Imagine the most dangerous places to be a child. They are countries, cities, regions and communities fraught with chronic instability, conflict and violence. The UN reports that two billion people now live in places like this, and the number is expected 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 of conflict-ridden places like 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 life-saving 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 has worked for World Vision for more than 20 years, 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 to 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 the Congo (DRC) are launching several three-year projects under Raw Hope using its Fragile Context Program 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 usually not the best way to help. That’s why we created Raw Hope, a project that helps us develop fundraising and programs where the needs are most critical.”
Especially 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 fact sheet. By using the three “switches” – survive, adapt and thrive – World Vision can anticipate and respond quickly when circumstances change, for example if there is an outbreak of conflict, by turning 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 more than 800,000 children in one year.
More generally, World Vision Canada’s work falls under three pillars: relief, 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 beginning of the conflict, we responded to the refugee crisis near border crossings with water, food, hygiene, psychological support, children’s play areas, as well as heaters in mother and child rest stations,” says Messenger. who personally traveled to Romania to help these refugees.
In its role as an advocate for children, World Vision Canada has become known for elevating the voices of children who face the reality or risk of hazardous child labor practices to the Government of Canada.
“For the past 10 years, we’ve been advocating for legislation to eliminate child labor from Canada’s supply chains,” says Messenger. “We are encouraged by recent progress by the Government of Canada to move forward key legislation to address this issue. With child labor on the rise for the first time in 20 years due to the global pandemic and other factors, Canada’s child labor 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 settings, World Vision Canada works with communities in need to bring about long-term, lasting change for both individual sponsored children and for the broader communities. Once the goals are identified and plans are set, local World Vision staff (and 99% of the staff are local) work with 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, Messenger says.
“Identifying these root issues can be complicated, and absolutely requires that we start by listening to and working with the people experiencing vulnerability—after all, they are the experts in their own lives,” says Messenger. “It is 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 Program, which provides food aid 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 this one for supply chain legislation and donating to causes that matter to them through organizations like World Vision Canada, who are on the ground helping the world’s most vulnerable children and their support communities.
“World Vision Canada’s work makes a difference to those we serve,” says Messenger. “We are inspired by our mission because we ultimately believe that 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 for the world’s most vulnerable children count.”
Visit World Vision’s website to learn more about their work, and see the impact of a donation.