One of the world's largest Christian humanitarian organizations aims to raise $25 million to fight poverty this Christmas season by interviewing poor people around the world.
World Vision is currently in the middle of its global "Spirit of Christmas" tour during which team members are interviewing poor people in the United States, Ecuador, Cambodia, Zambia and Ethiopia. The tour seeks to highlight the "heartbreaking" circumstances of the poor and how even a small donation can make a big difference to help families provide for children.
"In a year full of financial scandals, war, natural disasters, and a global recession, we all need a little encouragement," said Devin Hermanson, campaign manager for the "Spirit of Christmas" tour. "What we've found so far is that people around the world are still helping their neighbor in need."
The campaign has so far raised more than $4.2 million, or nearly 20 percent of the goal, through its World Vision Gift Catalog. The annual catalog, launched in 1996, offers shoppers alternative gift ideas for their friends and family members. Instead of clothes, electronics, or toys, people can buy, for example, a goat in the name of someone special that can help provide a family with milk, cheese and yogurt.
Other gifts will provide poor communities with resources like water, livestock, medicine and agriculture. The $25 million goal, which would set a new record if reached, could change the lives of nearly 625,000 people, according to World Vision.
"Since we started the tour, we've met homeless families in the South Bronx, seen students struggle to afford pencils for school, and talked to parents who say they are worried about paying next month's rent," said Hermanson. "It's been eye-opening to me to come face-to-face with the needs of the poor in our own country, but I'm optimistic that our work through the Gift Catalog will help these families in the coming year."
The team's first stop was in Bronx, N.Y., earlier in November. Then the "Spirit of Christmas" tour stopped in Quito, Ecuador. The team is currently in Cambodia and will travel to Lusaka, Zambia (Dec. 6-13), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Dec. 13-17), and then return to Bronx (Dec. 18-23).
While in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 5, the team members will hear stories from victims of the country's sex trafficking industry, including several children who have been rescued from sexual slavery and are rebuilding their lives.
World Vision highlights that there are between 50,000 to 100,000 women and children in Cambodia who are involved in the global sex trade. Nearly 30 percent of children involved in the Cambodia sex trade are estimated to be under 18 years old. In general, more than a third of Cambodians live below the poverty line, and nearly 78 percent live on less than $2 a day.
Items purchased from the gift catalog can also go towards helping sexually exploited girls. For $35, World Vision will help provide these girls with medical care, nutritious food, non-formal education, vocational training, compassionate counseling and, where possible, reintegration into a loving family environment.
The tour uses social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to connect donors to real people in the developing world. Videos and journal entries are frequently updated on the True Spirit of Christmas tour Facebook page.