Ordinary People. Extraordinary Impact.

This year, we have all seen how a tiny virus has halted the entire world, and we have also stood together against it as ordinary individuals. As an international relief and development organisation, World Vision is doing its best to respond to COVID-19 in more than 70 countries. It has been our mission to actively and rapidly rise to the challenges of disasters and crises over the past 70 years, including the Ethiopia famine, the Rwandan genocide and numerous refugee crises, reaching out to the most vulnerable and standing by them as lives were rebuilt and hope rediscovered.

We may be ordinary individuals, but when we all join forces, we will make an extraordinary impact together.

Supporter Tour Participants

Among the supporter tours that World Vision organises every year, there is a good number of participants in their fifties and sixties. While most of them see themselves as ordinary people doing something as ordinary as sponsoring children, they often realise the extraordinary impact that they bring when meeting their sponsored children face-to-face.

“When joining child sponsorship, I just wanted to directly help a child out of poverty. Somehow you don’t need to think too much when you help others.” – Susan

“We may not be able to change the world, but if each of us sponsors a child, we can at least give another family a chance.” – Yiu Yiu

“I have found that sponsoring do not just help my sponsored child, but also other children and their families. I will continue to help others as long as I am able to do so.” – Ceciline

“I didn’t really think too much when I started sponsoring. I just did it because I felt I could. I hope whoever capable will also take this step.” – Fei

“Volunteering should become a part of life, as natural as drinking water to live.”
— Anthony (World Vision volunteer photographer)

Anthony has been volunteering as a photographer with World Vision for more than a decade. In addition to offering his services at major events such as the 30-Hour Famine, he has also joined numerous trips to poor and conflict-affected regions. For him, the motivation to continue volunteering comes from those heart-wrenching encounters he had over the years. On his first trip, while visiting a remote village in Cambodia, he met a very skinny family of seven living in a hut the size of a parking spot. The children tried to fish in the river, but all they could catch was just one fish as small as a five-dollar coin. “That little fish was the meal for the whole family. The picture was just etched in my memory.”

Apart from that first trip, the encounter with one particular Syrian refugee family in Lebanon also stood out for Anthony. There were old photos in the house that showed glimpses of the good life that they once had: a luxurious mansion and several European cars. Gazing at the photos and the desolate father sitting in front of him, Anthony immediately understood the cruelty of war. The family used to be wealthy, but now they have nothing. “The father burst into tears as we talked. Normally I would have captured these moments with my camera, but at that moment I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

“Only those who have experienced war and have their families broken apart understand that nothing can be taken for granted.” These heart-breaking encounters have taught Anthony to take life more positively and motivated him to help those in need through volunteering. “I think everyone should volunteer throughout their lives. Just do whatever you are good at, big or small,” says Anthony, adamant to embody what he believes in.

“When some people join effort to complete something ordinary, they will ultimately realise that what they have done is actually not ordinary at all.”
— Tam Wong Fai (A long-serving World Vision Volunteer)

Growing up in a poor family in Hong Kong, Tam Wong Fai never really had snacks and toys as a child. Nonetheless, he was happy. He and his family used to live in a cubicle apartment which housed eight to ten children. Here the adults, like both his parents, who had to work, would leave their children to the adults that stayed at home to help look after. These circumstances instilled the value of looking out for one’s neighbours in Fai as he grew up. “This desire of helping others whenever I can may have been planted in my mind ever since I was a kid.”

In the 1980s, as Hong Kong was undergoing an economic boom, a famine crept into Ethiopia. Fai was deeply shocked by the footage of the event when it was unfolded in 1984. For this World Vision organised the 30-Hour Famine event to give the people of Hong Kong a taste of hunger and raise funds for those affected by the famine, without hesitation Fai signed himself up for it. Impressed by the experience and longing for doing more, Fai later offered himself as a volunteer. For over two decades, Fai has been unswervingly taking up volunteering posts at World Vision’s events. “I was once asked why I have been so persistent. I think, over the years, I have learnt a lot here, such as how to plan an event and serve others well. Thanks to this, my social circles have also expanded. I have been given so much, so I want to give something back to World Vision.”

Fai insists that he is only both an ordinary person and a volunteer. “If you find yourself so ordinary to a point that it bores you, you may simply look for something ordinary to do, but devote to it with your whole heart. After a while, you are bound to see some extraordinary outcomes. As long as you have the heart to help, or even if it’s impulsive, you can already do something!” He shares.

“I am not thinking about impacting millions of people, just one is significant enough to cause a ripple effect. We should pursue a life of making impacts on others, even at an old age.”
— Lan Fong Man
(Founding Editor-in-Chief of World Vision Hong Kong’s Shi Qing magazine)

Lan Fong Man has been an editor of Shi Qing since it first started in 1992. “I don’t do meaningless things, especially those that demand a long-term commitment. I am grateful, because not everyone gets to write and express their thoughts in words, so I do whatever I am able to do.” Over twenty years ago, when the internet was still not so widely used, Shi Qing was a vital means of communication between World Vision and the general public. “What Shi Qing conveys is more than just lectures and stories, but also a set of values, a vision and a mission. It is meant to be educational and even inspirational: Life is not so much about eating and drinking, but the poor and those affected by disasters are also precious and have dignity. Sharing with others is important.”

Recalling how she decided to produce this brainchild with World Vision, Lan Fong says, “Intriguingly it was a lesson for us. If you think too much, then you would never do it. Of course not all our deeds will succeed, but those that eventually do are normally those that we feel right in the beginning.” Lan Fong also highlights mutual trust as the core why Shi Qing can sustain for over twenty years. “World Vision has given me a lot of flexibility. Despite that the organisation slowly grew over time, the team and I work seamlessly, and they never treat me as an outsider. Working on Shi Qing demands a lot of emotions and effort from us, so trust is the most vital.”

“World Vision started with a small wish, and despite that it has grown into an enormous organisation, it has adhered to its calling of staying true and caring for the children most in need. Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting many World Vision staff in different parts of the world or reading their words. I am surprised to find that they share some similar traits, i.e., passion and perseverance, and that touches people’s hearts. I have also interviewed a lot of its supporters like donors or volunteers on the frontline or back end. These people are all, like me, ordinary, and just want to contribute a part each in our own ways, and that somehow brings an impact on other people’s lives,” concludes Lan Fong.

“The more we know, the more we realise that we are capable of helping others.”
— Sylvia Chang (Lifelong World Vision Volunteer)

Sylvia Chang says she is a very dedicated person to her family, career and friends. This is also true for her ties with World Vision, with whom she has been volunteering for the past 28 years. This is how she recalls her first trip with World Vision back in 1993, where she visited Ethiopia and witnessed the plight of starving children: “My heart was full of doubts: what was happening in the world? And also, as individuals, shouldn’t we be helping one another?” After that trip, Sylvia pledged to become a lifelong volunteer. She would go on visits with World Vision to record the needs of children in different parts of the world and the impact of World Vision’s work. Then she would share what she saw, so that more children and families could benefit.

Over the years, Sylvia has joined World Vision to a host of countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In the earlier days, when the internet was still uncommon, she visited Somalia and Kenya and revealed the plight of children affected by hunger and war. She also made several visits to see her sponsored child in Mongolia, and wept for not being able to attend her university graduation in person. Last year, she was in Lebanon where she was touched by the experiences of Syrian refugees. She felt that the world’s needs were still enormous.

Sylvia says that she would like to continue volunteering and making visits. Simply because she can be a voice for those in need and be the eyes of those who give by witnessing the impact of their generosity. She believes that, as long as she keeps going, people will see and follow her in helping those in need. “I think every ordinary person is able [to help], and this has nothing to do with wealth. That willingness to share with others should become a part of our lives,” she says confidently.

Venue Support: Paragon Asia

“There is no such thing as failure in helping people in need. It is all about the heart. As long as you are willing to try, you will achieve something.”
— Dr. Thomas Chan (Board member of World Vision Hong Kong)

Dr. Thomas Chan says he is an ordinary neurosurgeon. He has always loved his job, because it allows him to help others and he finds it very meaningful. However, 25 years ago, he decided to help others in a different way by joining World Vision and its poverty alleviation work. A former leader of World Vision’s work in China, Hong Kong and seven Asia Pacific countries, he is still a board member of World Vision Hong Kong to this day.

Dr. Chan recalls that it took him a few months before making the switch from curing people’s brains to changing people’s hearts. After joining World Vision, he had to transition from working on his own to collaborating with a group of staff and international teams. There were also new challenges that he had never faced before. Therefore, he dedicated himself to learning about different scopes, such as people and financial management, sociology, economics and agriculture, so as to lead more effectively and ensure that World Vision’s work could truly benefit the poor around the world.

Dr. Chan has visited various impoverished communities with World Vision over the years. He remembers seeing many poor people who worked very hard but did not have the environment and opportunities to thrive. He believes that every ordinary individual can make change available to them, and the most important thing is to have the courage to take the first step to help. “I used to have no idea about a lot of stuff at first too, but as long as we are willing to learn, try and co-work, we can achieve something.” Dr. Chan says helping others can make our own lives more abundant, and the joy that comes with it is beyond what words can describe.

“If possible, I’d love to visit one [child] every year and see how he / she is doing. It is a bonus to see children grow up because there is so little time for me to be with them.”
— Tinny (Sponsor)

Tinny began sponsoring children when she entered the workplace. As a nurse, it is difficult for her to find time to join World Vision’s supporter tours, so she decided to go on her own. Over the years, she has already been to communities in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar and Bangladesh, sometimes even as the first visitor from Hong Kong.

In the little time that she gets to spend with her sponsored children, Tinny always plays toy bricks with them, hoping to teach them how to play on their own despite the language barrier. “I want my children to learn to share. I hope that they share their toys with their friends and experience the joy that comes from it. When they know how to play, they can teach others and let others play. This is sharing. We need to learn how to share. I certainly cannot sponsor all children, but the toy can pass on my care further.

Before her trips, Tinny would also buy stuff and send them to the communities. “I would give little presents to the students whom I meet during school visits. I would always go with my sponsored children, because as they participate they will help others too in the future when they are able.” Through these ordinary encounters, she hopes to mould and bless her sponsored children’s lives. Perhaps we are all ordinary, but as she says, it takes action from our part to impact other lives.

“I would say, what we do during the pandemic, is not so much helping others, but helping ourselves. Because we are all sad and want to do something so that we can draw strength from one another.”
— Priscilla Wong (Sponsor)

Priscilla Wong describes herself as happy and ordinary. As a child, she attended a primary school in a public housing estate. She still remembers that she was once chosen as one of the representatives of her school to join a dance course, but had to give up the opportunity because her family could not afford it. “I felt inferior at that moment. But when I look back on it now, it was just an experience. Perhaps I was poorer than others, but I was still normal and ordinary.”

The recent pandemic has given Priscilla an opportunity to reflect on poverty. Once, she hurried to the supermarket in her pyjamas to buy rice, only to find herself standing in front of empty shelves. “What we used to take for granted can be gone all of a sudden, yet for many around the world, this is something that they have accepted since birth. For us, poverty is no longer an imagination or something that we perceive as a third person…” During the pandemic, Priscilla contacted World Vision to help her distribute the hand sanitisers that she bought, even making visits and present the gifts herself. “What we can share is not a lot, but I think sharing demonstrate to them that someone actually cares when they feel helpless.” Priscilla understands that true sharing is to be willing to share with those in greater need even when we ourselves do not have enough.

Claiming herself to be ordinary, Priscilla also stresses how Child Sponsorship has made her extraordinary. Having visited her sponsored child, Priscilla believes that this feeling of extraordinariness comes from the fact that her sponsored child has now been given a choice through her, and she believes that this is something that every ordinary person can do.

Venue Support: ELCHK Ma On Shan Lutheran Primary School

“If only one wishes, even an ordinary person can accomplish extraordinary things for one’s neighbours.”
— Dr. Dannis Au (General Secretary of Industrial Evangelistic Fellowship)

For Dr. Dannis Au, the poverty that his grassroots friends face is more than a lack of resources. “There is a kind of poverty that is heartbreaking, that is, a social poverty. These people simply don’t have anyone to help them deal with the tensions and drastic changes in life.”

During the pandemic, Dr. Au and his staff organised a campaign in the community to care for and stand with grassroots families. With the needs immense yet limited resources, Dr. Au found the pressure overwhelming. “We are grateful for World Vision. Not only did they donate stuff, they were also going on visits with us, observing the families’ needs and responding promptly.” When he saw that World Vision was giving out brand new toys collected from donors to children who had long been confined at their small homes, Dr. Au was deeply touched. “These children are poor, but in the eyes of World Vision’s staff, their lives are equally precious.”

On one occasion, a poor person rejected their masks, asking them to pass on the gift to another person in greater need. “The lives of our friends have been impacted by our service. Now they can also love and be a blessing to others.” Amidst different tensions, it has been the joy of seeing lives transformed that inspires him to continue loving his neighbours as himself. “The only thing that we can do for our friends is to offer a glass of water, so that they feel being remembered and cared for.” For Dr. Au, it is something that all ordinary people can do, if only they wish.

“I want to build a team which the people in it feel meaningful and that they are making a difference.”
— Wynn Flaten
(Former Syria crisis response director – Middle East and Eastern Europe region)

Wynn Flaten worked at World Vision for almost twenty years. He was first in the Philippines for four years, overseeing food security projects in the neighbouring Asian countries. He then moved to Indonesia as a project director, where he experienced the great tsunami in 2004. In 2011, he was CEO of World Vision Afghanistan, later he was deployed to Jordan from 2014 to 2018 to lead World Vision’s Syrian refugee response.

The places that Wynn went were always more challenging than the previous one and sometimes posed risks for himself and his family. But for Wynn, working in unstable regions such as Afghanistan and Syria has never made him feel unsafe. “No, I was not afraid. Our work was well received by the locals and that is what protects us. So we must always do our job well,” he says. Wynn does not only refer to the quality of work, but that everything they do should be done in harmony.

Wynn says he did not choose this path of mobile and challenging tasks himself. “I understand the role that faith plays in life. We have to be responsible to the God that we believe in.” His faith is his pillar, and it has helped him make difficult decisions and overcome obstacles. He says that he would say this to himself every morning, “Something good is going to happen today. I have no idea what the future holds, but history will tell us that God has been in control of everything.” As of now, World Vision is still working in Afghanistan, Jordan and the neighbouring region, restoring hope to many refugees.

“We want to be in the world what we think Jesus Christ would be if He were in the middle of all of these problems and needs.”
— Dr. Bob Pierce (Founder of World Vision)

Dr. Bob Pierce (1914–1978), was a war correspondent, a faithful servant of God, a father and the founder of World Vision. In 1947, Bob, then 33 years old, left the United States for China on his first mission, his first time preaching the gospel in another culture. Appalled by the plight and poverty of the people that he met, Bob deeply felt that when someone needed food, clothing, shelter or medicine to survive, hearing the good news alone was not enough, there had to be something practical to go with it. This motivated him to found World Vision in 1950.

Bob covered the suffering of the Korean War as a journalist with his writing and camera, bringing firsthand information back to the United States and calling on people to care for and help those who became orphans and widows. For Bob, the poor were not merely a set of figures, but lives with unique faces, names, feelings, hopes and aspirations.

As the Vietnam War escalated, World Vision became more involved by providing direct assistance, such as starting refugee schools, providing shelters for the displaced, assisting amputees with wheelchairs, and setting up a bakery to make nutritional biscuits for hungry children.

Currently, World Vision has expanded to serve the poor and vulnerable in nearly 100 countries around the world, carrying on with the same passion and beliefs that Bob had.

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