Starvation in Madaya

Many people in the world today are not starving because there is an inherent inability to produce food, they are starving because they are caught in the middle of political fights and blockades that have been used as weapons – Ralph Merkle

I was appalled when I heard about the mother who was giving her 7 month old baby water and salt because there is no food in Madaya, Syria.  Tears came to my eyes when I saw the sunken face of a baby, his large eyes staring at the camera.  This precious, innocent child and many others are starving in Madaya.  Some have died.  This atrocity begs the question:  How could a leader of a country do this to his people?

It’s hard to watch this video but it is something everyone needs to be aware of.

People were forced to live on tree leaves and plants but now that winter has set in there are no more plants and leaves.  Majed Ali, a 28 year old opposition activist, was 114 kilos before the siege and is now 80.  Abu Hassan Mousa, head of Madaya opposition council sees no point in negotiating when children are going without milk.   “What are we going to negotiate over?” he demands.  “Our dead?”  The Syrian people went for months without aid.  In fact, the October was the last time aid was delivered to Madaya.

Seeing the crisis in Syria motivated me to get in touch with Julie Marshall, Canadian Spokesperson of the United Nations World Food Programme.  I wanted to know what people in Canada can do to help and this is what she had to say:

The good news is the first UN convoy will move to Madaya carrying food for 40,000 people for one month will set off as early as Sunday. On Monday, other convoys carrying food should move into the besieged towns of Foah and Kefraya in rural Idlib with WFP food for 20,000 people.  Non-food items, including medicine, specialist nutrition products, kitchen sets, blankets, winter clothing and other supplies will hopefully follow in the next few days.

The last humanitarian supplies reached Madaya on October 17 on an interagency convey – this was enough food to feed more than 19,000 people for one month. The convoy was a result of a locally negotiated agreement reached between the opposition and government to allow access to four besieged communities in Idlib and rural Damascus (Foah, Kefraya, Zabadani and Madaya). Since then, no food assistance or humanitarian supplies have reached these areas.
WFP provides food assistance to over 4 million people displaced inside Syria in both government and opposition-controlled areas every month.  And around 1.3 million refugees in neighbouring countries.

Canada has been one of WFP’s largest donors to our response in the region and we hope the extension of the matching funds, until the end of February will encourage Canadians to donate to organizations like WFP working in Syria.

Canadians can support WFP by donating here: https://give.wfp.org/en/629/?step=country
Also, we launched an app a few months ago called ShareTheMeal which makes it extremely easy to support our school meals for Syrian refugee school children living in Jordan.

It is extremely difficult to see babies starving.  And it upsets me when I see food go to waste when there are people starving everyday.  Let us do what we can to help the people in Syria.  Hunger is a terrible thing and something that we need to fight against.  The starvation in Syria is likened to warfare.  It’s like when Hitler starved the Russian people during the battle of Stalingrad.  Hunger is being used as a weapon to oppress the people and this cannot and should not be allowed to happen.  Let us help WFP and other humanitarian agencies to save the lives of the men, women and children in Syria.

Source:  CBC News; World Food Programme

World Toilet Day

2.4 billion People do not have adequate sanitation. 1 billion people still defecate in the open. Poor sanitation increases the risk of disease and malnutrition, especially for women and children. Women and girls risk rape and abuse, because they have no toilet that offers privacy – UN

Can you imagine not having a toilet in your home?  It is unthinkable for a woman.  Imagine having to go to the bathroom in the bushes.  What happens when you need to go in the night?  I wouldn’t be able to cope.  At night, I get up a couple of times to go to the bathroom which is conveniently next door to the bedroom.  In fact, there are three toilets in our home.  Many people have more than one toilet in their homes but in some parts of the world there are people who don’t even have access to a toilet.

I cringed as I read stories of people having to use woody areas as their toilets.  Read Piya’s story and try to imagine being in her shoes.  Unable to afford a proper bathroom you and your children have to hide yourselves in the woods to relieve yourselves.  Imagine how humiliating this would be for you.  If you have daughters, imagine how they would feel.  There is always that element of danger due to lack of privacy.  Then, think of how fortunate you are that you have a toilet in your home with a door you can lock when you want your privacy.

This year’s World Toilet Day will focus on the link between sanitation and nutrition. The aim is to make the world aware of the important role that toilets play in better nutrition and improved health.  According to the UN, lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation, along with the absence of good hygiene practices, are among the underlying causes of poor nutrition.

The aim of World Toilet Day is to raise awareness about the people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet, despite the fact that it is a human right to have clean water and sanitation – UN

On World Toilet Day, I encourage you to take action.  Talk to your children.  Tell them how important toilets are in protecting people from poor sanitation and health risks.  Talk to your friends, co-workers, neighbors, church members.   Raise awareness.  Get on social media and call for action by using the hashtags #WorldToiletDay and #UrgentRun.

Through Gospel for Asia you can provide a family with an outdoor toilet.  Find out how here.

You can join an Urgent Run.  Find an activity near where you live or work.  Get the word out that everyone, everywhere should have access to a clean, safe toilet and proper sanitation.  For women and children, having a clean toilet means better health, safety and dignity and so much more.

Your toilet is more important than you think – World Toilet Organization

Sources:  Gospel for AsiaUN; World Toilet

Street Children

Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive – Jeremiah 49:11

Usually before I retire for the night, I check on my son.  I make sure he’s nicely tugged in.   He has a home.  He has his own room.   He doesn’t have to take the bus to school.  His Dad drives him there.  He doesn’t have to worry about anything.  He is well cared for.  In fact, he has a lot to be thankful for.  He is living a life of luxury compared to other children.  There are children out there who would gladly trade places with him.  These children are “street children”.  Who are they?

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Street children are minors who live and survive on the streets. They often grow up in public landfills, train stations, our under the bridges of the world’s major cities – Humanium

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Why do they live on the streets?  There are several reasons such as family, poverty, abuse and war.  Economic, social and political factors can also play a role.

Children end up on the streets for a number of reasons, many of which are rooted in family instability and poverty.  In the region where we work, children most often leave home because they are fleeing instability or have been rejected and abandoned by their families for various reasons (disabilities, disease or disobedience).  Many of the children we have worked with have left their homes to flee domestic violence, abusive relatives or neglectful families.  Others have done so because their families live in severe economic distress, either in rural villages or city slums, and are unable to care for them – The Street Child Project

Life on the street is fraught with danger for these children. They are vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and sexual exploitation.  Some of them end up in gangs.  This is heartbreaking because all these children want is a better life–something they didn’t have at home.

…the most vulnerable are those who actually sleep and live on the streets, hiding under bridges, in gutters, in railway stations.  While they may have small jobs such as shoe-shining or market-selling to pull through, may also end up dying on the pavement, victims of drugs, gang rivalry and disease.  Without some form of basic education and economic training, the future is bleak for these street children and their life expectancy terrifyingly low – Unesco

Poor nutrition is another problem street children face.  They can’t get food because they don’t have money.  And those who can buy something to eat, they choose unhealthy foods such as ice cream, cakes.  Since they don’t have access to sanitary facilities they are often dirty and infested with fleas.  Lack of hygiene makes them susceptible to diseases.

wish I had my mother or father with me, Nandi thought, weeping in the corner of the room. They would have never allowed anybody to beat me like that.

Nandi is a little boy who never knew his real parents.  He was adopted but his adoptive parents treated him like a servant and beat him.  They got angry when he called them “mother and father”.  I can’t begin to imagine what life must have been like for this child.  He longed for his real parents, believing that they would never allow anyone to mistreat him.  He longed for their love and protection.  As parents, we are responsible not only for raising our children, teaching them and disciplining them but we are supposed to love and protect them.  They should feel safe at home.  Nandi didn’t experience love, protection or security.  All he knew was unkindness, abuse and forced labor.  Unable to take the abuse any longer, he decided to run away and boarded a train to a big city.

We know that a big city is no place for a child.  Not surprisingly, Nandi soon ended up begging at the roadside all day long.  Like Oliver Twist, Nandi met his Fagan.  This man took the money Nandi got for begging and in exchange, gave him little food.  When Nandi didn’t want to do this any more, the man became incensed and beat him.  The next day when Nandi again refused to beg, the man beat another boy in front of him.  His will broken and gripped by fear, Nandi obeyed.  God would have to intervene and He did in an unexpected way.

Nandi was crossing the street one night when a car ran over his foot.  A police officer rushed over to where the injured boy was and took him to a hospital.  Nandi stayed in the hospital for more than six months, recuperating.   He had a visitor–a woman who asked him if he wanted to go to a children’s home.  Initially, Nandi refused because he was afraid .  New people and places intimidated him. However, when he saw how kind she was, he changed his mind and she took him to Gospel for Asia’s home for abandoned and runaway boys.

It took a while for Nandi to get used to being there.  During his first days there, he was overwhelmed by the new faces and structured lifestyle.  He broke down in tears and was comforted by the staff members. They assured him, “Don’t worry, because we are here like your mother and father.”  What a change from the life he had known before then.  While he had been with his adoptive parents, he had craved parental love and here he was receiving it from strangers.  The women brought him food and medicine when he wasn’t able to move around much because he was still recovering from his operation.  They stayed with him at night when he couldn’t sleep.  Much like a mother stays with her child until he or she falls asleep. The love of these people touched this little boy’s heart.  Maybe a mother or father would do the same things these sisters are doing, he thought.  Through the loving care of these women, God revealed Himself to a child who had been starved of love all his life.

That accident was God’s way of getting Nandi off the streets and putting him in a place where he would be cared for and receive a good education and learn about Jesus.   Now, Nandi wants to serve Jesus by singing.

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you – Isaiah 66:13

Manjulika’s life was much different from Nandi’s.  She knew her parents.  She and her sisters lived with them.  One day, Manjulika’s world was turned upside down.  She woke up to learn that her mother was dead.  She had died in the hospital.  From that moment on, Manjulika became a mother to her younger sisters.  Their father worked long hours as a rickshaw driver.  He would go home drunk and sometimes he beat them.   As Manjulika struggled to raise her siblings, she thought of her mother and how she had done so much for them.   She missed her.  She missed her mother’s love and care, especially as she and her sisters didn’t receive any love from their father.  In fact, he had no problem letting the government take them to a Gospel for Asia home for at-risk girls. The girls would soon come to know another Father. One who loves them.

The moment Manjulika walked into Gospel for Asia’s home for abandoned girls, she knew that she was in the right place.  This was a place where she would receive love and care.  She was no longer burdened with the responsibility of raising her siblings.  She had help.  The staff was there to provide for their needs.  They got food, school supplies and clothes.  And most importantly, they received the kind of love they had once received from their mother.   The staff was like a mother to the girls.  They sat with Manjulika whenever she got sick and helped her to eat.  They celebrated her birthday.  Manjulika had never had a birthday party before.  The staff enrolled her in a good school and helped her with her homework.  Things were looking up.

Manjulika thinks about her mother again but this time it is without sadness.  “These sisters care for us, and they meet all our needs.   If my mother were alive, she too would have done the same things the sisters are doing to me.”  She is again experiencing the kind of love she once had when her mother was alive and missed when she died.

He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing – Deuteronomy 10:18

Today, Manujika wants to be a teacher and share her knowledge with children.  She also wants to tell others about Jesus.  She wants them to know that he loves them regardless of their background.

Nandi and Manujika had happy endings to their stories but there are children out there who are still living on the streets and in danger of exploitation, drugs, violence and premature death.  Please lift them up in prayer.  Pray that God will intervene in their lives as He did with Nandi and Manujika and take them off the streets.  Children are precious in His sight.  They deserve to have quality life.  They deserve to have a bright future.  They deserve to have love, protection, care, education and knowledge of Jesus.

Learn more about Gospel for Asia’s Street Children Ministry and how you can make a difference.

For in You the fatherless finds mercy – Hosea 14:3

Sources:  Gospel for AsiaWikipedia;  Humanium; The Street Child Project; Unesco

Women’s Literacy = Women’s Liberty

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
Kofi Annan

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015 was an important day for lots of parents and their children. It was an important day for my family.  It was my son’s first day back to school. This year he will be in grade 2 . It was wonderful seeing parents and their kids filing into the school. The halls were crowded and noisy as we squeezed our way to the gym where the children were to line up before heading to the auditorium for the greeting and morning prayer. As I looked at the children in their uniforms, I thought of how what a blessing it is to be able to go to school.

September 8 was an important day for another reason. It was International Literacy Day, a day first proclaimed as such on November 17, 1965 by UNESCO. It was first celebrated in 1966 and its objective has always been to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. The theme for this year was Literacy and Sustainable Societies and the Day marked the 50th anniversary of the World Congress of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy. It is a day when the world is reminded of how important learning is.

International Literacy Day gives children and communities a chance to rediscover the joys of reading while raising awareness for those without access to education.

Can you imagine being a mother and unable to read your child’s school report or help him with his homework because you can’t read or write?  What if you couldn’t read the Bible or a bedtime story to your child or a Mother’s Day or birthday card?  Sadly, there are women in South Asia who can’t read or write.  Can you believe that over 30% of Asian women are illiterate? In fact, more than one out of every three women in Asia are illiterate!

There is hope, thanks to Gospel for Asia’s Literacy Program.  Through literacy classes held by GFA supported local Women’s Fellowships, women are learning how to read, write, do basic math, some of life’s most basic lessons, and, most importantly, they are learning how to read and study God’s Word on their own.  What a joy it must be to be able to read about a loving God and a Savior who gave His life for them.  And better yet, they can read to their children.

So women volunteered to teach literacy classes to other women. The program expanded into several states and two countries, so a standardized curriculum was developed.

In this day and age, it is hard to believe that there are so many people who still cannot read or write.  Last year, Gospel for Asia supported the work of missionaries who saw International Literacy Day as an opportunity to raise awareness of the value of women’s literacy and to share the Gospel.

Gospel for Asia literacy imageI rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure – Psalm 119:162

Do you want to bring hope to women by helping to make it possible for them to read and study God’s Word?  Find out how you can do so here.  Reading and writing are basic necessities of life that everyone should have.  Women who learn how to read, write and do basic Math will be able to provide for their families.  You will be helping a woman to keep her children safe because she can read the warning labels or from being cheated at the marketplace because she knows basic Math.  Think of how different your life would be if you couldn’t read your Bible, recipes, emails or letters.  Then think of the freedom you enjoy from being literate and how you can help to liberate these women too.

Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens President Bill Clinton on International Literacy Day, September 8th 1994

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia, International Literacy Day, UNESCO