From the Ends of the Earth with Love

4 - Dak Jak, Chiang Mai_lowres (72 of 164)When I close my eyes and think back on what has undoubtedly been the most eventful year of my life, some distinct images appear in my mind. I see airport terminals and views of seemingly abandoned and overgrown landscapes outside airplane windows, I see street-side tea shops and cups of instant coffee spilling onto tired laps, I see over-run taxis sitting in way too much traffic, muddy dirt roads and motor bikes, rickety bridges suspended over flooded rivers, palm-thatch huts in rural villages, and miles of endless rice fields, I see the wrinkles of a man whose entire family was washed away in a cyclone, the smile of a girl who’s been rescued from abuse, I hear the laughter of a father who’s able to provide for his family for the first time, I see the tender tears of a mother whose son was healed from a disease and I see a young woman whose life has been turned up-side-down and changed indefinitely. I see myself.Putao_dec_lowres (1 of 15)

I’m wearing too much purple as always, making a fool of myself trying to get a child to laugh, jumping for joy each time I remember the word for ‘smile’ in a local language, enduring sleepless nights when all I can hear outside are howling dogs and unrelenting rain pelting the tin roof above my head. There I am on my knees crying out to God when I feel weak and defeated and alone after days that just seem to be too much. I see myself changing and morphing, questioning and over-coming, falling and getting back up again. More than anything, however, I see the fingerprints of a God whose grace and mercy, I’ve learned, does not run out on me.


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Looking back on my past year in Asia, where I was able to travel to more than 100 different communities and villages in five different countries, meet with dozens of more beneficiaries, and capture the very real stories, faces and emotions of people living in indescribable poverty, I am completely overwhelmed. In many ways, it feels like this past year was a dream. A dream that will certainly be difficult to wake up from but one that will continue to teach and grow me into the person I’m becoming.

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From the jungle-like villages in Myanmar to the overly-crowded slums in Bangladesh, I have gotten a taste of the uniquely diverse flavors of Asia these past twelve months. Beyond that, I have gotten to know the people that each culture represents. Although language and cultural differences posed barriers that I tried (and often failed) to navigate my way through, there were also those precious moments when all barriers fell away and two human hearts connected in what I believe can only be described as a supernatural way.

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It was the conversations that transpired through broken translation and took place under the refuge of an unbuilt home during a mid-morning rain storm and on dusty ceramic floors that kept us cool from the afternoon sun that changed me. It’s the simplicity of life that’s demonstrated throughout all of Asia that I’ll remember when the reality of having too much hits me. Or the power of rituals and tradition that keep families bonded that will forever remind me to hold on tightly to what I believe in. It was the moments when I felt so completely foreign and unknown to anyone and anything that will keep me humble and the fear of stepping out into the vast unknown each and every day that will keep me brave and clinging to a God who promises to catch us when we fall.

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The experiences I’ve had, some of which I shared with you all right here on this blog and some of which I’ve chosen to keep to myself for safe keeping, have been rich and plentiful. I’ve seen the harsh reality of a world deeply drenched in poverty, lies and destruction as well as the reality of hope and reconciliation that has come over communities and led them out of abuse and addiction. It’s been messy and inspiring all at once and most of all it’s been a joy to be a part of not only World Concern’s work here in Asia, but God’s work in bringing His kingdom here on earth.

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One year ago, I was anxious and eager as I took the biggest step of faith in my life so far. Today, while I am still the same anxious and eager person taking another leap of faith into even more unknown, I am now a more patient, adaptable, understanding, gentle-spirited, surprised-by-very-little but ready-for-anything version of myself.

From one side of the globe to the next, it’s been a privilege accompanying God on a truly transformative experience to the ends of the earth. Thank you for following me, encouraging me and loving me with your words and prayers and I hope these words and images continue to inspire and transform the hearts and minds of people around the world.

Signing out of Asia with love, yours truly,


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The women of plentiful land // a generation set apart

3 - Dak Euy, Dak Noi_lowres (46 of 142)“Before, we did not have enough food to eat… then we got water for our rice fields and now we have three meals a day,” young mother of three, Hom, says about just one of the many changes she has seen in her life recently.

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mamas and their healthy babies in Dak Euy village in rural Laos

In the remote hill tribes of southern Laos, animist belief in good and evil spirits has not been the only thing passed down from generation to generation. For those living in Dak Euy village, who have little to no access to the world beyond their small community, expired techniques in farming and other lifestyle practices caused a stunt in their community’s growth and health for many years. Until recently, families like Hom’s did not have enough to eat and as a result, suffered from nutrition-related sicknesses and even death.

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Hom and her happy and healthy baby!

“In the past, we did what our parents taught us and it didn’t produce much… now we have learned new techniques on how to take care of our land, how to plant the seeds and when to harvest… our land is much more plentiful,” Hom expresses.

Today, families have more than enough rice and are even able to sell the surplus to neighboring villages. Additionally, many women like Hom also earn a stable income from planting and harvesting coffee beans that outside buyers purchase on a consistent basis. Hom’s success in coffee bean production, selling vegetables from her home-garden and raising and selling animals has allowed her to feed her growing children three meals a day. Not only that, but Hom has saved enough money to build a new home for her eight-person family.

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everyone helps when it comes to coffee farming!

Hom, who only made it to grade six, is hopeful that her children will receive a better education than she did and continues to save money so they can attend school.

A community water source that brings fresh spring water down from a spring up the hill not only saves women like Hom from having to spend more than an hour each day collecting dirty water from the nearby river, but also reduces water-related sicknesses among villagers.

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villagers can now easily access fresh water in their village

“Because we eat good food and drink clean water and keep our community clean, we are much healthier than before,” Hom says. The changes that villagers have embraced and implemented will set a new, forward-looking way of life as future generations continue to grow and develop here in Dak Euy.

From depression to dancing // one woman’s journey living with AIDS

5 - radio, HIV_lowres (9 of 50)I guess you don’t quite know what to expect when you hear you’re going to visit someone living with HIV/AIDS, at least I didn’t. Ashamedly, I was imagining a sick, bed-ridden, bitter old woman that I’d be nervous to sit next to. You can imagine my surprise then, when we found Vatsana, a beautifully delicate woman who sat graciously awaiting our arrival in her home in rural Laos last month. Vatsana not only eagerly welcomed us into her home, but into the cavernous depths of her heart’s story as well.
5 - radio, HIV_lowres (20 of 50)Living and working with her husband in Thailand at the time, Vatsana first discovered that she had HIV/AIDS when she was pregnant with her daughter eighteen years ago.

“My husband told me that he probably got the disease when he was still single and went to a nightclub in Thailand,” Vatsana explains, “…he died a few weeks after our daughter was born.”

Afraid, lonely, and recently widowed, Vatsana sunk into a deep depression upon returning to her home village in Laos with a new baby to care for and her recent, extremely stigmatized and terrifying diagnosis. For many years, Vatsana did not receive any treatment for her sickness and endured not only physical pain but emotional rejection from friends and family as well.5 - radio, HIV_lowres (48 of 50)“At first I felt so depressed and did not want to talk to anybody, ”Vatsana explains, “people did not understand me or the disease and everyone looked down on me.” Not only did others not understand Vatsana’s condition, but for a long time, she herself did not understand much about the disease. When Vatsana’s daughter was still young, not only was she too afraid to breast feed her, but she was so scared of passing on her sickness to her daughter that she wouldn’t even sleep next to her at night. Vatsana

A gust of wind sweeps through the open windows of Vatsana’s home and I notice by the lack of dust being picked up and blown around just how clean and simple her home is. A home that she has been able to afford and build herself with the money she’s earned raising and selling chickens and other animals over the years – not something I would have guess someone living with HIV/AIDS could do, but clearly I know nothing. Outside, Vatsana’s elderly mother – her biggest champion and source of support since Vatsana was first diagnosed nearly twenty years ago – is cooking rice and vegetables for dinner. 5 - radio, HIV_lowres (29 of 50)

It wasn’t until a few years ago, when World Concern began work in her village, that Vatsana received the care, treatment and knowledge about HIV/AIDS that has since changed her life. “After the project came, they encouraged me, gave me new knowledge and even explained to my relatives and community about HIV, now they finally accept me,” Vatsana explains.

For the past eight years, Vatsana has been receiving daily treatment from a local health center that always advises her to take her medicine on time as well as to encourage others living with the disease not to be afraid and to get tested and receive treatment.

“When I go to the hospital and see other sick people like me, that encourages me,” says Vatsana. “I would tell anyone with HIV not to be discouraged or depressed, but to go to the hospital and ask for advice and help.”

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Vatsana’s sweet mother who lives with and takes care of her daughter.

Thank you, Vatsana, for completely dismantling my preconceived notions of who I thought you’d be, you are much more amazing than I could have imagined.



Hope in the hill tribes // keeping the ‘rock’ in Dak Rak

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Tucked atop a tall mountain top, between flowing rivers, over deep ravines and across dangerous dirt roads is a community full of some of the most cheerful people I have ever met. Seriously, check out these smiles!
2 - dak rak, women, kids_lowres (52 of 117)2 - dak rak, women, kids_lowres (90 of 117) It’s not common that every person you meet living in such a rural and isolated community greets you (a strange white girl unashamedly wearing too much purple with a huge camera around her neck) with a warm and genuine smile. The people living in Dak Rak, a village in the hill tribes of southern Laos, have not always been this cheerful, however. For many years, families living here suffered from low-income, poor health, a lack of available education, not enough food to eat and other poverty-related hardships. 2 - dak rak, women, kids_lowres (30 of 117) Today, with an aroma of freshly harvested coffee beans filling the recently damp air, women like 43-year-old Sengmanikoo can tell a new story of hope. A hard-working mother of five, Sengmanikoo, like many mothers in her village, knows what it means to struggle and not have enough food to feed her children or enough money to send them to school. Over the past few years, Sengmanikoo has worked as a farmer in her village’s coffee fields. The stable income that she earns from the coffee production (around $15/month) allows her to support her family and give her children an education as well.

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Sengmanikoo and her youngest son

2 - dak rak, women, kids_lowres (2 of 117)2 - dak rak, women, kids_lowres (109 of 117) “My life is so much better now that I have income from my rice faming and coffee farming,” Sengmanikoo explains, “I have a stable income now.” Sengmanikoo and her family now also have access to clean water sources with at-home water filters as well as a village-wide water storage system.

Previously, families used to get their drinking water from the nearby river – often resulting in many sicknesses and diseases that went untreated because of the lack of education and medical care. Now, villagers are aware of the types of sicknesses that can be caused by unsanitary water and latrines as well as have access to a medical box in their village that allows them to self-treat, avoiding prolonged sicknesses and even death.2 - dak rak, women, kids_lowres (59 of 117)2 - dak rak, women, kids_lowres (80 of 117)2 - dak rak, women, kids_lowres (113 of 117) Another drastic change has been the construction of a suspension bridge that allows children to cross from one side of the river to the other during rainy season in order to get to school much more safely.

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twenty-three-year-old Aub

Not only do primary-aged children have the opportunity to receive an education, but adults who were not able to go to school when they were young are also given the opportunity to get an expedited education. One young mother, 23-year-old Aub, recently attended a non-formal education training in her village where she learned to read and write for the first time. Because she was unable to attend school past grade five when she was young, Aub, like many young adults her age, have very little opportunity to advance her education once she left school to help her family work.

A non-formal education, much like a GED program in the states, allows adults to fast-track their missed education and gain skills that then enable them to have better job opportunities as well as increases their own self-esteem. “The non-formal education program changed my life,” Aub explains, “I have a new confidence because of my education and I hope that my children will get a good education too.”The people of Dak Rak village certainly have much to smile about and it’s obvious that their dedication towards improving their livelihoods will leave a lasting impact on future generations and neighboring communities as well.

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Learning in Silence // Speaking without Sound

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It’s a quiet interview outside of an equally as quiet first-grade classroom. The silence is not because of awkward pauses or uncomfortable miscommunication (though I’ve certainly had a handful of those) and it’s not because of disciplinary teachers and frightened children, in fact, thirty-something Thai Anh and the twenty children in his class are quite talkative and out-going, and they are also all deaf. Of all of the languages I have heard recently and had translated for me over the past few months, sign language is by far the most beautiful. Who knew that a language spoken in silence could contain so much noise…1 - primary school lowres (62 of 86)

Like many deaf children here in Vietnam, Thai Anh had a very difficult time learning anything at school when he was young and did not make it past grade five because of the lack of deaf and sign language teachers available. Today, this makes him the perfect candidate for helping deaf children without the opportunities or money to attend private schools with deaf and hearing teachers.

“For all children, it is very important that they learn how to speak when they are young, or else they won’t learn at all, the same is true for deaf children,’ Thai Anh explains.1 - primary school lowres (35 of 86)

Twice a week, Thai Anh commutes to this school outside of the city in a poor neighborhood where he teaches and watches children learn how to communicate and express themselves for the first time. For most of the children in Thai Anh’s class, they and their families are from far away towns. Luckily, many children are able to stay overnight in the school’s dormitory-style housing with other students and teachers when their parents don’t have the time or money to come and get them each day.

“The children here talk a lot and sign naturally… because they live here, they are constantly talking with one another and growing in their cognitive skills,” Thai Anh explains about the extraordinary development of the children at his school.1 - primary school lowres (59 of 86)

While Thai Anh has seen some changes over the years, he is hopeful that there will be even greater changes in the opportunities for deaf people – especially in children’s education – in the coming years.

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1 - primary school lowres (38 of 86)Aside from dedicating much of his time to improving the education system for deaf children in his country, Thai Anh stays busy working as an artist and even as a tour guide in Hanoi. Once a week, Thai Anh makes home visits to deaf children and their families along with a sign language interpreter where they conduct one-on-one sign language lessons. By engaging the entire family, parents, grandparents, siblings and even neighbors learn how to speak with the deaf children who otherwise would have no way of communicating.

1 - homevisit_lowres (6 of 42)“In ten years, I’d like to see deaf children learn a lot and for the government to recognize that they can learn and develop like normal people… if that happened, you would see a very beautiful picture of change,” Thai Anh explains.

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It’s noon now and a loud, low-bass drum that shakes the entire building notifies everyone that it’s time for lunch. It is obvious by the smiles on their faces that the children in Thai Anh’s class admire and enjoy learning from their dedicated teacher who has helped shine a light and bring attention to the oftentimes forgotten and rejected deaf community in his country.1 - primary school lowres (79 of 86)

Life in small spaces – July’s Story

Myitkyina_IDPcamps_lowres (54 of 133)Five hundred and thirty-five, that’s the number of people living in Hkat Cho Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in northern Myanmar. The predominately Buddhist camp, with its jam-packed, dirt-floored narrow corridors, has been home to these men, women and children for more than three years now.

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a mother manages to do her family’s wash in the camp’s tight quarters

One young camp member, July Soe, first arrived at the camp when she was just ten years old, after she and her family – like everyone else in the camp – were forced to leave their home village because of civil unrest in their community. Today, July Soe is a spunky 14-year-old student who loves sports and playing with her sisters and friends.

The limited space available at the camp, however, makes it difficult for young people like July Soe to have a place to run around and have fun.

“I used to have so many friends in my home village, I didn’t have to worry much… I could just play and have fun,” July Soe explains.Myitkyina_IDPcamps_lowres (56 of 133)

Not only is there limited space for physical activities at the camp, but because of the amount of people in such close quarters, it is a difficult place for hard-working students like July Soe to study and focus.

Like many others her age living in the camp, July Soe spends week nights at a hostel down the road where she can focus and work on her studies. Such a compromise has meant that when July Soe isn’t at school or studying at the hostel, she is helping her parents manage their small grocery shop at the camp.

“I help my parents sell groceries during my lunch break at school,” says July Soe.

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many people in the camp earn a small income by polishing amber and other gems sourced locally

Fortunately, for July Soe, who has been attending child protection sessions at her camp each month, she is learning how to take care of herself as well as how to treat her siblings and how to avoid potentially compromising situations with strangers or outsiders.

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this cute little crew came out from their room to say hi!

“Before the trainings, I didn’t know that child abuse was wrong…I didn’t always listen to my little sister, but now I know it is important to listen and use nice words to talk to her instead,” July Soe explains. Such changes are having a big influence not only in individual families, but on a community-level as well. For the 535 people living within the camp’s confines, it is imperative that they know how to live well together as well how to look after one another, especially as the community around them expands and opens up to foreigners. Myitkyina_IDPcamps_lowres (9 of 133)

Life in the Camp – the wisdom of a 13-year-old in a blazer and pajama pants

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It’s early afternoon in the Kachin Baptist Camp in northern Myanmar where more than 1000 internally displaced people live. Young children recently home from school are chasing one another in a nearby field – the only open space in the entirety of the camp compound – while others, like 13-year-old Nang, can be found cooking dinner for her family in the community kitchen.

Nang is no ordinary teenager. Wise beyond her years, her sophisticated blazer matched with her funky pajama bottoms are the perfect metaphor to describe this hard-working young lady with a witty sense of humor that is evident even beyond a language barrier.

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When Nang was just ten years old, she and her family were forced from their home village because of civil unrest in the area and ended up taking refuge (like many others) in an IDP camp. Today, as the eldest sibling living at home, Nang has taken on many new responsibilities.

Nang wakes up with the sun around 5:30 each morning to help her mother prepare breakfast for the rest of the family, then spends a full day at school where she enjoys learning about math and playing jump rope with her friends. When she returns back to the camp, Nang prepares dinner for her family, does some household chores to keep their small room clean and clutter-free and then attends additional tutoring sessions before a nightly community prayer meeting and retiring to bed only to do it all over again the next day.Myitkyina_IDPcamps_lowres (110 of 133)

Her parents, a farmer and jewellery-polisher, often work far from home and stay away for a week at a time, leaving Nang in charge of her younger siblings.

“Sometimes of course I am sad and I worry, I have to make sure that we don’t run out of money before my parents come home,” Nang explains.

A devoted and curious young Christian, Nang wants to be a pastor when she gets older. “I like to help people and see their lives change,” says Nang, as she anxiously keeps an eye on her younger brother and sister who are now running around as the sun begins to set.Myitkyina_IDPcamps_lowres (90 of 133)

Fortunately for Nang and others in her camp community, monthly child protection sessions are being held in the camp where children and parents learn about child rights, how to treat their family members with love and respect and how to avoid domestic abuse.

“I feel safe when my parents are away,” Nang explains, “because others in the community know they are away and they look out for us.” Although the sense of community in Nang’s home camp is very strong and Nang feels safe for the most part, adults and children are also learning about the potential concern of trafficking from outside strangers as well as how to avoid such compromising situations.

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I usually don’t ask for photos with our beneficiaries, but Nang was too fun and spunky to pass up a photo-op with!

Of all of the beneficiaries I have interviewed so far (a lot), Nang has by far been the funnest, sweetest and one of the most inspiring. Whether it was her sense of comfort and genuine laughter that brought a smile to my face or seeing the child-like joy come out of such a disciplined and hard-working young woman, I am glad to have gotten the opportunity to talk with Nang.

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Aside from IDP camps like Nang’s, children and families throughout remote villages in northern Myanmar are learning, for the first time, about child rights and child protection. Dedicated parents, like Cha Sa Bo and Na Nu Ye are so invested in their children’s right to an education that they walk more than two hours (both ways) to pick up and bring their children home from school each day.

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Cha Sa Bo and her youngest son – she’s an advocate for children’s right to education in her rural and mostly un-educated community

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the long road the mothers like Cha Sa Bo and Na Nu Ye venture down every evening to retrieve their kids from school in a village far away

“I will send my kids to school no matter what it takes,” Na Nu Ye, who makes less than $350/year explains. Eager for their children to have better lives than their own, mothers like this are imperative in cultivating a healthy and encouraging home where children are not beaten or yelled at. 2 - kids, moms, villages_lowres (57 of 157)

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15-year-old Wa Se loves playing volleyball and learning English

One boy, 15-year old Wa Se, whose mother has been attending child protection trainings says,  “I feel like my mother really loves me when she doesn’t yell at me like she used to.” Such feelings are common for children whose parents are learning about the importance of using kind words and no violence in the household for the first time.

From motivated children like Nang and Wa Se to devoted mothers like Cha Sa Boa and Na Nu Ye, communities and future generations are being shaped as the importance of education as well as love and encouragement from the household are being encouraged.

Check out other families and children in northern Myanmar who are learning about child rights and protection for the first time:

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ode to the women of Myanmar // inspired to be bolder

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They are mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, aunties, grand-mothers, great-grandmothers, great-great-grandmothers, friends, teachers, hard-workers, rice farmers, fisher-women, committee members, devoted community members, religious and faithful, strong in spirit, inspiring and regal, these are the women of Myanmar. 

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This post is owed to the incredible women of this country I get to call home who daily inspire me to work harder, love more gently and live more boldly.

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38-year-old mother of two, Chang Swang, lives in an internally displaced persons camp (IDP) in northern Myanmar with some 150 others who have been displaced because of civil conflict in their villages. Chang Swang works as her camp’s youth leader, ensuring that children in the camp are kept safe and have a healthy environment to play and grow and learn, despite their physical limitations.

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one mother in the same camp looks after her two small children in the narrow alley-way between rows of identical palm-thatched rooms

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in another IDP camp in norther Myanmar, women take turns cooking for the rest of the camp in over-heated, dust-coated community rooms

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girls in the Delta’s port city, Labutta, learn to fish for crabs at a young age and grow up working tirelessly to help their families earn a steady income in a competitive environment.myanmaredits (6 of 10)

mothers in rural villages on the outskirts of Myanmar’s northern-most communities often fear that their children will get sick during the rainy season – only recently have they learned that malaria is the cause of the seasonal sickness that kills dozens of children in every village each year.

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Sen Sen Maw, a mother of five boys in Myanmar’s Mon State, is learning about the importance of good hygiene and safe drinking water to keep her growing family safe and healthy. MaKyaungHtay_Mon (2 of 2)MMmoms (1 of 8)MMmoms (2 of 8)

mothers in the Delta region of Myanmar face the challenge of raising up their children after one of the most devastating natural disasters to have ever hit the region – Cyclone Nargis – which killed some 150,000 people in 2008.

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after the storm, access to clean drinking water is difficult to come by, making War War and her precious son’s story of survival all the more inspiring.

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 Toe Toe, a young mother of five living on the banks of the Delta, works odd jobs – crab fishing and selling goods from her home – and earns no more than $50/month. Only recently has she learned that the cause of her young children’s constant sickness was because of malnutrition. Today, she feels empowered because she is able to help them get the proper food and help that they need to stay healthy.

“I feel happy that I don’t need to worry for my children like I did before,” Toe Toe explains. MMmoms (5 of 8)

this photo was from my first time meeting this sweet mama and her little girl last December, she was so proud to see that we wanted to take photos of her beautiful little girl – encouraging her to step out and be bold, not letting her forget that she’s right there behind her – that’s what mothers are for.

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…lucky for me, six months later I ran into these two again, beautiful as can be!

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“I am happy to work,” 63-year-old grandmother San Myint explains, “I can’t just sit at home.”
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thank you, women of Myanmar, for inspiring me to take a deeper look at myself, for challenging me to remember to work hard and stay beautiful!

Teacher Joseph and the amazing techni-color Telugu dream school

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Down graffiti-tagged alleyways with suspiciously clean streets and beyond rows of tea-stained sheets drying in the morning sunshine, is a small refuge in an otherwise forgotten community. It’s 8 am and hundreds of sleepy-eyed tiny-footed children shuffle together to form seven perfect lines under the canopy at the center of the Outfall Telugu Community Primary School. Teacher Joseph leads the more than 245 primary-aged students in morning devotions before they make their way to their respective classrooms and begin their day.

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“I grew up in this community,” teacher Joseph explains, “…and I went to this school.” The Telugu community, a group of extremely poor indigenous peoples originally from India, live as outcasts on the fringes of Dhaka city, home to some 14.5 million people. Earning barely enough to survive, most Telugu people work as street sweepers or rick shaw drivers and are seen as less than human by the rest of society.2 - elementary schools, Dhaka (242)

For 26-year-old Joseph, who has born and raised in the disparity of such a harsh reality, it has always been his desire to return to this school that forever changed his life.

“I’m very grateful for this place,” Joseph explains, “I received my start from this school.” After graduating high school, Joseph went on to complete a Master’s degree, something most people in the Telugu community would never dream of doing. “My parents were more aware than others that it was important for me to go to school…but I believe if I didn’t have the opportunity to go here, my parents would not have been able to afford to send me somewhere else,” Joseph says.2 - elementary schools, Dhaka (201)2 - elementary schools, Dhaka (97)

One of three male teachers and one of eight teachers at the school, Joseph is happy to be back in this place that opened his eyes to his passion for leading and encouraging future generations. It’s obvious, by the way the children respond to teacher Joseph when he walks into their classroom, that he is both respected and admired among the bright-eyed kids at the Telugu School.2 - elementary schools, Dhaka (337)blog

“I’ve always felt that I have the natural talents of a teacher,” Joseph shyly explains, “so I wanted to come back and encourage more students to do the same.” This school serves as a beacon of light and hope for those in this neglected corner of the world. Most public schools in Dhaka have an admission fee of around $155, a colossal amount of money for those whose monthly income barely scratches $80, but the Outfall Telugu Community School charges a microscopic in comparison fee of $1.50.2 - elementary schools, Dhaka (67)

Not only is the entry fee substantially less than at other schools, but World Concern provides additional support by contributing books and materials as well as teacher’s salaries to the Telugu school. Such provision helps to ensure high quality standards to students desperate for greater opportunity than that in which they were born into and the chance to not only dream big, but to achieve their dreams, just like Teacher Joseph has.

The bell rings and it’s time for recess. The once tired-eyed uniformed boys and girls now full of energy burst out from their classrooms in search of teacher Joseph who is always willing to play a game of tag with his beloved students. 2 - elementary schools, Dhaka (212)

Dress Shop Divas // how glitter and loans are changing lives in Bangladesh

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Micro-loans have taken center stage in global development over the past few years, especially among believers in practical, long-term solutions to poverty. It’s a simple concept – give a woman or group of women a small loan to start a business or craft they are already well-versed in and watch as they earn profit to pay back the loans and gain a major sense of empowerment along the way – okay, so maybe there’s more to it than that, but honestly, that’s what it comes down to. There’s a reason why this universally effective concept has become such a buzz word in the world of development lately, and it’s because it works. What follows are first-hand accounts of women in Bangladesh who are challenging their role in society and changing their lives along the way!1 - microcredit, Dhaka (786)blog

Exposed fluorescent lights bounce off the glowing blue and green walls of Hamida’s vibrant shop. A heaping pile of freshly adorned saris sits in the middle of the space like a prized cornucopia. Thousands of meticulously placed sequins glimmer and shine, reflecting the hard work of the more than 60 employees that the shop’s owner, Hamida, currently employees.

In Bangladesh, it’s common for women – who are often mistreated and disrespected by men – to work long hours in crowded, dangerous garment factories. This is no ordinary garment factory, however. It is a sanctuary, a refuge where women come not only to put their skills in sewing and embroidery to work, but to earn a fair and stable income to help support their families.1 - microcredit, Dhaka (66)blog

Hamida (pictured on the left) is a part of a micro-credit group that allows her to take out a small loan each month in order to continue to grow her now thriving small business. Inspired by Bollywood stars, Hamida and her team of hard working employees create lavish saris for Bangladeshi women. Over the years, Hamida has grown from a small, one-machine, dozen-dresses-a-week operation to a 10-machine, several hundred dresses a week business. Not only has Hamida benefited from her gorgeous dresses that sell for $20 to $60 a piece, but she’s provided a space and opportunity for other women to thrive as well.


One garment guru, Bithi, has worked with Hamida for the past two years and earns a more than substantial $330 per month—enough to save some for special occasions or for her daughter’s education. Things have only recently turned around for Bithi. Her husband left her a few years ago and she was forced to marry off her eldest daughter at the young age of 16—the same age Bithi herself was married.

World Concern President, Jacinta, enjoyed trying on some of Hamida's beautiful saris last month!

World Concern President, Jacinta, enjoyed trying on some of Hamida’s beautiful saris last month!

“I was forced to marry my daughter off,” Bithi struggles to explain. “I couldn’t afford to keep her and I didn’t have my husband, what else could I do?” Unfortunately, such dire circumstances are all too common in a country where nearly one-third of all girls are married by the time they’re 15. Bithi is grateful to have a place to come and work and gain a sense of empowerment.

“I love coming to my work place,” Bithi explains with a smile brighter than the glitter on the bedazzled stack of saris behind her. Bithi and others employed here have the choice of how much they want to work. They are paid per dress they make and can take on more work if they need extra income.

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Beautiful Bithi sits at her station where she’s made hundreds of dresses and shared just as many laughs with her colleagues and friends over the years

Thanks to this steady income, Bithi feels empowered to make a decision that will change the course of her younger daughter’s life. “I will not let her marry until she is more mature,” she said.

This place is haven of hope in a country that tells women when and who to marry and how to live, leaving little opportunity for them to work and create and thrive. The room buzzes as each woman takes a seat behind her industrial-sized sewing machine, turning once lifeless pieces of fabric into beautiful, handcrafted works of art, much like the transformation taking place in their own lives.

women in our micro=credit program attend monthly meetings where they discuss their businesses, encourage one another and bring in other women looking to change their lives

World Concern is determined to bring long-term solutions to such deeply-rooted poverty; and micro-credit programs are proving to be one of the most successful ways to begin the untangling process here in Bangladesh. Women in the micro-credit programs not only have the support from the others in their group who are just as eager to succeed, but they also have the constant encouragement and accountability of our loving and hard-working field officers. This all-female led team of trained officers are these women’s biggest advocates – who go to great lengths to see them succeed.

Choose any side street down one of Dhaka’s seemingly endless labyrinth-like roadways and you’ll be sure to find at least one proud World Concern micro-loan recipient. Whether she’s crafting magnificent saris in a neon shop or making angel-dolls and wooden utensils in her home, women across this city are rising up to take hold of opportunities to change their lives.

1 - microcredit, Dhaka (769)blogRina, a World Concern micro-loan “graduate,” and her daughter (pictured above) are on their way home from the market when we run into them on the street. Several years ago, Rina felt powerless after her husband left her and her children. It wasn’t until she took out her first loan to start selling cosmetics from her home that Rina felt like she could support herself for the first time. Today, not only has Rina’s husband come back to her after seeing how strong and successful her business has made her, but Rina has been able to send her beautiful 20-year-old daughter, Nahida, to university where she is in her third year studying Political Science.

Women like Rina and Bithi are challenging the way their male-dominated society views the role of a woman and are paving their way towards success for future generations!

Take a look at some more amazingly talented women in Bangladesh who are successfully operating their own small businesses with the help of micro loans:
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