NEW YORK — If you’re looking for a gift that will keep on giving this Christmas, global Christian humanitarian organization World Vision has something that will likely do just that and warm your heart in the process.
Just ask actress and producer, Melissa Joan Hart who earlier this summer got involved with the organization after searching for a charity that would help her do “the most amount of good.”
“I wanted to do the most amount of good I could possibly do and also in the process be able to teach my children about other parts of the world and the way people live and the problems that humanity faces,” Hart explained in an interview with The Christian Post Tuesday inside World Vision’s interactive pop-up shop in Bryant Park's Winter Village in Midtown.
Inside the shop, ahead of it’s opening to the public were displays of goats, a donkey, chickens and tents housing various essential supplies to support personal hygiene.
There was also a display for a new initiative from World Vision that allows needy children from around the world to choose from a list of sponsors who will help them face some of life’s financial challenges.
In August, Hart, her husband and the eldest of her three sons, went on a five-day tour with World Vision to Zambia where she got a chance to see some of the life-changing work being pursued by the organization, and she was impressed.
“It turned out to be the most amazing trip …. I got to go out into the rural parts of the Southern province and the numerous villages and numerous people and see all the projects, programs that they have going on in that area. The complexity of it, what they do. I had no idea that their programs were so complex,” she said.
Hart learned that when World Vision sets out to build a well for a community in need for example, the organization doesn’t just create one in isolation, but sets criteria to ensure public health standards that will ensure sustainability.
“They won’t give a well to a village until they know that certain hygiene things are in place,” she said. “They put a well in and they teach people to be plumbers and they put a little money aside for repairs, for parts that might be needed. It’s so well thought out. They don’t just throw money at a problem. They actually train the people.”
Hart however says she was most impressed with how much the gift of a goat can impact individuals and communities.
“I have to say from what I saw of the work they do, the goats are the most important thing for the areas that I saw. The areas of Africa that I went were dry and warm. It doesn’t get too cold. So the goats were the biggest impact there. The goats and the chickens,” Hart said.
She then told the story of a farmer named Stephen.
“They (World Vision) had given him five goats. And they taught him. They brought him to a farming school, taught him how to be a veterinarian, how to vaccinate the goats,” she explained.
The farmer, who started getting assistance from World Vision about three years ago, then turned around and taught his family and created a farming co-op in his village. Today, he now has 150 goats on his farm Hart said.
After seeing World Vision’s work, Hart decided to sponsor three sisters in Zambia to match her sons.
“I got one daughter for each of my sons. We wanted three sponsor daughters. My boys call them sponsor sisters,” she said.
She explained that when she visited the girls in Zambia, she learned that the eldest daughter wasn’t attending school because it was too far away so she bought bicycles for the girl and her sisters so they could learn how to ride to school.
“I know World Vision checks on them and hires people locally to help them out and make sure they have what they need,” she said.
Other gifts that bring cheer to children from World Vision’s gift catalogue are soccer balls and bicycles.
When it comes to giving a gift this Christmas through World Vision, Hart explained that her faith also played a crucial role in partnering with the organization.
“It was difficult to find time to go on this trip but I thought it was very important through prayer. We were able to just figure out we’d bring our oldest son, … we thought it was a really good move for him to be able to see a part of this world through this lens. What was amazing was as soon as we got out of the car, whatever village we ended up in the villagers would wrap us up in dance …. Then we would sit and we would pray together,” she said noting how thankful they were.
“It was very moving. The whole Christian aspect of what World Vision does is so powerful. Everything is done through prayer,” she said. “It’s just a really great organization.”
She also noted that for Christians looking to witness a deeper expression of faith beyond just going to church, getting involved with the work of World Vision can be a good step.
“When you go to those parts of the world and you see people that sleep on the ground, that don’t have mattresses, you see people that have never taken a hot shower, people that have never sat down at a table to a hot meal and they pray so faithfully and beautifully and they pray for your safe travel, it just sparks your faith in another direction that goes beyond just going to church,” she said.
“For anyone of faith, if you’ve ever served in a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen or something like that, you know you feel that when you give. You almost feel like you’re getting the gift. This trip was educational for all of us. It was moving for my son. And for all to be through Jesus’ name was so special and something we’ll always hold dear and I hope we can do again,” Hart said.