World Concern (WC), originally called Medicines for Missions, was founded in 1955 to supply surplus drugs from America to clinics and hospitals overseas.
The organization changed its name in 1973 when it joined CRISTA ministries and also began providing emergency relief to the victims of natural disasters and famines abroad.
WC currently works in 32 countries — 14 in Africa, nine in Asia and nine in the Americas. The nonprofit Christian humanitarian organization says it currently serves 4 million people and expects by 2010 to reach 7 million people struggling with extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS, hunger and malnutrition, drought, natural disasters, war and disease.
From 1991 to June 2004, WC received more than $9 million from the U.S. Agency of International Development. In 2004, USAID awarded WC and a coalition of partners a five-year $9.9 million grant to fight HIV and AIDS in Haiti, Kenya and Zambia.
WC’s first standalone care program for children orphaned by AIDS was created after the White House unveiled its plan in 2003 to spend $15 billion to fight HIV/AIDS overseas. Before the announcement of the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) in Africa, Guyana, Haiti and Vietnam, WC’s program for orphans and vulnerable children had been incorporated into broader programs addressing water and sanitation projects, micro-financing and community development.
WC is part of the Association of Evangelical Relief and Development Organizations (AERDO), a 45-member American faith-based coalition founded in 1978 that foster relief and development programs around the world.
“When PEPFAR was announced, a voluntary group of AERDO member agencies chose on their own accord to design programs and approach PEPFAR for funding”, said Ben Homan, president of AERDO and president and CEO of Food for the Hungry.
WC and eight other member organizations formed the AERDO HIV/AIDS Alliance (AHA) to apply for PEPFAR funding. AHA received two grants directed to two of its lead agencies, WC and Food for the Hungry.
Homan noted that “AERDO is a membership organization and has no governing authority over its members,” so it has no direct administrative responsibility in the PEPFAR-funded projects.
Concern for orphans
World Concern is the lead administrative agency for the AHA Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) project in Kenya, Zambia and Haiti. Different partners join the OVC project in each country; they include Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Food for the Hungry, Medical Ambassadors International, Medical Assistance Program, Nazarene Compassionate Ministry, Operation Blessing, World Relief, Salvation Army and World Hope International.
The OVC program provides start-up capital for caregivers’ income-generating activities, helps keep orphans in the formal educational system, provides children with role models and mentors, teaches basic hygiene, gives psychological support and administers HIV prevention programs.
When the program is fully operational by the end of the grant in 2009, the organization expects that it will have provided training and support for 23,000 caregivers to support 150,500 orphans and vulnerable children in the three countries.
The organization also anticipates mobilizing 2,375 churches and 200 community-based groups to respond to the children’s AIDS-related needs in Kenya, Zambia and Haiti. Some of the church denominations are the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Pilgrim Wesleyan Church in Zambia and the Seventh Day Adventists in Haiti.
Prevention in Haiti
Food for the Hungry is the lead administrative agency for the AHA Abstinence and Be Faithful for Youth (ABY) project in Haiti, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Nigeria. Food for the Hungry assigned World Concern the job of administering the program in Haiti.
Six other organizations also are participating in the ABY grant, which had never received U.S. government funding for HIV/AIDS in the past. The list includes Operation Blessing, Salvation Army and World Hope.
But WC has agreements with other indigenous partners in Haiti to carry on the ABY program including Baptist and Methodist churches.
“In Haiti, we have some [partners] that are not religious. Most of them are churches, because that is the network we know and have established,” said David Eller, World Concern’s executive director.
WC has worked on the Caribbean island for more than two decades. The group’s local employees are trained by Food for the Hungry to develop the ABY project. Once trained, WC’s workers are to find and instruct adult and youth leaders in churches and communities; those leaders then teach more youngsters.
Each month, adults teach the youth leaders one of the 12 sessions from ABY’s “Choose Life” curriculum. The youths are then expected to pass along the lesson in the next 30 days through one-on-one talks and group discussions.
The lessons largely teach Abstinence and Be Faithful messages. They also touch on condom use, though much less so.
“We are focusing on the ‘A’ mainly and on the ‘B’ more time to understand what faithfulness looks like; ‘C’ is the smallest portion,” said Eller. “To eliminate one of them would be ethically wrong, I think, because every one of them provides lifesaving information.”
Food for the Hungry is modifying the program’s Choose Life guide, originally designed by World Relief. A possible addition is a new chapter on condoms, as well as information on anal and oral sex meant to deal with a reality identified in the field.
“As a consortium, we are looking at Food for the Hungry to come up with the best curriculum that addresses the needs that are out there,” said Eller. “Where they have come to the conclusion that there needs to be more emphasis, yes, we are participating and going forward with them.”
World Concern expects to include the changes in the guide in Haiti before the end of 2006. The target is to reach 563,400 youths and 100,000 adults by the end of the five-year grant.