Three years ago I travelled to Niger in West Africa for World Vision to see and report on the severe food crisis that was happening over there at the time. Before I left a few people said, "Well, isn't there always a food crisis somewhere in Africa?" Yes, there is. A lot of memories stand out in my mind. The little boy wearing a yellow collared shirt being held by his grandmother in the middle of a refugee camp. Most of the children wore torn clothes. Some wore no clothes at all.
This little boy had badly burnt his hand in a fire a week before and had no treatment for it. There was nothing I could do for him in that moment. But I remember his pained face .. and when I spoke to some World Vision staff they said they'd keep an eye on him and tend to his burn. I hope they did.
All of the children were SO HAPPY to see us, running around, wanting photos and smiling. I had to smile back even though I felt ... man I can't even explain how I felt. Not like smiling, that's for sure. I stayed a week in Niger and saw so much every single day travelling for hours on roads so dusty I thought I had a lung infection but it was just dust. I wrote a post about Zenouba and I often think about her. Hopefully she's out there thriving, an eight year old by now.
The next trip for World Vision was to India, visiting the work WV was doing with the entire communities of people living in urban slum piles. On top of them, actually. I'll never forget walking on ground so spongey. The people living there not used to people looking them in the eyes.
After sponsoring a boy in Ethiopia with World Vision for ten years, I met my my new sponsored child in India called Rashni. She's three days older than my son Rocco - so she'd be seven now. She was terrified of me at first because of my glasses so I had to take them off. And show her how to take a selfie, surrounded by her whole beautiful family.
We travelled out to Raipur to look at some organic farming practices that World Vision were facilitating to help local farmers with their crops .. to make the villagers stay, to not travel into Delhi and end up living on slum piles. I pieced together how all the work the WV staff do is all intrinsically linked.
This woman - she and I kind of loved each other straight away. We compared tattoos and she was bossy and funny and we could not understand a word of what we were saying to each other but it didn't matter.
They sang and danced and we learnt how the WV team over there were working for years on projects that eventually would be given over to the communities to run themselves. Women's Savings Projects, Tree Sapling Projects, Fishing Projects, Menstruation Cloth Projects. Such varied and life-saving stuff. I was privileged to see them all with my own eyes and understand how World Vision operates, see exactly where the money goes.
Last year in November I travelled to Uganda, holding all the fresh grief from my brothers death in my heart. I desperately wanted to go, take the focus off myself, do something to make a difference. (Most people I know want to make a difference.)
Life-saving outdoor immunisation clinics, schools that cater for special needs students, huge HIV awareness and testing tents set up in the poorest places of town. Education is key. Vital. It was hard to write about all these places because do I put myself in the stories as a blogger or do I write objectively using facts and figures? How can I say what needed to be said in a way that would have the most impact, that would show exactly how vital the work World Vision does is desperately needed and appreciated by people all over the world?
The best way was telling stories of people I'd meet, every day. Like Ryan's mum, sitting in the HIV testing tent. 13 years old, dreams of owning her own sewing machine to make clothes to sell.
Women who have escaped slavery and sexual servitude being trained in World Vision programs to become hairdressers.
I started working with World Vision a few weeks after I turned 40. I'm 43 now. A woman holds a lot of power in her forties .. yet I'm still so ignorant about facts and countries and geography. Often I'd ask the STUPIDEST questions because I failed everything at school except writing.
I actually asked a group of WV staff sitting at a table in Uganda: "So, how may equators are there?" The looks on their faces. Then one of them slowly said .. Eden, you're not joking, are you?
I wasn't. Man we all laughed so, so hard. So ignorant.
There's a whole world out there, begging to be changed. Sometimes our powerlessness makes us frozen .. so much bad news. Can we do anything? Can we change it?
Hell yes we can change it. We can do anything we set our minds to. (Most things - flying to the moon would be fun but not everyone can be an astronaut.)
We can't change the whole world in one day. But we can change somebody's day .. and to that one person, it means the whole world.
One starfish at a time.
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