsored child must go to school. The money given helps that become possible by paying the costs of the education and other things such as food and rent, meaning the child no longer has to earn money to supply these things.

Education is a right that should belong to all children. Too often it is seen as a privilege, only available to the favoured few. At World In Need we aim to change that. If we can achieve that aim, then children like little Ivan will grow into a far more hopeful world than the one he has now.
For more details, visit our website: and click on the flag of the country that interests you most.

Four year old Ivan is looking for a sponsor. He lives with his parents and brothers in an Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camp in Northern Uganda. The family moved to the relative safety of the camp after Ivan’s grandfather was beaten to death in December 2005 by the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, who also abducted some of Ivan’s relatives.

Ivan is just one of the 400,000 people whose lives were blighted by the conflict which raged in Northern Uganda from the early 1980s until a fragile ceasefire came into being in 2006. The conflict was between the Ugandan government and the rebels of the LRA, a group who were prepared to be extremely brutal in pursuance of their aims.

The LRA have a reputation for maiming victims cruelly, cutting off ears, noses and lips. They regularly abducted children from the villages, training the boys to become soldiers and forcing the girls to become sex slaves. The problem became so acute during the conflict that, in areas where the LRA was most active, hordes of children routinely left their homes each night and walked for several miles to sleep in the bush, in hiding.

People who sought the protection offered by the IDP camps also found life hard. They may have been relatively safe from the LRA, but they were also unable to tend their lands, plant their crops, or work.

In 2006, there was a cessation of hostilities and people have begun to move out of the camps and back to their homes. However, in a country devastated by 23 years of war, there is still an urgent need for humanitarian help. Many are very vulnerable – the elderly whose families have been killed are left with no-one to look after them, women are widowed and left to fend for themselves and their families. And as always, children suffer badly.

Some children are returning to “normal” life after having been forced into the conflict. The LRA took boys as young as eight years old from their homes and trained them as soldiers. Robbing them of their childhoods, LRA leader, Joseph Kony said, “There are no children here, only combatants”.

Grown men and women who have been involved in conflicts will tell you that it affects them, psychologically. They often have problems fitting in with family and civilian friends, and find adjusting to normality difficult.

For children, without the maturity and life experience to even try to make sense of what has happened to them, the return is even harder. They cannot play, or mix with other children, or even go to school until they have been counselled and rehabilitated. The same is true of the girls, who were repeatedly raped by the rebels.

World In Need’s representative in Northern Uganda cares for some of these children. He takes them into his own home and loves them, helping them begin the long process of healing. Through World In Need, sponsors are found for the children, and the money they give is used to pay for counselling and rehabilitation until the children are ready to resume their childhoods and their educations and find hope for their future once more.

Poetry wanted

We are currently trying to compile an anthology of Islamic literature and poetry. The works in the anthology will be English translations of works originally written in a variety of languages, including Arabic, Persian and Turkish.

We are looking for English translations of poetry that was originally written in Bedouin Arabic, Malay, Hausa, Swahili and Uighur, and would be grateful for any examples received.

The purpose of the anthology is to help improve our understanding of Islamic peoples. The world view of Islamic peoples – as opposed to the Islamic faith itself – tends to be formed not by the Qur’an, but by the poetry and literature of those peoples. It is in their writing that we see the root of much of the behaviour, attitudes and opinions held by Islamic people but not accounted for by a reading of the Qur’an. Behaviours such as the honour killings of those who disgrace the family name, for instance, can be traced back to literature rather than scripture.

Once the anthology is compiled, we hope to use it to develop a course, enabling people to study the writings and to form a deeper understanding of the people and cultures influenced by them.

If anyone has pieces which they feel would suit the anthology, please contact us. Our address and email details can be found on our website,

Update on the Philippines

In the latter part of 2009, a cloud of uncertainty hung over World In Need's work in the Philippines. After the devastation of the storms in the Autumn, came the bombshell that the school building was to be sold, and the uncertainty over whether the new owners would allow us to continue to rent it.

As well as this, our projects within the country were sponsored by a church in Singapore whose support was invaluable and enabled many children to be looked after. Unfortunately, in 2009, the church had to end this sponsorship, and this left a huge hole in the funds being sent to the Philippines.

However, we are pleased to announce that a gift received yesterday has bridged the gap and enabled us to continue supporting the children in the short term. Although the situation is not permanently resolved, the immediate danger has passed. We are so grateful to our supporters for the love and care with which they have blessed the people of the Philippines.

Thank you.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Good Neighbour Scheme

Outside my home the snow is over a foot deep. Underneath it, the ground is covered in a thick layer of ice. It's treacherous, to say the least. So I was very glad when my neighbour knocked on my door.

"I'm going to the shops," he announced, pointing at his four wheel drive car with its off road tyres. "Shall I get your shopping while I'm there?"

Other neighbours have come out to dig paths to people's homes. People push cars that struggle to move on the icy roads. They've called on those who live alone and made sure they're OK. In some cases, it's the first time the neighbours have shared more than a brief hello.

"Don't mention it," said my neighbour in response to my thank yous. "It's all part of the Good Neighbour Scheme."

By anyone's standards, I have very good neighbours. They've proved that this week. Time and again, they've come out to help someone, with no reluctance, no thought of profit, or repayment. They've seen a need, and they've jumped in to fill it. And everyone of us has felt better for it. Giver and receiver, the deed has left a feeling of well being within us.

But who is my neighbour? Is it just the person in the house next door? Is it the man who lives on my street? In my town? My country? My world?

We are all neighbours really. We're all people, we all have needs that someone, somewhere can fill. One person's insurmountable problem is another person's drop in the ocean.

For instance, in Sierra Leone, children are dying of hunger. The country is rebuilding after a bitter civil war, and many parents cannot support their children. For some, this is because of injury - soldiers on both sides cut off the hands and arms of men, women and children from the opposing factions, leaving a country full of people unable to work.

Those who escaped the amputations are not necessarily able to earn the money they need, either. Being available for work is not the same thing as having work. Industry, infrastructure, everything in the country is in disarray. Poverty is everywhere. And as usual, the children are among the worst hit.

World In Need runs a feeding programme through schools in Sierra Leone. For £5 (about $8) per child per month, we ensure the children get a good meal inside them every day they come to school. For many, it is their only food and we make sure it is nutritious, so it will help them stay healthy and grow strong. By linking it to school attendance, we are also able to ensure that this new generation will be better educated, gaining the skills they need to look after themselves, their families and their country in the future.

The programme is paid for by sponsors, people in the west for whom £5 a month is nothing. A drop in the ocean. To the child they help, it is the world.

From the snow covered towns of Southern England to the ravaged land of Sierra Leone, the whole world needs a Good Neighbour Scheme. Let's start one.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Rains and Floods

Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, DR Congo... All countries in East Africa that have been badly affected by the failing rains for the last six seasons. Drought has caused serious problems, crops have been depleted, hunger and poverty have increased.

Now, at last, the rains have come. Helped by el Nino, they are heavier than they have been for years. That's good, right?

Well, no. Not entirely. Not if you're one of the 22 people who have been killed in Kenya alone since Christmas, due to the floods that the sudden rains have brought. Not if you're one of the people whose homes have been washed away by the deluge. In rural areas, many homes are made of mud. They are solid enough to stand for an average twenty years, provide shelter from the elements and withstand the normal amounts of rain that can be expected to fall. But they can't withstand the heavy rains they've been subjected to, or the flooding.

Nor can some of the homes in the slums of Nairobi. In Kibera slum, home to over one million people, dozens of houses have been washed away. The houses are made of wood and corrugated metal, and they're built so close together, they're almost on top of one another. Against the forces of nature, they stand no chance.
Our picture shows dwellings in a Nairobi slum. They're typical of the homes found there.

Is it a cyclical weather pattern? Or climate change? Who knows? But then, to the people of East Africa, cause is not their greater concern right now. Effect is.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The rains come to Kenya

Kenya has been suffering a time of drought. For six seasons, the rains have failed, and life has grown progressively harder for the people. But now, when the rains finally come, they do not bring with them joy and good times.

Thanks to el Nino, an atmospheric phenomenon in the Pacific ocean that affects weather across the whole world, the rains in Kenya have been heavy and brutal.

To an extent, the people prepared for the onslaught. In the northern district of Soy, where World in Need has opened a primary school, the Nancy George Academy, the people planted beans instead of the more customary maize, since bean crops are more able to withstand heavy weather without being destroyed. But there is only so much preparation one can do.

Many of the buildings in this part of Africa, including half the classrooms at the Nancy George Academy are made of mud. The mud is trodden smooth in big pits until it is like clay, then packed solidly over wire frames, where it hardens. A mud hut can last twenty years. But it can't fight el Nino.

World In Need's East Africa director, Robert Mulumbi, wrote to tell us that the heavy rains had hit the school and washed away the walls of the mud built buildings, leaving just the brick built ones standing. The mud buildings included not just the classrooms, but the school's nursery and kitchen, and the staff room. All will have to be rebuilt, and until they are, the children will have to squeeze into the remaining classrooms.

It will be uncomfortable for the children until the new school buildings are erected. It will be worse for those whose homes are also made of mud. They, who had so little, will have lost everything; home, possessions, shelter, swept away on the wind and rain.

Please pray for them.

Happy New Year

We wish every one of you a Happy, healthy, prosperous, peaceful and trouble free New year