The Life-Changing Work of World Vision Canada

Contributing Editor Joan Kelley Walker explains why World Vision Canada means so much to her, her family and everyone they touch.

Philanthropy is a Greek term that, directly translated, means “love of mankind.” I take this very seriously because, for me, being a philanthropist means listening to your heart and choosing to make a difference in the world that you connect directly with in an intimate way, on a personal level. For me, this has always been the plight of women and children around the globe. When I became a mother, something transpired emotionally for me and
connected me to something more; this call became even louder.

When I met my husband 23 years ago, I was introduced to the incredible work World Vision Canada does internationally. This was the beginning of a new chapter of my life that has given me great meaning and purpose. Giving back and philanthropic work is now deeply ingrained in our entire family. Together with our children, we sit down, plan, discuss and are ultimately guided by our hearts in choosing where to focus our time, energy and effort. We have all had the opportunity to see how our donations are used to improve living conditions for women and children through World Vision Canada’s life-changing initiatives. I have personally been involved in the early stages of maternal and child health programs and others that have come further along establishing sustainable improvements in
countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Costa Rica, Mozambique, Cambodia and the Congo.

As of 2016, 5.9 million children under the age of five die of preventable causes each year. Malnutrition contributes to nearly half of child mortality, affecting millions of children. For those who do survive the extreme hunger, 156 million will suffer from stunting, “a serious and permanent condition that affects brain development and can have lingering effects on
health into adult years,” says World Vision. I know these numbers are difficult to hear, but there’s positive news—something can be done about it. World Vision works with partners globally to achieve a sustainable development goal: zero hunger (and good health and well-being), which focuses on education, community-system strengthening, health-system
strengthening and advocacy at individual, family, community and service-provider levels.

One of the flagship programs, Enrich (funded by Global Affairs Canada), aims to reduce maternal and child mortality by addressing malnutrition and health in the first thousand days of life (conception to 24 months). This program targets the poorest of the poor and we have committed a three-year pledge. My family also supports a program called Starting Strong in Cambodia, which is aimed at similar goals.

As a parent, you can’t help but be deeply moved through this work and these experiences. I have seen the darkest places through the eyes of both mothers and children in distress. On the other hand, I have also seen how this good work takes effort, passion and dedication by many. I’ve witnessed hope emerge from desperation. I have even connected with some of the mothers and I will never forget one woman’s words to me: “Thank you for the water well, because now I know my children will not die from waterborne diseases.” The simplicity of this statement is etched in my memory. I can’t possibly imagine what
these mothers feel on a daily basis, but I do know that we are all united because we share the most basic human needs. We want health, welfare, safety and freedom for ourselves and our families. The smiles on both the mother’s and children’s faces are why I do it. I feel like if you have the opportunity to help someone in need, who isn’t as fortunate, you
really should what you can. Though there are many things that divide us, we can be united through philanthropy and love of mankind.