We spoke with this CEO about a charity's lifesaving humanitarian work

Oct 21 2022, 4:11 pm

Imagine the most dangerous places to be a child. They are countries, cities, regions, and communities that are fraught with chronic instability, conflict, and violence. The UN reports that two billion people now live in places like this, and that number is projected to grow. In fact, by 2030, 80% of the world’s extreme poor will live in dangerous, fragile places, and the majority will be children. Think about conflict-ridden places such as Somalia, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.

But one Canadian international development, aid, and advocacy organization is making a difference in these dangerous and difficult places to be a child. Through its Raw Hope project, World Vision Canada supports the world’s most vulnerable children with lifesaving interventions and crisis recovery programs such as peace clubs and psychosocial support. In fact, World Vision recently increased its overall program investment from Canada to 43%, compared to 34% in the previous year, according to World Vision Canada’s 2021 Annual Report.

To learn more about the Raw Hope project, we spoke with the president and CEO of World Vision Canada, Michael Messenger. He’s spent more than 20 years working for World Vision, seven as CEO, and knows how we can help support children in the worst places to be a child.

“[The Raw Hope Project] is a way for Canadians to support many of the most vulnerable young children in the most difficult situations,” Messenger tells Daily Hive. “Over the past four years, we have shifted our focus and resources toward these areas, where we often say the most extreme poverty is because we are committed to reaching those vulnerable children where they live.”

For example, World Vision offices in Honduras, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are piloting various three-year projects under Raw Hope using its Fragile Context Programme Approach (FCPA).

Fragile Context is the humanitarian term for places that are highly unstable, where governments and society often consistently struggle to provide for their citizens,” says Messenger. “In these fluid and dangerous areas, [a] child sponsorship model that focuses on long-term development is not usually the best way to help. That’s why we’ve created Raw Hope, a project that helps us fundraise and develop programs where the needs are most critical.”

Particularly in situations where children have experienced violence, World Vision’s approach to fragile contexts works across humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding efforts, as described in this FCPA info sheet. Using the three “dials” — survive, adapt, and thrive — World Vision can anticipate and quickly respond when circumstances change, for example, if there is an outbreak of conflict, by changing the “dial.”

According to World Vision Canada’s 2021 Annual Report, the organization’s donors helped provide nearly 2,500 families with cash distributions to meet their basic needs in 2021 through Raw Hope. The organization also invested $35 million in 253 projects that focused on child protection and participation approaches, reaching over 800,000 children in one year.

More broadly, World Vision Canada’s work falls under three pillars: emergency aid, advocacy, and community development. One example of emergency work is when World Vision’s locally led team of 350 Romanians was one of the first organizations to respond to the crisis in Ukraine.

“From the start of the conflict, we have been responding to the refugee crisis near border crossings with water, food, hygiene, psychological support, child play areas, as well as heaters in mother-and-child rest stations,” says Messenger, who personally travelled to Romania to help these refugees.

In its role as an advocate for children, World Vision Canada has become known for lifting the voices of children who face the reality or risk of dangerous child labour practices to the Government of Canada.

“For the past 10 years, we have been advocating for legislation to eliminate child labour from Canada’s supply chains,” says Messenger. “We’re encouraged by recent progress by the Government of Canada to move key legislation forward to help address this issue. With child labour on the rise for the first time in 20 years due to the global pandemic and other factors, Canada’s child labour problem will continue to grow without bold action to address it. Canadians need to be able to make fully informed purchasing decisions.”

In more stable environments, World Vision Canada partners with communities in need to produce long-term, lasting change for both individual-sponsored children and for the broader communities. Once the objectives have been identified and plans set, local World Vision staff (and 99% of staff are local) work alongside communities to carry out the projects for ten years or more. This work requires strong connections between governments and community leaders and healthy relationships between families, local organizations and religious groups as we work toward shared goals, says Messenger.

“Identifying these root issues can be complicated, and absolutely requires that we begin by listening to and partnering with the people experiencing vulnerability — they are the experts in their own lives, after all,” says Messenger. “It’s only through strong collaboration with communities, families, and children themselves that we can hope to see long-term, transformational change.”

Some of World Vision Canada’s other initiatives include its 16-year partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme, which provides food assistance to people most in need. And the Rise Up Daughters of India program gives girls in India access to safe hygiene to manage their periods so they can attend school.

Messenger tells us that Canadians can help by staying informed, signing petitions like that for supply chain legislation and donating to causes that matter to them through organizations like World Vision Canada, who are on the ground, supporting the world’s most vulnerable children and their communities.

“World Vision Canada’s work makes a difference for those we serve,” says Messenger. “We are inspired by our mission because we ultimately believe every child has God-given potential, no matter where they are born or what challenges they face. And so, we do what we say, and we aim to make Canadians’ support count for the world’s most vulnerable children.”

Visit World Vision’s website to learn more about their work, and see the impact of a donation.

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