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Flash floods devastate India and Nepal

News From Lutheran World Relief - Thu, 08/17/2017 - 09:11

Heavy rains, flooding and landslides that began on August 11 have claimed lives, destroyed crops and displaced families in India and Nepal. Lutheran World Relief is responding with $100,000 in immediate aid to families.

While the full extent of the damage, and its impact, remains to be seen, here’s what we know right now:

  • More than 17.5 million people are affected by the flooding and mudslides
  • More than a million people are displaced from their homes
  • More than 400 people have been reported dead or missing in Nepal and India
  • 2,881 homes have been partially or completely destroyed in Nepal

This disaster also submerged crops in Nepal’s fertile southern rim, threatening to drive thousands of people into hunger.

Our local staff and partners on the ground report that families urgently need ready-to-eat food, essential household items, support for housing and livelihood support for families who lost everything they own in the floods.

LWR is responding

Lutheran World Relief is focusing its immediate response on short-term food rations for families:

  • In Nepal, LWR is providing food to an initial 1,650 families in the Bardiya and Narawparasi districts, two of three districts where it has been working with local partners and rural residents.
  • In India, we are reaching families with emergency shelter and essential non-food items in 19 villages throughout Bihar state, where we have existing projects.
Please help

Your gift today will reach families affected by these devastating floods with food assistance and other life-sustaining relief.

Ali grows vegetables from sands of Sahara desert

News From Lutheran World Relief - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 08:45

Ali Forach fled conflict in Mali and has been living in Mberra refugee camp in Mauritania since 2012. “When I arrived, there was nothing here,” Ali recalls. “From here to the horizon only hills of sand.”

Now, he is growing peanuts and watermelons in a place where the desert heat can reach 120 degrees during the day. Ali is one of nearly 5,000 people — from the camp and the local community — learning how to start crop nurseries and grow seedlings, prepare and use organic fertilizer, and irrigate even with the meager water reserves in the Sahara.

The water is pumped from deep below ground using solar-powered pumps and delivered directly to the roots of the crops using drip irrigation. Ali and his neighbors learned all of this from farmer field schools (demonstration plots where they could observe techniques) and mentoring from fellow farmers.

Photo courtesy Lutheran World Federation

Where there was sand before, more than 75 acres of garden plots have sprung up in the camp and surrounding villages. And with more gardens comes more food, easing tension with the local community when food can be scarce. The ripple effect of this incredible project — implemented in partnership with Lutheran World Federation — is reaching 50,000 PEOPLE in and around Mberra refugee camp.

Ali says he hopes to continue using what he’s learned when he is able to return to his homeland. “I plan to rebuild my life in Mali,” he says. “I will bring what I have learned here and share it with others.”

Clean Water Means Better Coffee and a Better Life for Fabian and Luzdela

News From Lutheran World Relief - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 13:35

Fabian Ospina Florez and his wife, Luzdela, grow and process coffee on about 5 acres in the town of Manzanares in Colombia. And they’ve improved the quality of their coffee and their life thanks, in large part, to cleaner water.

Like so many coffee farmers in this country known for its high-quality coffee, Fabian and Luzdela struggled to earn a good, steady income from their coffee. They also didn’t know that their methods of processing coffee were negatively affecting their land, creating a cycle of ever-diminishing coffee quality.

Waste water from coffee processing, combined with household waste water, was causing contamination of the soil and fresh water in the region. You’re helping Fabian and Luzdela, their neighbors and surrounding communities to learn environmentally-friendly farming methods so they are able to continue to rely on coffee to feed and support their families.

An important part of this work includes installing and repairing systems so that waste water from the coffee production process does not contaminate the fresh water supply. Farmers also received improved equipment for processing coffee that requires less water and produces less waste.

And at home, families now have sinks, toilets, and septic systems that decontaminate waste water before it goes back into the environment. “Before the new septic system, contaminated water would flow into a stream where the river passes to neighbors downstream. Now the septic system decontaminates the water,” Fabian says.

Fabian is proud of what he’s accomplished — earning more for his coffee — and proud of his farm. He considers it both his home and his legacy. “The dream I have is to stay here on my farm and finish my house. I want to live until I am old and I want to die here on my farm.”

Luisito’s Community Can Flourish With New Water System

News From Lutheran World Relief - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 13:05

Luisito Turtor is using a mud boat to prepare his land for rice planting. He’s able to do this because of a new water system in his community and pumps that carry the water to his thirsty fields. With a better water supply, his family is healthier too.

Luisito and his family live in Agusan del Sur, a landlocked province in Mindanao, in the southern Philippines.

People in this region — especially children — struggle with malnutrition. Natural disasters, changing weather patterns, internal conflicts and other factors have contributed to a severe lack of economic opportunity here. Many families cannot grow or earn enough to feed their households year-round.

Luisito, like many people in this area, grows rice to support his family. A good rice harvest requires rain, but the El Niño weather phenomenon caused stretches of drought that left his fields dry and his family hungry.

Thanks to your generosity, six new community water systems are helping families in several different ways. Farmers like Luisito are able to use pumps to get water to their fields to continue planting and harvesting rice. The improved access to water is also helpful to women, who are often tasked with fetching water for their households. With water more easily accessible, mothers spend more time growing nutritious vegetables and learning new ways to prepare them to help combat childhood malnutrition.

Families participating in this project saw an increase in income of 25 percent, and a reduction in childhood malnutrition of more than 84 percent.

Thank you for providing water and reducing childhood malnutrition in the Philippines!

Help families in Haiti recover from disaster and move forward

News From Lutheran World Relief - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 16:46

Etrenine lives in Haiti, where she and her family depend on their crops to have enough to eat. Even before Hurricane Matthew’s 100-mile-per-hour winds, flooding and mudslides wreaked havoc on the small island nation in October 2016, this family was struggling to get by. Then the storm destroyed most of Etrenine’s crops and they were left with little food — and no way to make a living.

Your gift to Lutheran World Relief today will transform the lives of families like Etrenine’s.

Give today!

Thanks to generous people like you, emergency supplies were rushed to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew. Plus, your gifts provided Etrenine with seeds and agricultural training so she could quickly replant her garden plots. Soon she was growing enough food to eat — and enough to sell some, so she could afford to send her two school-aged children to school.

(Allison Shelley, for LWR)


Thank you for your compassion for those lifting themselves out of poverty and recovering from crises. Your continued support will make a long-term impact on the lives of hungry and hurting families.

Please give a gift today to help families like Etrenine’s
survive and learn how to prepare for the next catastrophe.

Guatemala cacao project gives youth a path forward

News From Lutheran World Relief - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 16:20

I recently had a chance to visit one of our newest projects in Guatemala where we are expanding our regional expertise in cocoa and coffee. The project I went to see focuses on the production and sale of high quality cocoa by small-scale indigenous farmers. It is located in northern Guatemala in a region known as Alta Verapaz or “high true peace.”

Compared to many areas of the country, this community has been spared much of the horrifying and widespread violence of the Guatemalan civil war that raged in the ’80s and ’90s. Outward migration and the gang violence that now plague much of Guatemala have not yet taken hold in most of the rural communities where this project is taking place. So in many ways there is still much hope for a sustainable future for these communities, especially if the youth see opportunities to break the cycle of poverty. And that’s just what we are working with our partner, FUNDESISTEMAS, to do.

Breathing new life into old cacao trees

Our journey to Cahabon took us up a long, curvy dirt road along lush green mountains, across a river in a small wooden boat, and then a short hike up a hillside of cocoa trees. At the top of that hillside were a dozen teenagers busy grafting healthy varieties of cocoa onto the older trees. They were intensely focused on the task at hand and only briefly looked up with a smile at their visitors. When I approached one of the teenagers – Shirley Marbely Reyul, a 15-year-old from Cohaban – I could see why the intensity.

A young person participating in the cocoa project grafts a portion of a healthy cacao tree onto an older tree.


The task requires taking small, thin branches cut from healthy trees and attaching them to low yielding trees by carving a small slice in the bark of the old tree into which the new branch is carefully slid. Shirley then carefully wrapped what looked like plastic wrap around the grafted branch to protect it from heavy rain. She would remove the plastic wrap in the next 15-20 days once the branch was well affixed to the tree. If all goes well, that little branch will quickly grow and produce many more cocoa flowers and pods then the older host tree — and in much less time than planting a sapling. Shirley walked to the next tree where she continued her painstaking work, as did her peers around her.

Connecting youth to opportunities LWR Latin America Regional Director Carolyn Barker-Villena poses with some young women participating in the cocoa project.

When FUNDESISTEMAS first approached Cahabon about the project, they initially didn’t anticipate they would get a lot of interest in cocoa training from the youth. So they were surprised when more than double the expected number of teenagers in Cahabon and the other communities signed up for the training program. I asked Shirley why she wanted to learn about cocoa and she said she knew it would help her parents and also she hoped that with more money on the farm, she could continue her studies. The teenagers in the cocoa field that morning were heading to their high school classes, which start after lunch in Cahabon, so the training in cocoa is an extracurricular activity for them. But after high school there are limited opportunities for more schooling, and in many other communities, high school isn’t even an option.

Just as Shirley talked about helping her parents, the adults in Cahabon said they saw the training as important because they want to invest in their children and in their community’s future. In many ways, just as with the care and hope given to that small branch grafted onto the older tree, the cocoa training program also seeks to cultivate youth who will grow hope and prosperity for their communities in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.


Asking the Right Questions: Inside an LWR Project Evaluation

News From Lutheran World Relief - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 13:10

This spring, various organizations were invited to participate in the final evaluations of our Learning for Gender Integration (LGI) initiative. In the below blog post (originally posted on the ACDI/VOCA website), gender and youth specialist Morgan Mercer shares her experience of the LGI-Nicaragua final evaluation and what she takes away from participating.

As a member of ACDI/VOCA’s gender team—and throughout my career—I’ve conducted formative research and evaluations in many places. I’ve enjoyed helping projects understand why certain project interventions work well and how they can improve their impact on participants.

But the issues projects faced were often too complex or interrelated to prove a clear cause and effect relationship. How did I know positive gender outcomes resulted from specific project interventions? What if project participants just told me gender roles had improved because they knew it was what I want to hear to make the project continue? In short, I needed better methods!

Balvino talks about how he takes on more household chores.

Through a Program Improvement Award, funded by USAID’s Technical and Operational Performance Support (TOPS) Program and secured by Lutheran World Relief (LWR), I was invited to help conduct a final evaluation of LWR’s Learning for Gender Integration (LGI) Initiative in Nicaragua. Cultural Practice led the design of the evaluation using two, participatory methodologies to capture changes in food security and gender inequalities: Most Significant Change (MSC) and Photovoice (PV).

I soon learned that MSC is a bottom-up process of generating narratives of change brought about by a project, whereas PV is a participatory action research (PAR) method of empowering participants to identify and solve problems in their communities using photography and oral narratives.

Balvino uses a camera for the first time.

In Nicaragua, I watched as Balvino Gonzales, a project participant, pursed his lips in deep concentration as he fiddled with his camera. He would later tell me it was his (and many others’) first time using one. Balvino’s vibrant photos and engaging stories brought me into his world and helped me understand the pride he felt in the changes he and his wife had made because of the project’s gender sensitization, like him taking on more household chores to allow his wife to expand her fishery.


Elida tells her story of empowerment.

Another powerful moment occurred when Elida Ochoa, a project participant, pointed to a self-portrait of her looking squarely and defiantly into the camera. The photograph symbolized how far she had come—from a disengaged, angry person to an empowered leader. Elida beautifully described the messy, complex, and non-linear process of what becoming empowered looked like for her, using the self-portrait to express herself. ADDAC, the local implementer of the LGI Initiative, selected Elida’s story as one of the most significant changes they witnessed. At this, Elida beamed quietly, and I sat back in disbelief at how seamlessly the overlapping perspectives contributed to an equitable analysis for the evaluation.

Despite my preparation, I did not realize the truly transformative nature of these interactive methodologies until I saw them in practice. As gender practitioners, our work is often characterized by complex and non-linear changes to power structures to create more equal opportunities and benefits among men, women, boys, and girls. To measure how we are doing, we need evaluation tools that embrace complexity and reinforce equity.

Now I can’t wait to apply these new tools to ACDI/VOCA projects. What other tools do you use to promote equitable, participatory, and complexity-aware program evaluations?

Help families like Mary’s recover and fight back drought

News From Lutheran World Relief - Wed, 06/21/2017 - 09:00

Mary and her young children live in rural Kenya. She grows eggplant and okra on her farm. But feeding her hungry family has been a desperate struggle when the rains don’t arrive on time in this seasonally dry land.

For the past few years, Kenya and surrounding regions have been facing terrible droughts. And when the seasonal rains finally do come, violent storms often cause devastating floods. Your gift today can help families like Mary’s find stability and build self-sufficiency.

I want to help!

Right now, some areas in Kenya have been declared a national disaster due to this drought crisis. But thanks to supporters like you, Lutheran World Relief helped Mary’s community dig a borehole to get lifesaving irrigation water. Solar-powered pumps store the water in tanks, so Mary can grow crops even when the dry weather returns. “I have benefitted a lot from the project,” she says.

Mary stands in her garden as water is directed from a borehole into channels dug into her land.

With the new borehole in place, Mary gets her turn to use water on her farm every 10 days. She can now harvest enough to sell and pay for school fees, clothing for her family and food items they don’t grow themselves.

Reach out to families coping with drought with long-lasting solutions today!

What is World Refugee Day?

News From Lutheran World Relief - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 15:32

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me. I assure you, as often as you did it for the least among you, you did it for me.”

— Matthew 25:35-40


According to the UNHCR, an unprecedented 65.3 million have been forced from their homes to escape war, persecution, terror, or disasters. That’s one in every 113 persons.

For rough comparison, that’s more than the entire population of the state of California (40 million, according to the U.S. Census).

And of the 65.3 million displaced persons, 21.3 million are refugees. That’s more than the population of Texas (27.8 million). More than half of those are under the age of 18.

June 20 is World Refugee Day (June 20th), a day to recognize the plight of refugees around the world, and work toward long-term solutions for them.

Refugees are victims of violence but, more importantly, they are also the strongest voices for peaceful solutions and a loud call to put our faith into action.

This year’s World Refugee Day is focused on:
  • Ensuring every refugee child gets an education.
  • Ensuring every refugee family has somewhere safe to live.
  • Ensuring every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community.
Ahmad and his family received Kits in Lebanon (ANERA).

Governments and international communities of humanitarian organizations, churches, concerned individuals and businesses are working hard to adapt to this new reality of mass displacement. The Middle East and Africa hosts 68 percent of the world’s displaced people (UNHCR).

Various Lutheran churches and organizations each play important roles in the life of refugees. LWR is working with local partners to:

In Mauritania, refugees from Mali and local farmers now know how to grow vegetables in the sands of the Sahara. In fact, the refugee camps now have a flourishing vegetable market where even locals come to shop. LWR is also working in Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda to respond to the East Africa Drought and Famine emergency. Together, Jordan and Lebanon hosts 1.69 million refugees (UNHCR). LWR is working with local partners in host countries, like Jordan and Lebanon, to offer workshops to refugees on starting their own businesses. And of course, your ongoing response making Quilts and Kits is inspirational and goes so far to provide crucial supplies and comfort.

A refugee farm in the Sahara.

In a world where our positions drives the violence that forces families to flee from their stricken communities, supporting refugees reaffirms the values of humanity and love that motivates us and is bestow upon all of us.

Graceful Quilters Deliver 5,000th LWR Mission Quilt

News From Lutheran World Relief - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 14:04

On January 10, 2017, Art and Roxann Perella made the 2-hour drive from Hockessin, Delaware to New Windsor, Maryland to deliver their quilting group’s 5,000th LWR Mission Quilt.

The pair was delivering on behalf of the Graceful Quilters from Grace Lutheran Church – a group they founded back in 2001. In fact, their very first formal quilting day was September 11.

These days, about 15 people regularly gather on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month to tie and bind quilts. The majority of their materials are donated by the congregation. Much of the work on tops is done at home. Art and another member, Charlie Hufnal, take care of the binding while the rest of the group ties.

The Graceful Quilters average about one quilt per day, donating more than 350 quilts each year! By the end of 2016, they had completed 5,017 quilts since they started the group. To celebrate, there was a special quilt blessing, cake, and Art compiled a few fun facts to help congregation members understand the significance of 5,000 quilts:

  • 5,000 quilts will cover 3 1/2 football fields.
  • The 5,000 quilts made by the Graceful Quilters used 30 miles of fabric – all donated!
  • The average quilt made by the Graceful Quilters weighs 4 pounds. 5,000 quilts weigh 10 tons – that’s equivalent to about six cars.

Thanks to Art’s careful planning, LWR staff were able to meet the Graceful Quilters at our warehouse in Maryland and celebrate this special milestone. Roxann and Art even brought the group’s record book (pictured), which documents the very earliest days of the quilt group.

One of the biggest questions always in the minds of the group is: who is getting these quilts? Thanks to the Quilt & Kit Tracker, we were able to see that their 5,000th quilt traveled to India, where it will be a bright, beautiful reminder to one of our struggling neighbors that they are not alone. Now that’s grace.

The Unstoppable Dottie Chidester

News From Lutheran World Relief - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 13:49

Last year I had the chance to visit the quilting group at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, in Wilmington, Delaware, where I met Dottie Chidester – a 91-year-old woman on a mission!

“Dottie has kept this group going,” says good friend Fran Dixon. “She’s the kind of person who doesn’t like to sit around, she likes to be doing things and especially things that help others.”

Indeed, during my visit, it was hard to get Dottie to stop and tell me about herself! Instead, she was eager to talk about the quilting group – what they are able to accomplish, how everyone helps, and about the fine-tuned system they use to produce so many quilts each year.

All the fabric and materials are donated, Dottie explained. “We even sometimes get things donated anonymously,” she says. The group meets the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at around 9 a.m. They work until about 11:30 a.m., taking a break in the middle for devotions, prayer and announcements.

While they are together, the group works on two main tasks: laying out quilt squares and tying quilts. The squares go to volunteers to sew together, either at home or at sewing machines at the church. The tied quilts also go with volunteers to be finished. Dottie herself sews quilt tops on one of her three sewing machines at home. She works on quilts almost every day and has for years.

A no-nonsense leader, Dottie likes to make the most of quilting time. As she moved around the room helping various volunteers, she told me that the quilting group was started in 1998, by another Dottie – a member by the name of Dottie Patterson. The group began after Patterson found information on quilting for LWR and shared it with their church women’s circle, which was looking for service opportunities. Everyone liked the idea and so they decided to give it a go!

Nowadays, between 10 and 16 people regularly attend the quilting group, including folks who aren’t members of the church. Last year, the group sewed 118 quilts. The group estimates they’ve finished more than 1,400 quilts since the group began. Most of them get delivered to LWR’s warehouse in New Windsor, Md., where they are combined with quilts from other congregations and shipped to places around the world by LWR. The group also uses their quilts to support relief efforts in the U.S.

The ministry has drawn many people from across the congregation – including a few men who perform various tasks, such as cutting quilt squares and helping to deliver finished quilts to the warehouse for shipping abroad.

Members of the group cherish it as a place to come together, socialize and be with friends. “We just have such a grand time together!” says Arlene Steigler, another regular group member.

According to Fran Dixon, a lot of that momentum is thanks to Dottie’s warm personality and passion for service. “The first time I ever met Dottie,” she shares, “I remember thinking ‘I want to get to know her better!’ She’s one of the most generous, caring people I know.”

Recently Dottie had to stop attending the quilting days because of an injury. While she hopes to come back soon, that still hasn’t stopped her from moving the group forward! She still has her three sewing machines, and she’s still sewing quilt tops to send in to the group to tie.

Meanwhile, the group gathers twice a month, happily putting their hopes and prayers for people in need into every stitch. On the day I visited, it was clear that the sentiment expressed by Arlene Steigler is felt across the group. “I’ll tell you this,” she said. “We get a lot more out of our group than just making quilts!”

Ready, Set, Summer Service Projects!

News From Lutheran World Relief - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 13:33

As I write this article, my young neighbors are running, dancing, biking, and scooting their way home from their last half-day of school for the year. Though the official first day of summer is June 21, I’m fairly certain there’s nothing I could say to convince them that it doesn’t start today!

While the school year winds down, youth, family, and children’s education staff and volunteers at churches across the country are kicking into high gear for Vacation Bible School. Congregations are taking many different approaches to this time of education, fellowship, and fun – from a traditional week of day camp for young children to intergenerational evening sessions, folks of all ages will gather together to deepen their faith, get to know one another better, and, in many cases, reach out beyond themselves in service.

In fact, if you or others at your congregation are looking for meaningful projects to tie in to your summer activities, there’s still time to coordinate to make Kits of Care! Here are some tips for preparing your service component:

  1. Order one of LWR’s FREE kit-focused resources to help frame your project.
    1. Servant of All: A Year of Kits with LWR – celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with a service project! This resource includes instructions, Bible studies, games, and a Reformation connection for each of Personal Care, School, and Baby Care Kits. Great for all ages!
    2. Personal Care Kit Leader Guide – Additional tools, games, Bible studies, and resources specific to Personal Care Kits. Best for middle school and up.
    3. School Kits Youth Leader Guide – These kits are perfect for summertime, when school supplies are deeply discounted. This guide includes activities, Bible studies, and resources for School Kit assemblies. Best for middle school and up.
  2. Consider sourcing your supplies in bulk. You can save money and ensure that you have the right number of each item so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute for an extra 10 pairs of nail clippers or boxes of crayons. While a Google search will help you find what you need, here are a few sites we’ve used in the past and had good experiences with:
    1. All Together Diaper – a good source for Baby Care Kits items, All Together Diaper has a special humanitarian and charitable projects section and discounts.
    2. – one of the best sources of sturdy combs we’ve ever found.
    3. The Charity Source – a good source for Personal Care Kit items like toothbrushes and clippers. Make sure you order in plenty of time, as sometimes shipping takes a while.
    4. Bath Linens for Less – towels in all colors in the perfect size and weight! Look for 20” x 40” Prism Bath Towels. You can order by the dozen.
    5. Discount School Supply – though summer sales are often hard-to-beat, this is a one-stop shop for most of your School Kit needs.
    6. Drawstring backpacks – you can get great quality bags AND know that your purchase is helping the craftspeople who make them through Fair Trade. Bags are available from SERRV and Motif. Call first to make sure the bags are available in your time frame.
  3. Involve the whole congregation! If you have time, ask members of your congregation to support your project through donations of supplies or money to purchase supplies, or to support the Quilt & Kit Shipping Fund. Invite everyone to join your Vacation Bible School group for a special evening or Saturday kit assembly time.

Kit service projects are a wonderful way to bring our global community to life. Track your kits to their destination, and you have a built-in reason to follow-up with your VBS participants and congregation and a way to learn more about our sisters and brothers around the world.

Is your congregation planning a service project this summer? Tell us about it! Email your story and pictures to Thank you for your partnership in this ministry!

Decades later, a former refugee remembers his quilt

News From Lutheran World Relief - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:30

By all accounts, Pastor Del Akech Del has lived an extraordinary life so far. As a member of the refugee group that came to be known as the Lost Boys of Sudan, he lost family members, fled from civil war, and sought refuge in two different countries before coming to the United States as a refugee in 2001.

“I fled the country with other Lost Boys because of the war in South Sudan that broke out in 1983 between Muslim Arabs in the North and Christians in South Sudan,” explains Del, who now serves as interim pastor at St. Christopher Lutheran Church in Lykens, PA. “There were many life-threatening challenges on the way to Ethiopia, but I made it safely even though some relatives and friends died in the desert.”

Listening to his story, and all that he’s gone through, you might be surprised to know that one seemingly small act of kindness still stands out in his mind to this day – while in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, Del Akech Del received the gift of a quilt.

When Del arrived in Ethiopia in 1987, he says and the other Lost Boys lacked many of the most basic necessities of life. “I spent about six months with other Lost Boys of Sudan without food or clothes,” he says. “But most importantly, there were no blankets to keep me warm when it was cool at night.”

A few months later, Del recalls, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees delivered supplies. And with those supplies came very special gifts. “You may be surprised when I tell you this, but the quilts you spend hours putting together saved millions of lives in refugee camps around the globe.”

Pastor Del saw those quilts used in a variety of ways. “Women used them as skirts because there were no sewing machines at that time,” he says. Some people used them as blankets for their beds and even, Del says, as protection against malaria-bearing mosquitoes. “That didn’t work well, though, because it was hard to breathe under the quilt.”

We already know that a well-padded quilt is useful to refugees who very often face harsh weather conditions. Pastor Del also recalls that the thickness of the quilt determined how it was used. “If a quilt was double, two people would share it. If it was triple, three would share it,” says Del, meaning that if a quilt had double or triple batting, it was shared between more than one person.

In 2001, Del came to the United States as a refugee, but long before that he began worshipping God and sharing the story of Jesus with others. Once in the United States, he led worship for fellow Sudanese refugees and eventually connected with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) through which he became an ordained pastor, completed seminary and eventually got his Master of Divinity degree. He now serves several communities, including the Sudanese refugee community of the Lancaster area.

Pastor Del uses his life story as a testimony to God’s grace, and fondly recalls that quilt, given to him so long ago, as one of many blessings he’s received along the way. “God is always present in our lives regardless of life struggles and setbacks. I always share my story and remind my church members about my hard-earned life experiences. I believe God knows everything we lack and in God’s time His response to our prayers is always right.”

A Colorful Story of Repurposing

News From Lutheran World Relief - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:24

We have been so delighted to see the many creative tips, tricks, and wonderful stories shared by quilters and kit-makers who have completed the Quilt & Kit survey in recent months! Below is one of those stories – enjoy! Share YOUR story today!

September, 2015: At First Lutheran Church in DeKalb, Ill., Sharon Wadle, Jan Womack and Jan Rhodes spent their summer sewing 140 backpacks, while many members of the congregation set about collecting back-to-school items. At the end of the summer, the sewing team finished their work, the congregation youth filled the backpacks, and Sharon and her friends were finally able to relax!

Or so they thought.

Not long after, they were presented with a new challenge. Phyllis Franzene, one of Sharon’s friends, came to her one day and said, “I have a parachute that our family is no longer using. Sharon, I think you could make backpacks out of it.” Sharon’s first thought? “Please, not now. I don’t need another challenge!”

The parachute used to make 46 waterproof, lightweight backpacks for LWR School Kits

But come late winter when she unfolded the beautiful, multi-colored parachute, the joy of creativity kicked in. A month later, she’d constructed 46 backpacks out of the perfect, waterproof, lightweight fabric. Sharon’s new perspective on the project came in the form of a prayer: “Thank you God for giving us this vision and opportunity to reuse fabric and cord for a new, life supporting, wonderful purpose.”

Introducing LWR Farmers Market Coffee

News From Lutheran World Relief - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 06:00

Through your generous gifts to Lutheran World Relief, you support coffee farmers around the world by helping them improve their coffee crops, business skills, and quality of life.

And now there’s another way to directly connect with coffee farmers through Lutheran World Relief.

We’re excited to launch LWR Farmers Market Coffee — a line of coffee sourced directly from farmers participating in LWR coffee projects. Every delicious cup helps transform poor communities that depend on their coffee crop to feed their families. Farmers are given a stable, predictable, and higher price upfront for their beans.

With LWR Farmers Market Coffee, farmers aren’t just suppliers of coffee beans, they are partners in the coffee business — and because this coffee is sourced directly from LWR project participants, you will see the faces and learn the stories of the actual farmers who grow your coffee. And 80 cents of every pound you purchase goes back into LWR projects to benefit more farmers around the world!

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How does it work?

LWR is producing Farmers Market Coffee in partnership with THRIVE Farmers, a coffee roaster who shares our passion for helping farmers lift themselves out of poverty, and become self-sufficient and better able to support their families.

Meet the Farmers!

These are just a few of the hardworking coffee farmers of the SOPPEXCCA coffee cooperative, in Nicaragua, who grow beans for LWR Farmers Market Coffee. Lutheran World Relief has worked with SOPPEXCCA for several years, helping farmers diversify their crops, use natural resources more efficiently, and improve the quality of their coffee. As a result of this work, supported by gifts from people just like you, farmers now have access to better equipment to process their coffee, knowledge of how to protect their environment, and the ability to grow cocoa in addition to coffee as a means of income.

Thank you for supporting LWR coffee farmers! Take a moment to get to know a few of the farmers who grow the beans for LWR Farmers Market Coffee.

Gustavo Adolfo Talavera Herrera

“I am proud that my coffee allows me to support my children.” (Photo: Made Known Pictures, for LWR) Jose Martinez Flores “Each one of my sons has a piece of land that they own. They can harvest it themselves because they own it.” (Photo: Made Known Pictures, for LWR) Abelino Jose Harrera “Coffee is a noble crop because it is in high demand and is difficult to raise.” (Photo: Made Known Pictures, for LWR)

LWR Farmers Market: Meet Abelino

News From Lutheran World Relief - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 05:55

LWR Farmers Market Coffee is a new line of coffee sourced directly from farmers participating in Lutheran World Relief projects. Every delicious cup helps transform poor communities that depend on their coffee crop to feed their families. Farmers are given a stable, predictable, and higher price upfront for their beans. With LWR Farmers Market Coffee, farmers aren’t just suppliers of coffee beans, they are partners in the coffee business.

Order LWR Farmers Market Coffee!

Before Abelino got up to speak to us about his coffee, he made the sign of the cross on himself. What he was about to share was sacred to him.

“Coffee is a noble crop,” he told our staff. “Because it is in high demand and it is difficult to raise.”

Indeed, growing coffee has not been easy for Abelino, or any of the other farmers in his cooperative, SOPPEXCCA, in Nicaragua.

He’s lived in his community for 27 years and remembers that in the past it was much easier to grow coffee than it is now. There weren’t as many plant diseases, he explains, and the weather was more stable. These days, it can be hard for farmers like him to make a living with coffee without the proper knowledge. “Our coffee plantation was one of the best, but today its very difficult,” he says.

But that’s been changing, thanks to people like you who make it possible for Lutheran World Relief to work with SOPPEXCCA to improve farmers’ crops and income. With training, Abelino and other farmers have learned how to start coffee tree seedlings in nurseries, to properly prune and maintain trees, and even how to control pests without using chemicals.

Abelino takes almost as much pride in his coffee as he does his family. He has six children — four sons and two daughters – and grandchildren, all of whom have benefited from his coffee farming efforts. Some of his family works with him in the coffee industry. His wife works in the house and on the farm, and one of his daughters works in coffee quality control for the cooperative, a job she takes seriously as evidenced by her visible disdain for her father’s preferred coffee preparation — watery, not very strong.

Even his teenage grandson, Jordan, has found an important role, manning the weather station located on the farm. Each day at 6 a.m. he visits the weather station to record the temperature and gather other information that he sends through an app on his smartphone to be analyzed. This data helps farmers understand weather patterns, and make good business decisions about their coffee crops. The pride Abelino feels in his grandson shines in his eyes as the young man gives a tour of the weather station.

A man of great faith, Abelino says God is his best friend and provider. And he truly believes that growing good quality coffee is his way of contributing to the world. As he speaks, you get the sense that coffee is more than a livelihood to him — it’s a ministry.

“If Jesus Christ gave himself for us we should follow that example,” he says. “I share this value with my children.”

Taste the care and hard work Abelino, and the farmers of SOPPEXCCA, put into every coffee bean included in LWR Farmers Market Coffee.

Order LWR Farmers Market Coffee!

LWR Farmers Market: Meet José

News From Lutheran World Relief - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 05:50

LWR Farmers Market Coffee is a new line of coffee sourced directly from farmers participating in Lutheran World Relief projects. Every delicious cup helps transform poor communities that depend on their coffee crop to feed their families. Farmers are given a stable, predictable, and higher price upfront for their beans. With LWR Farmers Market Coffee, farmers aren’t just suppliers of coffee beans, they are partners in the coffee business.

Order LWR Farmers Market Coffee!

In his 69 years, José has lived through a lot.

In the 1970s, war in Nicaragua forced his family to leave their hometown and move to San Isabel.  He and his wife have 10 children — five sons and five daughters.

By the 1980s, José had begun growing a small amount of coffee as a part of a cooperative that he compares to the army, because he was told what to do on his farm and wasn’t allowed to manage himself. In 1986, through land reforms, José received a parcel of land of about 7 hectares (about 17 acres), and immediately gave a small piece of land to each of his children and they, too, began to grow coffee.

José says that before he became a member of the SOPPEXCCA cooperative — LWR’s partner in Nicaragua — he experienced many unfair practices in the coffee business. He’d lost money with other cooperatives, and at times had to sell his coffee to middlemen who did not pay good prices. As a member of SOPPEXCCA, he says, he manages his own farm. He’s his own boss. That’s important to him because, he says, “when you go and work for someone — if you’re sick, you’ll need to take sick time, and you won’t have enough money, but if you work your own land, you can produce your own food for your own table.”

And he does, indeed, produce food for his table — and a great variety of it! José now grows coffee, cocoa, plantains, and yucca. Some of his crops support his family’s needs and the surplus he sells for income.

Coffee farming is not without its challenges. Crop disease is a particular nemesis, as is the lure of hybrid coffee tree varieties that produce higher yields in the short-term, but produce less in the long-term. But José is proud of his coffee, and very committed to quality. He boasts that he only sends the highest quality, ripest coffee to SOPPEXCCA. This is the coffee you have the opportunity to taste through the LWR Farmers Market.

Aside from farming, José is deeply invested in his family and community. In the past he’s served on a brigade that helped immunize children so they wouldn’t get sick. At age 45, he learned to read and write and says he can now help his grandchildren with their studies.

But if you ask him what he is most proud of, it’s the legacy he’s leaving to his children, through the land he’s given them. “They can harvest it themselves, because they own it,” he says.

Taste the care and hard work José, and the farmers of SOPPEXCCA, put into every coffee bean included in LWR Farmers Market Coffee.

Order LWR Farmers Market Coffee!

LWR Farmers Market Coffee: Meet Gustavo

News From Lutheran World Relief - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 05:45

LWR Farmers Market Coffee is a new line of coffee sourced directly from farmers participating in Lutheran World Relief projects. Every delicious cup helps transform poor communities that depend on their coffee crop to feed their families. Farmers are given a stable, predictable, and higher price upfront for their beans. With LWR Farmers Market Coffee, farmers aren’t just suppliers of coffee beans, they are partners in the coffee business.

Order LWR Farmers Market Coffee!

Gustavo’s farm is teeming with life.

There are dogs (including puppies), chickens, adult children, grandchildren — and there are coffee trees, which Gustavo says are the lifeblood of his farm.

“An old farmer once told me, ‘Take really good care of your coffee farm. That’s your daily bread.'” Gustavo explains.

There was a time when farming didn’t provide his family their daily bread. He says he used to work as a farm laborer, but that never met his family’s needs. So he worked hard to buy just over 8 hectares (about 20 acres) of land, on which he now grows coffee. Even then, he says, his family struggled. He used to sell his coffee to a middleman, who took most of his profits and left little for him to support his family.

With the help of people like you, Lutheran World Relief began working with Gustavo’s coffee cooperative, SOPPEXCCA, several years ago — helping farmers diversify their crops, better protect their environment and improve their coffee. Gustavo was a founding member of the cooperative and said it was founded so that farmers could get a better price for their coffee and provide for their children. He and other farmers have greatly improved their coffee crops by learning how to nurture a coffee tree so that it yields good quality cherries, how to wait for the cherries to turn bright red before picking, and now farmers have access to better processing equipment — like the wet mill Gustavo uses to remove the outer skin and pulp from his coffee cherries.

“Thanks to coffee, I now have bread for my children and grandchildren,” Gustavo says. He also explains that the formation of SOPPEXCCA has brought good things to his community. For example, the cooperative helped construct a building for the school that grew out of his very own home.

Whereas Gustavo used to work as a laborer on other people’s land, he now works side by side with his sons in his own coffee fields. “I’m very proud my sons don’t have to sell their labor,” he says.

To Gustavo, coffee is more than just a crop.

“Coffee gives us life. Coffee is medicine,” he says. “If the world is passing you by, enjoy a cup of coffee — then get back to it.”

Taste the care and hard work Gustavo, and the farmers of SOPPEXCCA, put into every coffee bean included in LWR Farmers Market Coffee.

Order LWR Farmers Market Coffee!


Celebrate Father’s Day with LWR Gifts!

News From Lutheran World Relief - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 14:06

Father’s Day is June 18.

What better way to honor the dads in your life than with an LWR Gift? Behind each gift there are real people — real dads — whose lives are improved by your generosity. To get you inspired, here are a few dads you reach with your support.

Godfrey, from Uganda The Wotea family stands in front of their house in Uganda. Photo by Jake Lyell for Lutheran World Relief.

This hard-working father of five (youngest child not pictured) grows coffee in Uganda. With your help, Godfrey has gotten training on how to improve the quality of his coffee and his cooperative has made important connections to buyers and new markets that have resulted in increases in income for his and many other families.

Give the gift of an LWR Coffee Tree Seedling and help dads like Godfrey tap into the potential of their land.

  • Coffee Seedlings $75 Select options (function($) { $( '.products .post-6755 a' ).click( function() { if ( true === $(this).hasClass( 'add_to_cart_button' ) ) { return; } ga( 'ec:addProduct', { 'id': '6755', 'name': 'Coffee Seedlings', 'category': 'LWR Gifts/Farmers', 'position': '1' }); ga( 'ec:setAction', 'click', { list: 'Product List' }); ga( 'send', 'event', 'UX', 'click', ' Product List' ); }); })(jQuery);

Felipe, from Colombia The Villafaña family, from top left: Concepción, Zwika, beth, Zarkuney, Felipe, and Jeini outside their home in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains in Colombia. (Photo by Sara A. Fajardo for LWR)

Felipe and his family are part of an indigenous group called the Arhuaco. The Arhuaco have been systematically buying farms located on their ancestral homelands and repopulating them. LWR is supporting their initiative to transition to cocoa farming a crop that grows well in the hotter, wetter low lands, but is new to the Arhuaco community.

Give the gift of a cocoa seedling and help farmers adapt and grow.

  • Cocoa Seedlings $100 Select options (function($) { $( '.products .post-6757 a' ).click( function() { if ( true === $(this).hasClass( 'add_to_cart_button' ) ) { return; } ga( 'ec:addProduct', { 'id': '6757', 'name': 'Cocoa Seedlings', 'category': 'LWR Gifts/Farmers', 'position': '1' }); ga( 'ec:setAction', 'click', { list: 'Product List' }); ga( 'send', 'event', 'UX', 'click', ' Product List' ); }); })(jQuery);

Somasingh, from Nepal

This is Somasingh with his daughter. He is a teacher at the local school but his house (and school) were badly damaged during the Nepal earthquakes of 2015. His family received LWR Quilts & Kits to help recover. He told our staff he was thankful items like these because they are very useful during this time of need. He smiled the entire time he talked and when he was asked why, he said,  “What can you do? The situation is what it is and I am thankful to be alive with my family.”

Send 8 Mission Quilts to families coping with disaster.

  • Send 8 Mission Quilts $18 Select options (function($) { $( '.products .post-6736 a' ).click( function() { if ( true === $(this).hasClass( 'add_to_cart_button' ) ) { return; } ga( 'ec:addProduct', { 'id': '6736', 'name': 'Send 8 Mission Quilts', 'category': 'LWR Gifts/Emergency', 'position': '1' }); ga( 'ec:setAction', 'click', { list: 'Product List' }); ga( 'send', 'event', 'UX', 'click', ' Product List' ); }); })(jQuery);

Reaching out to starving children in South Sudan

News From Lutheran World Relief - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 12:39

This post has been updated with new information.

South Sudan is no longer classified as being in a famine. The crisis continues to be severe, however, as the number of people at risk of starvation continues to increase. [source]

Famine has been declared in two counties in South Sudan. It’s the first declaration of famine since 2011, the same year South Sudan officially became and independent country.

The famine crisis is caused in part by a severe food crisis, fueled by drought and compounded by a civil war that has killed 50,000 people and displaced nearly 2 million since December 2013. Conditions are exacerbated by extreme poverty, poor infrastructure and lack of access to services such as health care, education, water and sanitation.

The below graphic from the United Nations World Food Program illustrates the urgency of this situation.

LWR is responding

Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is partnering with IMA World Health to set up and run life-saving medical centers that will treat young children at risk of death from starvation.

LWR and IMA World Health will run three treatment centers in the Great Upper Nile Region in northern South Sudan in areas where there are no other emergency medical facilities, and will focus on children under 5 who are so severely malnourished that they are near death. Many of these children are also suffering from malaria or diseases causing severe diarrhea, which exacerbate malnutrition. Children and mothers nursing infants will receive 24-hour care until they are disease-free and the children reach a healthy weight.

LWR will also run an outpatient monitoring and feeding program for children, as well as women who are pregnant or nursing, who are malnourished but not at immediate risk of death and can be treated at home. The treatment centers will serve an area with a population of 290,000, of whom an estimated 4,200 are currently suffering from severe malnutrition. Another 11,000 people are believed to be moderately malnourished.

You can help

Please support our response in South Sudan, and around the world as needs arise. Here’s what you can do:

  • Pray for the people of South Sudan, and those who are working to help them.
  • Make LWR Quilts & Kits to send around the world to people in need.
  • Give a gift to our South Sudan famine fund so that we can continue to reach out to children in dire need
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